Using Comfrey as a Fertilizer

Organic Gardening
Comfrey Fertilizer

Comfrey, known as boneset, is a perennial herb plant. It got its name from its traditional use to heal broken bones. The name "comfrey" comes directly from the Latin word meaning "grow together". This is a very useful plant that you can use in many ways in your garden. It is a tall plant, a member of the Boraginaceae family. This family also includes plants such as forget-me-nots, borage, lungwort, and brunnera.

Keep in mind that comfrey comes in many different varieties. There are open-pollinated varieties that you can get easily. Bocking 14 variety, does not produce viable seed, so you never have to worry about the plant ever becoming a nuisance in your garden. This variety shows a great resistance to fungi and rust, which is a great news because these diseases are common with other comfrey varieties. On the other hand, a variety Symphytum officinale, is a great choice for attracting bees and other pollinating insects. It has bell-shaped, dangling purple flowers that are also very attractive in the garden.

Regardless of a variety, a great news about comfrey is that it can be used as a very effective fertilizer in the garden.

Why Use Comfrey as a Fertilizer in the Garden

It is important to remember that comfrey has a large, strong root system capable of pulling nutrients from deep down in the subsoil, where most other plants can't reach them. This plant contains basically any nutrient a plant needs, including the most important tree: nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. It also has a high carbon to nitrogen value, which means that it never depletes nitrogen from the soil as it decomposes. In other words, a decomposed comfrey plant becomes a great source of nitrogen. In addition to this, comfrey plants contain higher potassium content than composed manure.

You can use comfrey plants as fertilizers in many different ways. Just makes sure to handle these plants carefully: their leaves can scratch and irritate the skin easily. This is why it's important to always carry gloves while handling comfrey plants.

How to Use Comfrey as a Fertilizer in the Garden?

You can use comfrey plants as fertilizer in your garden in many different ways. For a start, comfrey makes a great liquid fertilizer. Keep in mind that comfrey leaves quickly decompose into a liquid, so it is easy to make them into an effective liquid fertilizer.

If you wish to make this fertilizer, get a large container such a 5-gallon bucket or a similar one. In this container, squeeze and squish as many comfrey leaves as you can. Make sure to fill the container as much as you can. To squeeze the leaves even better, make sure to weight them down with something heavy, such as a rock or a brick. After this, leave the brick and check it periodically.

It should take about six weeks for leaves to turn into liquid by breaking down. The result of this breaking down of squished comfrey leaves will be a very thick, black liquid. This is an excellent liquid fertilizer that you can use in your garden.

You can use this liquid fertilizer on your established plants, but make sure to dilute it properly before you spray it onto the plants. Dilute 1 part comfrey fertilizer liquid in 15 parts water. Place the diluted solution in a spray bottle to use on your plants. You can simply spray the fertilizer on the leaves of your plants as a foliar feed.

For young plants that are still not established, you need to dilute this solution even further. Remember, a strong fertilizer can damage the roots of the young plants, so you have to be careful.

Alternatively, for making a fertilizer, you can drill a hole in the bottom of a large container before you add comfrey leaves and place a smaller container underneath the hole to catch the drippings. It will produce a strong odour, but it is very effective as a fertilizer. Using this method, you are letting the leaves rot in the water, and it creates an already diluted solution. So you will not need to dilute this liquid so much to create and effective fertilizer. In general, such fertilizer should be diluted with one part comfrey liquid to 3 parts water.

Keep in mind that you can also use comfrey leaves as a mulch. Simply add a layer of comfrey leaves at the base of your plants or in planting beds. You may wish to chop them first, to speed up the decomposition, but it is not mandatory. Just make sure that the leaves are not too dry or else they would fly away. Wet them a bit before positioning them around the plants. You may also top them off with a layer of compost for the same purpose.

You can also use comfrey leaves in a compost. Just add them to your compost bin to benefit from the released nutrients during the composition of the leaves. You may also use comfrey stalks in this way, because they generally take a longer time to decompose than the leaves. They can even act as an activator to speed up the composting process.

Comfrey leaves can be used to make leaf mold, but because they decompose into a liquid, they can't be used alone. Because of this, you should mix them with other types of shredded leaves. When used in this way, comfrey leaves will act as accelerator to create a nutrient-rich leaf mold quickly and effectively. You can then use this leaf mold as a fertilizer, a potting soil or a side dressing for your plants.

Finally, keep in mind that you can use comfrey leaves in the soil directly. Simply line the bottom of the planting holes or even the whole container with some comfrey leaves. Plant above them as you would do it regularly. The leaves will decompose slowly and release rich nutrients for your plants. The advantage of this method is that it doesn't produce any odour.

Photo credit: quisnovus

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