Sep 12, 2016

Digging up Comfrey

Propagating more plants with its roots, making fertilizer with its leaves: Here's what to do with a comfrey plant.

Roots: Cuttings for transplant
Other than its handiness as a garden improver[1] and medicinal herb[2], comfrey is most legendary for its hardiness. Even tiny root fragments will regrow in any condition minus a "nuclear explosion."[3]  In this case building a new deck means these few plants must be moved.

Today (August 26th, 2016) is a root day according to the biodynamic calendar[4], perfect time to transplant. And here's an overgrazed, eroding hillside, perfect place. A quick reforming of an 200-year old stone wall, more or less on contour, should help prevent erosion. The deep rooted comfrey should also help. These perennials grow large and bushy by their third year, when they can be cut back for mulch or fertilizer every 5 weeks.

Exposed tree roots: a sign of erosion.

To transplant, dig them up along with as much of their roots as possible. Then break apart the roots into smaller sections, or make 2” cuttings. Then simply stick them in the ground and water. Plant by autumn so they have time to establish before winter.

Only root segments need to be planted, but I left the leaves on just for a photo. Then I cut them for making fertilizer.  Just 10 days later and they're already growing new leaves

Leaves: Fermented tea for fertilizer
Simply add comfrey leaves to a bucket of water. Weigh them to the bottom with a brick. Then cover and wait for at least two weeks. When the water turns black and nasty you'll know it's ready.  Then dilute 5x and pour anywhere that could benefit from comfrey's high nutrient load, especially potassium. 

Starting comfrey fertilizer (Aug. 26th)

Finished comfrey fertilizer (Sept. 8th)

[3] According to contributer at the permies forums

Aug 19, 2016

Organic Recycling Center in Philly

The Recycling Center in Fairmount Park provides mulch, compost, woodchips and manure to Philadelphia residents.  Up to 30 gallons per household, twice per week, are free!  This is a hugely valuable resource to urban farmers, guerrilla gardeners, or anyone in the city with space for plants.

Compost. Made from leaves of fall and manure of park stables.

Aug 16, 2016

Guerilla Gardening in Philly - Soil Building Update

Last week (August 9th) I sowed cover crops on a vacant lot in the city.  The goal is soil-building; both the addition of biomass above ground, and the decomposition of demolished homes below.  So I selected three different cover crops, mixed their seed, and sowed them equally across three test plots of different growth mediums.

"Guerilla Gardening in Philly, Stage 1" explains the crops and plots.

Aug 11, 2016

Guerilla Gardening in Philly - Stage 1, Soil Building

Deep in the concrete jungles of West Philly, Julie Woolhouse strategically located her guerilla gardens, or "vacant-lot gardens" as she calls them.  Last year she purchased a rowhome bordering nearly 1/2 acre of rare urban green.  The open space consists of 21 abandoned properties, each about 800 square feet.  Each was a former rowhome itself, long since forgotten and eventually bulldozed into its own basement and covered with a thin layer of topsoil.  According to stage three of Julie's designs, this land will be a forest of fruit trees, gardens, ponds and grazing livestock.