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Powdered Comfrey

 
gardener
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A few years ago I had a friend in horticulture school. The class was growing the same plants in the same soil, in the same greenhouse. The only difference was each student was able to choose their fertilizer.
At the time I was drying comfrey in the back of my SUV. A simple setup of half inch wire mesh fixed atop a concrete mixing pan. It’s didn’t take long in the summer for it to turn to powder so I offered him some.
The other students weren’t quite as inventive and used all sorts of synthetic fertilizers. Half of his plants got a fishy smelling emulsion while the others received one quarter cup of comfrey per gallon.
Out of all the plants grown the fish emulsion worked best. The surprise came from the comfrey plants as they matched the synthetic fertilizers in growth and color.
That old SUV is long gone so now this is my setup. In one week I can crush the dried leaves but they’re not powder yet. I’m also experimenting with lambs quarters and mimosa leaves. Everything I dry now will be used in next year’s homemade potting mix. I’m probably going to make a homemade dehydrator this winter for such uses next summer.
Unfortunately I have no data or measurements to prove this works but will continue to use it.
I hope some of you will too. I’d love some future feedback.
34180331-5672-4F9C-843E-F5BB7F9706C2.jpeg
Comfrey dryer
Comfrey dryer
EB29FDD5-8BC2-43BE-AB58-5AEE35EB9CC2.jpeg
After setup
After setup
688AFB12-EFBB-442D-920A-DA0E73272A95.jpeg
After six hours
After six hours
 
pollinator
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I think I am going to follow your lead on this. I actually had a bear pop the top off a bucket of comfrey tea last week and dump it all.  (I like to picture him swilling it all but that seems unlikely.) Drying it seems like a way to avoid this...

I have seen various N-P-K numbers for dried comfrey on the net. Up to 3.5-1.2-8.4 but that seems pretty generous...

 
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I wonder if using a heavy needle and very light string would allow me to hang some of my comfrey like an impromptu clothes-line? I don't know if I'll get that far today, but I'll add it to my enormous list!
 
Scott Stiller
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You may be able to smell that bear quite a ways off! That is a pretty generous NPK, I wouldn’t have expected as much.
 
Scott Stiller
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That does work well Jay. Those thick stalks are great for hang drying. It didn’t end well for me since I was working twelve hour shifts at the time. I arrived home to find it had all broken up and blew away.
 
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Scott, I love the idea of powdered comfrey!  I always grow some comfrey for chop&drop right next to my garden beds.  Unfortunately I really need the comfrey right at the very beginning of the season when the comfrey is at its least growth.  By the time I get a decent crop of comfrey I no longer need the comfrey.

I would love to harvest my comfrey and store over winter so I could use during spring.  Do you think it would last this long?  Could you give just a few more details on how to dry and store over winter?

Eric
 
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I wonder how different the nutrient release rates are for different dried dynamic accumulators.  Comfrey seems to break down very quickly.  A study to test the nutrient release profiles vs. the species used would be super interesting.
 
Jay Angler
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Eric Hanson wrote:I would love to harvest my comfrey and store over winter so I could use during spring.  Do you think it would last this long?  Could you give just a few more details on how to dry and store over winter?

I store other herbs over the winter, so my general suggestions are:
1. leave the pieces fairly large and powder it just before use.
2. store in large glass jars (like the industrial pickle ones) with a solid lid as plastic lets moisture in.
3. make sure it's good and dry - in my humid area, that means putting it in the oven on dehydrate for the last bit of drying, and then putting it straight in the fridge to cool in a low humidity environment, and *then* putting it in the jar. That's a bit of a nuisance, but it makes a huge difference in stuff I thought was "dry enough" not going moldy on me!

Scott Stiller wrote:

I arrived home to find it had all broken up and blew away.

Thanks for the warning. With our humidity, and the spot I was thinking I'd hang it, I'd probably be safe, but it would be annoying to do that much work to then lose it all!
 
Scott Stiller
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Thanks to everyone for the compliments! I figured I may only get some eye rolls! 😂
By far the most efficient way I’ve ever done this is in the back of an SUV. Whole leaves are powder in ten days here in NC. I’m fairly pleased with the soda carrier setup. Crushable in one week was more than I expected.
You can start out with a lot but only get a small amount of powdered for storage. I’ve tried it in mesh seed bags which wasn’t great. If you drop the bag lots of powder gets left on the floor. I now store mine in quart jars through the winter. I can do this for months but only end up with two quarts for next spring.
 
pollinator
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I was going to try grabbing a big arm load and tying it together by the stems near the bottom, hanging it upside down in my shop to try to dry it.  My thought was using it to help supplement my chicken food through our long winters.  Anyone have any idea if this would work or if bundling it would make it take so long to dry that it may mold?  There are probably too many variables for a good answer, temp, humidity, and the like.  I may just have to try it.  Worst case, it ends up in the compost bin.  I have so much of it, that isn't an issue if it works out that way.  

Good thoughts Scott.

edit: spelling
 
pollinator
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I just built another big flower bed…over established grass.  I put down thick cardboard and all the comfrey cut from about 30 huge plants for mulch.  Then dirt.  I’ve done this many times.  The big old stocks and leaves will be lovely black stuff by spring no matter how bad the soil is on top.  

I used it to top dress my garlic beds last year.  I just pile it on after planting and throw sawdust on top.  No weeds.

If I was going to dry it I would hang stalks and all.  

It’s just more expeditious to pile it on green.
 
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I like it. so the object is to get a nutrient dense supplement for seed starting that will release as the seed roots get to the point of needing it.  I have seen such good results from using biochar as a seed starting medium so supplemented with the comfrey concentrate should support the biome development.  Will hang some scraggily comfrey  in the green hose while it is still overheating and see what I can get.
 
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That is an excellent idea if you want to dry things fast. I remember my sister drying chanterelle mushrooms that way. Putting them on a string works really slick and they get air from all around. You would not want to put it in a breeze though as the wind might tear the leaf away from the string. I've kept garlic and onions on a string to cure them while I was busy with the dehydrator on a different project.
As fertilizer, I feel that comfrey cannot be beat. I have quite a few young plants of comfrey. I plan to put one or two next to every fruit tree. In the Fall, as they dry and the leaves rot away, they will produce fertilizer for them and prevent other weeds from getting close to the tree. IMHO, comfrey should be part of every fruit tree guild. I still have some comfrey in barrels of water to distribute to asparagus this Fall.
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