Jan 9, 2015

Garden Tips - comfrey, buckwheat and borage

Apparently you guys liked the garden tips I posted last time. That makes me smile. I was asked to go into more detail about some of the things I mentioned to include in your garden, specifically comfrey, buckwheat and borage.

So here's a quick run down. This is a super basic overview. Googling those will tell you a whole lot more and go in more depth but here's what we know on the topic and why these are in our garden - you'll see a trend in the end.

First, comfrey.

It's a funny little leaf. My husband first read about it in Gaia's Garden and knew we had to have it. There are many types of comfrey and it's important to use the right type to reduce spreading.

**"Bocking14" is grown specifically for gardening as it doesn't produce seeds and can only spread through cutting and transplanting the tap root.** Other varieties produce seeds and can overtake an area.

The Bocking14 plant grows a deep tap root so it's really difficult to get rid of once planted so you better plan a spot for it that you don't want to change! But that's also a good thing because plant it once and you'll never need to plant again.

Here it is in various stages in our garden:

pictured bottom middle, the two big leaves about mid-spring, chicken to the right

lower front, by early summer the comfrey plants growing quite well and rather large


On to the good stuff:

  • It's a great organic fertilizer for your garden, specifically tomatoes as it's rich in potassium and nitrogren (but do your research, not all plants like it, ie root plants and lettuces)
  • It kicks your compost into major over-drive because it breaks down quickly
  • You can compost it on it's on and make a liquid, comfrey tea, as a liquid fertilizer - we haven't done this yet as we started out planted last year and it's best to have them established before making leaf cuttings for tea but you better believe we're doing it this year!
  • You can cut the leaves and lay in the hole where you're planting tomatoes, peppers and fruit to fertilize the plant at the roots
  • We used the leaves as a mulch around our berry plants as a fertilizer
  • If you let it blossom, the leaves attract bees which will pollinate your plants
  • We also give fresh leaves to our chickens and rabbits (have I mentioned here that we now have rabbits?!) a supplemental feeding and since it's planted around the border or our garden, the chickens snack on the leaves at will* 

We purchased our cuttings online but word on the street is there's a local Oklahoman growing and selling it.

Buckwheat

I didn't know anything about this plant until the husband educated me. Do you see a pattern? He does the research and I follow his lead. It works!

Anyway, having grown it this past year and seeing the benefits, I will always want it in my garden. It's that good. Here it is in our garden:

my oldest in the back area of the garden full of flowering buckwheat

pictured very back by the fence, to give an idea of the space we planted

aerial showing some buckwheat removed for summer squash plants

summer squash growing with remaining buckwheat

buckwheat seeds harvested, leaves removed for chickens and stems dried for mulch

  • It's a great cover crop for outer areas as the plants get pretty dense as they grow and block out weeds
  • the bright white flowers are not only beautiful and look like wildflowers but they also look good to beneficial insects like bees, ladybugs and most importantly, parasitic wasps - these are key if you want to do organic gardening and not spray for pests
  • the plant grows quickly and can be turned in to fertilize the soil
  • the seeds can be harvested and ground into flour - we didn't do this, we threw some in to our chickens
  • instead of turning the stalks into the ground, we let them dry and used as mulch for our strawberries

Lastly, Borage

pictured to the left with purplish-blue flowers
inside the fence, to the left of the chicken is comfrey early spring and borage far right

  • When I talked about companion planting, this is one of the best to plant near tomatoes and squash because it deters hornworms
  • bees and beneficial insects like the blue flowers
  • the small leaves and flowers are edible and taste a little like cucumber and are a pretty addition to salads
  • the leaves help activate compost
  • you can feed the leaves to chickens - ours love them!

There you have it. Basically, we like these because the all attract beneficial insects which pollinate plants, repel bad ones so we don't have to use sprays or chemicals to get rid of pests, they add nutrients to your garden soil and plants and most greens can be fed to your chickens (and rabbits).

As with anything, don't take my word for it, do your own research and see if these are plants you'd like to include in your garden.


*there is some debate on this plant - do your own research and decide if you want to feed to your chickens. We do, our girls love it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your comments. I will be planting borage and buckwheat this spring in order to help the soil which is clay.It is beautiful to see children like yours, admiring mother nature.

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