Growing,  Making

Comfry feed (free fertiliser)

At Don’t Crop Me Now we tend to stick to a combination of homemade compost or composted animal manure (chicken/horse) as a way of feeding our crops through a ‘No Dig’ process. If you can feed the soil to maintain a healthy soil ecosystem, you rarely need to worry about fertilising plants! However, when plants are grown in pots, particularly those for a short season, the growing medium hasn’t really had time to establish a biological balance. Therefore, we do add a balanced organic fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone to boost our container grown potatoes and use a high potash feed on flowering plants such as chillies, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. A simple high potash liquid feed can be made from the plant comfry.

Potash boosts both the number of flowers and the ability of fruit to ripen. A comfry feed has approx 3 times the potash levels of farmyard manure. Potash also encourages healthy photosynthesis and plant growth ensuring your flowering plants are more tolerant of temperature changes and have a good resistance to disease.

How to make a liquid feed from comfry:

Comfry leaves ready to immersed in water

Comfry leaves can be steeped in water to ferment. Essentially immerse the leaves under water. Stir regularly and leave for up to 5 weeks. Be aware that this can smell very unpleasant so it is best to use a container with a lid. Alternatively cram leaves into a container and place a weight on top to compress the leaves. They will naturally break down and produce a concentrated brown liquor. This is less smelly, but a little more effort as you will need to have a container with a tap or drain on to collect the liquid. With the immersion method any lidded container can be used. If your container has a tap place the leaves in a hessian sack or cloth bag this prevents solids clogging the tap.

Liquid feed can be bottled and then diluted for use at a rate of 10ml per litre (1:100).

Alternative uses for comfry:

Wilted comfry leaves can be used as a mulch and will rot down to provide nutrients to growing plants. This can work well for potatoes in addition to the crops discussed above. Comfry leaves are a great addition to homemade compost.

How to grow comfry:

In the wild comfrey tends to be found in shaded boggy areas such as woodland river banks, but the plant is pretty tolerant of most growing conditions. It will grow in sun, partial sun or shade – in the ground or in large pots. Comfry is a very tough plant so choose your space carefully as it can be difficult to eradicate once established. If you grow in pots then provide plenty of water. There are a number of varieties of comfrey, both cultivated and wild. The most commonly available and best for the gardener is Bocking 14. This variety can be grown from root cuttings and doesn’t spread by seeds making it more controllable within a garden or allotment.