Many plants benefit from a liquid feed during their growing period, particularly fruiting plants such as; tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers, courgettes and beans. It is possible to buy ready made preparations but why not make your own. Here are a few recipes and tips for making liquid feeds. The benefit of liquid feeds is that the nutrients are immediately available to the plants in soluble form, they cost nothing and are easy to make and are easy to apply regularly.
Liquid Manure or Black Jack
I found this recipe for black jack in Joy Larkom’s excellent book Grow Your Own Vegetables.
Suspend a sack, pillow case or a pair of tights filled with well rotted animal manure (I also add some comfrey leaves and some bonfire ash) in a barrel of rainwater. Leave it covered, for 10 days, give it a good stir and squash then remove the sack. Stir and dilute to the colour of weak tea before using on plants. You can use the sack contents to line a plant trench or as a mulch on tomato or cucumber beds. I use a pretty big potato sack and can normally get another ‘brew’ out of it before the contents need to be discarded.
Use the same method as above but fill the sack with home made garden compost.
Perennial weeds can be a problem if added to the compost pile but if they are rotted down in a barrel of water before being added they pose no problem and the water they have been rotted down in can be used as a liquid plant feed. Follow the same method as above just filling the sack with hard to get rid of weeds such as dock or just throw them in a water but and drain off the liquid for use after 10-14 days.
This is the classic organic liquid feed. My sister brought me a few starts of Russian comfrey our first winter here so that i could grow a ready supply for the garden. Simply steep the comfrey leaves in a water barrel (I use a black plastic refuse bin) for 10-14 days, when it starts to really stink i use a watering can to draw out the liquid and water it on the plants directly. I either add more water and wait another 10-14days or use the comfrey sludge as a top dressing or in a planting mix and start again.
This method requires a tub or barrel with a tap or hole in it to draw off the resulting liquid. Fill a plastic barrel with comfrey leaves and weight down with stones or a bag of sand. The comfrey leaves decompose slowly to a thick brown liquid which can start to be taped after about 14 days and diluted before watering onto plants. The HDRA recommends diluting at 15:1 and feeding tomatoes or peppers in pots three times a week, greenhouse borders twice a week, and pot plants and hanging baskets outdoors once a week. You may prefer to dilute less and feed less often, or give a much more dilute feed with every watering. I personally find the tea method easier and more direct.
TIP You can also make a nutritious tea or concentrate using nettles instead of comfrey another good way to use pesky weeds.