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the value of comfrey  RSS feed

 
                    
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Hello... newbie here! got here looking for comfrey, seeds or roots to plant. Anyone got the real deal? I just need a few.

I have drank a green drink of comfrey leaves for medicinal use. I also have used crushed leaves on my diabetic relative who had a bad open sore that would not shut. After several applications, diet shifts and other things it closed up ...

I have the russian brand now that I have moved from where I had so many real ones. I wish to have some more. Anyone?? Thank you!

My dog loves to take a bite out of the leaves I have right now! They are good to eat, but i find them too fuzzy! 
 
pollinator
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well as I said I haven't divided mine yet but it was given to me as a root so I have no idea what type it is..it is one older plant and gets about 8' across and never ever spreads by root or seed.

it is lovely..it on it's own will die down and then regrow and re flower each year..but last year I did the chop and drop with it and it was pretty cool ..I cut out most of the top growth (was a bit afraid to cut it all) and within no time it was as big as it had been, so now I'm not afraid to chop and drop it for mulch, but I do hope to remember to get some cuttings this year and moving them..i figure I need about 30 to 40 pieces but read that all i need is a piece the size of a finger joint, so hopefully that is right as I want to plant it everywhere.
 
                      
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Anyone have pics, please?  I'm pleading: Newbie/Tourist/Eager to learn beginer/Visual learner... Thank You.
 
                                    
Posts: 147
Location: Anoka Sand Plain, MN Zone 4/5, Sunset Zone 43
 
                                  
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awesome thread guys and I cant wait for spring so i can begin the rest of my gardening life with Comfrey.

I have a friend who I am sourcing some of my root stock from but if any of you have extra you can get rid of let me know I would be happy to pay shipping and a little something for your sore back!
 
                      
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Thank You for the pics! I know I may be a pain for asking for them but it's the best way I know to gain a reference to what the conversation is about. That, and I may recognize a plant but only know it by some local nick name that has nothing to do with the plants reality... I appreciate all of you that share your picks & knowlege with my. A gift I hope to be worthy to repay sometime.
 
Author
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Location: Mad River Valley, VT
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Comfrey is amazing.
One oft-not-mentioned use: grazing: my sheep love it.
 
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I was just about to post that Peaceful Valley has seeds, but when I went to checkout, I noticed they were backordered.

http://www.groworganic.com/hh-comfrey-true.html
 
                                
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  I love comfrey.

  Richter's Herbs in Canada sells common confrey as well as blocking 4 and 14.   I think they can ship to the states.

http://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?show=list&prodclass=F003&cart_id=4558436.9521

  I got both blocking 14 and common confrey a couple of years ago.    Long story short I didn't get it all planted, where I wanted it, the year I got it and some pots were left on the ground in the back yard.   Another one somehow managed to get in the middle of a sandy mound (I think my dog moved) it and the comfrey prevailed.  It just rooted itself right through the pots.   The one area isn't so bad it's out of the way but the one in the sandy mound is in the way.  I have to laugh because I know there is no way I'm going to get it out of there so I'm just treating it as a nursery plant now.  Last year I just dug up as much as I could and replanted it elsewhere knowing full well I'll be able to do the same thing this year.    

   An herbalist I took a course from years ago talked about it's medicinal uses.   He did some study with some native peoples on the west coast an one of the primary things they used it for was 'knitting' wounds and bones.   I haven't tried it but apparently if you put comfrey in a pot with something stewing beef, the meat will stick together.   We were taught that this property is so potent that when using it you had to be careful with using it on deep wound as it's possible to knit the top together quicker then the deeper part which can lead to infections.   He said that when he was working with one medicine person she treated someone who had an accident where part of his tongue was pretty much bitten all the way through.  She used comfrey to help 'knit' it together.  No stitches needed. 

I've used this property myself a couple of times.  One time with a problem in a spot where the small wound would not heel no matter what I did.  I finally remembered comfrey and it worked.    I've also used it to help fix plants.   I had a tomato plant where the main stem broke to point where it was still together just on one side.   I had no idea if it would work but I had nothing to lose.  I thought well it works on skin maybe it would work on plant skin as well.    I smushed up some comfery , spread it over the break and wrapped it up in a leaf.   The plant wilted and didn't look that good for a bit but ended up springing back to life and acting like nothing even happened.   Since then I've used it to the same affect on other plants as well. 
 
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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Richter's can and does ship to the US, that's where I got mine!
 
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Awesome thread! Trying to determine which type to grow, and based on what I have read, it looks like I might be better off choosing the hybrid from russia to avoid spreading issues since I am in a suburban area...
 
steward
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@ Odonata:

Using it to heal an injured plant makes me wonder:  could this be a handy plant for grafting projects?  Hmm.
 
Brandon Monterosso
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John Polk wrote:
@ Odonata:

Using it to heal an injured plant makes me wonder:  could this be a handy plant for grafting projects?  Hmm.

Totally worth trying... I am about to do some grafting myself!
 
master pollinator
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I got my comfrey from a local nursery and it isn't spreading worth a darn. 
 
John Polk
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Was it Bocking 14?  That hybrid was developed to eliminate spreading.
 
pollinator
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I got my comfrey from a local nursery and it isn't spreading worth a darn.



propagation is VERY easy. simply dig up a mature plant, with as much of that fat root as you can. it should be about the thickness of your finger. now cut that into 1-2" pieces and plant in pots with some compost. cover a little bit. when it sprouts plant it where you want.

if you already know where you want it, just plant the little stubs and water them well until they sprout.
 
Tyler Ludens
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It was just tagged as "Comfrey."

 
John Polk
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I have heard that if you cut the flower stalks and set them in compost/manure they will almost all root.  Comfrey is a huge nitrogen hog, so manure really helps.  The leaves will give it all back soon enough.
 
                            
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I ordered Bocking 4 plants from Richters.  "The preferred type for farming use. Highest concentration of protein. More rust-resistant. A natural hybrid between Symphytum officinale and Symphytum asperum. ... Recommended as fodder, especially for pigs and poultry. "

Richters is kind of pricey, and shipping is high from Canada to the U.S., but they have items no one else has.  I also got seeds for seabuckthorn, perennial flax, and artemisia from them.

 
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Great food value for all the animals and poultry. My yard Jerseys are nipping it off right now, had to sequester some for growth.

I believe the comfrey patch shown below is the reason this small paddock supported (ultimately) two full sized boars for nearly two years - with nearly no rototilling - except for the comfrey patch.  I am now trying to recover the comfrey - apparently they like the roots too.

Comfrey.jpg
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comfrey-goats.jpg
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paul wheaton wrote:
One fella mentioned that he had a comfrey problem.  He had a few patches that got way out of hand and he was trying to control it.   It sounded like one of his approaches was to run chickens on it so intensively as to completely eliminate the comfrey. 

Later, when it got to be my turn, I think I was asked to define permaculture in one sentence (a big challenge).  I just said "to embrace comfrey" 





 
                            
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My comfrey arrived today.  The Richters catalog said Bocking 4 has the highest protein content.  But the tag on the pots says it also has the highest level of allantoin.  Yay for me. 

The walking onions were also in the shipment.  I thought they were back ordered until fall.  So, double yay.

They'll go out by the fruit trees, this evening.
 
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Is someone has numbers on the protein contents of the bocking 4 cultivar ? it is said to have higher protein content, but i cant find any values ...
 
Jordan Lowery
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are you sure you dont mean bocking 14?
 
Guy De Pompignac
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Yes, b14 is best for garden/compost, and b4 for fodder
 
gardener
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Comfrey is an outlaw here in the north. Health Canada put a ban on some species of comfrey. Here's the article and a few quotes;


http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=Issues/comfrey.html

Two species of Symphytum are banned, S. asperum and S. x uplandicum; while the common comfrey, Symphytum officinale, and other species are not banned. The letter indicates that the pyrollizidine alkaloid, echimidine, is at the centre of Health Canada’s concerns and that comfrey products must be free of it. Click here to read the letter.

"Seeds and plants are unaffected by the ban. It is legal to grow your own comfrey for personal use. It is legal to grow comfrey commercially also. It is not legal to sell prepared comfrey products such as creams, ointments, pills and teas."
 
master steward
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I have a lot of comfrey footage with some of your favorite people from past videos (including Alexia Allen, Toby Hemenway, Matt from Feral Farm, Brian Kerkvliet, Norris and Tulsey).  And I want more.  Lots more.

I would like to get video examples of comfrey in fruit tree guilds.  I would like to get video of chickens/ducks/cows/pigs eating comfrey.  Of kids and adults eating comfrey.

How about video of making a poultice? 

How about some "conventional" folks saying that they are struggling to get rid of it in their monocrop field.  (for contrast)

How about:  comfrey does not compete with fruit trees.  Grass does compete with fruit trees.  Comfrey beats grass!

Comfrey for chop and drop?

If you wanna submit some video, please take a look at this thread

 
Posts: 28
Location: Sierra Nevada foothills, zone 7
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I planted comfrey last year, and it is a big plant this year. However, I have no idea which species I have. So I have been cutting off the blossoms, though I am not sure I got them all before they set seed! Is there any easy way to tell which species you have?? What are the chances I got the self-seeding one?

Also, is it necessary to wilt the leaves a couple days before using them as mulch? Somewhere I read that the fresh leaves might take root and grow into a new plant. Or is that only true of the flower stalks, as it says on Appropedia?
 
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I have a comfrey project in mind, but I don't really know if I invite trouble. I have enough plants and a piece of bare soil maybe 50 m². If I would plant comfrey there so that the entire patch will be covered. In between I plant hills with comfrey. As our soil is fill with nasty concrete pavers and asphalt pieces, I want to hoe the whole thing one day when I get around with the garden mattock and after the pumkin harvest. Then for winter I could plant broad beans and in summer corn or potatoes. Would the comfrey choke out the other plants? Would that work? In winter comfrey dies back here.
I think it would be far easier to hoe after the comfrey than now.

BTW my experience is that comfrey spreads but it does not run, that means that it mainly stays put, but the clump gets bigger, however I have it only one year and I transplanted a fair bit of it.
 
pollinator
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Like many of the folk who have commented here, I planted the sterile Bocking 14 cultivar of Russian Comfrey.  And lots of it!  I am in my first year of jump starting a permaculture system on a small, suburban lot of bare and barren sub-soil.  Little or no topsoil to start with.  Comfrey has been among the chief soil-building, mulch-making, clay-busting species I've planted so far.

I bought root cuttings from Horizon Herbs, 40 at first, as someone else has recommended previously in this thread.  My searches also found that H.H. is one of the very few with good prices on bulk cuttings.  I should specify that those were Spring 2011 internet searches, and I can't speak to the more recent availability in the mail order market.

Those little root cuttings are made of tough stuff!  When mine arrived in late spring, they sat around longer than I should have let them; a couple of weeks in their original packaging.  Then, I read that they can be stored in refrigeration before planting, so I did.  When I finally got around to planting, I found that my fridge had frozen them!  Some were solid with ice crystals, and most of the sprouts on the root cuttings were black and slimy.  I was furious with myself, but still figured there was no point in not putting them in the ground.  Lo and behold: 90% still grew into healthy comfrey plants!  In the meantime, I had bought 20 more roots from H.H., thinking that I would need replacements.  Those ended up arriving in early summer.  Summer in South Carolina is a damned hot time to be planting things.  No problem: they all grew.

This summer's experience has also taught me that, when faced with intense heat and sun and drought, comfrey (and most other plants, when you get right down to it) prefers partial shade.  I have comfrey all around my property, but by far it has thrived most consistently in a little strip that receives only a few hours of direct sun in the morning.

Hopefully those observations may be helpful to someone out there.  Now, a question...  I've let my comfrey grow all year without harvesting (I plan to chop and drop for mulch) in order to get well established.  Next year, I will begin to harvest.  But also, I want to dig up one or two of my plants to create more root cuttings for propagation.  I am assuming that early spring would be a good time for this, while most of the plant's energy is still stored in the roots, and also an optimum time for the new plantings to take hold...?  Can anyone confirm or contradict?  Should I perhaps instead be dividing the green growing plants with a shovel this fall and replanting before it gets really cold?

Thanks.

~ Matthew N., Southern transplant
 
Posts: 183
Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
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@Matthew:

If you have flowering stalks that haven't turned brown yet, you can cut them into 2-3" lengths and plant them in pots filled with rich compost, and they probably will root and grow. Just leave them out all winter. I have done this many times. This is in addition to digging and chopping the roots and planting them.

I have a whole field full of it -- I think it is the self-seeding kind. I fed it to my two steers all spring and summer, and now that I have that area fenced properly, I'll be running hogs in there this winter, and I expect them to eat their fill of the roots.

I have 5 acres in western WA and my goal is to spread comfrey to all parts of it.
 
Matthew Nistico
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@Ivan - Thanks for the tip!  I think that all of mine that flowered this summer (not many of them, actually) have already drooped and browned.  There were some very hot and dry weeks this summer, and the comfrey got a bit crispy around the edges.  I'm pretty sure no stalks survived that experience.  Being their first year, I probably should have chopped off the flower stalks before the grew tall; I've heard that they suck a lot of energy from the plant.

BTW, I ran across another mail-order nursery that sells comfrey at a good price, in case it hasn't yet been mentioned here: http://www.nantahala-farm.com

~ Matthew N., Southern transplant
 
pollinator
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Paul and Jocelyn review Gaia's Garden, chapter 8 (part 2) in this podcast: http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/439-podcast-079-gaias-garden-chapter-8-part-2/ In it, they talk about creating an apple tree guild. They also talk about comfrey.
 
                                
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I love comfrey too!

Hi anyway, newbie here..

both regular comfrey & russian comfrey set seed.
the 2 strains of bocking's don't so it's impossible for bocking 4 or 14 to spread appart from simply growing in size, but if your planting near fruit trees you should plant at least 1.5m away from the trunk and on the sunny side only.

when watering your fruit trees the comfrey will grow towards it, clogging up the trees immediate root zone and sucking up any nutrient in it's path, same with comfrey planted on the non sunny side (sth?) the root system will head towards the sun so through the trees root zone again.

so yeah, not too close unless off course your fruit trees are quite mature (5y/o+)

think many people are confused as all the hot goss' about comfrey and it's properties is about the bocking varieties, not plain russian and certainly not regular comfrey, it's all about the bockings, both are outstanding as mentioned already, b4 is better for animals and b14 better for plants.

 
Posts: 539
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Some great,thorough info on comfrey.. http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Symphytum+officinale

I'm thinking what to plant in an area on my property.. Southeast red clay/sand/silt mix...
I'm looking at some heirloom winter rye, or maybe a deep-rooter like comfrey to bring this area back to life (suggestions welcome) & (reference photo below)...My horseshoe bed  The area in the middle is the key area of interest. I know comfrey is a tough hombre, but would it settle in here (being semi-hard pan)... I'm a no-dig practioneer as you can see,but If I had to break the soil a bit initially for planting I wouldn't be opposed to  doing so...


IMG_6155.jpg
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 Living wind I know you know a lot about permaculture so i am using your question to say what might be important to new comers. You are only asking about a certain area and that absolutely surounnded by trees so what i say here is crazy but then it seems so important to say that permaculture is about planting a mixture in case any nwewby should get mixed up about the whole system that i am going to leave it.
  The permaculture way is a complete design plan, which means it is not about which plant  to plant but which combination of trees and all other plants.
 I told my brother in law about permaculture and how you combine trees and other types of plants and fungi and he said, "oh they create a ecosystem". Permaculture is about  planting lots of trees which is something you seem to already have in the background so maybe you just need the clearing in the wood for sunloving plants. The permaculture design is to plant lots of different plants and I bet they innoculate with mushrooms too so not only plants and they include animals taht will tidy up eat bad insects and provide manure. SOo plants fungi and animals.
    permaculture concentrates on producing food but as other plants can help with the fertility of the system, they also plant things that dont produce food but help with the fertility of the whole.
    One sort of tree they plant with fruit and nut trees is pioneer trees, which is to say trees that are so hardy they will grow in hard pan or the desert or the marsh or whatever the problem of that place is.
  Another type of tree they plant is nitrogen fixing trees which may also be pioneer trees. For a marsh or coolish place this would be alders for a desert, prosopis, for inbetween hot and cool places, locust trees.
  Pioneer trees that can fix nitrogen because they have nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots would fill both requirements that of living in a difficult place and of making the ground more full of nutrients because they fix nitrogen.
    Nitrogen fixing trees can usefull because they will grow where there is a shortage of the sort of nitrogen that plants normally need so they can grow in infertile soils like deserts, unless those deserts became deserts from too many chemical fertilisers that cause salting up of the land, in which case the desert may have plenty of nitrogen in it, but normally deserts lack nutrients.  
There is lots of nitrogen in the air but the nitrogen in the air is of the molecule N2, two nitrogen atoms stuck together and plants cant absorb nitrogen in this sort of partnership or molecule, maybe its not a soluble molecule. Some sorts of bacteria rearrange nitrogen molecules, plants like their nitrogen partnered in this weway NH4+, nitrogen with 4 hydrogen atoms and a + electro magnetic charge to it. NH4+ comes from ammonia NH3+ that comes from rotting organic matter, NH3+ broken down and built up by bacteria and actinomuycetes and fungi becomes the N4+ ammonium salts that plants like.
    Plants also like NO3- one nitrogen and 3 oxygen atoms stuck together with a minus or negative electro magnetic charge. NO3- comes from bacteria breaking down and building up the NH4+ molecule, first turning it into NO2- and then into the NO3- that plants like to eat.
    Recently scientist have found that plants wil take up amino acids too and these have nitrogen in them and you find more and more bottles of fertilisers that say they contain amino acids for sale in garden centres.
 
     
    The nitrogen rich leaves of nitrogen fixing plants leave the nitrogen on top of the soil when they fall which benefits surrounding plants. As rain is always washing nutrients down into the soil and off to rivers, you need mechanisms that bring back the nitrogen the rain is washing away and leave it on top of the soil to counteract the work of the rain and plants are the mechanisms that do this and that is one reason that having deep medium and shallow rooted plants is an advantage, they can recover the nutrients from many different depths of soil, and deposit them on th esurfacea again.
  Accumulators, plants that draw more nitrogen out of the soil than others do deposite may deposite more of this nitrogen they have retrieved in their leaves, plants such as comfrey, and so like the nitrogen fixing plants are usefull for counteracting the work of the rain.
    Comfrey is often used as manure, grown in one spot and its cut top carried to where nuitrients are wanted or thrown in the compost heap. Comfrey is an accumulator i presume, it takes up so much nitrogen that its leaves have more nitrogen in it, according to one chart i read, than manure as manure is just mashed plants maybe that is not suprising.
      I suppose Bill Mollisons idea of planting it everywhere instead of just in one patch, of planting it under each tree is good, the rain washes nitrogen into the soil everywhere and so we need the plants that complete the cycle pulling it up into their leaves that then drop on the earth leaving the nitrogen on top again everywhere.
    Plants also pick up iron, calcium, potasium, phosforus, and other microelements, all the things that the rain washes out of the soil and leave them on top again. So comfrey is used like the trees with nitrogen fixing nodules in their roots, to put nitrogen on top of the soil where the rain is going to take time to wash it away and save you the expense of buying in fertilisers.
    Plants are expensive but they are often not an expense you have to replenish every year as fertilisers are.

   You could plant trees that grow very fast like poplars, cotton woods. or pines that are going to put a lot of biomass in your soil with their roots and whose trunks will give you material for huggleculture beds without you having to wait too many decades for this wood. agri rose macaskie.
 
George Lee
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You really need to condense your replies. Who has time to read that? I know I don't.

Can someone else vouch for comfrey as a good 'clay-buster'?

Thanks -

Further references...

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Growing_comfrey/
 
Matthew Nistico
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@LivingWind - Thanks for the link!  I suppose that I can't personally vouch for comfrey as a clay-buster, since this is my first year growing it and I have yet to see the results on my own land.  But that is what ALL the resources say.  We know for a fact that it has a strong, vigorous, and extra-deep root system for a plant of its size, and those are the key ingredients to introducing organic matter into the depths of a dense soil.  I imagine that the effect is only emphasized once you start harvesting the comfrey leaves, since that will stimulate short-term root die-back, which is what stimulates biological activity in the soil: decomposition, the first step in the underground ecosystem.

I CAN vouch for the fact that my comfrey is, so far, thriving in my own very heavy clay soil.  Though I should add the disclaimer that in the places where I planted the comfrey - new planting beds where I am starting fruit trees and bushes - I had also this year tilled and introduced some sand and rough organic matter to help improve drainage.  This is the first and last tilling these spaces will get.  But that might tilt the experiment a little since the comfrey also gets the benefit of that loosened soil.  Of course, the tiller only loosened down a foot and a half; given enough years, taproot species like comfrey should improve the soil to a much greater depth.
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Right on bro. You're in zone 7b? I as well! Where ya at? I'm in Sunset, South Carolina, near
the blue ridge foothills.  If you're close enough, would you mind shipping some root pieces? Thanks for the reply... I'm brainstorming worthwhile plants to fill my vacant spaces.
 
My honeysuckle is blooming this year! Now to fertilize this tiny ad:
Ethical & Green Volunteer Opportunities Abroad
https://tinyurl.com/yaj4odcy
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