Posted by: hencorner | July 16, 2010

Are you sitting Comfrey? Then I’ll begin…

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We sow the seed, nature grows the seed and we eat the seed…

Wasn’t that Neil from the Young Ones back in the 80’s? Well at Hen Corner we love nature but know that a bit of support and investment goes a long way!

This week, at last, we’ve done lots of prep work and have been ticking off that list (from the last couple of weeks).

‘Comfrey Tea’ on top

Last year we learnt that comfrey is a fantastic herb that has both medicinal and nutritional properties. As an organic garden, we were really interested in learning how the deep roots draw nitrogen up from the depths of the soil and research has shown that a comfrey feed can have higher levels of nutrients than shop bought liquid feeds. So how do we turn a green plant into liquid gold?

All you need is in the picture above;

  • A good stash of comfrey leaves
  • An old plastic net fruit bag
  • Some garden wire
  • A stone
  1. Cram as many leaves in the bag as possible.
  2. Pop in the stone (to weigh it down).
  3. Draw the hole closed with the wire leaving a length just longer than the height of your water butt.
  4. Drop the comfrey bag into the water butt (keep hold of one end of the wire).
  5. Secure the end of the wire to a handle or a weight enabling you to remove the bag next year.

As the comfrey leaves break down, all the nutrients are released into your rainwater, making it an excellent feed for all your home grown veg – ready on tap!

Note: Do not just chuck comfrey leaves into your water butt as they will block the tap.

For more info check out www.allotment.org.uk .

Compost down below

Where can we begin with compost?

Once you’re set up, and we like a good system, there are so many benefits:

Recycling your food waste (not fish or meat – that’s for the cats, or bones – that’s for stock!)
Disposing of spent plants, weeds, garden waste
Packing away the chicken poop

So, for the convenience of receiving our ‘unwanteds’ we are rewarded with wonderful rich ‘Black Gold’ that is fine enough for seedlings, rich enough for fertiliser, bountiful enough to use as a mulch – a Win/Win I’d say!

We have Double Wooden Compost Bin like this one complete with duvets. The picture above shows the left side of mature compost (with just a bit of dried grass cuttings on top) and the right side that we are adding to (can you spot the comfrey stems that we stripped the leaves from?). To get to the good stuff in the left bin, we’ve just forked across the top 20cm into the right bin… added some water to both (as it’s been so dry) and we’ve got a load of new compost to use as a mulch for the fruit trees and berries, as a base for the squash plants, as a growing medium for the potting on and so much more…

By the time we’ve finished with the compost in the left, the right side will be full – we’ll close it up until next year and start adding to the left again. This way each ‘batch’ gets a good long while to mature uninterrupted, getting to the right temperature that breaks it all down ready for next year…

Pesky Pests

One thing we didn’t put in the compost was all the asparagus ferns that I had to chop down at the weekend (don’t tell me – I know I’m supposed to leave them to strengthen the crowns) but they were so infested with Asparagus Beetle, and seen present at every stage in the life cycle (even mating!), that our only ‘no chemical’ option was to physically remove all but five spears. We decided not to put them in the compost bin (in case it was to cosy) and started to fill the garden waste sack ready for collection next week… we then noticed them flying back to the Asparagus Bed as fast as we were removing them! So we packed them into biodegradable garden sacks and tied the tops up to trap them in. They are now waiting on the front drive, hopefully far enough away for ‘escapees’ to find their way back. I’m checking the remaining ferns twice a day and am still finding 5-6 beetles each time – I pop on my gloves and squash them! I’ve got to win this battle….hmm….

  • How did they find us in the first place?
  • Where was their previous home?
  • Have they done any irreversible damage?
  • Will they be back next year?

You see this does bother me as we’ve been so good; we have not eaten one spear yet and we’re hoping for 20 years of harvesting from these crowns…

Other things this week…

We’ve installed a fab watering system in the kitchen garden giving 10 mins twice a day to the cold frame via mini fountains and  to the raised beds via a sprinkler. It’s great and we’ve seen a real difference, but how ironic that since we’ve installed it there has been rain every day!

The weather has been both wet and windy – blowing down pot plants (the chillies are only outside for pollination, poor things) and the pea tepees. We’ve found a splattering of empty pots that have blown all over lawn and several apples have fallen prematurely…

Chicken Watch:

Ruby is still hanging on in there.

All three new girls are now laying.

Butternut is broody again… I say no more!

So next weeks jobs:

Plant or pot up the remaining seedlings (tomatoes, chillies, leeks, squashes)

Mulch the fruit trees and berries

Chase that beetle

Gather in the harvest

Corners are not just for squares!

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