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Comfrey - Symphytum Officinale

 
Rory Turnbull
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common name: Comfrey

scientific name: Symphytum officinale

uses: compost, compost activator, liquid fertilizer, foliar spray, mulch/green manure, soil building, fpe, soil amendment, plant extract, compost teas, dried roots and many more

nutrients: excellent source of potassium (2 to 3 times more than farmyard manure), full of minerals, nitrogen, phosphorus, high potash feed, Protein, Vitamin C and A, Vitamin B12 (There are only three plants that contain Vitamin B12 naturally Alfalfa, Borage and Comfrey), B Complex Vitamins, Mucilaginous fibre, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Sulphur, Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Germanium

difficulty to grow: easy. See when to plant and germination.

Perrenial or annual: Perrenial

invasive or not: oh yea! If you let it to seed you're are screwed! Even if you plant it in your garden the roots will spread, not quick but for sure and you will never get rid of it! It is the best to make a dedicated comfrey patch.

when to harvest: In the first season of a newly established plant cut once in June to prevent flowering and allow the plant to grow and die back so as to build up reserves. Then cut plants before flowering in April when about 2ft high. Don't cut later than September to allow the plant to recover food reserves before Winter dormancy. As plants become strong they will be ready for cutting every 4 or 5 weeks giving 3 to 5 cuts per season.

soil conditions: Damp, often shady localities but likes sunny spots too, in meadows, woods etc, especially near streams and rivers. It takes all the N it needs from the soil, so yea, feed extra N to the comfrey patch, to make the soil and the plants happy. It doesn't like shallow chalky soils! Patch near compost would be ideal.

when to plant: Division succeeds at almost any time of the year. Simply use a spade to chop off the top 7cm of root just below the soil level. The original root will regrow and you will have a number of root tops, each of which will make a new plant. These can either be potted up or planted out straight into their permanent positions.

germination: Success will be around 20% in 8-9 days. Keep the soil moist and warm. Sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

harvesting: Cut it 2 inch above the surface, so it can grow back again without any problems. It'll grow back very very fast! Now you can dry it, use it in compost, to make some fpe or to make some plain comfrey extract without help of water (liquid fertilizer when diluted, strong stuff). Will talk about that later, it's great stuff. When harvesting don't play with the leaves to much if you would like to dry them, because they will start to rot fast when "hurt". The best method for drying is to hang them with the help of a string or smth.

info: I fell in love in comfrey this autumn. I found it on field and instantly saw how strong and healthy this plant is. Structure of the plant is really something special and gives you a great compost material. Well about uses we are gonna talk later on. Anyway, around seven plants in a patch is just enough for your needs in general, all through the year.

what to do with it:

- compost: hardly any plant is so good for compost as comfrey. You can really make good comfrey based compost if you want. It is great compost material, it provides green stuff and can heat up a pile in no time so it is also a great compost activator. If we are talking about hot stuff it can be compared to manures. It is also great to compost it with leaves if you got extra. Just alternate leaves with a layer of comfrey, and after a year you will get wicked leaf mold.

- plant extract: this is good stuff!!! For now i'm just going to tell you how to make it, cuz it can be used in A LOT of different ways which we'll be covered/described in each different "what to do with it" part.

Put leaves in a bucket or smth. The bigger the better. I'm experimenting with less then one gallon plastic container and i already got some brown juice. Put leaves in it and weigh them down with brick or whatever. Do NOT use water, cuz then you will get normal liquid soak! Cover with lid. Now, if you use bucket with tap system it is better, cuz the liquid will start to form/extract on the bottom and that's how you can simply harvest it when there is enough. As i can see you can have fresh liquid after two weeks or less and then new fresh one faster and faster. This stuff has N:K value around 8 : 2.6 : 20.5

- liquid soak: Simply fill a bucket with comfrey and add water, wait a week or more, stir it once in a while. It smells awful, much more compared to yarrow or nettle soak, that's why i rather use the method above (plant extract).

- liquid fertilizer for soil: It can be made out of plant extract or normal liquid soak. First you have to dilute. Go for the black tea color in both cases. Use less for the first time and then go with the flow. More details and numbers will be added.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1556
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I'll chip in here, having just researched and planted some comfrey.

The "Bocking 14" cultivar is far less invasive than those grown from seed. It spreads by root division only and doesn't set fertile seed. If you don't disturb the roots it should only spread very slowly from where you plant it. If you want to propagate more simply dig up sections of root in the spring before it breaks dormancy, chop into sections an inch long and plant them. You will only need to pay for it once, then you can propagate as much as you want/need.

Another way to spread comfrey (an idea I spotted on these forums, not sure whose it was originally) was to plant some in a large pot. Put the pot where you want your new comfrey plants and let the roots grow through into the soil below for a month or so. Then twist the pot to snap off the roots and you will have comfrey growing in short order.

Mike
 
John Redman
Posts: 196
Location: Perkinston Mississippi zone 9a
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Blocking 14 pic.
This plant was grown from a small root cutting (2"maybe) planted spring one year ago.
image.jpg
[Thumbnail for image.jpg]
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 488
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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Never ever plant it where you might do any kind of tilling some day. Also, if you have gophers, be aware they might spread it through their tunnel system.

That said, I just planted a couple of the Bocking 14 plants, I put them at the end of the nettle bed. I figure they'll duke it out. This patch is some distance from the house and any future garden expansion. It is a very good plant to have around, just be aware that once you have it, you'll have it forever.
 
Mateo Chester
Posts: 148
Location: Zone 4b
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I planted a bunch of Bocking 14 earlier this spring. A couple were watered by hand, and the majority were left to their own devices... We're in a drought and have seen rain only once this year.. I found it interesting that the ones that were watered are now constantly in need of human powered hydration, while the ones that have been left alone are thriving in their own right. I'm going to stop watering these things though. I can see them dying back and popping back up, given some time. Anyone expeirence this?
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 216
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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Rory Turnbull wrote:
(There are only three plants that contain Vitamin B12 naturally Alfalfa, Borage and Comfrey)


Hi, do you have a source for this information? The info that I have - http://www.permies.com/forums/posts/list/80/1174#235692 says that comfrey is not a source of B12.

Thanks.
 
Rory Turnbull
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Different people say different things. Some say it contains b12, others dont. I found this, but was having trouble finding ifo from the actual study:
"However, a study on the nutritional value of comfrey conducted in Australia in 1983 found that you would need to eat more than 4 lb/day of fresh comfrey to obtain the minimum daily requirement of B12. Eating such large amounts of comfrey, a poor source of vitamin B12, is inadvisable due to the potential health hazards."http://vvv.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/comfrey.html

Though I have heard that many other plants "contain" b12 due to its production from the microbial communities that can develope on the phyllosphere
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 216
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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Rory Turnbull wrote:Different people say different things. Some say it contains b12, others dont. I found this, but was having trouble finding ifo from the actual study:
"However, a study on the nutritional value of comfrey conducted in Australia in 1983 found that you would need to eat more than 4 lb/day of fresh comfrey to obtain the minimum daily requirement of B12. Eating such large amounts of comfrey, a poor source of vitamin B12, is inadvisable due to the potential health hazards."http://vvv.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/comfrey.html

Though I have heard that many other plants "contain" b12 due to its production from the microbial communities that can develope on the phyllosphere


Here's the study.
Filename: The determination of vitamin B-12 in comfrey and comfrey products; .pdf
Description: The determination of vitamin B-12 in comfrey and comfrey products
File size: 115 Kbytes
[Download The determination of vitamin B-12 in comfrey and comfrey products; .pdf] Download Attachment
 
Wynn Ho
Posts: 19
Location: an hour south of Atlanta, Georgia
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Mike Haych wrote:
Rory Turnbull wrote:
(There are only three plants that contain Vitamin B12 naturally Alfalfa, Borage and Comfrey)


Hi, do you have a source for this information? The info that I have - http://www.permies.com/forums/posts/list/80/1174#235692 says that comfrey is not a source of B12.

Thanks.


I am a pescetarian wishing to be vegan. If I was sure I could get B12 with eating soil or supplements, I maight do it. I, too, would LOVE any scientific info. I looked 2 hours online the other day to see if angelica keiskei really had the B12 all of the .coms were claiming it had. I didn't find one. None of the registered dieticians who are vegans and write books have mentioned plant sources, either. One did say it wasn't possible and that nori seaweed had only a form of B12 not used by the human body.
 
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