Our Permaculture Life: Improve your soil with herbs

Improve your soil with herbs

Herbs are extremely useful for improving the health of your soil as well as your own health, and the flavour of your meal.

In my post yesterday, I mentioned I have dived into my parent's library and found a wonderful collection of herb books.  In my reading today, I focussed on important herbs for the soil.

Here are some very useful plants for the soil - the information is drawn mostly from The Book of Herbs by Dorothy Hall. She suggests growing comfrey, yarrow, chamomile, tansy, nettle and dandelion for the soil. She uses it mostly in her compost and liquid fertilisers, but also uses it as chop and drop - top-feeding the soil.


Comfrey is an excellent compost enricher with a chemical composition almost the same as animal manure. It is high in natural calcium and nitrogen, and its quick decomposition makes it a useful addition to the compost bin.

Comfrey is a vigorous grower and it's roots forage deep in the subsoil for stores of minerals and nutrients.  It is a great plant to chop and drop around fruit trees and in the vegetable garden. Adding the leaves around plants adds nitrogen and calcium to the topsoil as they decomposes.

I plant comfrey around my compost bays so I can easily reach some to add each time I work on it.


Yarrow is a compost catalyst. It is suggested in this book that it is useful in a 'homeopathic dose'. Only a couple of leaves snipped finely and mixed thoroughly through a cubic metre of compost will activate it.
Yarrow - the compost catalyst - just a little bit is all you need.


Chamomile is very rich in natural calcium. It stops acidification and keeps the decomposing material sweet. The creeping perennial chamomile was one of the nine sacred Saxon herbs used:


Tansy is valuable in the compost heap. It is one of the most mineral-rich of all herbs and adds good levels of potassium to compost. Whenever you trim back a plant, add the leaves into the compost.  It is very easy to grow and will thrive in difficult corners. A few other uses include:


Nettles are a common 'weed' in many parts. They are high in iron and catalyse composts too.
Prickly nettle is a very useful plant for the soil, an excellent liquid fertiliser  - and a great food too.


Dandelion, another common 'weed' is a potent source of minerals. Add the leaves and flowers it to the compost or chop and drop it around the garden. It grows readily everywhere.

Dandelion is such a useful plant, and you can find it growing almost everywhere. I easily found it here in the sandy coast soil around the Gippsland Lakes.

I am happy to already be growing abundant comfrey, yarrow and tansy in my garden. Fortunately dandelions grow wild, but nettle hasn't shown up at my place yet. I know friends with some, so perhaps I should try to transplant some.

What other herbs do you use to improve your soil?

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