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some comfrey questions

 
Mike Guillory
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I ordered some comfrey seeds for spring planting.  I got the symphytum officinale as skeeter recommended in the youtube video.  I intend to have a patch of these for the suplementing of my compost pile and to plant around 'some' of my fruit trees.  I intend to use this plant with care due to the fact that I don't want it to proliferate out of control.  Therefore wherever I plant them, thats where they will stay.  A few questions about this herb.  Can comfrey be fed to chickens or goats?  How should it be layered in a compost pile?  Does anyone have any bad experiences with this plant?  If so please share before I step off from the proverbial cliff.
 
John Polk
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Comfrey is extremely rich in Nitrogen, and is one of the best natural sources of Potash (K)(2-3 times as much as barnyard manures).  Its richness in Potash makes it ideal for fruit tree companioning, as K is essential for root, fruit and seed development.

Comfrey leaves are virtually fiber free, so it breaks down extremely quickly (into a black slimy sludge).  Make certain to use a lot of carbon with comfrey in a compost pile, or else you may end up with a sludge.

Comfrey tea makes a wonderful amendment for feeding plants.
 
George Lee
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Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Comfrey can be tough to start from seeds. I'd personally go cuttings, but
that's just me. If you know of an established patch, retrieve some cuttings.
 
Mike Guillory
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LivingWind wrote:
Comfrey can be tough to start from seeds. I'd personally go cuttings, but
that's just me. If you know of an established patch, retrieve some cuttings.



I wish I knew someone with an established patch.  Unfortunately I don't know of anyone with it here in Louisiana.  In fact I don't know of anyone in this area that is into permaculture.  The seeds I ordered are coming from Great Britain, so it will be interesting to see what happens.
 
Brian Bales
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Comfrey is supposedly safe for chickens and goats to eat, recommended for chickens actually as a feed crop. As for starting it from seed it can be difficult. I got some true comfrey seed at the beginning of this year. I planted these in seed pots and grew them out thru most of the year. They were slow to get started but eventually I had 35 seedlings ready for planting out of about 50-60 seeds. Out of those 15 seedlings have established themselves and are doing well. Its not easy to get them started but those 15 will easily multiply into 100s if left unchecked. Easily worth the effort for such a great plant.
 
Mike Guillory
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PapaBear wrote:
Comfrey is supposedly safe for chickens and goats to eat, recommended for chickens actually as a feed crop. As for starting it from seed it can be difficult. I got some true comfrey seed at the beginning of this year. I planted these in seed pots and grew them out thru most of the year. They were slow to get started but eventually I had 35 seedlings ready for planting out of about 50-60 seeds. Out of those 15 seedlings have established themselves and are doing well. Its not easy to get them started but those 15 will easily multiply into 100s if left unchecked. Easily worth the effort for such a great plant.


I've got 250 seeds ordered and I have a greenhouse, so hopefully I will be successful in this venture.  Its great to know that it can also be used to supplement my chickens diet.  Thanks for the advice.
 
            
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Location: Ontario, Canada (44.265475, -77.960029)
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Mgui35 wrote:
I wish I knew someone with an established patch.  Unfortunately I don't know of anyone with it here in Louisiana.  In fact I don't know of anyone in this area that is into permaculture.  The seeds I ordered are coming from Great Britain, so it will be interesting to see what happens.


Try Richters - http://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?page=SubIndexPages/Comfreys.html&cart_id=4455275.20899

Regards,
Mike
 
                                
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I remember a few years ago there was a lady that sold organic eggs,
she almost lost her accreditation because the organic mob reckoned she was adding some sort of additive to chook feed that made the yolk of her eggs incredibly orange, it was simply that she was feeding comfrey in large qty's to the chooks that's all it was.

if your gonna grow comfrey then I think you should at least be planting russian, if not the bocking varieties, the white flowering regular is not much chop IMO.

there is a seed company in australia that sells russian comfrey seeds if your wanting to contact them, erica vale seeds, this was my pack when i started russian many moons ago, but have since moved onto bocking.



russian seed is much harder to establish then regular comfrey so you'll need to use the whole pack as it's about 15% strike rate as apposed to regular, 95% and can blow all over the place.

but again, i cannot stress the value of bockings over and above anything else, personally I would never grow regular white/pink flowering comfrey, waste of space when the bocking have so much more to offer.
 
            
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Location: Ontario, Canada (44.265475, -77.960029)
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gourd wrote:
but again, i cannot stress the value of bockings over and above anything else, personally I would never grow regular white/pink flowering comfrey, waste of space when the bocking have so much more to offer.


From experience, I can confirm that Bocking 14 is sterile.  I've never had a seedling pop up anywhere although the flowers are a bee magnet all summer long.  The plant is huge so I'll subdivide it in the spring.

Regards,
Mike
 
Ivan Weiss
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Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
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I have huge stands of comfrey here on Vashon Island WA, near Seattle and Tacoma. It was here when I bought the place in 1976. I feed it to cattle by the garbage can load, and they devour it readily, as do my two flocks of chickens. For a time I ran my neighbor's sheep on one of my pastures, and they went for the comfrey first and grazed it right to the ground.

The variety I have appears to be symphytum officinale, the kind that reproduces from seed. I have seen seedlings sprouting that, upon examination, had little to no root. If that is so, I consider myself fortunate.

The comfrey is thick in one pasture where I'll be putting 16 pigs in a few weeks. I expect them to feast on the roots while leaving me enough root fragments to make even thicker stands of comfrey in the summer, after butchering the hogs.

I use comfrey liberally for mulching damn near everything, and to make liquid fertilizer. For the fertilizer, I have a topless 55-gallon plastic drum, with a bunghole at the bottom of the side, into which I put used bricks, on the long edges, around the inside perimeter of the barrel. On the bricks are a couple of round barbecue grates. On top of that goes garbage cans full of comfrey leaves and stems.

I weigh the leaves down with a plastic garbage can lid that is just smaller than the inside circumference of the plastic drum. I weigh this down with a couple of bricks, to keep the comfrey leaves compressed.

At this point I should say that many recipes for liquid comfrey fertilizer tell you to add water to the leaves. I'm telling you right now -- DO NOT DO THIS! The stench will drive you mad, and you should  never do this where neighbors might smell it. It simply is not necessary to dilute comfrey juice until you are ready to use it.

Every week or so, I add more comfrey to the top. After a while, the brown comfrey liquor comes out of the bunghole into a waiting container. I decant it into 2-gallon plastic jugs (old cat litter jugs are perfect for this; people should be happy to give them away free) and stir it.

When I need to use it on plants, I dilute it with rain water 20 to 1 (tap water is just fine), and apply it either as a drench or as a foliar spray.

One other thing I use it for, in the same 20-1 ratio, is to quench biochar. Not only does this put out the fire, it "charges" the biochar with nitrogen, potassium, and whatever other mineral element is in the comfrey.

My plan is to spread comfrey to all four corners of my 5 acres, and learn eventually how to make salve for wounds from the root. I hope all this is helpful.


     
 
Mike Guillory
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ivan. wrote:
I have huge stands of comfrey here on Vashon Island WA, near Seattle and Tacoma. It was here when I bought the place in 1976. I feed it to cattle by the garbage can load, and they devour it readily, as do my two flocks of chickens. For a time I ran my neighbor's sheep on one of my pastures, and they went for the comfrey first and grazed it right to the ground.

The variety I have appears to be symphytum officinale, the kind that reproduces from seed. I have seen seedlings sprouting that, upon examination, had little to no root. If that is so, I consider myself fortunate.

The comfrey is thick in one pasture where I'll be putting 16 pigs in a few weeks. I expect them to feast on the roots while leaving me enough root fragments to make even thicker stands of comfrey in the summer, after butchering the hogs.
Thanks Ivan.  The more I learn about this herb, the more I can't wait to get some.

I use comfrey liberally for mulching damn near everything, and to make liquid fertilizer. For the fertilizer, I have a topless 55-gallon plastic drum, with a bunghole at the bottom of the side, into which I put used bricks, on the long edges, around the inside perimeter of the barrel. On the bricks are a couple of round barbecue grates. On top of that goes garbage cans full of comfrey leaves and stems.

I weigh the leaves down with a plastic garbage can lid that is just smaller than the inside circumference of the plastic drum. I weigh this down with a couple of bricks, to keep the comfrey leaves compressed.

At this point I should say that many recipes for liquid comfrey fertilizer tell you to add water to the leaves. I'm telling you right now -- DO NOT DO THIS! The stench will drive you mad, and you should  never do this where neighbors might smell it. It simply is not necessary to dilute comfrey juice until you are ready to use it.

Every week or so, I add more comfrey to the top. After a while, the brown comfrey liquor comes out of the bunghole into a waiting container. I decant it into 2-gallon plastic jugs (old cat litter jugs are perfect for this; people should be happy to give them away free) and stir it.

When I need to use it on plants, I dilute it with rain water 20 to 1 (tap water is just fine), and apply it either as a drench or as a foliar spray.

One other thing I use it for, in the same 20-1 ratio, is to quench biochar. Not only does this put out the fire, it "charges" the biochar with nitrogen, potassium, and whatever other mineral element is in the comfrey.

My plan is to spread comfrey to all four corners of my 5 acres, and learn eventually how to make salve for wounds from the root. I hope all this is helpful.


     
 
                                          
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I grow a lot of comfrey to make compost teas and as a fresh compost to put in the trenches when planting potatoes. I never feed it to any of my animals, in fact I fence it off because there are cumulative toxins in the leaves which cause liver damage. We have Russian comfrey and it seeds freely but I would normally propagate it by root division. Comfrey is a great cleanser of grey water so it's a good plant to have at the run off end of a septic tank. Since it needs a great deal of water I wouldn't plant it anywhere near another plant as it would compete. Since we changed to a dry toilet system, I have been feeding our comfrey with urine (diluted in rain water) more often and with spectacular results. I don't add it directly to my compost heap as it is most efficient in a tea. If you haven't got time to wait you can put the leaves in a blender and add water to make an 'instant' tea. One other use is for sprains and breaks - our friend saved her dog from an operation on a broken leg with comfrey leaves and an elderberry splint!
 
Ivan Weiss
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Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
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The claim that comfrey causes liver damage in animals is controversial. The late great Juliette de Bairacli Levy, among others, debunked this claim in the strongest possible terms. I am not saying comfrey does or doesn't cause liver damage, because I DON'T KNOW. Defenders of feeding comfrey point out that farmers have been feeding it to livestock for many, many centuries, and that the tests that concluded that comfrey causes liver damage were done by overdosing lab rats on far more comfrey than they ever would have eaten if they were in the wild.

I have no basis, scientific or anecdotal, to dispute the claim that comfrey causes liver damage. My approach to date has been to feed it and be damned. We will see how that works out when our local slaughter guy butchers one of my steers, who has been fed plenty of comfrey, in a week or two. All my butchering is done right here in the field, and all the livers are examined carefully, first thing, and always have been.

If I find liver damage, then clearly I will have to re-examine my position. It is responsible to point out that the toxicity studies exist. I would suggest that in the case of feeding comfrey to livestock, that they are as yet inconclusive. But careful observation is always necessary.
 
gani et se
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Ivan,
Please let us know the results when your steer is butchered. Enquiring minds want to know!
Thanks.
Gani
 
Thelma McGowan
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From the research that I have done I am comfortable eating and drinking tea from comfrey.

if you read reports beets, swiss chard, celery, lettuce, broccolli, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, etc. all have some compound that when fed to rats in large amounts causes liver damage, cancer, or something.......

everything in moderation right?
 
                                          
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Hi Ivan,
Yes it should be pointed out that the liver damage claim is controversial but I have heard it over and over again from organic farmers here, including our friends who also had an organic auberge where they served, nettle soup, with comfrey! We have eaten it and it is delicious but they do stress that the comfrey is a minimum ingredient because of the controversy. It's the same with borage we eat the flowers but not the leaves but there are many traditional recipes for the latter. There is also the problem that what is toxic or potential harmful to certain animals even within similar species is different e.g. quail are supposed to be able to eat bryony, for example, and our hens eat mistletoe berries. I usually go by what my animals do, hens are pretty smart they do peck at the comfrey through the wire netting I put round it but it is limited. We are also talking here about a cumulative poison so the time issue is a factor. I suppose it is a fair assumption that if there is toxicity it will be in the liver because that is the function of the organ and in the case of acute toxicity there will be damage. All in all this toxicity question is very interesting - we have friends who make a traditional French country wine from laurel leaves, it is an exact science you can only macerate them for a given number of days, when we go round for a drink we opt for the pastis, we are cowards!
 
Brenda Groth
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once grown, you can chop and drop it 3 to 5 times a year..I generaly do 3 or 4..you can also propagate it from root cuttings which I have done

the kind I have does NOT spread, and where I have dug it up it didn't come back, however, it could...I guess if pieces of the root are left.

I have moved ours 3 times, we had it before our housefire, put it in a temp bed while construction was going on, and then replanted it after, and it still grows like crazy..ours is way way way bigger than a bushel basket..and I cut it up all the time.

This year I started tiny pieces of root under about 10 of our fruit trees and some nut trees
 
Ivan Weiss
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Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
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We butchered the steer today. The liver was totally clean. It must have weighed 20 pounds. None of my customers wanted it so I got it all.
 
Ray South
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Location: Northern Tablelands, NSW, Australia
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I've had an on-off relationship with comfrey. I've started a patch a number of times, always from root cuttings, only to dig it out later (a lot of work) because of its weediness (seedlings popping up everywhere). I finally came across the cultivar Bocking 14 so I've decided to give it one last chance. I hope the company selling it had it labelled correctly. If I find even one seedling, it's out!
 
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Carol Lex
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Hey
The fellow at Coes Comfrey really has a nice page on comfrey.

The choice he made to use Bocking #4 was based on the work of Lawrence D. Hill's research.

Bocking #4 and 14 are both sterile; but the differences were that #4 is deeper rooted and more drought tolerant.

Bocking #4 has more protein and slightly less allantoin than #14.

Since he feeds chickens and goats and his vege gardens the comfrey; he finds #4 most useful.

I was quite happy with the large size and health of his comfrey roots for sale.

And I was delighted with the extra quantities of he sent as a bonus.

The leaf he sent as a gift for my use as medicine was especially appreciated. I love drinking comfrey tea!
Located in Southwestern North Carolina, Coe's Comfrey's plants are a "good buy".

HTH
Purplish flower
 
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