This may be another one for the “hair-brained ideas” file!
The plants in my new vermiponics system clearly haven’t been getting enough nutrients from the two bags of vermicompost I submerged in the reservoir, or even the additional horse muffins (lol) I have floating in there. I can’t say I’m overly surprised – we’re talking here about a tomato plant and a summer squash plant, not lettuce!
For whatever reason I started thinking about my big comfrey plant – wondering if I could make some sort of nutrient rich food out of the leaves. I’ve been interested in comfrey for awhile now – ever since learning that it was a “dynamic accumulator” (aka “nutrient miner”). If you are new to these terms, it basically means this plant has a talent for extracting and accumulating nutrients from the soil. Comfrey seems to be one of the top dogs in this department, likely due to the fact that it sends taproots way down into the lower soil horizons where it grabs nutrients a lot of other plants can’t reach.
I did some additional reading the other day and was pleased to discover that comfrey leaves decompose quite rapidly if chopped up and moistened – it sounded like a great way to make them more worm/microbe friendly!
As for the banana peels…I’m not 100% sure, but I thought perhaps that banana peels might be a decent source of potassium (K) since the fruit itself is known to contain high levels of this element. Potassium is part of the NPK trio of key nutrients that are vitally important for plant growth, so I figured why not!
I chopped up a bunch of comfrey leaves (and some other greens) and banana peels and then inflicted some mortar and pestle action on them in a small bucket. I also mixed in some of my trusty rock dust for good measure!
Before adding the mix on top of the gravel in my bucket pots, I stocked them with some more worms (actually the first time I’ve added worms to them – pretty sure there were at least some already in there though). Once the worms/habitat, and then comfrey mix were added I put some wet burlap over top to help shade the worm feeding zone and retain more moisture. I poured a little water from the reservoir into each pot to make sure everything was nice and moist – will continue to do this a few times a day just to make sure this zone doesn’t dry out at all.
One other thing I almost forgot to mention! Yesterday I did “cheat” a little bit with this system. I cleaned out my daughter’s goldfish tank (Marlin and Nemo were clearly pleased with the new development) and added a lot of the fish tank water to the vermiponics system (in the pots and in the reservoir). It was really just an effort to “play catch-up” a little bit – a fertilizer boost that will (hopefully) help to avoid permanent stunting or general poor health due to my lack of attention as of late.
Anyway, should be fun to see if the growth of these plants improves!
For a great list of dynamic accumulator plants (and the specific nutrients each one accumulates) be sure to check out this webpage:
Dynamic Accumulators of Nutrients for Composting
I think my next target plant will be dandelions! Wow!
Great post, thank you 🙂
Another wonderful thing you can do with Comfrey is make a fermented plant extract: Place a large mass of chopped Comfrey into a container, top off with water, and let sit for two to three weeks. Afterwards, strain out the plant matter, retaining the (rather nasty-smelling) water, and dilute with 20 parts water before feeding.
Boom! Great growth.
Having said that, I am also experimenting with adding Comfrey directly into the worm bins. Fun stuff 🙂
I think that it is interesting how you add uncomposted material to your gardens. Traditionally farmers that use green composting techniques will wait a few weeks after they till in a cover crop for it to compost enough so that the nitrogen isn’t tied up by the decomposing plant material. From what I have read about worms, they too get more benefit from food waste only after it has been breaking down for a week or more. Do you think that you might get better results if you composted the comfrey and banana leaves first?
MUGEN – Thanks for sharing! Sounds like an interesting approach, and I bet the left-over plant material would end up being like worm candy by that point!
DAVID – Yeah, I like to go against the grain from time to time (lol). I’ve had great success with adding newer (uncomposted) materials to outdoor garden beds (often in my windrows though – which aren’t directly IN the garden. Not sure what will happen in this case. I have a sneaking suspicion that the material will be crawling with microbes and worms quite quickly being as ground up as it is (green manures would definitely be bulkier) – and once those worms dig in they’ll start pooping out plant-available nutrients so we should be ok. Just not sure if the amount I added will provide enough of a boost.
Hey Bentley, you should try throwing some comfrey into one of your DIY tumblers with some horse manure. The stuff is great.
I think “hair brained idea” has negative connotations. I think your ideas might be better termed “alternative creative methodologies.”
…Often times, the impossible is only the untried.
Have a great weekend!
DaveG – sounds like a GREAT idea!
JOHN – I guess it all depends on how you look at it. I’m all about the self-deprecating humor, so it’s just meant to be a gentle jab at myself – not to mention a fun recurring theme. I think “alternative creative methodologies” might take a little bit of the fun out of it! LOL
(no offense intended – just a gentle jab in your direction! haha)
Jab away 🙂
I always have 3 tanks of plant material decomposing in water – Stinging Nettle, Comfrey (Bocking 14 cultivar) and Yarrow. In fact these are the only ‘fertilizers’ that I use on both the raised beds as well as container-grown plants (using SmartPots).
These plant materials can be used in thermal composting to kick-start the microbes = instant heating up of the compost pile.
So be careful when adding to a worm bin – in particular Comfrey because of the high nitrogen levels in the leaves it can really ramp up the temperatures if you bury the leaves. Leaving them on top of the bedding material has never cause me any problems. They’ll be gone in a few days and that applies to using it as a green mulch in the garden.
@Jim — interesting ideas for separating your fertilizer teas into three separate tanks. I started growing comfrey this Spring because of all the good that I have heard about it, but intentionally growing Nettle and Yarrow? I’m curious about what benefits you have found from raising and making tea from these. Also, is there a safer variety, because both grow wild around here and would take over the garden pretty quick.
Happy to see this post, as I too recently had the idea that comfrey and bananas would be good worm food for nutrient rich black gold. they also happened to be two of the most readily available wormfoods available because i have a mini comfrey nursery in my apartment, and I eat a looot of bananas. Didnt think about grinding it up together, seems like a good idea. I’ve been enjoying you vermicompost ideas, after a year of moving and travelling I’ve finally got a good worm bin set up and I’m trying to find a ways to better integrate the wrigglers into my garden. It’d be nice to just have them established and casting directly where plants live, would save me lots of time and energy. Excited to try the vermicompost trench in the spring.
Well, my suggestion to everyone who gardens is to establish a worm bin and recycle all of your vegetative and fruit waste from your kitchen through it and let the worms turn that into liquid gold fertilizer. Mine is a 27 gallon DMX rectangular plastic container for $10 at Home Depot. I drilled a hole in one enc near the base & screwed in a valve & filled it with bag soil & shredded newspaper and a bag of soil & some “Red Wriggler” composting worms (available on Amazon) and some kitchen scraps. Then every morning I pour about 5 gallons of water through it and catch the runoff in a 5 gallon bucket. And then I cut up about 10 of my Comfrey Leaves into the bucket & hit it with a water jet every morning and after a few days, the leaves are dissolved and the remaining liquid is the best Natural and Organic Fertilizer you could ever wish for.