Deer Gardener says: Try comfrey

  • Mar. 21, 2011 12:00 p.m.

While we wait to get down and dirty outdoors, it’s study time. My research has brought me to the interesting and easily grown comfrey. You can find a start in many established yards.Common comfrey is a perennial herb. It survives rough treatment and especially thrives in moist areas. In spring, the cold hardy rootstock pushes out large oval, hairy, textured leaves of deep green. By summer, flowering stems rise to three feet or more, topped with small clusters of dainty, down facing purple buds. Better described as bold than beautiful, it is best suited for a distant backdrop.Because of its traditional uses in herbal medicine, comfrey has been cultivated in kitchen gardens forever. The nickname ‘knitbone’ alludes to an ability for the leaves and roots to assist in healing broken bones. Comfrey leaves contain cell-stimulating allantoin, a chemical with healing attributes. External comfrey leaf applications are said to be useful for treating bruises and sores. There are toxic alkaloids in comfrey, so leave the leaves on the outside of your body and use the teas to soak wrapping cloths in. Herbs react differently on each of us. I am not able to use evening primrose oil or valerian for example. Be very conservative when first trying any herbal remedies.In the garden however, go for it. Growers can use comfrey leaves to make a fantastic, potassium rich, compost additive or liquid “tea” fertilizer. The tough far-ranging roots make Symphytum hardy, and hard to remove. But those same roots extract potassium (the K in fertilizer’s N-P-K) from deep soil layers. making it available to the soil. It is distributed throughout the comfrey plant. Plants need potassium for many metabolic functions. Keeping crops supplied with potassium is essential for their overall health, flower and fruit production. To make and use comfrey leaf tea, the general idea is this: harvest a lot of comfrey leaves, fill a bucket with them plus a bit of water and let them rot. Then drain off the resulting dark liquid. Dilute and use as a fertilizer, foliar feed or compost boosting liquid. Frequent applications of a weak tea are better for the plant’s health than one concentrated treatment. The-Organic-Gardener.com says that raw comfrey leaf tea has an N-P-K ratio of about 8:3:20. The site recommends diluting the tea with 20 parts of water before pouring or spraying it on garden beds or crops. Since it’s a pretty random liquid you pour off, (there is no control on the strength), err on the ‘too weak’ side. The compost booster aspect is the safest method of all to use this cheap fertilizer. Save this soil booster or foliar spray for mature plants.Established comfrey plants can be cut close to the ground a few times each summer and will rebound without harm. Use the fresh leaves as a mulch, or chop them and mix them into the soil near growing plants. I cannot recommend placing the roots in your compost, they will grow and be an incredible nuisance.Do have a great time poking around your yard and choosing your pet projects for this spring! Remember to divide too big yards into realistic plots for success. Dig that dirt!

Just Posted

In Pictures: Expression Sessions hangs ten

Wave gods smile on the 10th edition of the Haida Gwaii surf festival

Haida Gwaii Sea Cadets set sail

Some young salts joined the Remembrance Day parade in Queen Charlotte last… Continue reading

Rough seas delay Prince Rupert/Haida Gwaii ferry

Northern Expedition is expected to leave Prince Rupert for Haida Gwaii at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 13

In Pictures: Remembrance Day in Queen Charlotte

Drums, bells and bagpipes sounded across Haida Gwaii this Remembrance Day, which… Continue reading

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Canadians more prepared for weather disaster than financial one: poll

RBC recommends people check their bank app as often as the weather app

B.C. dog owner sues after pet killed in beaver trap

A Kamloops man is suing the operator of a trapline north of the city after his dog died

Heading soccer balls can cause damage to brain cells: UBC study

Roughly 42 per cent of children in the country play soccer, according to statistics from Heritage Canada

Supreme Court hears case on migrant detainees’ rights to challenge incarceration

Currently, migrants who do not hold Canadian citizenship can only challenge detention through an immigration tribunal or a judicial review.

Canada Post issues new offer to employees as eBay calls on Ottawa to end strikes

Ebay is calling on the federal government to legislate an end to the Canada Post contract dispute, warning that quick action is needed to ensure retailers don’t lose out on critical Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

Most Read