Pull Up a Chair, It's Time for Compost Tea!

Friday, July 07, 2006
I mentioned before that we once had dahlias growing in our bathroom closet, but that's not all we had growing in there. Believe me, I saved the best for now.

My wonderful husband read that comfrey makes a perfect liquid fertilizer and he wanted to test it out. I said, "Sure. Go for it. Have fun. That's all you."

So he researched comfrey and bought several plants of a non-invasive variety. He planted them in the garden late last summer and they really took off. In late October, he cut the leaves, put them in a tightly sealed tub of water (tightly sealed being a key point here), and he stowed the concoction in our bathroom closet for the winter. Yup, that's right. Comfrey tea, brewing in our bathroom, in our good ol', very large, multi-purpose, we-can-store-everything-in-here closet. It's our basement and junk drawer all in one.

So fast forward to, oh, say about March. I'm reaching for a roll of toilet paper one day, and I get a glance of The Bucket.

"Hey Mike, are you going to take the compost tea out to the garden soon? It's probably ready by now, huh?"

"Oh, yeah, I should take that out now," he replies.

Fast forward through April, May, and June. Repeat the same commentary on a regular basis, as the compost tea continues to fester in the closet. (I'm not bitter about this at all, can you tell?)

Surprisingly, and very fortunately, there was no odor emanating from The Bucket, and by then, I believed the tea might have dried up.

So finally -- FINALLY! -- one day he decided the time was, er -- ripe -- and he grabbed the bucket. He was ecstatic because, indeed, it contained a deep, chocolately-brown swirl of liquid. It was all going according to (his -- did I mention it was his?) plan.

Out at the garden, he broke the seal on that well-aged tub of compost tea and, honest to goodness, this is what it looked like.

I know. The non-gardening people who arrived at this blog via an innocent Internet search for "tea" have been thoroughly grossed out and have long since clicked away to a more pleasant blog. But I know the diehard gardeners among you are thinking -- Wow! Putrid brown liquid that will make my plants grow better -- Tell me more! (Admit it. You know who you are.)

Comfrey, as we learned from the New Book of Herbs, is one of the best natural fertilizers. It's high in potassium, calcium, iron and manganese. It mines these nutrients from the soil and stores them in the leaves. A tea made from the leaves will provide these nutrients directly to your plants. And if added to a compost heap, comfrey will speed up decomposition.

Yes, but how bad does it smell, you ask? Well, it had what I called a 'light manure scent.' Not quite as bad as I thought it was going to be, but let's just say, it's not something you want to spill inside your house.

So we diluted the tea and poured it all over the garden. And, oh, lucky us, there was a new batch of leaves ready to harvest. Time for a fresh brew! Michael cut the leaves, weighted them down with bricks, and added water.

It should take 3 - 5 weeks before the compost tea is ready to use. (Got that? Only 3 - 5 weeks, not months!) It really is that simple: cut leaves, add water and wait. The result is an inexpensive, organic fertilizer.

This new batch, though, I can assure you, is staying outside to brew.


Blogger Susan Voisin said...

Okay, I admit it. I did say "Wow! Putrid brown liquid that will make my plants grow better -- Tell me more!" And you did, so I'm very happy now. I will have to give this a try, but probably not in the bathroom!

Thanks for visiting my blog and for the wonderful comment. I'm going to poke around on yours, but I've already found something useful right in the first post I read!

1:15 PM  
Blogger Carol Michel said...

I'm very excited to try this myself, though I'll keep the bucket outside. Great info!

9:14 PM  
Blogger R said...

wow. gross. growing plants. great.

11:37 PM  
Blogger raine studios said...

ooohhh i am sooo going to go plant a comfrey plant to do this.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Black Eyed Susan said...

This is awesome!! Do you think it will still work if the tub was outside on a porch over the winter?

Thanks for your post to my blog too. I love all my fellow gardener's its just so easy to be envious.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

Black Eyed Susan,
I guess it depends on where you are at and if you get a hard freeze through the winter. If it's frozen, it won't decompose. We brought ours inside, partly for that reason and also because we aren't allowed to have excess "stuff" stored at our plot for the winter.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I planted comfrey this year and it looks great. Can I harvest the leaves all summer even if it's the first year?

8:11 AM  

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