Robb Olson

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since Aug 02, 2016
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Recent posts by Robb Olson

Hello All, I'm located in Minnesota, my backyard forms a little natural basin (roughly 90'x150') with slopes on three sides. In the lower section stands this beautiful cluster of 80'+ tall cottonwoods. Its pretty much the focal point of the area and thus serves as a starting point for my woodland garden. I would like to plant comfrey (both for its visual impact as well as overall usefullness) around the base of these trees similar to the way many ppl use hostas to trim out the base of trees. My question is, are there any other plants that I could or should intermix that would add extra color, serve as a ground cover around the comfrey (clover or something similar), look nice in general, of be beneficial to this area? I would like it to look full like the hosta pictures below and match the woodland garden feel and I thought it might look bare when I harvest the comfrey leaves from around the trees.
Last question, are there any mid level trees (I really like maples) that I could plant within this cottonwood stand to add color or would the existing roots of these monstrous trees prove to much for that?
4 years ago
Thanks for the help! So these plants, once fully established, will be roughly 3' diameter from what I have read, is this correct? I will space them out a little farther per your suggestion just so it wont feel so crowded. I would like the comfrey around the towering cottonwoods to be both ornamental as well as functional, similar to the attached hosta photos but with comfrey. How far away from the tree trunks/bases should they be (24" from base to center of comfrey plant?)? I've seen some hosta's that are pretty close to the base of trees so was just wondering what would be best. I hope you don't mine but I am calling upon your inner plant artistry here,  should I plant anything else around the trees with the comfrey that would either enhance the look or be beneficial (like clover or not sure what else, still new to plants)? My overall goal for the backyard would be to look like a woodland garden and since this cluster of cottonwoods are pretty much the focal point of the little basin area, I would like it look lively and full. Thank you again for your time to answer my questions!!

4 years ago
Hello All,

First year home owner, gardner, composter, and first year I've ever kept a plant alive for longer than a few weeks! I've always liked the idea of growing my own food and permaculture but never really had a reason to start researching until now. It became readily apparent how useful comfrey (bocking 14) is and it's one of the first additions to my property. I've read A LOT about it but I do have some remaining questions for those of you with more knowledge than I. If you dont mind filling in some gaps for me or offering some other information it would be so greatly appreciated! I am located in Minnesota.

1: Can you use comfrey concentrate for lawn care? The lawn at this new house is in serious decline and while I plan to aerate and re sead this fall, I was wondering if it would work to dilute it to the same 15:1 ratio and spray it on the lawn. How often should I do it if it would benefit from it?

2: Will comfrey benefit regular trees (deciduous or coniferous) or just fruit trees? I have some colorado blue spruce with a fungus and some other trees in back that are in decline and I would like to save them if possible. All I can find online is using comfrey with fruit trees but wasn't sure if other trees would benefit?

3: Are there any vegetables or plants in which I should not mulch with comfrey leaves or use the diluted concentrate for a foliar spray? I've read that some vegetable plants don't do too well with higher levels of nitrogen (like lettuce?) but wasn't sure if it makes a difference between organic products like comfrey or if it is more so for commercial fertilizers. How often should I use the diluted concentrate in the garden?

4: I've read mixed reviews about how much sun these plants like and calling for everything from full sun to mostly shade. Any input from you guys?

5: How much water do these things like? I've read they grow well around creeks or rivers, does this mean they need a lot of water? If so, that may play a role in determining where the comfrey patch will go. I've been watering these planters a little each day.

5: In the last few weeks I have acquired from friends and an online retailer a total of 6 root cuttings that are starting in some small planters, 8 small plants (about 1yr old) in 5 gallon buckets, and 4 large plants (3yrs old with about a 14" rootball) in some 10 gallon planters. I understand that planters are not the greatest for these due to their wanting to send deep roots. My problem is almost the entire back yard will soon be cleared of buckthorn, tore up, regraded a bit or worked in some manner or another here soon and I wasn't sure where the final resting place for these will be yet and I didn't want to accidentally spread the roots where I don't want them. I am hoping to keep them alive long enough (1-2 months) to place in the ground. Is this wishful thinking? I have them in a mix of 66% compost and 34% potting mix mulched on top with straw.

6: I have one spot along the back of the house where I think I can put the large comfrey plants to get them in the ground, my only hesitation is that we may end up adding 1-2' tall retaining wall (raised bed) there and raising that ground up. If I plant them now at ground level and we then decide we need or want to add the retaining wall, would the comfrey still grow up and through that additional ground?

7: There is one spot in the yard which wont be worked over much due to a nice cluster of some really large cottonwood trees (see picture). I've seen a lot of people plant hostas around tree bases but was thinking about using comfrey instead however I am not sure how to go about it. I've read the benefits of planting comfrey in fertile holes and filling them with chicken manure, compost, etc. but I am afraid of hitting or damaging some of the cottonwood roots. I've thought about building up the tree base area with soil and compost and then planting the comfrey but I've also read that you shouldn't add anything around tree bases except mulch or it will damage or kill the tree (is this true?) Any thoughts about how to do this, I think it would look really nice. Also, how far should I plant them around the tree bases, 3'?
4 years ago
I just bought a house with a nice wooded back however as you can see in the first pic, it was horribly overgrown in most sections with buckthorn. I have been clearing the area and as you can see in the second pic how beautiful the area could be. I'm a little worried about other invasives coming in now with more light and more space and am looking for help. I'm a first year gardener and I've been reading about permaculture a lot. I've read plants like raspberries & blueberries (which I love) are not only nitrogen fixing plants but will also keep buckthorn and other invasives at bay. Is this accurate & do I plant them wherever the buckthorn was (if it is I will be close to a commercial scale with as much of it was there)? Will planting clover over the area help keep invasives away? I also have about 20 comfrey (bocking 14) root cuttings starting in buckets. I am located in Minnesota.
Thanks in advance!
4 years ago