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My comfrey tea stinks. Is that normal?  RSS feed

 
Patrick Thornson
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Location: Zone Five, B.C., Western Canada.
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Hi. I started my comfrey tea about 2 weeks ago and understand that I should let the chopped leaves 'brew' for 5 weeks. I have this bucket in shade and have stirred in only twice in the past 2 weeks. The lid is on loosely.

Is stinky comfrey tea normal? It really smells like a horse pile. Fresh!
Any info would be appreciated, folks.
 
Takaya Chi
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This probably means your tea has gone anaerobic,
More agitation, i.e. stirring, air stones, water pump, fountain. Anyway you can add more oxygen into the environment will help keep your tea aerobic.

Best of luck permie!
 
Patrick Thornson
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Location: Zone Five, B.C., Western Canada.
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Oh, thank you!!!

Maybe I'll pour some of the tea out (too full otherwise) and I'll add some fresh river water.

Maybe it will help to dilute 'the stink.'

Also, I'll stir it more often.
Thanks, Takaya.
 
Takaya Chi
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Hi again,

Not to fear monger, but...

I'd be really very absolutely extremely sure of what input(s) may be upstream of your river where you get your water, BEFORE you use said water. Anything could be in it, you'd be surprised what people (commercial or private) will "dump" into the water table.

I have no idea where you live or your situation, just be aware and make informed decisions!

Best to you.

Takaya Chi
 
Patrick Thornson
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Location: Zone Five, B.C., Western Canada.
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It's just creek water that comes down from a nearby mountain. If we had a contamination problem we'd probably hear about it. The ministry of the environment tests the water and we have strict rules about animals (not near the creeks)
 
Jordan Lowery
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Comfrey tea is supposed to smell , dilute and apply.
 
Patrick Thornson
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Location: Zone Five, B.C., Western Canada.
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Okay. I diluted it today and hope it won't be too stinky.
 
Leila Rich
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What Jordan said.
Comfrey is really high in protein, =highly nutricious and highly stinky.
While I usually tip really smelly/anaerobic things on the compost, I imagine I could aerate comfrey tea as much as I liked, and it would still pong.
*Warning* try not to get it on skin: the smell sticks...it's also worth having some really grotty clothes for playing with barrels of comfrey, seaweed, meat products...
Compared to that lot, herbivore manure smells very pleasant indeed
 
Patrick Thornson
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Location: Zone Five, B.C., Western Canada.
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"Pong." ha ha ha.
We use that term here too. Usually it refers to stinky armpits though.
"Man, that dude had wicked pong, eh?"

Thanks for all your help.
 
Alison Thomas
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Is there a problem if it's gone anaerobic?
 
Leila Rich
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Alison, it's a pretty hotly debated topic, but the theory goes that healthy soil is populated by aerobic bacteria, and if I was to pour a load of anaerobic bacteria on there, there'd be a massive bacterial battle. And bacterial genocide, as aerobic guys are wimps.
While the aerobic troops would eventually come back, since a healthy soil environment doesn't suit anaerobic bacteria, it would take a while to balance things out again.
That's partly why it's often recommended to put stinky, anaerobic things through the compost: thermophilic compost bacteria are really tough and can easily handle it.
I've never done a controlled experiment, but I strongly suspect that the benefits of dilute, but still reeking, comfrey brew would far outweigh the bacterial battle issue.
Cripes, a bitter bacterial battle; it's like Dr Seuss round here
 
Burra Maluca
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I thought, but I might be wrong, that anaerobic bacteria would die when they became exposed to oxygen. In which case using stinky anaerobic comfrey tea wouldn't really have much influence on any bacteria living wherever the tea was applied, and the main benefits would come from the 'pre-digested' nutrients.

I'm a bit out of touch with the latest thinking on this stuff though...
 
Leila Rich
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Burra, that's pretty much how I think about it. I've been told/read the theory, but I've never noticed a negative effect on the plants.
I think my biggest reason for tipping smelly things on the compost is it's less likely to end up all over me
 
Paul Cereghino
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I was just thinking about making some plant tea... given the oxygen demand, I'd expect the only way you could ever maintain aerobes for weeks would be to pump air into the water... is that the common technique of the aerobic advocates? I hate adding a layer of technology and I would probably go with the stink...

"Pong" is completely unknown in these here parts except when associated with "Ping"
 
Jordan Lowery
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You don't need air for plant teas you need them for compost tea.
 
Leila Rich
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Paul Cereghino wrote: "Pong" is completely unknown in these here parts except when associated with "Ping"


I recommend it, it's such a handy word Maybe my world is particularly full of stinky things, but I find 'pongy' especially multipurpose, describing my feelings about strong perfume and comfrey soup equally accurately...
 
Viola Schultz
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Last summer I proceeded with my first application of comfrey tea -- it smelled to high heavens, even diluted, and I won't even mention the mosquito larva that made home in the brew (yes, it was covered or so I thought).  Since I pretty much sprayed every single plant on hand, I have no 'comparison study' but the plants did well, very well so no harm done. I think. I really don't know and would like to know before I do it again. Well, that pong really bothered me so I started looking for answers to the safety of the foliar application of comfrey tea. I was afraid I might be spraying e-coli and other bad guys all over my garden. Could not find much science but a short if not very interesting study in the article by W.Brinton, Compost Teas: Microbial Hygiene and Quality In Relation to Method of Preparation (in PDF page 7). I tried to insert the link but my post wouldn't post, oopsie daisy.
In short, we should keep the bucket free of dung, pong pong. We don't even have to aerated it and it might not even smell as bad -- i am going to see about that this summer and spread more anecdotal evidence on comfrey tea.
 
Hester Winterbourne
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Mine smells so bad, when I tip it out all the flies for miles around suddenly arrive.  Nettle tea is very good as well.
 
Morgan Carey
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What works for me is to get two buckets, fit one inside the other, drill out some holes in bottom of first, put my comfrey inside, place large stones on top then cover with lid. No stink or larvae. You get awesome nutrient rich liquid on bottom of bottom bucket at end of 3 weeks or so. I usually do comfrey, nettles, and sunflower. I dilute 20-1 and use as folliar spray.
 
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