Installing comfrey in the north field at Backroads Homesteading, especially with plants transported from Wisconsin, involves careful planning and execution to ensure successful establishment and growth.
Comfrey is a highly valued plant in gardens and permaculture circles, primarily for its deep roots that access nutrients from the subsoil and its nutrient-rich leaves. The leaves of comfrey are particularly high in potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus, making them an excellent natural fertilizer. When used as mulch, comfrey not only adds nutrients to the soil but also improves soil structure, suppresses weeds, and helps retain moisture. Its quick decomposition makes it a great compost accelerator. Additionally, comfrey's flowers attract beneficial insects and pollinators, enhancing the overall health and biodiversity of the garden. However, when using comfrey as animal fodder, caution is advised due to certain compounds it contains.
For composting, comfrey leaves can be layered into a compost heap, where their high nitrogen content acts as a natural activator, speeding up the decomposition of other organic materials. Comfrey leaves can also be chopped and dropped directly onto garden beds, where they quickly decompose and enrich the soil. Some gardeners use comfrey as a green manure crop, turning it into the soil to decompose and release nutrients.
Making comfrey compost tea is a simple process that involves steeping comfrey leaves in water. The steeping process can vary from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the desired strength of the tea. An optional step is to aerate the tea with an air pump, which can produce a more nutrient-rich and beneficial aerobic compost tea. Once the tea is ready, it should be diluted with water, typically at a 1:10 ratio, before being applied to plants. This nutrient-rich tea is particularly beneficial for plants that require a boost in potassium or are heavy feeders.
When using comfrey in the garden, it’s important to handle it with care. Fresh comfrey should not be applied directly to edible plants to avoid the risk of bacterial contamination as it decomposes. Additionally, choosing the right variety of comfrey, such as Bocking 14, which doesn’t spread via seeds, can help in managing its growth and preventing it from becoming invasive in the garden.