By Joe Cowan
Director of Operations
We have gotten a few requests for a short how-to on making compost tea for ashitaba plants. Compost tea is a simple and effective fertilizer that anyone can make at home, usually for free.
Almost all plants require the addition of nutrients unless they have particularly long roots that are capable of mining the soil for all their nutritional needs. Giving plants extra food is essential for cultivated plants that are not in their natural environments. Ashitaba is one of those plants. Native to the Japanese Pacific Coast, ashitaba is out of its element in Maine or just about anywhere else in the United States.
Comfrey, which grows in abundance all over the place, including my back yard, is a great solution. Rather than running out to the nearest plant store or nursery, see whether you or a friend have some comfrey growing around your house. If you do, then you are in luck.
Comfrey has large, rough leaves with purple flowers. It is almost impossible to get rid of so is viewed as an invasive species. Its roots search deeply into the soil for minerals and trace nutrients that would otherwise be out of reach. It also sends out new shoots all over the place and grows extremely fast. Because of these properties, it has extraordinary value for gardening.
To make the compost tea, harvest the comfrey’s leaves and add them to a large bucket or bin (fill three-quarters full). Fill the bucket with water and cover it. Don’t skip this step! The degrading comfrey will create a VERY strong and off-putting smell, and it will draw flies as well if you don’t cover it.
After two weeks, pour half the mixture into another bucket, then add water to each bucket till full. Now you have twice as much. Pour into a watering can and water around the roots of your plants. They’ll love you for it!
Happy Spring, everyone! As I type this on an early Sunday morning, we are having a beautiful early spring here in the Northeast. Our new garden fence is up, the garden beds are slowly being made, the greenhouse is nearly finished, and seedlings are in the greenhouse planter boxes. For me, spring represents many things, but on a completely practical level it means the transition from “exercise” to doing actual work with my body. Shoveling, pushing a wheel barrow through mud, pitch forking hay — these are my favorite ways to work up a sweat and start the day.