Our gardens are full of plants, herbs and even weeds which can be real allies in the garden.
Zoom in on 2 useful and complementary plants that we can find in our gardens in April and that you will see with a different eye: the nettle and the comfrey.
It is, without any doubt, the queen of plants in the garden. Criticized for the itching its touches provoke, it knows how to be kind if we know how to use it.
It is a tried and tested medicinal plant – especially to ease insect bites thanks to its sap – or for its purgative properties, it also appears on restaurant menus. Its leaves are rich in iron and can be used in soups and tarts.
However, it is in the garden that we can fully appreciate it. Rich in nitrogen, nettle leaves enable growth and can be used as a pesticide against parasites.
Now you know how to use the nettles that are taunting you from the back of the garden!
To prepare nettle manure:
Put on thick gloves and harvest about 1 kg of nettle leaves that you roughly chop and put in a plastic container, like an old bin for example that you close. Don’t put it near your house because nettle manure is an odorous repellent for humans!!! Cover with 10L of water – ideally rain water (it is cheaper and less chlorinated). Wait until fermentation bubbles on the surface stop appearing. You are now able to use the manure, at 1 to 5 dilution (1L of manure for 5 L of water) and water the plants with it. Make sure that you don’t water the leaves as they would burn under the sun.
Tip: Salvage the leaves that were used to make the manure and add them to your compost.
Use: in the early growth stages and not much on fruit plants as it favours leaves instead of fruit.
Nettle manure can also be used as a spray against aphids, diluted at 50cl in 10l of water.
The comfrey is a perennial that grows naturally along paths, most of all if it’s humid. It is easily recognizable thanks to its willowy bearing, its long and thin hairy leaves which have a lot of veins. From these leaves grow steams covered with white or purple flowers (depending on the variety).
The comfrey – a perennial with many benefits © Mantis / V.Bouillot
This plant has been known since the Antiquity for its medicinal virtues. It is rich in many minerals including calcium, potassium and phosphorus. It was –and is still- used as a poultice to help healing wounds or even broken bones.
What is interesting to us is the help it can provide in the garden.
The comfrey can be used to favour the growth of plants, push parasites away and enrich compost.
Comfrey manure accelerates cell division, favours flowering and fructification. It is excellent as a fertilizer and once the plants are out, it can take over nettle manure.
It is good for edible fruit plants such as red berries, tomatoes or potatoes. The latter can get comfrey manure once a week if needed. Comfrey manure takes longer to macerate than other manures (such as nettle manure) – about 4 weeks- it is ready when there are no more bubbles on the surface. It is used diluted at 1 L of manure for 5L of water.
It can also be used as a repulsive against aphids. In that case, you have to put 25cl of manure for 5l of water
Finally, comfrey is a great compost accelerator. If you have some, cut the leaves a few centimeters above the soil and put them in your compost.
There is one thing to know about comfrey (especially common comfrey): this plant is invasive. To avoid the invasion, make sure it doesn’t set seed. This shouldn’t be an issue if you cut it regularly. 🙂