Herb tonics for YOUR GARDEN
Just as you might enjoy a freshly brewed cup of herbal tea, your garden will benefit from a herbal cuppa too.
Many plants absorb nutrients from the soil through their roots, which are then absorbed into their cells. If you steep those plants in water, many of those nutrients will seep out into the water. And those same nutritional properties that nourish us when drinking a herbal tea can nourish our plants too.
For example, comfrey ( Symphytum officinale) harvests good amounts of potassium, while clover harvests nitrogen. Sorrel ( Rumex spp.) takes up phosphorus. Dock ( Rumex obtusifolius) accumulates calcium, potassium, iron and phosphorus. Chickweed ( Stellaria media) absorbs potassium, phosphorus and manganese, and dandelions ( Taraxacum officinale) absorb a host of minerals. So why not make a nourishing tea for your garden from these plants? Comfrey, sorrel and nettle will supply a great all-round fertilising herbal tea with good amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.
To make a nutritious tea for your garden, fill a bucket with any or all of these plants and top with water. Steep for 2-3 weeks, stirring occasionally. Strain and dilute to the colour of weak tea before using. Put any remaining sludge from your finished brew in the compost bin.
As comfrey absorbs large amounts of potassium from the soil, it’s a useful fertiliser where high levels of potassium are needed. Capsicums, potatoes, broad beans and cucumbers all thrive on it. If growing and using comfrey as a herbal tea for the garden, you should get four or five good harvests a year, from late spring to late autumn. Plants are ready for cutting 5-6 weeks after the previous harvest.
Fresh comfrey leaves can also be placed around berry plants as well as fruit trees as a nutritious mulch. A layer of moistened grass clippings will keep them in place. Or you can place one- or two-day-old wilted comfrey leaves in the bottom of trenches before planting your potatoes. The leaves break down rapidly and supply potassium for the developing potato plants.
Planted in the garden, German chamomile ( Matricaria recutita) draws potassium, sulphur and calcium to the soil surface, to the benefit of plants nearby. Made into a tea, it may prevent seedlings from succumbing to damping off, due to its antifungal properties. To make a tea, pour 2 cups of freshly boiled water over ¼ cup chamomile flowers. Let steep until cool, then strain. Water your seedlings or put in a spray bottle to spray on plants.