Comfrey is a wonderful herb closely related to Borage. It is a native perennial and can be found growing wild and a plant every organic gardener should grow. It is often treated as a weed in most gardens and can be very difficult to get rid of. It grows in large clumps up to three or four feet tall and has long, pointed, slightly hairy oval leaves which can irritate the skin in some people. The flowers are bell-shaped and purple-blue to pink or occasionally white and are very attractive to bees.
Uses of Comfrey
Comfrey contains high levels of the basic NPK nutrients, drawn up from the deep by its extensive root system. As such it can be useful as animal feed and plant feed. If you keep chickens it can be used as a feed and the chicken manure can be used as a mulch for the comfrey over winter. Comfreys rich nutrients will be a great addition to your compost heap and will also help the heap heat up. Comfrey makes an excellent fertiliser for potatoes, tomatoes and beans, add to the trench before you add potatoes. Use as a mulch or make tea as a liquid fertiliser.
Growing and Harvesting Comfrey
Comfrey is a tough plant and will grow in full or partial sun and near full shade. It will grow from the tiniest part of root and can quickly spread. When creating your own comfrey patch it is recommended that you use the Bocking 14 variety which is sterile and cultivated from roots. A disused corner of your garden will be ideal for a comfrey patch. It doesn’t like thin soils and prefers a soggy, moist area. Prepare your soil by digging deeply, root will grow very deep and this will help it get established. Add some manure to the site for the plant to soak up. It is best to plant in March, April, May or September for the best results although you can buy it all year round. Plant about 2 to 3 feet apart and watch them grow. In the first year take cuttings when the plants start to flower, you cut six inches from the ground. In the second year you can take cuttings to fertilise your potatoes and possibly a further 3 or 4 times in this year. To get more plants just fork up a portion of roots from a clump and reposition and it will happily grow from this.
Use a hessian sack and stuff with cuttings from your comfrey patch. Leave in a barrel of water for 3 to 5 weeks and you will have a wonderful liquid feed for your tomatoes and beans. The tea can give of a rather pungent smell so try to use a barrel with a lid and be prepared.