Comfrey as green manure

At the permaculture course we attended at the Durban Botanic Gardens, we learnt about the benefits a little plant called comfrey can bring to your garden.  Planted as a green manure, it fixes potassium in the soil.  The leaves can also be made into a liquid fertilizer or ‘green tea’ by soaking in a bucket of water for two days.

Needless to say, we went out and got a couple of plants.  And they are growing really well.  We have also made our first batch of ‘tea’ and will let you know if the garden likes it.

Comfrey as green manure.

Comfrey as green manure.

Here’s how a green manure can help.

  • The shade of dense foliage will reduce weed seed germination. Mulch also does this but green manure roots may also inhibit the growth of weed competitors.
  • Beneficial soil microorganisms flourish.
  • Plants absorbs available nutrients that would have been of leached out of the soil. They can now be recycled in organic form to be made available when the plants are dug in or composted.
  • Plants of the Pea/Bean family often have root nodules populated by bacteria that convert nitrogen from air into useful organic nitrogen. Other green manures use an extensive root system to absorb and concentrate nutrients like potassium that may otherwise be unavailable to crops.
  • The roots of green manures can increase the water holding capacity of soil to make it more drought resistant.
  • Green manure roots may improve the stability of soil particles and create useful drainage channels.
Make 'green tea' from comfrey's leaves.

Make 'green tea' from comfrey's leaves.

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18 Responses to Comfrey as green manure

  1. bridget b June 3, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    hey niall, it has various medicinal uses too. when i was a kid my mother used to constantly strap leaves to me for various sprains and hurt limbs. if nothing else it stopped me complaining for fear of being the only kid who’s mother used leaves instead of medicine 🙂
    http://herb-gardens.suite101.com/article.cfm/comfrey_the_miracle_herb

  2. Niall June 4, 2009 at 6:58 am #

    miracle herb indeed – your mom was cool bridget 😉

    did the leaves work on your sprains?

  3. bridget b June 4, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    Definitely helped for bruising/swelling but I suggest going for the poultice option – if I remember correctly the leaves were kind of itchy.

  4. emme June 4, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    once years ago before you could get body shop in sa, my ma came back from a trip to the uk with a product called ‘sage and comfrey soothing gel’ or something for calming irritated skin, rashes, bites etc. it smelt great!

  5. Duncan White July 3, 2009 at 7:59 am #

    Comfrey – have a look at
    http://www.herballegacy.com or go to
    http://www.lindsaywolsey.com for many uses for comfrey.

    Also, one site has True Comfrey seeds, not the lesser hybrid
    http://www.horizonherbs.com

    Good luck

  6. james Hills March 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    hi Guys & dolls,
    I,m not a great believer in herbal medications, but what I do know about comfrey is that it is an EXCELLENT compost activator. Even lawn cuttings are broken down within 6 weeks and I have an abundance of really excellent compost since introducing comfrey to my compost heap. Deffinately worth trying.

  7. Neall Fourie September 5, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    Hi,

    I have been trying to source comfrey seeds in SA, do you know where I can get them? I do not want to try getting from overseas, as that is a very expensive process.

    Thanks,
    NB

  8. mol-d September 5, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    Hi Neall,

    We had some comfrey plants in our garden in Durban and they seemed to flower and then seed quite frequently. If you know of anyone who has a Comfrey plant, perhaps ask them for the flowers and then dry out the seeds?

  9. Louise September 6, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    If you find a friend with comfrey, you can also grow some from root cuttings. Just break off a section of the root and plant it in the soil (careful not to plant it upside down) and keep the area well watered. It grows quite easily.

    Good luck with the comfrey hunt.

  10. Leanne November 1, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    Where do I find comfrey plants in PMB, KZN? I want the Russian variety that has sterile seed.

  11. mol-d November 1, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    Hi Leanne,

    Not sure. Why don’t you send an email to post@sprig.co.za about what you are looking for and see if you get any response when we publish it?

  12. Niall November 2, 2010 at 7:36 am #

    a question … will comfrey grow in a very shady spot?

  13. Cheryl November 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    Where can I find comfrey leaves in Cape Town alternatively, the bulb to grow it myself

  14. Mariska December 7, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    Does anyone know where we can get smeerwortel/comfrey in Cape Town please?

  15. Niall December 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    it seems to be difficult to get hold of … might be easier to get seeds and try and grow it yourself.

  16. Jean of Tree Frog Landscapes December 7, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    Comfrey is sterile, you can only grow from root cuttings. Nurseries with good herb sections should have or be able to get for you. See my December Newsletter for easy way to make Comfrey concentrate (www.treefrogs.co.za)

  17. Alexander Dowding April 11, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    If anyone in the Cape Town area is looking for comfrey plants there is a lady up near Melkbos who gives plants away when she divides them. Her email is noesjka.hartman@gmail.com
    If you drop her an email I’m sure she’d gladly part with one or two. I am busy arranging to get some from her for myself soon. 🙂

  18. Belinda November 14, 2016 at 7:29 am #

    Soil for Life in Cape Town sells comfrey

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