Sunday, 30 December 2012
I suspect that the onion sets will lose.
"Mmmmmmm comfrey" to quote Allan Shepherd from his "The Little Book of Compost"(1)
"... picture me at my desk with a glazed look in my eye and a cascade of dribble sliding over my chin towards QWERTY. Comfrey to Allan the composter is donut with double caramel topping to Homer the fridge raider. This is a mouth-watering treat of a plant. It's easy to grow, perfect to compost and great to turn into a liquid feed"
The beauty of this - let's be honest - rather ugly plant is that it sucks up nutrients hidden deep in the ground and accumulates them in their leaves. These can be composted or turned into a liquid feed for other plants in the garden. There is more information on comfrey in Allan Shepherd's book and at Comfrey http://www.allotment.org.uk/grow-your-own/comfrey. Allotment.org.uk describes the comfrey in water method for making liquid feed, which has the disadvantage of smelling "like an open sewer when finished". Allan Shepherd favours the less smelly, dry, holed bucket approach one version of which is shown in this YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRbHqz1m7kk.
A big disadvantage of comfrey as a plant in the garden is that the original, wild version is invasive. If you don't want to spend time pulling up plants that keep popping up where you don't want them you need a variety called Bocking 14. I discovered that one of my permaculture friends on Facebook had some in her garden but if you are not so lucky the Organic Gardening Catalogue at http://www.organiccatalogue.com/ is one source in the UK that stocks it.
The comfrey roots from my friend are now overwintering in pots surrounded by leaf mulch. I shall be working on a holed bucket for the fertiliser generation in the spring.
(1) The Little Book of Compost: Recipes for a healthy garden and happy planet Allan Shepherd. Collins (5 Nov 2007). ISBN-13: 978-0-00-726727-9
It then occurred to me that they could serve a useful purpose over the winter as a hibernaculum, so I carried on adding logs and branches and then some of the fallen sycamore leaves that usually cover the garden at this time of year. It now looks quite impressive.
Am I am going to do anything else with it next year? Possibly. As I was finishing the log and leaf pile I came across an article on building a Hugekultur bed (How to Build Irrigation-Free Raised Beds with Hugelkultur http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-agriculture/how-build-irrigation-free-raised-beds-hugelkultur.html). Hugelkultur beds can be as large or as small as you want (How to Build Hugelkultur Irrigation-Free Raised Bed Gardens (Video) http://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/how-to-build-hugelkultur-irrigation-free-raised-bed-gardens-video.html). This looks as though it could be the perfect solution to the problem of disposing of the wood and to making a small problem area of my garden suitable for planting.
Construction is planned for late spring. In the meantime any wild life that would like to use the log and leaf pile as a snug, hideaway over winter are more than welcome. Perhaps I should put up a sign: Winter hidey-holes available - rent free!