Posts Tagged ‘Comfrey’

2015 Garden Review

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
Potato Blossoms

Potato Blossoms

The 2015 CobraHead Home Garden was a great success. The garden is never the same from year to year. Weather, seed and plant inputs, labor, luck, and a lot of other variables make each garden season a new experience. That’s an advantage for home gardeners. They don’t need perfection to be successful, and last year’s errors are only lessons for the future. I like to tell beginning gardeners not to worry. Plant enough different stuff and some of it will turn out great in spite of your mistakes or misfortunes.  We had some pretty miserable failures this year, but overall most plants did fine and we harvested as much as we could hope for.

Potatoes in Open Raised Bed

Potatoes in Open Raised Bed

200 Pounds of Potatoes

200 Pounds of Potatoes

We had our largest potato harvest ever.  We’re storing them in a straw bale cold storage structure I set up in the barn.

One Potato - Over Four Pounds

One Potato – Over Four Pounds

Sweet Potato Starts in Flat

Sweet Potato Starts in Flat

Sweet potatoes are a crop we are famous for, and this year’s harvest was among our best ever.  I’m continuing to start my sweet potatoes from sprouted old roots.  It’s really easy.

Peas Interplanted with Greens in Open Raised Bed

Peas Interplanted with Greens in Open Raised Bed

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis.

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis.

Squash Trellises

Squash Trellises

We continue to use T-posts as our primary trellis structure supports.  I like them because they are cheap, nearly indestructible, and they can handle huge loads.

Low Hoop Tunnels

Low Hoop Tunnels

Cabbages

Cabbages

We’re getting better at transplanting seedlings directly from indoor spouting to a low tunnel hoop house.  This eliminates time consuming “hardening off”  and gives us some really vigorous starts.

Giant Swiss Snow Pea

Giant Swiss Snow Pea

Radishes and Peas in the Pan

Radishes and Peas in the Pan

We grew a new (for us) snow pea called Giant Swiss.  It was prolific and delicious.  Here’s a frying pan with peas and radishes, the first time we’ve ever cooked radishes, which is something we should have been doing  a long time ago.

Harvest of Smaller Squash

Harvest of Smaller Squash

Boston Marrow Squash

Boston Marrow Squash

Our trellised smaller winter squash and our larger trailing vine squash were both super productive.  We are trying to figure out what to do with it all.

Mustard in the Pea Patch

Mustard in the Pea Patch

We’re getting more and more vegetables and herbs to be perennials or volunteers.  It’s our sort of stab at permaculture.  Mustard is now a weed in the garden, along with cilantro and kale, and several types of onions and garlic.

Comfrey

Comfrey

Big Yields

Big Yields

An inedible weed, but one I’m encouraging for its properties as a compost plant is comfrey.  I just have to be careful it doesn’t take over everything.  It’s too easy to grow.

Celery

Celery

One of our miserable failures this year was celery.  It’s looking great here in the picture, but I didn’t pay attention to its watering needs and ended up with a mostly unusable batch of hollow stems.

Dwarf Gray Sugar Pea

Dwarf Gray Sugar Pea

Leatherwing beetles on tansy

Leatherwing beetles on tansy

We write about our garden and show pictures on our blog, so I thought I needed a macro lens to help give us some cool photos.  I’m not into insect sex life, but the macro really gives some nice detail.

We’re still harvesting leeks, Brussels sprouts, and various greens as our unusually mild December draws to a close.  I would have to rate the 2015 garden one of the best ever.  Now we’ll see what the new year brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comfrey Mulch

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015
Comfrey by the Compost

Comfrey by the Compost

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale L.) reminds me a lot of tobacco, which is grown as a cash crop by farmers here in Cambridge, Wisconsin. I’ve read that comfrey can be smoked as a tobacco, but I have no interest. I grow it as a compost crop and for that purpose, its value is remarkable.

I previously posted about using comfrey in compost here.

Harvesting Hatchet

Harvesting Hatchet

An established growth of comfrey can be harvested up to four times per year.  I decided to cut some to use as a mulch in the paths. I hadn’t done that before, which I realize now was a mistake. It’s just so easy.  I was harvesting comfrey with a Japanese kama, but a camper’s hatchet is much easier to use. The heft of the hatchet easily cuts through multiple stems.

Big Yields

Big Yields

The large plants produce huge yields.  When you realize the plants can be cut back up to four times a season, the output of comfrey is something to be appreciated.  About the only downside is that comfrey likes to spread and if unchecked could take over an area.

Mulching the Paths with Comfrey

Mulching the Paths with Comfrey

Here are harvested plants laid down in the paths.  I’ll be adding more to make sure paths and bed edges are smothered.  I’m going to encourage even more growth of comfrey as I think comfrey mulch will make my gardening easier.

Comfrey for Compost

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Comfrey and Compost Piles

Comfrey and Compost Piles

I can’t remember how comfrey (Symphytum officinale L.) got introduced into my garden, but it probably came from Geoff when he worked at Nokomis Gardens in East Troy, Wisconsin, about sixteen years ago.  It’s now firmly established  just north of the garden beds and west of the compost area.  The plants are gradually expanding their area of control and comfrey can become a pest with its ability to spread, but I’m welcoming what I currently have and I won’t worry about it taking over just yet.

I took advantage of a drizzly Saturday morning to turn over a compost pile without having to drag hoses or carry in water to get the compost slightly damp.  I thought that layering in a lot of comfrey leaves would bring in some more moisture while adding beneficial nutrients of the leaves to the pile.

The pile I turned had been sitting for a year.  I usually have three piles going simultaneously.  The current year’s pile on the right of the picture is everything I’ve pulled out of the garden this year, mainly weeds and crop residue.  The pile from a year ago was turned once and mixed with a 55 gallon drum of household compost.  That’s the one I’m working on.  And the remainder of a two year old pile is being stored and kept dry in two garbage cans.  It has been screened and is ready for use yet this year or next spring.

Comfrey Plants

Comfrey Plants

The benefits of comfrey as a compost plant are well documented.  Its deep tap roots bring up an exceptional array of nutrients and make comfrey leaves a rich source of nitrogen, potassium, calcium and a whole shopping list of vitamins and minerals.  Organic gardeners and permaculture disciples consider it a most perfect plant.

Kama

Kama

Comfrey’s huge leaves can be harvested up to four times a year merely buy slicing them off at ground level.  I use a little Japanese hand axe called a kama, pictured above, and it’s quite easy to chop the soft stems.

Layering in Comfrey Leaves

Layering in Comfrey Leaves

Another benefit of this remarkable plant is that the leaves break down quickly whether in a compost pile or when used as a mulch.  Here is the pile being layered with comfrey.  Compost purists will argue that compost piles have to be built just right and that they must be brought to a specific temperature to kill weed seeds, but I don’t worry about the technical details.  My gardening technique allows for lots of weeds, which I keep in control with shallow cultivation.   So if the piles don’t reach a specific temperature, I really don’t care.

Finished Compost Pile

Finished Compost Pile

Here’s the finished pile.  Next spring it will be ready to screen and put back into the garden.  You can’t have too much compost so I make a lot.  Working it back into the garden has made my beds softer, more manageable, and of course, more fertile.