When you return to a particular place where you have not been for a few weeks, you notice the difference in the vegetation. One of our favourite spots, where in spring we find our weekly supply of nettles and dandelion leaves, is almost unrecognisable in June. Other plants, such as vines and a bamboo look-a-like, Arundo donax, have overtaken our spring plants. You have to hunt under their branches to find nettles. This walk takes you between the River Argens and an irrigation canal. Water is always available and the vegetation is quite different from the hills that surround this spot.
Although we knew we could make fertiliser from certain plants – Nettles (Urtica) – Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) – Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), it was Monty Don on the BBC Gardeners World programme who reminded us of this. Previously in our ‘Seasonal Foraging’ blog we’ve discussed the virtues of Nettles, Comfrey and Horsetail for either culinary or medicinal purposes. This entry is about how the extracts of these plants can benefit our gardens.
A fertiliser made with Nettles enriches the soil with nitrogen, iron, magnesium and sulfur; Comfrey supplies nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous and many trace elements; whereas Horsetail, with its high silicon content, makes the plant stronger and less susceptible to fungal diseases.
It is so easy to make these different fertilisers. All you need is 3 buckets, water (rain water if possible), some stones and a bit of patience.
Put the plant material into the buckets, one for nettles, one for comfrey and one for horsetail. Fill them 3/4 full (you need a bit of room in the bucket for the foam which is naturally produced when the plant material is decomposing). Fill the buckets with water and place some stones on top of the mixture to make sure it stays submerged. Stir the mixture from time to time. It takes about 3 weeks to disintegrate, depending a bit on weather conditions. It does smell (a lid to the bucket is useful) so do not keep it near the house. When ready, strain. Use the fertiliser in a 1 : 10 ratio with water.
Bibliography: BBC Gardeners World; www.gardenstew.com; about.com gardening; The role of silicon in plant susceptibility to disease – Chad Husby