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comfrey

 
gardener
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Does any one know the cheapest place to get comfrey?  Is it worth planting seeds?  I had intentions of planting comfrey this year, but I just lost my job after 14 years.  Money was already tight, but now, well without help from my son I would be out on the street.  Anyway I thought if I could find seeds for a couple dollars it still might be worth it.  I haven't found it local at all.  Why is that?  I would love your suggestions so I can get some early enough to plant seed, or not bother, but buy the crowns if I get another job soon enough.  Thanks
 
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:Does any one know the cheapest place to get comfrey?  Is it worth planting seeds?  I had intentions of planting comfrey this year, but I just lost my job after 14 years.  Money was already tight, but now, well without help from my son I would be out on the street.  Anyway I thought if I could find seeds for a couple dollars it still might be worth it.  I haven't found it local at all.  Why is that?  I would love your suggestions so I can get some early enough to plant seed, or not bother, but buy the crowns if I get another job soon enough.  Thanks



My ground is still frozen, but if you don't mind waiting a month or so until I can dig, I'll send you some roots.  You can send me seeds of anything you have that I can grow here if you like.  If you don't have any seeds that can survive my climate, I'll just send you some.

I wouldn't use comfrey seeds because I wouldn't want the invasive varieties taking over the world :)
 
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Not sure where you are in norcal but its a very common plant in the coastal and lowland pastures. Its already starting to sprout up around the Humboldt bay region. It is a plant you should be able to get for free.
 
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Jen,

If you can get your hands on some roots, you should be able to easily spread a few plants.

Out of curiosity, how many plants are you planning on planting?  Are you doing so in order to plant some green manure?  Not trying to pry, especially regarding your financial situation—so sorry to hear—but do you see yourself being in the same place for several years?  The reason I ask is that comfrey takes a good year to get established, but once it is established, it gives loads and loads of great green manure.  If love my comfrey and I am planning on expanding my plantings this year.

I wish you good luck with your comfrey and especially your future finances.  Hang in there.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Trace,

I gotta give you a shout out, your offer for Jen is really just a decent thing to do.

Awesome!

Eric
 
Trace Oswald
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Eric Hanson wrote:Trace,

I gotta give you a shout out, your offer for Jen is really just a decent thing to do.

Awesome!

Eric



Eric, that's what I love about permies. I'm certain if I were in the same position, someone would help me out.  I have been propagating my comfrey for years and I have plenty to go around.  I'm happy to share.
 
Eric Hanson
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Trace,

I too love Permies for this quality.  Still, it was s great offer!

Eric
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Trace you are very generous, I can't Thank you enough.  
People may think I'm a nut to be thinking about what to plant in my garden when I should be working on getting a job.  This is about the lowest I have been in a very long time.  I am working on getting unemployment, a new job, and some kind of insurance, but working in my gardens gives me joy and piece when the rest of life right now offers little.  
It's people like you that give me hope for our future.  
I love this site.  It's the only site I post on with a rare exception of Face Book for family.  Permies seems to attract people who are kind and willing to share their knowledge, options and humor.  A place I feel safe and can learn so many new and wonderful things.  A place I can share my knowledge and joy of so many permies subjects.
Trace I didn't collect seeds last year. (well I did collect some flower seeds, but left them sitting on the table I was working on and a wind storm blew them away.  Should be interesting to see what shows up in the lawn this year)  I was a Lowes at the end of Summer and they were giving seeds away.  Someone got into trouble for it because it was posted on social media, but I managed to get some before they were ordered to throw them away.  If you don't mind last years store type seeds let me know what you would like and I will tell you if I have it.  I would love to share.
My husband and I bought our house 25 years ago.  We will probably die in this house.  We live North of Sacramento Ca.  Zone 9b  We live on .99 of an acre.  Between a walnut and almond orchard.  I thought the comfrey would be good to plant by the apple trees I planted last year, to help bring nutrients up for the tree, to use as fertilizer, and compost.  It seems like such an amazing plant I don't know why it is so hard to find.
Thank you again Trace, you are a bright spot in  my day.
 
Trace Oswald
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You're very welcome.  Everyone goes through hard times. I hope this one passes quickly for you.
 
pollinator
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Whatever you do do NOT plant comfrey seeds! The seeding strains can grow everywhere, and can easily become a serious weed. The sterile strains can still be a weed, but at least they tend to stay where you plant them.

Personally I believe comfrey is very over-rated. Lots of stories about how deep rooting it is, but I planted heaps and a couple years later digging it up I found very few roots deeper than 1 foot, in a light free draining soil where even shallow rooted plants like ryegrass can often have roots 4-5' deep. I planted it as a living mulch under avocado and cherimoya trees, but most of it is gone now. Interesting plant, but does it deserve the hype? Maybe for some areas, but the strain I have (recommended to me as the best) in my soil/climate... not a huge asset in my opinion. YMMV.
 
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I've never planted comfrey, but I plant various ornamentals among my vegetables, and I find that I get a lot of biomass from them. Does comfrey really make more biomass than other plants?
 
Eric Hanson
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Rebecca,

Fair question.

I think the bonus of having comfrey is that any one plant can be harvested multiple times per summer.

Eric
 
Trace Oswald
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Rebecca Norman wrote:I've never planted comfrey, but I plant various ornamentals among my vegetables, and I find that I get a lot of biomass from them. Does comfrey really make more biomass than other plants?



For me, the answer is definitely. Comfrey leaves are huge, and as Eric said, you can easily get three or four cuttings a year. I have some around an apple tree that i let go last year because the bees love the flowers,. They grew well over 6 fight tall in my short growing season.

Comfrey is the only thing I have found that will stop invasions of things like quack grass. You can clear an area, border it with comfrey, and stop rhizome spreading plants from getting back in.

Comfrey is said to house thousands of spiders over winter. Bees love the flowers.  Comfrey suppresses weeds extremely well with its huge leaves.  For me, the list goes on and on. Easily one of my favorite plants.
 
Eric Hanson
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Rebecca,

My last response was made while I was in the process of falling asleep.  I was barely coherent.

But yes, as Trace pointed out (and as I tried to illustrate), once comfrey is established it grows vigorously.  And it only gets healthier with time.  So a few plants will give you an abundance of nice green leaves (and green manure).

All of the other plants you mentioned certainly could be used for green manure, but I have to ask (truly, I don’t actually know), can you cut them after say a month of growth and have them grow back in the same season?  At present I am cutting my comfrey 4 times per season and I probably could cut once or twice more.  Realistically, comfrey should be cut just when or immediately before the flower stalk emerges.  Once the flowers emerge, the leaves stop their vigorous growth and the energy flows to the flowers.  Personally I find the flowers kinda pretty so I sometimes let them blossom for a couple of weeks.  But if I was really serious about getting green mass, the instant I saw the flowers start I would cut the whole plant down to the ground and let it start again.

Comfrey leaves don’t have a lot of fibrous material in them, helping them decompose very quickly.  If you want a compost activator, this is great.  If you just want to go lazy (I do) and chop and drop, the leaves will yield up their goodness to the soil in no time.

Being a deep rooted plant, comfrey will grow during times of drought when other plants will give up.  Worms love to hang out in their root mass and will travel to your garden if planted nearby.

Rebecca, I could go on but I will stop here.  All the plants you mentioned are great additions to a green manure patch.  Comfrey is king for green manure, but better than comfrey is comfrey with a bunch of companions (basically all the plants you mentioned) growing right alongside.  You are really doing something great by having that composting mix; comfrey can only add to it.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Eric
 
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My first comfrey plant came from a roadside flea market where I was also selling.  The lady called it “comfy tea” and told how her grandmother used it for tea and that she had been unable to find any info on it.  I told her to look for info on “comfrey” instead and she spent her free-time that day learning about the plant on her phone.  I bought one, brought it home and plopped the pot under a shade tree until I could get to it.  That was mid-summer.  It was the next spring before I finally got around to the plant and had to use a knife to cut the plastic pot loose.  I divided it and planted around the base of a chestnut tree.  The pleasant surprise was that I had several more plants pop up where the pot had been setting due to the roots that had broken off.  I had suspected this might have been true comfrey but in seven years I’ve not had comfrey pop up in any areas were it wasn’t planted so suspect this is one of the sterile cultivars.  

I wanted both bocking  4 and 14 varieties so I found a couple of small hobby growers on eBay and ordered from them.  I got generous cuttings and was very pleased.  Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions about the variety as their answers will help you determine whether they are actually growers and users of the plant or someone just looking to make a quick buck off a plant they know little about.

Personally I’ve gave away several plants to friends as I seem to always be starting root cuttings.  Oh and the deer discovered my comfrey last year.  It didn’t matter whether it was bocking 4 or 14, they devoured it every chance they got.
 
s. lowe
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Hey Jen, north of Sacramento among the orchards might be a bit trickier to find. I would look in any large city parks or if you can make it up to any meadows in the foothills. Keep in mind that right now it is probably just starting to poke it's leaves up if at all yet (we are just seeing the first shooting leaves in the last month here on the coast). I'd also be willing to send you some root cuttings if you can't find any growing near you. I assume that stuff growing in your area would work better in your area but comfrey does seem pretty adaptable. Feel free to send me a PM if you're interested in a few roots
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