Saturday, 27 February 2016

Comfrey - BELIEVE the HYPE!

There's a ton of info out there about comfrey but not much detail regarding establishing and managing a comfrey patch so I thought I'd write a post to share my experience on this and explain how we grow comfrey as part of our fertility strategy in the market garden.

When writing this article I could not resist to include some of the story of this incredible plant and of the people that have been enchanted by its prowess. So we'll start with a condensed story of comfrey and why I think you should certainly believe the hype.

Comfrey 'Bocking 14' in the under story of a Walnut - Juglans regia in our Forest Garden       

Part 1. Introduction to Comfrey

  

A member of the Borage family, Comfrey - Symphytum spp. is native to Europe and Asia and there are 40 recorded species of Comfrey throughout that region. The plant most commonly referred to and used in gardens is Russian Comfrey - Symphytum x uplandicum, a naturally occurring hybrid of two wild species: Common Comfrey - Symphytum officinale and Prickly Comfrey - Symphytum asperum.

A few centuries back the hybrid Symphytum x uplandicum came to the attention of an original ecotrepreneur Henry Doubleday (1810 – 1902) and he widely promoted the plant as a food and forage crop. Years later, and after two world wars, Lawrence D Hills (1911–1991) would continue Henry Doubleday's Comfrey crusade.

In the 1950's Hills developed a Comfrey research program in the village of Bocking, near Braintree in the UK. The original trial site is on the plot of land now occupied by the Doubleday Gardens housing development. Lawrence Hills lived at 20 Convent Lane just around the corner of the trail site.

The area highlighted in red was the site of the Bocking  trails. Today, it is home to the housing development named Doubleday Gardens in memory of Henry Doubleday. The red dot is where Hills lived.

At this site Hills trialed 21 Comfrey "strains" gathered from other growers  around the country. He named the "strains" after the village Bocking   and gave each one a number.

Strain fourteen was identified as being the most nutrient rich non-seeding strain and 'Bocking 14' began its journey into gardens far and wide across the world.

As a consequence of his research into comfrey and organic gardening, Hills founded HDRA (Henry Doubleday Research Organisiation).  HDRA moved from Bocking to Wolston, near Coventry at the present site of Ryton Organic gardens in 1985, where today you can find ten acres of fully landscaped organic gardens. HDRA is now known as Garden Organic and is one of the worlds leading organic gardening organisations.

It's amusing to think how the chance offspring of two wild plants can have so much influence!

Regarding the other 20 strains, it appears all but 'Bocking 4' are lost. I'll be visiting Ryton Gardens in the summer to see if I can track down "the lost Bocking strains". If anyone has any other idea where they can be found please get in touch!



So let's take a look at why these guys found this plant so enthralling.

Comfrey Uses


Medicinal Use - Comfrey has been cultivated, at least, since 400 BC as a healing herb. The Greeks and Romans commonly used Comfrey to stop heavy bleeding, treat bronchial problems and heal wounds and broken bones. Poultices were made for external wounds and tea was consumed for internal ailments.  Comfrey has been reported to promote healthy skin with its mucilage content that moisturizes and soothes and promotes cell proliferation. This plant is my first port of call if ever I need to dress a wound. Simply take a few leaves brush them together to remove the hairs and wrap them around the wound and apply light pressure.  It's incredibly effective at stopping the bleeding, reducing the pain and healing the wound.

Biomass - Comfrey produces large amounts of foliage from late May until hard frosts in October or November. The plant is excellent for producing mulch and can be cut from 2 - 5 times per year depending on how well the plants are watered and fed. The plant grows rapidly after each harvest.
In our gardens we have Comfrey 'Bocking 14' located next to each fruit tree in order to have a renewable source of mulch just where we need it. We also grow in patches as part of our fertility strategy in the market garden and have patches in the wildflower meadows.(details below). 
We recently supplied 1000  'Bocking 14' cuttings to  Oxygenisis a business in Germany who are experimenting with using this plant for carbon capture.

Mineral Dam – The Comfrey has deep roots of up to 2 m that utilize nutrients deep in the subsoil that would otherwise wash away with the underground soil water or remain inaccessible to other plants. The nutrients - once taken up from the roots -  are relocated throughout the plant as and where needed with some of them ending up in the Comfrey leaf mass. When cutting the leaf mass and applying to the soil surface the mined nutrients are returned and again made accessible to shallower rooted crop plants.

Biodiversity  - The bell shaped flowers provide nectar and pollen to many species of bees and other insects from late May until the first frosts in late Autumn. Lacewings are said to lay eggs on Comfrey and Spiders overwinter on the plant. Parasitoid Wasps and Spiders will hunt on and around Comfrey.

Xylocopa violacea - Violet carpenter bee feeding from our comfrey patch

Pest and Disease Prevention and Control - Research indicates that a comfrey solution can be used to prevent powdery mildew. Pest predators such as spiders, lacewings and parasatoid wasps associate with this plant. Its best to leave some plants alone in order to sustain pest predator relationships.

Ground Cover – Some species can quickly spread to form a thick ground cover and work particularly well for ground cover on the sunny side under shrubs and trees. Symphytum tuberosum - Tuberous Comfrey is a great ground cover option. 

Fertilizer - Comfrey leaves contain a great balance of major plant nutrients (N,P,K) and can be feed to plants as powder, direct mulch or by steeping chopped Comfrey leaves in water for several weeks to produce a thick, dark liquid that can be diluted with water and applied to plant roots.
More on this below.

Nutritional Value of Comfrey - You can see from the below table that wilted Comfrey contains significantly higher quantities of Potash compared to other organic fertilisers. Its well recorded that Comfrey is an excellent source of potassium (K)  a major plant nutrient that is required by plants in large amounts for proper growth and reproduction.

Taken from Lawrence D.Hills - The Comfrey Report

Animal Fodder - Comfrey has a long history for use as an animal feed. Lawrence D Hills dedicated books to this topic*.  The leaves are best received by animals wilted. Fresh leaves can be eaten by pigs, sheep, and poultry but cattle, rabbits and horses will only consume wilted leaves.

Human Consumption - Symphytum officianale  and Symphytum x uplandicum are both reported to be used for salad and potherb and are best when cooked. Personally I'm not keen on the texture but will have the occasional nibble from the garden using the new growth to mix in a spring green salad.

Caution - Although Comfrey has been used as a food crop, in the past 20 years scientific studies reported that Comfrey may be carcinogenic, since it appeared to cause liver damage and cancerous tumors in rats. These reports have temporarily restricted development of Comfrey as a food crop. In light of this, the regular consumption of Comfrey is not advisable. 


Plant Description


Life cycle - Herbaceous perennial

Growth habit - Comfrey begins growth in early spring and compact clusters of young leaves are soon visible in the crown of the old plant. Around late spring, the leaf blades with long petioles have grown to over 35 cm  high. Basal leaves are large, lance-shaped, stalked, and coarsely hairy. The leaves dye back following the first frost and remain dormant for winter. Many species can spread vigorously via seed and are generally not welcome in the garden because of this. Other species can spread via tubers and all species quickly regenerate from broken root pieces.  

Flowering - Starts in late May or early June and continues until the first frost in late Autumn.  The bell-shaped flowers with pedicels are in terminal cymes or one-sided clusters. Flowers of Common Comfrey are usually creamy yellow, but white, red, or purple types have been found in Europe. Prickly Comfrey has pink and blue flowers while Russian Comfrey has blue, purple, or red-purple flowers.  Tuberous Comfrey has creamy white flowers. Vegetative growth does not cease with the start of flowering, and the plant will add new stems continuously during the growing season. Most comfrey plants can be somewhat invasive spreading via seed to parts of the garden where they are not wanted. 'Bocking 14' will flower and provide nectar and pollen but will not produce viable seed.    

The first flowers of  spring. 


Roots -  Some plants species have short, thick, tuberous roots such as Symphytum tuberosum. Others such as Symphytum x uplandicum have deep and expansive root systems.

'Bocking 14' root system from our market garden. Grown from a crown division. The roots extended at least 50 cm down within the first 5 months of growth


Plant Requirements


Light -  Needs full sun for good biomass production but grows fine in the shade.

Shade - Tolerates light shade (about 50%)

Moisture - Some species are drought tolerant e.g Symphytum tuberosum. Cultivated plants require irrigation.

USDA Hardiness Zone - 4-9  Comfrey crowns and roots are very winter hardy 

Soil - Comfrey is adaptable to many soils, but prefers moist, fertile soils. 

pH - Tolerates a wide range (6.5-8.5)  Although not very sensitive to soil pH, highest yields are reported to occur on soils with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0


Part 2. How to set up and manage a Comfrey patch


Setting up a Comfrey Patch


Perhaps your're interested in growing comfrey to feed your animals, for medicine, for mulch, for compost or you're slightly masochistic and want to roll around naked in the pricky beds of biomass (not me ) In any case, here's how to do it.

The plant we use in our gardens is Symphytum x uplandicum - 'Bocking 14' , a sterile cultivar that produces copious quantities of  nutrient dense biomass. The following information is based on using this plant. 

Choosing the Site 

  • We're growing for biomass and want the plants to receive as much light as possible. Accordingly, we lay out our beds on an east to west axis (we're in the northern hemisphere). 
  • Irrigation is necessary if you want to get good yields from the plants. In dry climates picking a place with access to reliable irrigation is of paramount importance. 
  • In areas of low rainfall using the gradient of the land to channel precipitation towards your beds will reduce the water needs of your plants. In areas of high rainfall with a high water table you should consider diverting water away from the beds.
  • Once established, Comfrey is difficult to get rid of, so choose a site where you want it to stay. Don't plant Comfrey in any area you cultivate as the broken root pieces quickly establish into new plants and can out compete the slower growing crops. 
  • Positioning Comfrey downhill from where you expect leachate to be present,  i.e downhill from a manure pile , compost heap, outside toilet, animal pen etc,  can provide passive fertility to the plants and rescue otherwise lost minerals from draining away with the sub soil ground water. 
  • Grow the comfrey where you want to use it. As you'll see later we may be harvesting over 1/4 ton biomass from our patch and don't want to be carrying that over long distances  


Preparing the site - Raised beds are a major part of our fertility strategy and overtime retain water and nutrients very efficiently. I use 1.3 m wide beds surrounded by 50 cm paths for our crops as this allows easy access for harvesting everywhere in the beds without ever having to tread on the soil and the paths are wide enough to take our lawnmower.

Here is an example of a 10 m long comfrey bed on our site.

Diagram of a Comfrey Bed from our Market Garden 

To form a bed the area should be cleared of all plants, best achieved by sheet mulching the season before. Pernicious perennials or tap rooted biennials should be dug out. After you have cleared the whole area, mark out the bed shape with string and dig out 50 cm wide paths around your beds applying the soil to the surface of the planting area thereby creating the initial rise of the bed. Fork over the beds well. If a hard pan is present take the time and effort to eliminate it before planting.

Raised beds in our Market Garden 

Depending on the quality of your soil you may want to add extra compost before planting into the bed. If you have sheet mulched the area before hand all you need to do is add a good 20 cm thick of straw mulch (or some other mulch) and it's ready for planting. A good mulch to start with will help keep the weeds down while your comfrey gets going.

You can alter the depth and gradient of the paths to facilitate the required direction of water movement.

Planting Material
- You can plant out with crown divisions or root cuttings best done in the spring when the soil has warmed. A crown division can be obtained from simply putting a spade through the center of a mature comfrey plant and transplanting the divided sections.For our beds I divided 2 yr old plants into quarters sometimes sixths and these established very well in the first year. Its bests not to harvest the leaf biomass in the first year in order to allow a deep root system to develop. However if you use large divisions you can start harvesting in July.

Our Comfrey Beds 6 weeks after planting

Root cuttings are a great way to plant out large areas of Comfrey. The cuttings should be grown on in small pots with 50% compost 50% river sand mix kept moist and planted out in the spring as soon as the first leaves emerge and the soil has warmed. If you are planting large numbers of root cuttings you can plant directly into the beds by creating "nests" in the straw, adding two cupped handfuls of the above mentioned potting mix and plant the cuttings into this. Keep them moist like a wrung out sponge and the success rate will be very close to 100%

'Bocking 14' root cuttings from our Bionursery

Spacing - The plants should be spaced 60 cm apart in rows and 60 cm apart at diagonals between rows. Plant the rows 15 cm from the edge of the beds.

Comfrey planting plan


Maintenance


Cutting - In the first year allow the plants to establish so that the roots develop well and penetrate deep into the subsoil. Remove any weeds around the plants leaving them on the surface. The following year the cutting can begin. You can scythe the beds for a quick harvest or cut each plant individually with a pair of secateurs or shears cutting to 5 or so cm from ground level. Watch out you don't pull any root pieces up with the leaves as they may regrow wherever they land.
The leaves are prickly so if you have sensitive hands wear gloves. Cut the Comfrey as the flowering stalks emerge up to 4 times a year. Allow the plants to flower at least once during the season to provide bee fodder to a range of native bees and honey bees. Leave the last flush of leaves before the winter so that invertebrates can find winter shelter in the undergrowth. You may need to weed between cuts every now and then but generally the comfrey will quickly cover the surface.

Feeding - After you have cut the Comfrey, mow the pathways between the beds and empty the trimmings around the base of the Comfrey plants. Any trimmings from lawns and hedges in the surrounding area can also be used.

We are experimenting with growing a nitrogen fixing hedging and ground cover plants adjacent to the patch in order to feed our comfrey. We call this the biomass belt  and you can read about the design of this polyculture along with species lists and how to establish and manage this here.

An excellent comfrey feed is undiluted urine applied at a rate of approx 500 ml per plant twice per growing season. Click here for a previous post on using urine as a fertiliser.

Irrigation - Comfrey will produce more biomass if irrigated and in dry climates it's essential to irrigate. Comfrey plants wilt very fast in hot conditions and will stop photosynthesising at this point.
20 L m2 per week of drought should be more than adequate. The beauty of biological systems are that, if managed properly, each year the soils improve  and  the ability of the soil to store water will improve over time.

We use a passive irrigation system diverting water from a mountain stream into the paths around the beds. The paths fill with water, we raise the level by blocking the low points with sacks of sawdust and the water is drawn throughout the soil via capillary action.

Passive irrigation in our market garden.
The paths fill with water and the water permeates throughout the soil via capillary action

How we use the comfrey 


As Mulch - Freshly cut Comfrey leaves make good mulch because they have high nitrogen content, and don't pull nitrogen from the soil while decomposing. Comfrey's high potassium content makes it especially beneficial for vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, berries, and fruit trees.

With adequate feed and watering we've seen yields of 2 - 3 kg of biomass per plant per cut. 


Comfrey beds establishing well. This bed was planted with divided crowns 5 months prior to this photo being taken

Expected Yields 


Here are some records from Lawrence D.Hills (Comfrey Report) supplied to him by UK gardeners in the 1960's


Harvest date
1960
Weight lbs kgHarvest date
1961
Weight lbs kgHarvest date
1960
Weight lbs kg
April 18th 188.1646569th May 9442.63764825th May 8839.916096
June 5th8839.91609613th July 14766.67802413th July 5625.401152
July 24th5223.5867841st Sep7333.1122164th Sep11049.89512
Sep 18th6328.5762965th Nov198.6182486th Nov125.443104
221100.243832151.046136120.655472
based on 12 plants Average
per plant kg
8.353652667based on 34 plants Average
per plant kg
4.442533412based on 34 plants Average
per plant kg
3.548690353



We started our own trails in Spring 2016 and from a 13 m2 patch we harvested a total of 96.92 kg of comfrey leaves. This was obtained from four cuts. You can find out the details of this trial here.

If you would like to join the "who can grow the most comfrey" experiment and contribute data to our records send us an email. It will be great to have records from all over the world.





Liquid Fertliser - What I like to call "Comfert" Fill a barrel, preferably with a bottom tap and a gauze on the inside (to prevent clogging) about 3/4 full with freshly cut Comfrey and add water to fill the barrel. Cover it, and let it steep for 3 to 6 weeks. The smell from the resulting liquid is far from attractive so approach with caution :) The tea may be used full strength or diluted by half or more. Don't apply before heavy rain is forecast as most of the nutrients suspended in the liquid will wash straight through the soil. For the best results apply the feed to your vegetables when they are in most need of the extra fertility. This will be different for each crop - for example, tomatoes are best fed when they are setting fruit and then any time during the fruiting period. Applying comfert before this can be counter productive and make your plants more susceptible to pest problems. The black slurry at the bottom of the barrel can be dispersed evenly back over the Comfrey patch.


Liquid fertilizer concentrate -"Comfert Plus" can also be made by packing fresh-cut comfrey tops into an old bucket, weighing them down with something heavy, covering tightly, and waiting a few weeks for them to decompose into a black slurry. You can put a hole in the bottom of the bucket and collect the concentrate in another container as it drips out. Dilute this comfrey concentrate about 15 to 1 with water, and use as you would Comfert. You can seal this concentrate in plastic jugs until you are ready to use it.

Warning! - A word of warning! If you get comfert on your hands you will literally have to wait for your skin cells to shed before you get the smell off. Wearing gloves helps !

Plant Nutrient Value of Comfrey 

According to Martin Crawford  in Creating a Forest Garden: Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops one cut of comfrey from one plant contains 0.5g of Nitrogen (N) and 10g of potassium (K) to crops.

Based on this I calculated how much Potassium (K), Nitrogen (N) and biomass the 13 m2  comfrey patch can potentially produce in a year.

Annual Comfrey Outputs for 13 m2 Raised Bed
Total Biomass (kg)97 kg
Total Comfrey cuts per year 208
Potassium (K) supplied per year 2.08 kg
Nitrogen (N) supplied per year 104 g
Based on 52 plants cut four times a year
Average biomass of 5.5 kg per plant

Below is a table indicating how many comfrey cuts are needed to meet the Nitrogen and Potassium needs of various moderate and heavy cropping fruit and nut trees and annual vegetables.



Annual Requirement
Nitrogen(N) Supply To Sustain Cropping Moderate Croppers
3g/m2
Heavy Croppers 10g/m2Annual vegetables
37g/m2
0.5g/cut4 cuts applied to each m2 16 cuts applied to each m2 60 cuts applied to each m2
Potassium (K) Supply To Sustain Cropping Moderate Croppers
3g/m2
Heavy Croppers 10g/m2Annual vegetables
37g/m2
10g per cut 1/3 of cut plant applied to each m2 1 cut applied per m2 4 cuts applied per m2
                                                     
                                                           Table adapted from Martin Crawford' s Creating a Forest Garden:


In 2016 we started our comfrey trials measuring the inputs and outputs of a 13 m2 patch of Comfrey. For information on this trial see here.


Biodiversity


In order to provide habitat for nesting spiders and invertebrates the last growth of Comfrey leaves can be left uncut before the winter. We also allow the plants to flower at least once between cuts to provide bee fodder to a range of native bees as well as honey bees and leave some plants around the garden untouched.

Here's a few plants we planted into a wildflower meadow patch of the market garden. This area is cut once a year and dried for the rabbits winter hay.   

Its worth noting that cutting back the flowering Comfrey when neighboring crop plants are in flower will drive the pollinators to your crops increasing the likelihood of successful pollination.





Photos of invertebrates on our Comfrey plants - by Peter Alfrey

Voila! You are now ready to embark upon your own Comfrey Crusade and start growing this fabulous plant  

If you would like to stay informed about our comfrey trails and receive our new articles please enter your email below and hit subscribe. We promise to sell your email to every spammer on the block. Just kidding, obviously we'll keep your email private.





Buying Comfrey

 Root cuttings and crowns come from our bio nursery and are  100% biologically grown - Click here for crowns and here for cuttings.

Crowns emerging in early spring 

Send an email to  balkanecologyproject@gmail.com with your order and we will get back to you the same day.


References

For more on Lawrence D.Hills findings on Comfrey see his book Comfrey Past, Present and Future . You can also find the below books of Lawrence D Hills books for free at Soil and Health library.

Thank you to Dr Francis Raynes from Coventry University for informing me on the history of the Bocking sites.

Comfrey - T.M. Teynor1, D.H. Putnam2, J.D. Doll3, K.A. Kelling3, E.A. Oelke2, D.J. Undersander3, and E.S. Oplinger3
Comfrey - Fodder, Food & Remedy - L.D. Hills
Comfrey - Past Present and Future - L.D Hills 


Want to learn how to create regenerative landscapes?  Join us this summer for our Regenerative Landscape Design Course





We offer a range of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens from our plant nursery including a new range of fruit and nut cultivars well suited to natural gardens. Delivery to all over Europe available from Nov - March 



 Balkan Ecology Project Bio-Nursery 

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Preparation for the Regenerative Landscape Design Course

I spent the last few days with Smilyan Pavlov from Huma selecting design plots for our Regenerative Landscape Design Course scheduled for the late summer of this year.

I'm very much looking forward to this course and believe we have come up with an excellent format. The focus is on delivering a very practical and realistic experience to the participants wherein we'll be out in the field using real plots of land to show how to survey the topography, botany, soil and habitat of a site. Using the information we gather from our surveys, we'll go through how to analyse the data in order to be able to make informed decisions that result in a design that is truly regenerative, productive and economically and ecologically viable.


The plots we are looking to survey during the course were acquired as part of our land stewardship strategy and we intend to plant a range of experimental perennial polycultutres on these nest year when we expand the polyculture project.


One of the design sites photo by Smilyan Pavlov

Smilyan and Georgi will be working with us on the surveying and mapping segments of the course and introducing some low cost mapping tools and techniques . Click here and here to see some of their past work.






For more info see the web page.


Another one of the design sites  Photo by  Smilyan Pavlov

We offer a range of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens from our plant nursery including a new range of fruit and nut cultivars well suited to natural gardens. Delivery to all over Europe available from Nov - March 




Want to learn how to create regenerative landscapes?  Join us this summer for our Regenerative Landscape Design Course.




Thursday, 11 February 2016

Biological Fertiliser - Human Urine

Human urine provides an excellent source of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and trace elements for plants, and can be delivered in a form that’s perfect for assimilation.  With a constant, year-round and free supply of this resource available, more and more farmers and gardeners are making use of it.

What's in it?


Urine is 95% water.  The other 5% consists of urea (around 2.5%), and a mixture of minerals, salts, hormones and enzymes. It is a blood byproduct, but despite containing some bodily waste it is non-toxic.


The average urine from a healthy adult will release 11g nitrogen/urea, 1g phosphorus/super-phosphate and 2.5g potassium. The normal range for a 24-hour urine output is 800 to 2000 milliliters (ml) per day with a normal fluid intake of about 2 liters per day.  That's an average of 1400 ml per person, per day!

Fresh human urine is sterile and so free from bacteria.  Only when it is older than 24 hours the urea turns into ammonia, which is what causes the distinctive smell.  Antibiotics, vitamin supplements and other medications will end up in your urine, but in such minute quantities as to be negligible, especially when diluted in water.

How to use it 


Urine can be used in a number of ways, such as a solution that is applied to plants to provide a quick, short term boost in growth or as a nitrogen additive to carbon based material, facilitating the composting process. I prefer to use urine for compost building or biomass production as I generally find long term fertility solutions preferable to quick fixes.

Let's look at the various ways it can be used.

Plant feed solution 

It is too strong to be used neat on most plants and should be diluted. Dilute one part fresh urine to 10-15 parts water for application on plants in the growth stage. Dilute one part fresh urine to 30-50 parts water for use on pot plants, which are much more sensitive to fertilisers of any kind.

Even when diluted your plants don’t need daily applications and it's best used on plants that need lots of nitrogen, such as corn and squash, tomatoes and cucumbers during their fruit-bearing stage.
You can also use it to remedy nitrogen deficiencies. Signs of nitrogen deficiency include yellow or pale green leaves.

Nitrogen deficiency in Tomato (photo by http://www.haifa-group.com/knowledge_center/deficiencies/nutrients/macro_nutrients/n_nitrogen/)

There is a danger of applying too much and the excess nitrogen can lead to bushy, leafy plants that attract aphids and bear little fruit. Signs of excess nitrogen include curled leaves,

Excess diluted urine can be used on lawns and trees.  

Compost additive 

Urine can be applied directly to the compost pile.  As it's very high in nitrogen, it should be added to plenty of carbon-rich materials, like dry leaves, sawdust, straw and cardboard. Urine can act as a starter for compost, encouraging the decomposition process. Undiluted urine can also be applied directly to heavily mulched soils serving the same function as above. The mulch should be thick enough to absorb the urine before it can make contact with plant roots


Straw Bale Stacks  

You can urinate directly on a bale of straw and eventually the straw will decompose and can be used as compost or you can plant directly into the decomposing straw bales.

We use straw bale stacks which are, as the name suggests, simply a number of bales stacked up.   These provide excellent habitat for overwintering toads and frogs. When the bales have decomposed the area is perfect for planting trees into. It's weed free, with mulch and compost right where it needs to be. Build a new pile where you plan to plant a tree in the future and see the toads and frogs quickly move in.  Aesculapian Snakes are also commonly found in our bale stacks along with a tremendous amount of invertebrates.
The bales on the ground surface will decompose within 12 months even without urine.

Common Toad - Bufo bufo and Aesculapian snake - Zamenis longissimus photographed within one of our Straw bale stacks. 

Applied Directly  

Some plants such as Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey 'Bocking 14' can handle neat urine. Following cutting the plants, you can provide each plant with  approx. 700 ml of undiluted urine.

Comfrey 'Bocking 14' - Symphytum x uplandicum growing in the under story of our forest garden 

This creates a great opportunity to cut out the dilution phase and produce good quantities of high quality nutrient dense mulch for your crops. This biomass when continuously applied to the surface of your beds will help create long term fertility in your gardens by building up the soil humus levels.  Click here for more on Humus.


If you would like to grow your own Comfrey 'Bocking 14' we have the best quality root cuttings, crowns and plants available from our Bio-nursery.

For how to grow Comfrey and more about this pretty amazing plant click here.

20 Root Cuttings - 28.50 - £20
50 Root Cuttings - 
68 - £48
100 Root Cuttings - 
132 - £94
500 Root Cuttings - 
€590 - £422

Price includes delivery via international courier service, recorded and tracked. Estimated delivery time is 5-9 days.  .  

For larger quantities of Comfrey 'Bocking 14' root cuttings, please contact us for a quote. 

​Send an email to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com with your order

We offer a range of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens from our plant nursery including a new range of fruit and nut cultivars well suited to natural gardens. Delivery to all over Europe available from Nov - March


Balkan Ecology Project - Bionursery 

Want to learn how to create regenerative landscapes?  Join us this summer for our Regenerative Landscape Design Course.




References

  • http://modernfarmer.com/2014/01/human-pee-proven-fertilizer-future/
  • http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/gardening/605742/urine_the_ultimate_organic_fertiliser.html
  • http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/human-urine-is-an-effective-fertilizer/
  • http://www.liquidgoldbook.com
  •  NASA Contractor Report No. NASA CR-1802, D. F. Putnam, July 1971(PDF).