There are many ways to protect your precious veg, flowers and herbs from pests and diseases... Ventilation, companion planting and cleanliness are all extremely important to the plants ability to defend itself against problems. But there are definitely things you can do to help them along. You don’t need chemicals only water and some excellent herbs.
Comfrey Liquid Fertilizer
Growing comfrey couldn’t be easier, it can be harvested several times a year and as an organic liquid fertilizer it is invaluable in promoting growth in all plants but especially for tomatoes and chillies. The best variety for this work is Russian Comfrey Bocking 14, and you can buy these root cuttings very easily over the internet. They work well in almost any soil and as it grows deep underground once established it will grow forever. It contains natural chemicals that promote cell growth and this is turns helps the plants grow stronger and produce better crops.
What is brilliant about comfrey is that it contains high levels of all the essential nutrients for plant growth: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) together with many other trace elements. Comfrey out-performs manure, compost and many liquid feeds for concentration of nutrients. It produces these from a deep root system extending right into the subsoil that most edible plants cannot access. It also has an ideal Carbon:Nitrogen ratio which means that it does not hamper absorption of nitrogen by plants. When cutting comfrey it is advisable to use gloves as the hairs on the stems can irritate skin.
Comfrey Tea is simple to make. Harvest your comfrey patch just before flowering for best results and place in a barrel of water. Comfrey leaves can be crammed into a large container with a hole in the bottom with a small container underneath to catch the thick black liquid which will be produced in a few weeks. A great tip we learned was to use one of those big net bags that carrots and onions come in, as your local greengrocer for some. This will make it very easy to remove the leaves later. Weighing the comfrey down with an old brick will help this process and some people add rainwater but this does make the resulting ‘comfrey tea’ smell awful! Once produced, the liquid should be diluted 15:1 with water before using it as a leaf feed for plants such as tomatoes. Use it once a week for best results.
Horsetail is everywhere in Ireland! It is a type of cryptogram, that means it has no flowers or seeds and it spreads underground at high speed making it very difficult to eradicate. However, for the organic grower this is an amazing plant. Its high silica content means that it is capable of strengthen plants that may potentially suffer from mildew or fungus. It is also fantastic used as a hair and nail improver!
In a glass or stainless steel pot, mix 1/8 cup of dried leaves in 1 gallon of water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for at least 1/2 hr. Cool and strain.
Dilute this mix, adding 5-10 parts of water to one part concentrate. Spray plants that show any symptoms of fungal type disease once every 4 days. Spray your seed starting mixtures to prevent damping off. This mix will last a month.