Tag Archive | How to make Comfrey tea

Growing Cauliflowers And Making Comfrey Tea

On Tuesday this week I dug up my cauliflowers, which were a heritage variety called ‘English Winter’, which I sowed in May last year. They stood all winter long and I was a bit concerned that I would just have leaves without the lovely white cauliflowers….but finally in April the cauliflower heads began to form and the result was beautiful large white caulis.

SAM_8833

The ground where they had stood for a year was as solid as a rock and it took me ages to fork the soil over. I then raked a dusting of Blood, fish and bone over the area and then planted the red onions that I sowed back in January this year.

SAM_8945 SAM_8980

This week I planted some more cauliflowers that I sowed on the 14th February. They are a variety called ‘All year round’. As usual I walked, danced and jumped all over the area, as cauliflowers especially like firm soil and this helps to stop them from ‘blowing’.   It also helps to add organic matter in the autumn, so it has time to settle.

SAM_8972

After planting the cauliflowers I tread around the plants with my foot and then I cover the cauliflowers with environmesh to stop any little flies getting into the curds when they form.

SAM_8974 SAM_8977

SAM_8978

.

I noticed my curly kale is now flowering beautifully. If I don’t need the area straight away, I leave the kale to flower as the bees love it:

SAM_8946

.

This week I picked our last purple sprouting broccoli, which is quite sad as my youngest daughter loves it….but I also picked our first asparagus of the year which is great.

SAM_8948

When I walked around my plots I noticed my first globe artichoke is forming which is also great….my in-laws love these so I make sure they have the first ones of the season:

SAM_8937

.

One of the jobs I completed this week was to cut down my comfrey before it flowers, so it doesn’t self-seed everywhere.

SAM_8955

I put some of the comfrey into my compost bins as it is a great compost activator and I used some of it to make an enormous pot of comfrey tea.

Comfrey tea is high in potash as the deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it is great for using on most fruits and flowers which is why I have a whole bed dedicated to comfrey plants, which I cut down three or four times during the growing season.  If you are buying comfrey to grow, the experts tell you to use a variety called ‘bocking 14’ which doesn’t self-seed, however I just took a root cutting from my neighbours allotment to get me started and I didn’t have a clue which variety it was.  Self-seeding has never been a problem for me as I always cut it down before it flowers.

To make comfrey tea all you have to do is fill a bucket with the comfrey leaves and stems and weigh it down with a brick and pour over cold water.  I cover it (to stop flies getting in) and leave for approx. two weeks. Be warned, by this time the smell is revolting!  Strain the comfrey tea liquid into another container and put the remaining comfrey in your compost bin. I then put 2 cups of comfrey tea into a watering can and then fill with water.  I use this feed once a week after the first tomatoes begin to form. 

SAM_8949

As I use a lot of comfrey tea, I made mine in a water butt. I put the comfrey into an old curtain and then weighed it down with a brick and I will leave it for a couple of weeks with water covering it.  I always make sure I cover the liquid with an old piece of wood or a lid, as once I didn’t and I ended up with maggots in it!

After two weeks I will remove the comfrey and put it into my compost bin.  The result will be lots of smelly comfrey tea liquid, which is free to make and the plants love it.

SAM_8950

.

This week I also sowed my wildflower seeds. I had previously raked the area to remove any large clods of earth.

I mixed the seed with dry horticultural sand and then scattered the sand & seed mixture over the area and raked them in.

I then covered them with bird netting until they germinate.

SAM_8944

If they are half as good as the last two years wildflowers, then I will be pleased.

SAM_2726

.

I also noticed that one or two strawberries have started to form, so I surrounded the strawberries with straw.

SAM_8962 SAM_8963

The straw stops the mud splashing on the strawberries but it also acts as mulch, keeping the moisture in and stops annual weeds from germinating. I made sure it had rained before I spread the straw to ensure that the ground was moist.

The bale of straw only cost me £3.40 from my local plant nursery, so it was really worth it. I also had some left over to use elsewhere if I need it too.

SAM_8956

When I looked closely I noticed that a few of my strawberry flowers had turned black….these are the ones that the frost caught last Friday and sadly they won’t turn into strawberries now:

SAM_8959

But not to worry, there are plenty that beat the frost:

SAM_8958

.

Inside my polytunnel I removed the perpetual spinach that had turned into a triffid …it had gone to seed and was now huge!

SAM_8981

I dug it up and replaced it with a couple of barrows of compost from my homemade allotment compost, ready for my next crops.

SAM_8989

.

I noticed next to this area, the two rows of carrots had started to germinate with the radish in between that I sowed on the 11th April.

SAM_8985

The lettuces in my polytunnel will also soon be ready.

SAM_8986 SAM_8987

The only thing I am disappointed with so far is my tomato plants. I had four greenhouse tomato plants spare, so I put them into my polytunnel. Unfortunately, even in the polytunnel last week’s frost managed to damage some of the leaves which is a shame, but I can already see new growth in the centre so hopefully they will be ok.

SAM_8990

.

Finally, I planted some lavatera that I have grown from seed. These are the hardy annual type that do not become thugs and they will live and die in one season. They grow to about 60cm high and will hopefully look beautiful and again attract beneficial insects to my plot.

SAM_8971 SAM_8991

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Monday.  I hope you have a good weekend.

Advertisements

A Plant Sale, Comfrey Tea And An Easy Chocolate Traybake Recipe

I hope you all had a good weekend.

Today I thought I’d start by saying a big “welcome” to people that have recently followed my blog.  I noticed yesterday that I have over three hundred followers and I feel very privileged to have this many.  Thank you to all of you that read my blog, I hope I will continue to write things of interest for you.

I love receiving feedback and questions, so please feel free to leave comments on my blog.  If there is anything that I can help you with e.g. any questions about something I’ve written about or any non-related gardening questions etc, please do not be afraid to ask…after all, if you don’t know the answer then I will guarantee there will be lots of other people that don’t know the answer too.

.

The appletree at my allotment

The apple tree at my allotment

.

And now for some sad news….

groundwork

 Last week I received the very sad news that ‘Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire’ had ceased trading and was set to go into voluntary liquidation.

Groundwork was based in offices at Western Park, in Hinckley Road, Leicester, next door to the city council’s Eco House, which it also manages and which is currently closed.

Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire was an environmental charity which worked with schools and other organisations to promote a greener lifestyle.  It has closed with the loss of 26 jobs.  This is what the Leicester Mercury said about them:

“Since 1987, the Leicester charity – previously called Environ – has helped thousands of people, organisations and businesses improve their neighbourhoods, learn skills, improve their job prospects and create a greener county.

One of its key areas has been helping students and young people get into work. It also helped to manage the Bikes4All and Allotments4All initiatives.

It has worked with various organisations including councils, schools and universities as well as local and regional businesses.”

You can read the full article in the Leicester Mercury here.

SAM_3147

My friend Rob Carter was regrettably one of the 26 people.  Rob ran the ‘Organic Gardening Course’ that I talked about last year on my blog.  He is one of the most knowledgeable organic gardeners, that I have ever met and what he doesn’t know about gardening, really isn’t worth knowing.

Rob was planning a plant sale this month and volunteers have been helping him to grow plants in readiness.  Even though Rob has lost his job at Eco House, he is still going ahead with the plant sale, which I think is admirable.  Volunteers (including myself) will be there to sell the plants we have grown, all in peat free composts and will answer any questions you have about the plants.

So if you are in the area on Sunday, please consider visiting the sale for cheap, good quality flower and vegetable plants.  After all, unless a miracle happens, this will be the last sale.

SAM_6360

                                      .                  ​

Better news now… this weekend I harvested my first ever asparagus.  I know there isn’t much here, but I’ve waited three years to get a crop and hopefully there will still be some more to come.

It tasted wonderful with a knob of butter melted over it.

SAM_6356

.

My comfrey is growing well now, so a few days ago I made some comfrey tea so it will be ready in a couple of weeks.

SAM_6313

Comfrey tea is a wonderful organic fertiliser which is high in potash and free to make.  The deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it is great for using on most fruits and flowers.  I use it so much that I have a water butt that I use purely for comfrey tea.

All I did was collect a few leaves and stalks and wrapped them up in an old net with a rock to weigh it down.

SAM_6314

I tied it securely and lowered it into my water butt and covered it in water.

SAM_6317

I put the lid back on the water butt and I will leave it now for at least two weeks before I use it.

You can find more information about this wonderful plant and how to grow it here.

.

Another job I managed to do at my allotment, was to put some chicken wire on my daughters’ old swing.  I moved the swing a couple of months ago, so you can walk under it, along my central path.

I then planted a Clematis Montana, so it can grow up and over it.  Hopefully, it will be covered in flowers next spring and look beautiful:

SAM_6355

.

Finally, it’s been a while since I posted a cheap and easy cake recipe on here.  So below is a very simple tray-bake (I try to make sure all my recipes are easy to make).

This cake is ideal if you have kids coming for tea, or to freeze ahead ready for packed lunches.  If you freeze them, slice the cake into squares and put them into the freezer on a tray.  Put them into a bag or container when they are frozen, so they don’t stick together.  This way it is easy to take one piece of cake out of the freezer in the morning and pop it into the kid’s lunch boxes still frozen, as they will defrost in no time:

.

A Quick And Easy Chocolate Tray-Bake Recipe:

.

6 oz. of Margarine

6 oz. Caster sugar

6 oz. Self raising flour

3 Eggs

1 Tablespoon Cocoa powder

1 Teaspoon of baking powder

Cooking chocolate and sprinkles to decorate.

.

Preheat the oven Gas Mark 4 / 350F / 176C

Lay a piece of greaseproof paper over a tray, approximately 9 x 12 ½ inch in size.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder into a bowl.

SAM_6329

Add the caster sugar, eggs and margarine.

SAM_6330

Mix all the ingredients until they are combined. Add a little bit of water if needed, to achieve a good dropping consistency (i.e. it drops off the spoon easily).

SAM_6333

Smooth the mixture over the greaseproof paper in the tray and cook for approximately 25-30 minutes.

SAM_6334

When it is cooked, slide the greaseproof paper off the tray and onto a cooling tray and leave to cool.

SAM_6335

When cooled, melt some cooking chocolate in the microwave and spread over the cake and use sprinkles or whatever you want over the top to decorate.

SAM_6337

Slice when the chocolate has set.

SAM_6340

Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at approximately 4pm.

Onion Sets, Peas And Watercress

There has been some lovely warm weather this week and I have been working at my allotment in short sleeves at last.

On Tuesday I noticed the temperature in my polytunnel rose to nearly 37C, even with both doors wide open.

It was lovely to see that bees, butterflies and other insects were coming into the polytunnel, attracted by the mizuna that I can’t bring myself to dig up yet, as it is so beautiful.

Mizuna in flower

Mizuna in flower

.

I spent this week planting my onion sets.  I started my onion sets in modules this year, as the soil was in no fit state to plant them direct last month.  I was very pleased with the result as most of them had started to sprout:

SAM_6179

I am hoping this will be a one-off though, as it takes extra time to plant the sets in modules and obviously uses extra compost.  I planted 416 onions all in all, including 80 red onions and I’ve got to say my back did ache a bit afterwards.

This year is really an experimental year with my onions, as I had a problems last year with the allium leaf miner, especially on my overwintering onions.

In autumn, I planted seed sown onions instead of sets (in the hope they would be stronger plants) and covered them in environmesh.  I have also planted summer onions that I sowed in January (again, in the hope they will be stronger plants) and two different varieties of onion sets, in the hope that one may grow stronger than the other.

The two varieties of onions sets I planted this year are ‘Turbo’ and ‘Sturon’.

SAM_6180

The allium leaf miner is a pest that was only detected in Britain in 2002.  It has been spreading rapidly since and spread to many places in the Midlands for the first time last year and unfortunately found my allotment site too.

The allium leaf miner isn’t choosy which allium it attacks.  Alliums include onions, leeks, garlic and shallots.

You can find details of the allium leaf miner here.

.

I have also been planting peas again this week.  I have planted some mangetout as my youngest daughter absolutely loves them (though she won’t eat peas, which is very strange), so I would be in trouble if I didn’t grow them. I grew them in guttering as I find I have a better germination rate this way.  You can read how I grow my peas in guttering here.

SAM_6107

I also grow a tall, climbing variety called ‘Pea shooter’, which are really sweet, large peas.  The peas were expensive to buy, so I saved some seeds last year and I am pleased to say that they germinated really well.  I made a frame out of canes tied together and draped pea and bean netting over it, so the peas will have something to climb up onto.

There is nothing like opening your first homegrown pea pod straight from the plant and eating the wonderful, sweet tasting peas inside.  It is something I look forward to every year.

My tall, climbing peas

My tall, climbing peas

As the weather is warming nicely, I decided to sow my watercress.  Eric (the gentleman who had the fourth plot before me) always grew a really good crop of watercress in a great big black pot, so last year I decided to give it a try and it worked really well.  I just sprinkled the seeds and covered them with a small amount of compost and I  just made sure I didn’t let the compost dry out.  This was the result:

My watercress in 2012

My watercress in 2012

When it began to flower, I left it to set seed and I was surprised to get a second growth of useable watercress.

This year I replaced the top inch of compost with new compost and sowed new seed.  I covered the moist compost with glass to help the seeds to germinate.

I am looking forward to the results.

SAM_6221

.

This week I have been working on this years wildflower patch, as last year I was really pleased with it.

I have been raking the area to produce a fine tilth (a fine crumbly soil) and yesterday, I mixed the wildflower seeds with horticultural silver sand and scattered it over the area, avoiding the foxgloves I had transplanted in the patch.  I raked the seeds in, covered them with net to protect them from the birds and hoped the forcasted rain would come.

SAM_6220

If the patch is only half as good as last years, then I will be very pleased:

SAM_2726

I noticed my comfrey patch is growing well now.

I use comfrey a lot at my allotment.  Comfrey is high in potash, as the deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it’s great for using on most fruits and flowers, including tomato plants.

I add comfrey to my compost bins, as it is a great ‘free’ activator and I use it as a mulch around plants.  I also have a water butt which I use solely for ‘comfrey tea’, which I use to feed certain plants.  You can read how I make it on one of my very first posts, here.

SAM_6222

.

I thought I’d mention a few of things I have harvested this week too.

Over winter, we have been eating the cabbages I sowed last summer.  The variety is ‘Robinson’s Champion Giant Cabbage’.  They have stood through all the wet and snowy weather the winter threw at them and I am really pleased with the results:

SAM_6192

.

My purple sprouting broccolli is doing well and tastes delicious.  It takes approximately a year to grow from seed, but it is so worth the wait:

SAM_6191

.

And finally, remember I put a ‘bin’ on my rhubarb in February, to ‘force it’….

SAM_5812 SAM_6202

I removed the bin and the rhubarb was beautiful and pink.  I could actually smell the sweetness as I removed the dustbin.  I will be making rhubarb crumble tonight, as it’s my favourite.

If you want to make something different with rhubarb, you could try a Rhubarb and Ginger Cake, which is just as nice.  This recipe is here.

.

There is always some confusion about composting rhubarb leaves, as the leaves are high in Oxalic Acid, which is toxic to humans, but this is broken down and diluted in the compost heap as the leaves decompose.  So yes, it is safe to put rhubarb leaves into your compost bin.

Also, a long time ago when I pulled my very first rhubarb stalks from the ground, one of the ‘wise old allotment chaps’, saw me chopping the leaves off.  He told me to always leave part of the leaf on the stalk, so it looks like there are three claws left (like a chickens foot):

SAM_6205

When I asked why, he told me the reason for this is because the end always dries and you chop it off again when you are preparing it for cooking.  This way, you don’t waste any….and he was right!

SAM_6215

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back again on Monday at approximately 4pm.

Enjoy your gardening weekend.

Organic Tomatoes and Comfrey Tea

Early this morning I spent three hours at my allotment.  The sky was really blue and the sun was warm.  I had almost forgotten how lovely the early morning can be when it’s like this, as we have had so much rain lately.  The birds were enjoying it too, they were singing beautifully and the bees were buzzing loudly around my lavender.  It was one of those times when I feel very lucky for having the privilege to care for my gardens and spend time growing vegetables for my family.

Pickings from my allotment 23-07-12

Firstly I ran my hoe around my squashes and my legumes.  My pumpkins, courgette’s and patty pans are so small this year as the weather has been so unseasonably cold, but I’ve had a really good crop of peas, even though they have arrived later than normal.

Peas from my allotment

Afterwards I weeded around my tomato plants and tied them to their canes.  I have forty plants altogether this year which may seem excessive, but I use loads of tomatoes to make soups and passata which I use in pasta sauce, spaghetti bolognaise and chilli’s.

I grow an old variety of tomato called ‘Outdoor Girl’.  I grow these in particular as they usually crop early and hopefully I get a good crop before the dreaded ‘blight’ strikes.  This year, however, the tomatoes are also behind due to the weather and I’m not sure if I will get a good crop or not.

Some of my 40 tomato plants

Blight is a fungal disease that can spread when the air temperature is at least 10C and there is a minimum of 11 hours with a relative humidity of at least 90%, for two consecutive days. This is referred to as a ‘Smiths Period’.  It affects tomatoes and potatoes as they are from the same family.  There is some good information about tomato blight on this website:  http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/factsheets/dc20.php

I then gave my tomatoes a feed of comfrey tea.  Comfrey tea is a wonderful organic fertiliser which is free to make. I use it so much that I have a water butt that I use purely for comfrey tea.

My Comfrey Tea

Comfrey tea is high in potash as the deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it is great for using on most fruits and flowers.   I have a whole bed dedicated to comfrey plants, which I cut down three or four times during the growing season.  If you are buying comfrey to grow, the experts tell you to use a variety called ‘bocking 14’ which doesn’t self-seed, however I just took a root cutting from my neighbours allotment to get me started and I didn’t have a clue which variety it was.  Self-seeding has never been a problem for me as I always cut it down before it flowers.   Incidentally, comfrey is also a fabulous compost activator, so you can use it to layer in your compost bin too.  Also, as I had some comfrey spare I laid it between my tomatoes to act as mulch and it also helps to feed the soil as it breaks down.

To make comfrey tea all you have to do is fill a bucket with the comfrey leaves and stems and weigh it down with a brick and pour over cold water.  I cover it (to stop flies getting in) and leave for approx. two weeks. Be warned, by this time the smell is revolting!  Strain the comfrey tea liquid into another container and put the remaining comfrey in your compost bin. I then put 2 cups of comfrey tea into a watering can and then fill with water.  I use this feed once a week after the first tomatoes begin to form. 

For dinner this evening we had pork chops with the new potatoes that I dug up yesterday and  homegrown carrots, swede and curly kale that I picked this morning.  I also fried some mangetout in some olive oil as my youngest daughter really loves them.  As it’s all my homegrown veg, the only thing I have paid for is the pork chops, so it’s another moneysaving meal.

Tonights dinner

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my day.  I would love to hear any comments you may have.