Comfrey & broad bean compost

Summer is a wonderful thing.  Summer holidays are even more so.  Today I chopped all the broad bean plants into chunks about five centimetres long and dropped them into our rotating compost bin.  Then I harvested an armful of comfrey chopped the stems below the leaf off (anything close to the root is just too prone to surviving and setting up a new colony of hard to eradicate plant) and then whizzed up the leaves in my mini kitchen whiz. Usually I use it to make hummous, but comfrey pulp is just as worthy.  Then I put it all in a large bowl, covered it with warm water and left it in the sun for a while.  Then I closed all the holes on the compost bin, opened the lid and poured the mixture in, closed it and rotated it round and round a few times.  Comfrey is a compost activator, and the broad bean plants with their large leaves and woody stems  (plus some old beans I had no inclination to cook) will contain a good mix of nitrogen and carbon.

I weeded some more, and planted basil, white cosmos and some pretty blue and yellow violas.  I love finding little violas (and heartsease miss helen mount is my favourite, though today I planted rebelina) partly hidden amongst larger plants.  They do seem to self-seed, though not prolifically, so I do find them unexpectedly in places where I must have planted them in previous years.

Inside, the painting project continues.  The children ripped all the wallpaper off Brighid's bedroom and the hallway and cleaned the resultant rubbish up.  Favourite Handyman has done an undercoat of the walls and ceiling in the bedroom and begun to 'cut' the hallway.  The testpots await but for some reason my suggestions that we start putting them up haven't come to fruition.  Yet.


robertguyton said…
I wonder if you could tell me about comfrey being a compost 'activator'. I don't quite see how that can be. What does comfrey have that 'activates compost? I'm genuinely interested in this, as a gardener who grows huge amounts of comfrey and who makes compost heaps continuously.

Sandra said…
Hi Robert
Thanks for your comment. I had learnt it somewhere and blithely repeated it so you are very very right to question it. I had a quick check of Linda Woodrow's Permaculture Home Garden, a book that has at times been my bible, but although she loves comfrey, she doesn't use the term 'compost activator'. A quick google revealed this link which does explain that comfrey is a compost activator on the basis that it is nitrogen intensive and this speeds up composting: My next composting plan is to empty my punga raised bed of the seeding poppies, bok choy and spinach which currently reigns, and then to empty out the chicken coop (1 x 2 metres) of the poo-encrusted wood shavings onto the empty garden bed and then add lawn clippings on top. I may have to put bought compost on top of this, as I need to raise the height about half a metre. I'm not sure how soon I will be able to grow food in it - if I wait until spring, then I will top it all with peastraw. Any thoughts on this plan?
robertguyton said…
Hi Sandra - thanks for your quick response. I don't really accept the 'comfrey is nitrogen high' idea. It would have to release its nitrogen pretty fast to stimulate a heap. I've always believed that urine is best - nitrogen served liquid (and warm :-)
It's the bacteria in a hot-compost that we are trying to 'activate', so they'd need something 'ready-to-eat', in my view. Sugars too, seem likely contenders. A cup-full of molasses might be useful.
Your punga bed sounds interesting. I'm not sure why you'd weed it first though - couldn't your mix go straight on top of what's there now? The chicken chips will be both rich and poor (the degrading woodchips will steal the nitrogen from the poo initially). Grass clippings though, are rich and fast sources of nitrogen. Mixed with the chippy-poo, they'd be great. I wouldn't buy compost to top up - it's cheating, in my view, and if you can garden without buying anything, you are gardening well:-)
You might have to leave your bed for a season, maybe grow lupins/oats/vetch in it once it has settled down, then put a spring crop into that lovely winter-tempered soil.
Of course, I'm only speculating from afar - you'll know much better than I.
I hope you'll post on the results and then I'll know for sure what was what.
Good luck.

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