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The comfrey bed should be well prepared by weeding thoroughly, and dressing with manure if available. Offsets should be planted 0.6 - 1m (2?
?3 feet) apart with the growing points just below the surface, while root segments should be buried about 5 cm (2 inches) deep. Keep the bed well watered until the young plants are established. Comfrey should not be harvested in its first season as it needs to become established. Any flowering stems should be removed as these will weaken the plant in its first year.
Comfrey is a
fast growing plant, producing huge amounts of
leaf during the growing season, and hence is very nitrogen hungry. Although it will continue to grow no matter what, it will benefit from the addition of animal manure applied as a mulch, and can also be mulched with other
nitrogen rich materials such as lawn mowings, and is one of the few plants that will tolerate the application of fresh urine diluted 50:50 with water, although this should not be regularly added as it may increase salt levels in the soil and have adverse effects on soil life such as worms. Mature comfrey plants can be harvested up to four or five times a year. They are ready for cutting when about 60 cm (2 feet) high, and, depending on seasonal conditions, this is usually in mid-Spring. Comfrey will rapidly
regrow, and will be ready for further cutting about 5 weeks later. It is said that the best time to cut comfrey is shortly before flowering, for this is when it is at its most potent in terms of the nutrients that it offers. Comfrey can continue growing into mid-Autumn, but it is not advisable to continue taking cuttings after early Autumn in order to allow the plants to build up winter reserves. As the leaves die back and break down in winter, nutrient minerals are transported back to the roots for use the following spring.
Comfrey should be harvested by using either shears, a sickle, or a scythe to cut the plant about 2 inches above the ground, taking care handling it because the leaves and stems are covered in hairs that can irritate the skin. It is advisable to wear gloves when handling comfrey. Despite being sterile, Bocking 14 Russian Comfrey will steadily increase in size. It is therefore advisable to split it up every few years (and at the same time propagate more plants that can be shared with fellow gardeners!). It is
however difficult to remove comfrey once established as it is very deep rooting, and any fragments left in the soil will regrow. Rotovation can be
successful, but may take several seasons. The best way to eradicate comfrey is to very carefully dig it out, removing as much of the root as possible. This is best done in hot, dry summer weather, wherein the dry conditions will help to kill off any remaining root stumps. Comfrey is generally trouble free once established, although weaker or stressed plants can suffer from comfrey rust or mildew. Both are fungal diseases, although they rarely seriously reduce plant growth and thus do not generally require control. However infected plants should not be used for propagation purposes.
Comfrey is a particularly valuable source of fertility to the Organic gardener. It is very
deep rooted and acts as a dynamic accumulator, mining a host of nutrients from the soil. These are then made available through its fast-growing leaves (up to 4-5 pounds per plant per cut) which, lacking
fibres, quickly break down to a thick black liquid. There is also no risk of nitrogen robbery when comfrey is dug into the soil as the C
:N ratio of the leaves is lower than that of well-rotted compost. Comfrey is an excellent source of potassium, an essential plant nutrient needed for flower, seed and fruit production. Its leaves contain 2-3 times more potassium than farmyard manure, mined from deep in the subsoil, tapping into reserves that would not normally be available to plants.
There are various ways in which comfrey can be used as a fertilizer. These include:
Approximately 25 seeds/package
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