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Comfrey beds during winter.  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 1944
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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forest garden trees urban
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My comfrey dies back to nothing in winter.
Naked ground isn't my desire,so what,if anything can time share a patch of soil with comfery?
 
pollinator
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I'm not sure what you are going for but I've been trying to amp up my evergreens so I have some habitat and beauty in the winter.  I've been eyeballing the Korean Pine.  At some point it produces pine-nuts.  Probably after I'm dead, LOL.  :-), Ive planted Serbian Spruce, which are super fast growers and very pretty. 

Also, planted white pine.  They get super big though.   I've also considered holly but I have yet to do any research on it.  I know the wood is highly valued for crafting. 
 
Posts: 1916
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I wouldn't really consider pine trees as "cohabiting" with comfrey! They have totally different growth patterns and would seem to be in mutual opposition to each other.

As for the original posters question, comfrey dies back in winter and leaves bare earth. That is its nature, but also it's strength. The leaves fall to the ground and as they break down they enrich the soil, feeding the microbial life and adding nutrients. During the summer the dense leaves and vigorous growth shade out other species, such as grasses, that would grow. In a permaculture setting comfrey is typically grown in situations where these traits are directly beneficial, rather than undesirable.

For example:

Planted beneath fruit trees comfrey suppresses grasses. Grasses suppress the growth and vigour of most fruit trees, whose shallow roots feed in the exact same root zone as the grass. The comfrey also feeds the exact soil zone where the fruit tree roots are feeding, giving another big boost.

Rows of comfrey plants can act as barriers, or boundaries, between grass areas and cultivated garden beds. Grass likes to spread, creeping into areas of other plantings. Comfrey's ability to shade and suppress the grass acts as a barrier to encroachment from one area to another and simultaneously enriches the soil in your adjacent planted beds.

I plant comfrey along fencelines, where it does a good job of displacing perennial weeds that would otherwise require maintenance. Sheep find it palatable, and will quickly graze it down when let into an area, which they would not do for thistles, stinging nettles, and docks.


The above may give you some thoughts on how this area might do double duty for you. Perhaps by planting some fruit trees or berry bushes within it, which would grow above the shade height of the comfrey.

As a more general point, in permaculture we would general aim to achieve integration of the different elements in our design, in such a way that the whole is more than the sum of it's parts.  A "patch" of comfrey sounds like it is isolated from the whole, which is why you are running into problems. In some ways I can see why a patch of it would be potentially quite useful - it could be a comfrey nursery, providing new root cuttings in a convenient single location. It might be located to make best use of a nutrient rich leeching from compost heaps, or from an animal enclosure.
 
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Location: Cape Town
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I'm dreaming of sowing Borage over my Comfrey  for the same reason as you, I hate the sight of bare earth. I like Borage because it is the best primary succession annual I know.but my winter almost over. In  the meantime I just boringly mulch.
 
Scott Foster
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Michaell,

I figured William was looking for options that are not deciduous.  I live in a similar climate and fruit trees (all of mine have comfrey at their base) don't have any leaves in the winter.  It has been my experience that comfrey will grow with pretty much anything.
 
Posts: 60
Location: Fryslân, Netherlands
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I have a blue flowering comfrey, I can hardly tell it apart from borage. They both die back in winter here, although certainly comfrey doesn't have a long winter.
I have mine next to some rhubarb, that'll co-exist fine. Yes, there will be bare earth in winter, but there's still life underneath the surface, and it's nature that makes plants draw back this way. I can accept some seasonal barrenness, it's a different thing from the monocultural barrenness that we want to move away from.

 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Thanks for the suggestions!
I have no patch persay, rather I have plants here and there.
In these places I get bare spaces, to the point you'd think the plant was dead.
I was thinking maybe  winter greens, kale, arugula, parsley, Swiss chard, leeks, scallions, claytonia,etc.
Maybe austrian winter peas or fava.
Winter wheat?
Yeah, just trying to keep it green.
If I can grow  something else in these spots I will be more likely to spread comfrey around.
I'm definitely gonna spread some around my struggling trees.
Do you think it would get along with a blue berry bush?
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1916
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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No direct experience of blueberry, but I imagine it would do fine with a high bush variety. Worth an experiment at least
 
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