Several years ago, not long after I started gardening, some friends sent us two comfrey root cuttings. I planted them in my vegetable garden (then much smaller) and waited to see what would happen. I had never even heard of comfrey before (imagine that!) and had no idea what it would look like. Well, I didn't have to wait very long to find out! Those plants grew and grew, and by the next spring I had decided to move them out of the vegetable garden and into their own plot. I remember being surprised at how long the roots were...it was impossible to get the whole thing up. So when I had moved them and they started wilting, I assumed that I had killed them. Not so! It wasn't long before they started sending up new leaves, and then, to my surprise, there were new plants popping up in the vegetable garden also! I have learned since that these plants are vitually indestructable!
Over the years, I haven't really paid much attention to these plants, except for hoeing out the new plants that still come up all over my vegetable garden. I came to regard it almost as a pest, although I still appreciate any plant with a history, the bees love them, and I just have a soft spot for any plant that can survive our harsh winters. Of course I also knew by now I could never possibly get rid of it even if I wanted to!
Last year, I wanted something to fill in the back of the flower garden by the house. I wanted something really tough since it is a windy spot and dries out quickly. Most of the flowers I've tried there either die or grow up rather stunted. So, I decided to plant comfrey, although with some fear that I would regret it later. Of course, they grew there just as they have everywhere else, and by late summer had grown so large, they topple over and covered all the flowers growing in front of them. I have been debating with myself about planting more along the rest of that side of the house (I only planted a few there to start with, just to see what they would do).
So after all that, you will be surprised to hear that I have suddenly decided to grow LOTS more comfrey! I think I've mentioned a few times already that I have really fallen in love with herbs this year. I've been reading a lot of books and articles about herbs and their many uses, and am so excited about what I learned about comfrey! I already knew about its medicinal uses (it can be used to heal minor wounds, and I believe it has been used for stomach ulcers as well, although I've read that there are now some doubts about using it internally). What I didn't know is that is valuable for the garden as well! The roots go down as deep as 6 ft. (no wonder I couldn't dig the wole thing up!), bringing up soil nutrients, and the leaves and stems are high in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, potash, and calcium. These can be used as an activator for compost, as a mulch, or made into a tea for liquid fertilizer. And putting a leaf into the hole when transplanting seedlings gives them an extra boost!
With my gardens expanding every year, having enough compost/manure is becoming a real problem. I am so thankful for this amazing plant, and am looking forward to experimenting with it next summer!
I am a passionate gardener and seed-saver, who also enjoys playing the violin and accordion, running, spending time with my 4 golden retrievers, keeping chickens, photography, and reading. I also blog for Heirloom Gardener.