crime & comfrey – grow the most functional plant of all time & how to make liquid life insurance for your garden

Posted by on Jul 31, 2016 in Home | 20 Comments

Is it weird to sit around with your husband and watch crime shows about how couples knock each other off? We don’t watch a lot of TV but when we do, we get obsessive about the Crime and Investigation channel. Hopefully one of us is not secretly engaging in some type of ‘research.’ From my armchair profiling, the motive for murder on these types of shows are pay outs from life insurance. However being a narcissist or a sociopath or both is usually a prerequisite. As an ex-relationship therapist now studying criminal law, I can assure you my excessive commentary throughout these shows is UTTERLY fascinating.

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So if I can use the very loose sedge way of life insurance and apply it to the garden, it means growing comfrey (Symphytum officinale). Not only is comfrey a priceless backup to everything, it is THE permaculture poster plant because it is THE most functional plant of all time. Also very hardy, you can’t kill it! I grow it all over my garden and it gets run over by the lawnmower and still lives. Comfrey is a herbaceous perennial (it dies back annually but the roots are still alive so it grows back) and thrives in a range of climates from cool temperate to tropical. It loves fertile, well watered soil and either full or partial sun. Comfrey grows up to 1 metre but be warned, it can grow up to a metre wide.

In Brisbane and other warm sub-tropical/ tropical areas, comfrey is best planted during the wet season. Try planting in Spring for cooler areas. I recommend buying a comfrey plant from a good nursery if you are starting out. Otherwise, it can be propagated by root cuttings or crown division (dividing clumping plants into two or more plants). Root cuttings are pretty easy, you just cut 3 cm long pieces of root and lay them horizontally in your garden area or a styrofoam box filled with potting mix. Bury the cuttings about 3 cm deep and keep moist until the first leaves appear.

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C O M F R E Y   U S E S

Weed barrier

If you plant it in strips around your garden (around 50 cm between each plant), it can actually prevent weeds like running grasses getting through so you can protect your other plants. This is a revelation.

Awesome in compost

Give your compost a nutrient boost by adding the leaves which are very high in nitrogen, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. The leaves can be used as a compost activator due to the high content of nitrogen which results in increased microbial decomposition of the compost. Remember nitrogen is the most important chemical element in all plant growth.

Super mulch

As comfrey grows so fast and in abundance, you can use the nutrient dense leaves as a green manure to mulch everything in your garden. It adds heaps of nitrogen to the soil so other plants can access it for growth, unlike carbon-based mulches like straw that actually draw nitrogen out of the soil when decomposing. Fantastic for the veggie garden but particularly under fruit trees (I grow it around my orchid). Grow it all over your yard!

Rooting for your soil!

Comfrey has a deep root system (up to 2m) that basically ‘mines’ soil for minerals and other nutrients that are often inaccessible to other plants. All of those lovely minerals and nutrients go up into the roots and leaves (that’s why it makes super mulch). It can also break up compacted soil. Comfrey’s ability to help cycle nutrients through soil has given it the reputation as a dynamic accumulator plant.

Animal attraction

Comfrey flowers can attract beneficial insects particularly bees. Bees prefer blue and purple flowers so they love these little purpley bell shaped beauties. However comfrey rarely flowers in subtropical/ tropical areas as there isn’t sufficient winter chill to induce flowering. Comfrey is also very nutritious for chooks in small amounts.

Make your own fertiliser

When soaked in water, the leaves decompose until they form a dark, thick (and stinky!) liquid manure or comfrey tea. When you make your own it’s free! See my comfrey tea recipe below. DON’T DRINK IT! FOR PLANTS ONLY.

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C O M F R E Y   T E A

A large bucket that has a well fitted lid

A couple of handfuls of torn up comfrey leaves

Throw a couple of handfuls of torn up comfrey leaves in the bucket. Fill the bucket up with water about half way and put the lid on. Keep in the shade and leave for a week. Fill the bucket up to the top this time and replace lid. Leave for another week. After this 2 week period, you now have comfrey tea! Make sure you dilute the tea about 5:1 prior to application on your garden. Apply to plant roots.

20 Comments

  1. sherry MacKay
    August 1, 2016

    what an incredibly useful plant Jem! i do admire your green fingers and thumbs! i seem to kill anything by just looking at it. sigh. isn’t this weather wonderful? so cheering. thumbs up!:)

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 1, 2016

      Comfrey is a bit mind blowing that’s for sure! I know, I’m absolutely loving this weather Sherry. Bet you are to 🙂

      Reply
  2. Tandy | Lavender and Lime
    August 1, 2016

    I think I should plant some in our bottom garden. Dave and I also watch crime shows. Best I check the status of our life insurance policy (ha ha).

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 1, 2016

      Yes Tandy, when the partner starts to get the life insurance papers out…it’s time to get the hell out of there 🙂

      Reply
  3. Lorraine @Not Quite Nigella
    August 1, 2016

    I don’t think I’ve ever tried comfrey tea before! And a plant that can be run over by a lawn mower sounds like it is right up my alley! 😀

    Reply
  4. e / dig in hobart
    August 1, 2016

    wow, we need comfrey! it sounds like the answer to everything! I’m going to start looking for it in nurseries.
    ps do we need to check every now and then that hubby is still alive?!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 1, 2016

      I need to investigate his life insurance more thoroughly…unless he’s planning a number on me first lol. Oh yes, comfrey is the answer to everything in the garden. So functional, it’s ridiculous!

      Reply
  5. Sam Rutherford
    August 3, 2016

    What doesn’t this plant do Jem? I think the next time I plant something it will have to be comfrey!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 3, 2016

      Please make sure it is Sam! You will not regret it. Comfrey is amazing 🙂

      Reply
  6. Nagi@RecipeTinEats
    August 4, 2016

    Wow. I never thought Comfrey can be this interesting. Thanks for informing us how good this plant is!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 4, 2016

      So many people haven’t heard of it Nagi. So very happy to spread the word 🙂

      Reply
  7. Function 9
    August 6, 2016

    It certainly is the ideal permaculture plant. Incredible that it can be used so many different ways.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 6, 2016

      Exactly. That’s what I love about permaculture, it opens up a new way of thinking, gardening and living. It really is mind blowing.

      Reply
  8. Gourmet Getaways
    August 22, 2016

    I had always heard that comfrey is good for the garden but I had no idea why! Now I will have to go and get some.
    Thanks so much for sharing
    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 23, 2016

      Yep, crazy good for the garden. Would be fantastic for the garden you already have going Julie 🙂

      Reply
  9. Ngeun
    September 10, 2016

    We love Midsomer Murders and Poirot. The plots and characters are fascinating. I always learn something new and amazing reading your blog. Comfrey sounds like a wonder plant. Will be a keeper in our garden. Thanks! 🙂

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      September 10, 2016

      Thanks Ngeun! Yeah, I like a good TV show that you can sink your teeth into 🙂 Comfrey totally is a wonder plant!

      Reply
  10. Ijan
    September 29, 2016

    I read somewhere that comfrey seldom flowers in the tropics. I’ve been given 2 packets of true comfrey seeds. I’ve sown 1 packet of 40 seeds (so the seed packet says.. I didn’t count them) and waiting to see if I’ll have any luck with them. Should some grow… should I worry about planting them in my backyard? I live in Malaysia… right on the equator.

    Reply
  11. lostinutensils
    February 12, 2017

    Comfrey rarely flowers for me and I’m in the sub-tropics. I’d say it would do fine growing in Malaysia, it really is so hardy and adaptable. Just remember they can grow up to a metre wide so you really need to think about space when planting. If you have luck and 40 come up, you might need to give some away lol!

    Reply

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