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Bocking Comfrey groundcover question

 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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I got some root segments of Bocking #4 comfrey to start under one of my fruit trees. The 12 I ordered resulted in 15 plants (he sent extras), 14 of which are surviving my neglect. But they're spaced 3 feet apart. Do I need to do something to get them to fill in the space like dig up the roots, chop them up and spread them out, or will the roots send up new plants all over the place on their own? Would keeping a pig there over the winter be enough to spread the comfrey so it would fill in completely? My pigs aren't rooting much anymore, they only dig little holes a couple inches deep.

If I wanted to put some in the pig paddocks, would they need protection in the spring or would removing the pigs for the winter be enough? Right now the pigs are in each paddock once every 3 weeks, but I'm going to make at least one additional paddock this winter - I forgot that I'd need to separate some out for different reasons which would take a paddock out of the rotation.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1592
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Renata- are you planning a single species ground cover of the bocking?

I've put some bocking in around my fruit trees but am planning a mix of species. I've thrown down some alfalfa seeds (nitrogen fixing) and plan on planting some walking onions too.

As far as spreading the comfrey goes, i understand that bocking 14 won't be invasive unless you disturb the roots. Letting the pigs root around would do it. If the comfrey is newly planted you probably want to leave it a year though to let the roots get properly established. Do you have some way of protecting your fruit trees from the pigs? If not i'd think about manually digging a few plants to divide and plant.

Alternatively, You could try a 'comfrey tractor' - plant some comfrey in a large pot and let it get established. Put it on the ground where you want comfrey to grow and let the roots grow through the pot into the soil. After a month or so twist the pot to snap the roots and move the pot to a new location.

Mike
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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Thank you Mike. I got my comfrey from "Coe's Comfrey". He says on his website that he doesn't sell the Bocking 14 because it has shallow roots and is not drought tolerant. The Bocking 4 he sells, can grow roots 5-10 feet deep, I believe he said. I was planning on planting some white clover among them until the area was filled in with the comfrey. I read a lot more of Coe's site and he says the plants don't reach full size from root cuttings for several years, so the large leaves I'm seeing now are only a preview of things to come. I've never seen comfrey before, let alone grown it, so this is all so new to me, but I'm looking forward to harvesting leaves for animal fodder and green manure.

My pigs are pot belly pigs and didn't harm the trees at all when I penned them under them for the winter, tho they did compact the soil a little the fertilizer they deposited more than made up for it.

I grew walking onions before but didn't use them much - always picked them at the wrong time and they were tough. This house came with some in the old garden, and again I'm not sure what to do with them other than grow them as a rabbit repellant. My garlic, on the other hand, made bulbs the size of a grapefruit this year and I use that a lot. The starts came from the elephant garlic they sell at the grocery store, I just planted the cloves 6 inches apart in a row and they did wonderfully well.
 
David Hartley
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A hole 9~12 inches wide and two feed deep, backfilled with aged manure and the like, will take a decent root cutting to a mature plant within three years.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I don't know what varieties of comfrey I have, I have been given roots from three different people and they all grow huge. Three feet apart would be a dense groundcover of all the kinds of comfrey I have when they're mature. I like the idea of the clover in between to begin with.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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