Plant Feeding and Plant Tea’s

High Summer at Swan Cottage….. About this time of the year no matter how good your soil, your plants will have exhausted the nutrients and will need a helping hand.

You can tell this by the leaves looking a bit yellow, perhaps striped, vigour will decrease and plants are much more susceptible to disease and pest attack!

Here at Swan Cottage (based in the Bucks Countryside) we garden on light loam which is incredibly free draining and as a result the nutrients leach out faster and with a garden as packed as ours we need to give it a weekly boost.

Flower Borders filled to bursting need a helping hand come High Summer when nutrients start to become exhausted
Flower Borders filled to bursting need a helping hand come High Summer when nutrients start to become exhausted

Plant Food

Liquid plant food is best at this time of the year, it gets straight to the roots and to work changing the leaves to emerald green before your eyes!

There are plenty of ready made plant feeds on the market and for a small garden without access to a Compost Heap, Nettles or Comprey then I would recommend these and here are some of the best:

Levington’s Tomorite Concentrated Tomato Feed 

This is by far the best Tomato Feed which I use on all my flowering plants but it is one of the most expensive.

Don’t buy it at the garden centre, cut price stores such as Wilko (Wilkinsons) and Home Bargains are half the price!

Westland Tomato Plant Food Liquid Concentrate 

Levingtons is £3.99 in Home Bargains but Westland is £1.99! If you turn to the NPK information label at the back of the bottle the active ingredients are exactly the same so this will save you a bit of money!

(N) Nitrogen is used by plants for lots of leaf growth and good green color.

(P) Phosphorous is used by plants to help form new roots, make seeds, fruit and flowers. It’s also used by plants to help fight disease.

(K) Potassium helps plants make strong stems and keep growing fast.

Beware of cheaper brands, check the label on the back and the NPK information. There is no such thing as a free lunch and you will find often that you have to use twice as much ( 2 capfuls for every 4.5L not one, or the NPK is out of balance and if you want flowers not just loads of leaves this is vital. If there is no information, don’t buy it!!

Look at the most expensive brand then compare the others.

Never buy ready to use (Pour and Feed), plant feeds, they are ready diluted and will be gone in a flash wasting your money!

So what if you have a much bigger garden, allotment or even a flower farm!

If we relied on shop bought plant feeds here at Swan Cottage we would be bankrupt and we think we should try and be as natural and organic as possible returning to the soil what we take.

Swan Cottage Flower Farm, the field High Summer 2017
Swan Cottage Flower Farm, the field High Summer 2017

 

Home Made Plant Feeds

At this time of the year we need lots of flowers so I am going to skip straight to Comfrey Tea.

Too much Nitrogen (N) and you will have no flowers (ahem I have made this mistake)

Comfrey Liquid Feed or Tea

There is no exact recipe for Comprey Tea, just take a good couple of handfuls of leaves. I used a cheap bucket (£1 from any DIY store)

Comfrey Leaves picked fresh ready for making Comfrey Compost Tea to feed our Flowers in high summer
Comfrey Leaves picked fresh ready for making Tea

 

  1. Comfrey – Fill the bucket 1/3 with Comfrey Leaves
  2. Rain Water – Top up the bucket with rain water (not tap water if you can, it’s much softer and better for your plants).
  3. Isolate – Place the bucket as far away from the house (and other people) as possible as this brew truly stink’s!
  4. Cover – It’s also important that you cover it or the surface will quickly be covered with flies urghhh! I’ve sealed mine with the tough clingfilm we use on the flower frames, if you can use a seal-able bucket or storage tub even better!
  5. Leave – Steep for  3 to 4 weeks to make a disgusting brew……..Once the solution is ready it will resemble weak tea.
  6. Harvest – Don rubber gloves, strain the tea to remove the leaves (personally I don’t bother and just strain off the liquid once the leaves settle again after a good stir)
  7. Store – You will have more Comfrey Tea than you need in one go so refill all those old Tomato Feed bottles (that much to Neil’s dismay I horded in the shed, just in case!) They are ideal for locking in the smell. Milk cartons are a bit leaky I have learned!
  8. Label – You don’t want to confuse this with Nettle Tea)
  9. Dilute – 1:10 if it’s the colour of weak tea, dilute it more if you have made a stronger solution.
  10. Trial – I always test it on one plant first for 24 hours to make sure the strength is correct.

I have found to my astonishment that its better than the shop bought really worth the effort and practically free!

I bought my Comfrey roots on Ebay for 50p each – Bargain!

Its always best to use rain water where possible for making your compost tea's
Its always best to use rain water where possible for making your compost tea’s

Nettle Tea

Is very high in (N) Nitrogen which is used by plants for lots of leaf growth and good green color.

Do not use this on your flowering plants at this time of the year (High Summer) otherwise you will have fantastic green lush growth that will make an aphid banquet but zero blooms! Yes I have done this so trust me!

Its perfect for evergreen’s and lawns, anything non-flowering.

We use a lot of it at the start of the season to get plants boosted into growth.

Make it now, label it carefully and store it for the spring!

Method for Nettle Tea exactly as the Comfrey Tea  above – wear rubber gloves!

Compost Tea

If you don’t have access to Comfrey or Nettles you can make a Compost Tea!

You need finished compost to make this.

Don’t think it’s ready? Dig down to the bottom of your bin, you only need 1/3 of a bucket.

As with the previous tea’s you need to steep for about 4 weeks in rain water and again cover it!

When it comes to straining this tea it’s a whole lot more mucky that the Nettles or Comfrey so I have come up with the following method!

Tree Bucket and Trug combo to make Compost Tea
Tree Bucket and Trug combo to make Compost Tea
  • Isolate – Place the bucket as far away from the house (and other people) as possible as this brew truly stink’s! You can’t move it once you’ve started without drowing yourself!!
  • Compost – Fill tree bucket well rotted compost
  • Trug – Place the Tree bucket in a large tub trug.
  • Rain Water – Pour rain water onto the Compost filled tree bucket until the trug it’s sitting in is brimming. (again not tap water if you can, rain water is much softer and better for your plants).
  • Cover – It’s not quite as smelly as the leaf tea’s but you don’t want a rain shower to overflow your brew and dilute it.
  • Leave – Steep for  3 to 4 weeks to make a brew……..Once the solution is ready it will resemble cola.
  • Harvest – now this is the clever bit! Once your tea is ready just simply lift out (slowly) the Tree Bucket and what you will have left is ready filtered Compost Tea! I did a little happy dance at my brilliance here!
  • Store – You will have more Compost Tea than you need in one go so refill all those old Tomato Feed bottles
  • Label – You don’t want to confuse this with Nettle / Comfrey Tea)
  • Dilute – 1:10 if it’s the colour of weak tea, dilute it more if you have made a stronger solution.
  • Trial – I always test it on one plant first for 24 hours to make sure the strength is correct.

As with the Comfrey the Compost Tea exceed my expectations, it’s so simple!

Comparison  

At Swan Cottage we do love a trial. So we are testing these Plant Feeds in pots and in the open garden.

First indications are the Comfrey is the best followed by the Compost Tea with the shop bought being last – I will continue to monitor flower production over the coming weeks and update my findings.

Perhaps just like food for humans, homemade is always best!

British Wedding Florist, Tulips to fragrant sweet peas, magnificent dahlias and countless varieties in between, we harvest only the best of what is blooming each day from our Flower Field in Buckinghamshire

Compost Manure Tea

You can further improve compost tea by adding manure and I am currently steeping the contents of Mrs Chickens hutch with another batch of compost.

It’s been well wrapped with planks and bricks on to too!!

 

Zoe x

Zoe Woodward, Swan Cottage Flowers
Zoe Woodward, Swan Cottage Flowers

To lean more join us on one of our Workshops 

Seasonal British Flowers

If you need flowers for a wedding or even please do get in touch

Swan Cottage Flowers

Swan Cottage, Church Road, Stoke Hammond, Bucks (near Milton Kenyes and excellent rail links to London and beyond) 01525 270 057 Email 

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