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Use a "comfrey tractor" to easily propagate comfrey

 
Ryan Absher
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Location: Northeast Alabama, Zone 7a
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On today's episode of the survival podcast (http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/wop-four), Jack mentioned something that a recent guest of
his had.

He called it a "Comfrey Tractor", and it was basically a potted comfrey plant with holes drilled in the bottom of the pot. He would place it somewhere for
a few weeks and water it. The roots would grow through the holes and into the ground. He would then twist the pot, breaking off the roots in the ground.
Of course new plants would spring up from the roots left in the ground. Then it's on to the next spot.

I thought this was pretty interesting.
 
Adam Klaus
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brilliant. other plants too, i would think.
 
Mateo Chester
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Location: Zone 4b
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Sheer genius... I was also curious of what other plants might be assisted by a root propagation tractor and found this list. Could any of you folks confirm or de-confirm the possibility of applying the same methods to these species?

List of Plants For Root Cuttings:

Woody Plants

Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia)
Crabapple (Malus)
Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)
Figs (Ficus carica)
Glory bowers (Clerodendrum)
Hydrangeas (Hydrangea spp.)
Japanese Aralia (Fatsia)
Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris)
Mock oranges (Philadelphus coronarius)
Oregon grapehollies (Mahonia aquifolium)
Popler (Populus)
Pussy willow (Salix discolor)
Raspberry and Blackberry (Rubus spp.)
Red and yellow twig dogwoods (Cornus stolonifera)
Rose of Sharons (Hibiscus syriacus)
Roses, nongrafted types (Rosa spp.)
Snowball bush (Viburnum)
St.John's-wort (Hypericum)
Sumac (Rhus typhina)
Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)
Weeping willow (Salix babylonica)
Wisteria
Yucca

Perennial Plants

Aster
Anchusia Italica (Related to Forget-me-not)
Barrenworts (Epimedium spp.)
Bear’s breeches (Acanthus mollis)
Bellflower(Campanula)
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
Blue stars (Amsonia spp.)
Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)
Colewort (Crambe cordifolia)
Comfreys (Symphytum spp.)
Cranesbill (Erodium)
Epimediums (all do well)
False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
Garden phloxes (Phlox paniculata)
Gernaium (Gernaium spp.)
Globe Thistle (Echniops)
Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea)
Horseradish (Brassicaceae)
Japanese anemones (Anemone X hybrida)
Japanese aster (Kalimeris pinnatifida)
Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)
Matilija poppy (Romneya)
Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale)
Pasque flowers (Pulsatilla spp.)
Primrose (Primula)
Rhubarb
Sage (Salvia spp.)
Sea hollies (Eryngium planum)
Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)
Statice (Limonium spp.)
Yarrow (Achillea)

 
James Colbert
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That is genius. That's why I love this site.
 
John Redman
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Location: Perkinston Mississippi zone 9a
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Great ideal! I'm always looking for ways to multiply plants.
thanks Matt, for posting the list of plants that may work with the tractor.
 
Guy De Pompignac
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Location: SW of France
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I've read something similar in a book with a drilled bucket and raspberries
 
Dave Aiken
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Ryan Absher wrote:On today's episode of The Survival Podcast (http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/wop-four), Jack mentioned something that a recent guest of
his had.

He called it a "Comfrey Tractor", and it was basically a potted comfrey plant with holes drilled in the bottom of the pot. He would place it somewhere for
a few weeks and water it. The roots would grow through the holes and into the ground. He would then twist the pot, breaking off the roots in the ground.
Of course new plants would spring up from the roots left in the ground. Then it's on to the next spot.

I thought this was pretty interesting.


Jack just did an MSB video where he discussed how to build a comfrey tractor: http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/wir-005
 
Dan Grubbs
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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Is there a time to plant comfrey cuttings in the ground that's better than others? Is there a time NOT to plan cuttings? We're approaching the hottest time of the year and I wondered if I should put off my comfrey order and planting until Fall. Or, does it matter?
 
Joshua Parke
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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I love this idea. Going to do this today.

Dan.....I've read of many saying that it just doesn't matter when you do it. But............I cut all of the green tops from nearly 40 comfrey plants, dug up the roots and planted them into my food forest.............still not seeing any growth, and this was around a month ago...I think. I figured that with everyone talking about comfrey growing so vigorously, that they would just take off. I've dug a few up and they look the same as they did when I planted them. Maybe I planted them too deep, or improperly......I dunno?
 
Dan Grubbs
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That does seem strange to me, Joshua, from all I've heard and read about comfrey. Others, is there a better time than not to plant?
 
William James
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Joshua Parke wrote: I figured that with everyone talking about comfrey growing so vigorously, that they would just take off. I've dug a few up and they look the same as they did when I planted them. Maybe I planted them too deep, or improperly......I dunno?


Wait until next year. Comfrey has a tendency to go dormant when roots cut or replanted. Then you get a surprise in the spring when it pops up. This year, I'm waiting until september to uproot and transplant. That way I get a couple months of growing before the root dies back. Just enough to get it holding onto some soil. Plus I won't have to water.

I've tried the comfrey tractor, but I have a feeling I should have left it longer to let the roots get good penetration, as nothing came up (or if it did it got lost in the jungle of my garden). Watering is key to keep the root and plant going.
William
 
Jen Shrock
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Be patient Joshua. I have had mine take as long as 2-3 months to come up after planting in spring. There is still hope.
 
Cj Sloane
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Dan Grubbs wrote: We're approaching the hottest time of the year and I wondered if I should put off my comfrey order and planting until Fall. Or, does it matter?


I put some cuttings in pots a few weeks ago & the bigger the pot, the better they're doing. See if you can buy some from a local permie or put an ad on craig's list. Then do the comfrey tractor.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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Thanks CJ. I just didn't want to go to the expense and effort of putting more than 100 cuttings into the ground and our hot humid conditions here in Missouri burn them up in August. I'm excited about getting comfrey planted on our swales and around our orchard trees.

I learn so much from these forum threads. Thanks all!
 
Cj Sloane
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Dan Grubbs wrote:...100 cuttings...


You could turn 5 cuttings in a 100 in 2 years easily, maybe even one year. You just have to remember to keep dividing and planting.
 
Joshua Parke
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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William and Jen,

Thank you for the insight.......part of me had a feeling that after I chopped off all the green tops....then uprooted them....that they would probably be a "little" shocked, yet bounce back once they were ready. Though another small part of me that want's to control things was saying, "how do I force these things to grow". LOL Around a week ago I had a very vivid dream of them growing......I was just walking around in my food forest and I looked down and was pleasantly surprised at the new comfrey leaves emerging. Fun dream.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Cj Verde wrote:
Dan Grubbs wrote:...100 cuttings...


You could turn 5 cuttings in a 100 in 2 years easily, maybe even one year. You just have to remember to keep dividing and planting.


Thanks CJ. However, I have five long swales and a new orchard to plant this comfrey at that I need cover on ASAP. If I planted comfrey cuttings for each tree we've planted this year and last year we'd need all 100 cuttings. I still want to divide those even so I can grow comfrey in rows to feed our goats and chickens next year. I think our farm has a pretty big appetite for comfrey ... or so I am guessing.

 
Joshua Parke
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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Well, I finally found a picture that helps me identify all the similar plants that look like comfrey......short version of the story.......I don't have comfrey growing abundantly in my area. It's actually Cynoglossum officinale. So basically, that's the reason I haven't seen any growth, and has nothing to do with the "comfrey" just not growing. LOL

Ordered 15 roots total from two different places yesterday.....soon to have True comfrey.....Symphytum officinal.

edit: -- Here's a link to the page that helped me learn of what I actually have in my area that I had confused with comfrey. Symphytum officinale L -- The black and white photo with the mature seeds is the image that helped me out.

And here's a link on this site with a good discussion and a bit of info on comfrey....."I couldn't see the topic, and I had to search for it so that I could see it. I don't know if everyone else is experiencing the same thing I did, so I felt it would be helpful to create a link to it." The value of comfrey
 
Josey Hains
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Location: AB, Canada, Zone 3
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I was thinking about the comfrey tractor and had idea about reversing it. I would like to run it by you guys to see if you think this would work.

Can I set up a frame for a raised bed (maybe half in the ground, half above) and have a stationary comfrey factory? I would fill the frame with some growing medium, put smaller pots (with drainage holes) in, fill those pot with the same sized pots that have planted comfrey roots. I was hoping the comfrey grows in the pot an d the roots grow through the holes in the pots into the ground. When the comfrey is big enough, I remove the pots (breaking the roots), add a new pot with soil and wait until another plants grows from the roots in the ground.
I saw the pot in pot method for annuals in flower beds and thought I could use this reversed to continiously grow comfreys from one spot in the backyard.
What do you think? Would that work?
 
Josey Hains
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Joshua Parke wrote:I love this idea. Going to do this today.

Dan.....I've read of many saying that it just doesn't matter when you do it. But............I cut all of the green tops from nearly 40 comfrey plants, dug up the roots and planted them into my food forest.............still not seeing any growth, and this was around a month ago...I think. I figured that with everyone talking about comfrey growing so vigorously, that they would just take off. I've dug a few up and they look the same as they did when I planted them. Maybe I planted them too deep, or improperly......I dunno?


Mine took forever! But they are coming. It seems like the smaller the root cuttings the longer it takes. But they will come!
 
Mike Leo
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I use a milk crate, thus far with great success.

Total time for setup 10 minutes. Some pictures and a blog post here: http://www.therewasafarmerhadablog.com/2014/08/comfrey-tractor.html
 
Cj Sloane
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Time to get the comfrey tractors going! I'd like to have comfrey in 100 new spots this year at least! 10 pots x 10 weeks... no problemo!
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