This week we are learning how to prepare some strengthening plant tonics, using nature’s pharmacy.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica)
One potent liquid fertilizer/plant strengthener is stinging nettle slurry. Stinging nettle will deliver essential macronutrients such as nitrogen and iron
- Find a large batch of stinging nettle and cut it at the base with a machete or large knife.
- Place the stinging nettle in a 5-gallon bucket, stuffed full.
- Fill the bucket with water, covering the stinging nettle and let it ferment in the shade, giving it an occasional stir, over the coarse of 4-5 days.
- When you see bubbles forming, the slurry is ready.
- Drain the stinging nettle liquid.
- Dilute using 5 parts water and 1 part extract and apply as soil drench(1) or foliar spray(2). Stinging nettle will deliver essential macronutrients such as nitrogen and iron.
Comfrey can be prepared the same way as stinging nettle. Comfrey provides potassium in addition to nitrogen. Potassium strengthens plant muscle which helps regulate the opening and closing of cell walls (stomata). This is a very important nutrient.
Horsetail or Equisetum is prepared as a tea. Horsetail contains natural silica which improves the vigor of the cell structure which helps defend the plants against fungal diseases such as blights
1. Harvest about ½ of a 5 gallon bucket full of equisetum.
2. Prepare a strong tea by simmering the herb on low heat in a large saucepan with water to cover for one hour.
3. Take off heat and let this sit for 12 hours or overnight.
4. Drain and dilute with 5 parts water and 1 part extract and apply as a foliar spray(2).
- You can prepare compost tea by measuring 1 cup of mature compost, per gallon of water. The better the compost, the more health giving the tea. Stay away from store bought compost because it will be very dehydrated.
- Place the compost into a stocking or cheesecloth and suspending in a 5 gallon bucket.
- Fill bucket with water until it is about 5 inches from the top.
- Add a small aquarium bubbler to the bucket and allow it to oxygenate the water.
- Let the compost steep for 24 hours, then drain off the water and apply either as a soil drench(1) or liquid foliar spray(2), undiluted.
- Foliar application of compost tea helps to colonize your leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes which will act as a natural defense mechanism against intruding fungal, viral or bacterial diseases. It will also supply essential trace minerals and nutrients.
You can make your liquid fertilizers more potent by simply adding some fresh chicken or cow manure to your comfrey, horsetail or stinging nettle brew. Add approximately 2 cups cow manure (or 2-3 cow patties) or one cup of chicken manure to the bucket. By doing that you increase the nitrogen fertilization plus other essential nutrients.
These are enjoyable activities to build your skills and have fun in the garden.
Remember to cultivate, and sing to your plants!
(1)Soil Drench: Water the plants or entire bed with tonic as if you were using a watering can. This will feed the nutrients through the soil to the roots.
(2)Foliar Spray: Put the tonic into your sprayer and apply to the leaves in the morning before 9 a.m. or in the evening after 5 p.m.