The fuel for this organic fertilizer factory is Russian comfrey (Symphytum X uplandicum). It has 6-foot-long roots that harvest nutrients from deep in the soil, making comfrey leaves a fantastic natural source of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
Researchers in British Columbia analyzed the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) ratio of comfrey leaves by air-drying them and analyzing the powdered leaf tissues. They found that the leaves have an impressive proportion of 1,8-0.5-5.3. To compare, kelp meal has an NPK ratio of 1.0-0.5-to 2.5.
How can you harness the power of Russian comfrey?
Freshly cut comfrey leaves make good mulch because they’re high in nitrogen, so they don’t pull nitrogen from the soil while decomposing, as high-carbon mulches like straw and leaves do. And comfrey’s high potassium content makes it especially beneficial for flowers, vegetables (such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers), berries, and fruit trees.
Use freshly cut comfrey leaves (but not the flower stems in this case-they can root) as fertilizer in planting holes. The leaves break down rapidly and provide nutrients right at the roots.
Comfrey is especially useful if you have lots of dry brown material and the pile is slow to heat up. Just layer the fresh comfrey leaves and stems in as you add other material to your pile.
One of the best ways to tap your fertilizer factory is to brew comfrey tea. Fill a barrel or trash can about halfway with fresh comfrey, add water, cover it, and let it steep for 3 to 6 weeks. Comfrey tea smells foul, so brew it away from sensitive noses. The tea may be used full strength or diluted to about half strength – to the color of weak tea. Use it whenever you water your plants. It’s great for watering your plants. It’s great for watering stressed plants to help get them back on track.
Pest prevention and control.
Scientists at Moscow State University in Russia observed that powdery mildew spores that landed on wheat seedlings sprayed with comfrey tea did not germinate, and the wheat seedlings sprayed with comfrey tea did not germinate, and the wheat seedlings did not become infected. The researches concluded that the comfrey tea sprays had activated natural defense mechanisms in the wheat seedlings, making them more resistant to disease.
Adapted from Organic Gardening, June/July issue, published by Rodale Press.
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