Later, when it got to be my turn, I think I was asked to define permaculture in one sentence (a big challenge). I just said "to embrace comfrey"
As we have lots of permies that are trying to add comfrey to their guilds, I thought it was kinda funny that a fella would be at a permies gathering trying to get rid of it.
I never got a chance to talk to him, but I want to express a few thoughts ...
1) Hey buddy, you should sell mail order comfrey starts to all the permies and farmers that want some. Say 10 bucks for a gob of ten plants plus, maybe, 6 bucks for s+h.
2) Since comfrey is a calcium accumulator, those comfrey rich spots would probably be fantastic for planting some calcium/alakaline loving plants! Maybe some fruit trees!
3) If you really want to have less of them ... I heard that you have somebody else in your community with goats - I'm pretty sure that goat will find the comfrey super yummy ...
4) Chickens do like comfrey and I think they will eventually put quite a dent in your crop. But! I really wish folks would let go of the idea of running any animal in a space until all of the green stuff is gone. That just seems like poor animal care to me.
5) How did all that comfrey get there? Tilling? Maybe this would be a good time to talk about the values of no-till?
Ok - I feel better now.
Wonderful mulch material
Compost activator and general ingredient
Mineral and micro-nutrient accumulator and fertilizer
deep roots help break up compacted soil
Comfrey tea as a foliar fertilizer
Water cleanser (when growing in standing water)
Poultices and other medicinal uses
Nutrient trap at the bottom of a slope
Is said to be a grass barrier, but I don't know if that is true in areas with cooler winters, below USDA Zones 9.
Russian Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) and Bocking #14 are said to be less invasive than Common Comfrey (S. officinale).
WHAT was this guy thinking
Could you please expand on "Slug trap", "Water cleanser" and "grass barrier" please?
I have heard of lots of folks making a sort of tea out of it in buckets or barrels and then fertilizing with that. I once lived with somebody that would have hundreds of gallons of comfrey tea stinking up the place at any given time in the warmer months - just to put on her plants.
In Edible Forest Gardens' plant matrix it lists the width 3'-5', height 3'-5'. If I have a 14 foot diameter apple tree dripline, how many comfrey plants should I put under the canopy? How fast will it spread?
Water cleanser: Comfrey planted in areas where water tends to collect and stagnate is supposed to clean the water of 'stuff'. I read it a couple of years ago, just skimming, as I'd already killed off my comfrey. It think it is supposed to absorb manure runoff or toxins --- I got the impression it acted like cattails for that. Again, I don't have standing water, so no chance to try it. I would like to know if anyone else tries it, though.
The grass barrier thing is something that I came across recently, and my memory grabbed hold of it because I faintly remember one of Bill Mollison's books saying the same thing (along with lemon grass). But comfrey dies down in winter here in WA, and the grasses seem to keep growing, so it may work in areas that don't really have a 'dead' season, like parts of Australia and California.
Medicinally: it has been used in the past as both a poultice and taken internally. It seems to be a common opinion that it shouldn't be taken internally as a tea or anything, as it is suspected of causing liver damage and possibly cancer. I don't know the truth of it, but I would tend to err on the side of caution. Even for animals, it has been said that it shouldn't be given to them in excess, and the leaves should be under four or five inches long.
I don't know how long it will take to grow to maximum, or to spread. It may depend on your soil and moisture. I have a few root pieces in pots that I'm hoping I can keep alive long enough to be of benefit to my compost pile.
I have it on the side of a steep backfill slope along the east side of our house..and I love it..but haven't tried putting more in anywhere..sometimes when i've done that i've lost things that i treasured..so i'm skeptical..but will try to cut out some of it this year and start it in some new areas.
I have heard that if you are trying to divide things that you are afraid you might hurt, to just take a spade and cut out a chunk off of the side of it..those of you who have divided comfrey, do you think that might be a good way to make a division in a very large comfrey?? leaving part of it where it is just to make sure i don't lose it all?
It's really hard to kill comfrey, I hear, no matter how much you want to. I just got some root pieces planted that a neighbor gave me. She thinks she's dug out all the roots....
need to get my brain around what else I need to divide before it grows big..that comfrey gets as big as probably 10' across..so it could use a little pruning..
and where do i put the pieces..oh good grief..i have enough room..
I also should divide my rhubarb plants..now that I think of it..they are a bit overgrown..already put in 23 new asparagus plants..and am thinking..ok..guilds guilds guilds..
(this being said i cán imagine people wanting to get rid of it in a certain place)
of course because all of the obvious reasons, great accumulator thus mulch, insect atractive, good understory plant, etc.
But dont forget the medicinal use!
the roots and leaves have great medicinal value.
and making a tincture isnt that hard actually, http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/herbal/msg0620264815868.html
Adding this tincture to something creamy like vaseline makes a cream you can rub on.
comfrey is great for any tissue injury, espacially closed deep tissue injuries. broozes, broken bones, sprained enkles etc. will all benefit. The fresh leaves are supposed to be a good compress for open wounds.
Me, I have back issues, i put my back out every now and then (sometimes doing heavy work in the garden, but sometimes just picking up a flyer from the table makes it shoot up my back)
normally this leaves me with at least a week flat on the bed, since i got this comfreycream from a herborist it passes so much faster, and im up in a few days.
The cream she made was a combination of comfrey and arnica by the way.
Also i have eaten the leaves, fresh in the salad, which i didnt like, and fried (covered with erhmmm, whats the english name: a not so liquid mix of flour and water or milk, also used to bake pancakes) which i did like.
edit: i checked it out, a cream is not made with a tincture but with maceraat, disolved in oil that is. im sure it says how to on the same gardenwebforums...
I'm going to be planting gobs of comfrey this year, especially in one area of our property that we can't invest much into since the state is allowed to tear it up whenever they want (storm drainage). I figure we can turn that area into a living mulch / nectary guild.
So, I've been looking online and only found one website that has a decent price on roots... Where do you all source yours from if you do not have a neighbor that wants to divide?
I have planted ten fruit trees half a year ago and planted 100 root cuttings around them. And I threw some calendula seeds in as well.
It gets a bit out of control at the moment, and I'm cutting it severely back, I use the leaves as mulch. Some as fodder too.
I hope to get another flush of leaves in autumn (it's summer now).
There are two kinds of comfrey, the official one and the Russian. The first is used medicinally the latter for mulch etc.
The bucket for the liquid manure needs a lid.
If you want to have it neat and nice, put the bucket (something like 50 ltr or more) on a stand (In Australia we have these great milk boxes). Mount into the bucket with the lid (!) a cheap outdoor tap and put a strainer or similar over the inlet. No messing around.
Steve Nicolini wrote:
Isn't it edible in small quantities? I heard it is a significant source of vitamin B12 (for all you veggies).
I have been unable to find any research that documents that comfrey (or any other terrestrial plant) is a significant source of vitamin B12. More likely, one or a few studies found trace amounts on the roots due to bacterial growth. Fermented foods (including Kimchi and other pickles, fermented soy like tempeh) and seaweed seem to be better options for vegans, and cheese and eggs for other types of vegetarians.
Comfrey is a source of pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can cause liver damage. Small amounts of comfrey may not always be a problem (amounts in the plant vary, and some people may be more tolerant) but vegetarians eating comfrey to get B12 could lead to problems.
The topical use of comfrey (compresses, salves, etc) is generally not considered a problem as the offending chemicals are not absorbed by the skin, and it does help speed the healing of certain wounds.
I hope to get some divisions done this spring and that is on my list of things to do..I would love to grow it around some of my fruit trees..however am thinking of trying it in the pond as was mentioned above to help purify water..i have a boggy area of the pond that it might work in..we'll see about that.
But Tempeh produced with a mixed culture containing Klebsiella and Citrobacter bacteria can contain significant amounts of B-12. Tempeh produced in the US using pressure-cooked beans and pure cultures of only Rhizopus fungus may be entirely lacking in B12. The traditional Indonesian methods for making Tempeh do benefit the people there who eat little or no meat - those methods rely on a system of microbial ecology that is superior to what is typically practiced here.
Can't agree that seaweed is only an source of anti-B12. Studies have shown these contains five types of cobalamin and that these are true B12s, and seaweed is effective in reducing the symptoms of B12 deficiency in lab animals. There might be an excess of iodine if people try to use ocean vegetables to get their B12, but it does contain that essential vitamin. Spirulina is an algae (freshwater) that contains pseudo-B12 and it cannot be considered a dietary source of usable cobalamin.
Horizon Herbs offers Bocking 14 roots for a good price. They have a few different quantities, but here is a link for 20 live roots (could probably be divided even further, knowing comfrey's ambitious nature):
I'm gonna order me some comfrey. Thank you!
I'll be planting Bocking 14 in the food forest I'm designing now.
i got some roots from Horizon 2 years ago. divided some of the root pieces up. small pieces do turn into plants, although small plants the first year.
i noticed the deer came in this past fall and munched it to the ground
Will be attempting to remove a Bocking variety this year from what has become a part of the annual garden. My plan is to take numerous root pieces and put them at the north end of the garden to see if they will work as a grass barrier. I would be surprised if they don't. Although the comfrey dies back late each fall, by that time the grass isn't growing either. And in my experience no plant grows under the dense shade of an established comfrey plant.
As for the remaining portion of the original plant, I plan to cut it several times this year. I normally make an early cutting to give fertility to the seed potatoes when I plant them. I'll make at least four cuttings down to the ground this year, and let the chickens have at some of the re-growth as well. I'm guessing it's easier to simply gradually starve the roots of energy rather than trying to remove them. I expect it to be a pitched battle, and I don't necessarily expect to win the war this year. Will keep the hot compost pile strategy in mind if it rages into next year.