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Friday, June 14, 2019

Growing Russian Comfrey


A great organic idea for your veggie garden!



One of the most popular plants to grow in an organic vegetable garden is the Russian Variety of Comfrey specifically Bocking 14. 


This type of Comfrey is smaller than Common Comfrey, about two feet by two feet, and has sterile seeds so it's not invasive. Bocking 14 must be produced by root cuttings or crown divisions.




What is Russian Comfrey?


Russian Comfrey is an easy-to-grow perennial in Zones 4 through 9.  It is a member of the Borage family of plants. Comfrey will shoot up quickly in early spring with its violet, pink and yellow bell-shaped flowers. 


Comfrey is often grown for its sheer beauty, but there are several beneficial reasons to growing this great plant in your garden.





The Many Uses of Comfrey


As a Fertilizer


Comfrey leaves contain high levels of potash and reasonable levels of nitrogen and phosphorus as well as smaller amounts of iron, calcium and magnesium. Its concentration of nutrients actually outperforms manure, compost and many liquid feeds.  


To use Comfrey as a fertilizer, you can place chopped Comfrey right on the soil or till them in.






As a Liquid Fertilizer


Comfrey can be used to create a liquid fertilizer to use on your plants. Just steep some chopped Comfrey leaves in water and weigh them down. Five pounds of Comfrey per seven gallons of water will do the trick. 


Let the solution sit for four to six weeks. The solution will end up being dark and thick and it can be diluted into a 12 to 1 ratio of water to the Comfrey solution for a great liquid plant feed. 



As a Soil Conditioner


The roots of Comfrey will penetrate deep into the subsoil to access nutrients that are beyond the reach of most shallow-rooted plants. Comfrey roots will also break up compacted soil.






For Vegetables


For an increased yield in your potato harvest, place the first flush of Comfrey leaves in the trenches where the potatoes are growing to provide the tubers with nutrients.


The high potassium content of Comfrey makes it especially beneficial for vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers as well as fruit trees. Potassium is great for increasing flower and fruit production.



As a Mulch


When Comfrey is used as a mulch, it has a great advantage over using leaves or straw which can actually pull nitrogen from the soil. 

While Comfrey used as a mulch is beneficial to tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, using it to mulch root crops of leafy greens is not recommended as it may encourage them to go to seed prematurely.






For Attracting Pollinators


Those beautiful flowers of Comfrey will attract pollinators to your garden in early summer. Bees especially love the Comfrey flowers.







For Seedlings


When planting seedlings in the garden, add fresh cut-up Comfrey leaves to the planting hole. The leaves will break down and quickly add nutrients right at the root level.





In the Compost Pile


Comfrey leaves are known to be a compost activator. The addition of Comfrey in the compost pile will speed up the decomposition of other compost materials. The added nitrogen from the leaves will result in increased microbial decomposition. 


Plant some Comfrey near the compost area and add a leaf whenever adding to the pile.


Planting Comfrey


Plant Comfrey in cool areas in the spring; in warmer areas plant in the wet season. Comfrey grows well in nearly every soil, but it performs best when given extra moisture. Part sun to full sun will allow it to bloom well.






Using Comfrey Leaves


You can cut Comfrey leaves all throughout the growing season and the existing branches will quickly replace them with a fresh flush of foliage to use gain. Because Comfrey grows so fast, it is a great source of greens for your compost all season long and into the fall.




Harvesting Comfrey Leaves


Comfrey leaves are best harvested when they are cut before the plant blooms. It is advisable to wear gloves when harvesting the leaves as the hairs on the stems can irritate the skin. If your plant is new, don't harvest for the first year to let the roots get established.


For the first cutting of the leaves, do this when the plant is about two feet tall and cut the plant back to within a few inches of the crown. Just know that if you begin harvesting that early, you will not get flowers later that season.





Make More of a Good Thing!


Root Cuttings

Root cuttings of Comfrey are very easy to do. The best time for dividing Comfrey is in the spring, but it's a tough plant and you could divide it any time of the year. Cut pieces of the root 3-5” long and just lay it across a prepared garden site. Bury it 2-3” deep. Keep moist until the first leaves appear.




Crown Division

The crown of Comfrey can be divided into as many pieces as you care to make. Plant the separate clumps just below the soil surface and keep it most until the leaves appear.


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There are so many good reasons to grow Comfrey, and that is why it is becoming a staple in organic vegetable gardens.

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Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Hostas in the Fairy Garden!

  




A fairy garden by design is a miniature garden complete with structure, accessories and living plants. It's a nice tiny space designed to lure in good luck through visits from fairies and pixies.


There are as many ways to design a fairy garden as there are gardeners to design them. Designs can include anything from Classical, Gypsy, Country, Fantasy, Gothic, anything you can dream up.







Mini and small hostas continue to be a popular staple in the fairy garden. They perfectly fit the bill as great fairy garden plants for a number of reasons including:


  • They're perennial plants. They can give you years of enjoyment instead of just one season.
  • They're easy to maintain. Hostas are well known for their toughness as well as their beauty.
  • They grow slowly so there's no need to switch them out yearly unless you want to.
  • There are small-leafed varieties that complement the small accessories used in fairy gardens.
  • They're low growing. Mini hostas are hostas less than 8" at mature height and small hostas are hostas that grow between 9" and15" in mature height.






Here are some basic steps for designing a fairy garden that is beautiful, easy to maintain and one that fairies will want to visit to bring you good luck.


Although you can create a fairy garden straight into your garden area or under a tree, a raised container will allow viewers to see the small details up close.







Choosing a Container



    Countless objects have been used to create a fairy garden. The above pictured tire is an awesome idea! 


    Other ideas include wooden boxes, tea cups, large hypertufa (concrete) planters, bird baths, large round tins, half barrels. 


    Again, the choices are only limited by your imagination.






      Choosing Accessories


      General guideline: Remember that the size of the accessories dictate the scale, not the plants!


      For a container 10" in diameter and larger, use accessories on a 1” scale.


      For smaller pots, 10" in diameter and under, use accessories of 1/2" scale






                      Accessory Ideas

      • Small birdhouses can be used as houses.
      • Paths can be made of pea gravel.






      • Small rocks can be used to create a bridge or wishing well.
      • Water in a small clay saucer can simulate a pond or lake.
      • Fences can be made from toothpicks
      • Ladders out of sticks.





      • A welcoming door in a tree can be made of carved wood scraps.
      • A seashell upside down filled with water can look like a refreshing pool or lake.
      • Decks or a boardwalk can be made out of popsickle sticks or craft twigs.
      • Got extra fabric? Make a Swinging hammock or maybe a clothes line.





      And don't forget the classic toad stool!




      Filling the Container

      • Make sure the container has several drainage holes.

      • Spread a half inch layer of pea sized gravel at the bottom for drainage.

      • Add the soil. For any mini garden, the soil is crucial for keeping the plants healthy. The soil you use will depend on the plants you use but any soil you use needs to be very porous. You can add some bits of bark to look more natural. If you're using mini or small hostas, any fertile well-draining soil will do.

      • No landscape is completely flat, so give the ground some hills and valleys



      Before you add the plants, it's time to choose your location; shade or sun or half and half. 

       

      Deciding whether your fairy garden will be in shade or sun is the first order of business. This will determine the types of plants you can plant there and may also help you with deciding on a theme.





      The plants!



      Choosing plants that have the same or similar needs for water and sun are ideal. If you view the fairy garden from the front, plant the taller plants in the back. 


      If you can view it from all sides, taller in the middle is very appealing. Many people feel adding at least one tree-like item will make it appear like a more natural landscape.




      Let's start with the shade to part shade. Hostas are perfect!



      Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we grow and sell many hostas that fit the bill for fairy gardens. All of the hostas listed below can take some direct morning sun with afternoon full or dappled shade.  The more sun they receive, though, the more water they will need.



      Mini hostas

      Click on the name for more pictures.























      Other plant choices for shade include Irish Moss, Veronica, Mini Violets and angel vines for climbers or low-growing moss for grass.


      Plant choices for sunnier spots include Lamium, Corsican Mint, French Thyme ground cover, Alyssum, Ajuga.







      Any low-growing sedum like Elizabeth, Dragons Blood, Blue Star Creeper, Hens & Chicks, Small ornamental grasses like Little Bunny.



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      Fairy gardens continue to be a popular feature in gardens, and mini and small hostas are a great addition to them!

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      Where to go next!


      Love hostas or know someone who does?

      Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price!SunsetHostaFarm.com



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