A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 48 – Comfrey

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“Comfrey at the Peace House” – Summer 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

We had freezing rain last night and the entire neighborhood is glazed over… I am going to try to take some photos when the sun comes up… I also wanted to mention that on February 14th at 2PM EST… I will be guest hosting a Q&A on #groundchat… The subject will be “plant guilds”… I will put the details together and update tomorrow… I am also doing a hands on fruit tree maintenance/pruning demonstration (with a short grafting demo if time allows) March 15th at a Community Garden in Bellevue… This is through growpgh… Registration at growpgh.org… Nevermind – Fruit Tree Demo is now SOLD OUT… I was not expecting that…

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Comfrey… You either love it… Or you hate it… I fall somewhere in the middle… Long considered a silver bullet in the permaculture and organic gardening world… And I will admit it is a very useful plant… But in my own personal experiences… I have noticed it is the go-to suggestion for the inexperienced gardener… If you have ever had to remove Comfrey you will know what I am talking about…

At one time Comfrey had a very bad reputation as being extremely invasive… Over time the sexual prowess of the plant has been bred out… The resulting plant “Bocking 14” is sterile… 99% of the Comfrey I come into contact with is in fact this sterile variety… This solved the plants rapid spread by seed… Sure… But it is still damn near impossible to remove… This is the reason I say only the inexperienced suggest Comfrey without a disclaimer…

I consider Comfrey a “borderline” plant… Meaning… It should be planted with care… You really have to take a good look at the gardener’s skill level… Comfrey is not for beginners… Comfrey is not for small spaces… Comfrey is not for the people who are uninitiated with a garden spade… There are other “nitrogen-fixing” options out there…

Bocking14

“Bocking 14” – Summer 2013 – Whitney Avenue/Hamnett Way – Wilkinsburg, PA

Comfrey… As far as “nutrient accumulation” is concerned… Is really one of the kings or Queens of the plant world… There are very few plants that can compare to the amount of work this plant can accomplish passively… Although I warn of growing it… I do grow it… Just not in my own garden… I personally grow it in the yards of abandoned houses… Two or three times a year I walk around with my garden spade… I take my spade and place it at roughly a 45 degree angle where the base of the plant meets the soil… One good push down will sever the top of the plant… After I have harvested a decent amount… I take it home and mulch my gardens with it… After a few days in the sun black ooze starts seeping out of the plant… That’s the good stuff…

You can also take your comfrey and ball it up in an old t-shirt… When the shirt starts turning black… Throw it in a five gallon bucket of water for a few days… You now have nitrogen tea ready for immediate application…

Removal is a pain in the ass… But it is not impossible… Start digging 20″ out from the crown… Dig to a minimum depth of 12″… I go to 20″… Remove the soil and put it in a wheelbarrow… Go through it with your hands and remove the roots… Comfrey has a very deep taproot… Any roots left in the soil will potentially sprout so I put a layer of cardboard in the bottom of the hole… Backfill and carefully monitor… Persistence will pay off…

Every time the subject of Comfrey comes up… I learn something… Please feel free to add your own experiences to the mix in the comments below…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

If you want some science – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfrey

If you want my permaculture post on comfrey – Practical Permaculture – Comfrey Cautions

These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring when I start writing more… My source (where applicable) is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… You can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com

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4 thoughts on “A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 48 – Comfrey

  1. Jose Sola says:

    Great info, thank you. I had wanted to grow some comfrey on the edge of my yard (no man’s land). Now I may just grow it in a large pot where the roots can be somewhat contained.

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  2. Jami says:

    Thanks for this. I am that inexperienced gardener you speak of, and I was planning on planting it in my very small front garden. Do you suggest growing it in pots for the t-shirt tea? Or should I just better choose another nitrogen fixer..I shall look it up at any rate. Thanks for this info.

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    • C.Condello says:

      Comfrey in a pot will only accumulate nutrients in the pot… This is usually not much… Comfrey doesn’t really flourish in a pot…

      I meant to mention this above and completely forgot… But there is a dwarf/ground covering comfrey… A friend of mine grows it locally… I was supposed to get a piece last summer… Never got around to it… Regretting that at the moment… Will remedy the situation in spring…

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  3. Aggie says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I hadn’t heard of the black ooze, how to harvest, how to remove, elsewhere. Right now we have seed in the frig.

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