Oh happy day! The sun is shining, no torrential rains are falling, no house rattling winds are blowing, and except for a little residual stuffiness, my cold is finally over. And my order of 50 comfrey cuttings from Coe’s Comfrey arrived yesterday. Actually, make that 65 comfrey cuttings. Mr. Coe was kind enough to throw in 15 extra cuttings for free and write me a personal note thanking me (a total stranger) for my business and wishing me planting success in our unseasonably mild weather.
So, this morning, I gathered my weapons of choice:
- two all-purpose farm buckets
- empty wine bottles
I dug 65 holes around our property. I made most of the holes about two shovels in diameter and 1 shovel deep. But in areas with really poor soil, I doubled that size. I used the soil removed to make berms on downhill side of our slopes to help catch water and funnel it to the roots.
Next, I loaded my wheelbarrow with composted manure and used that to back fill the holes. I sifted the manure into the buckets using my hands, breaking up clumps and picking out grubs, as I went. Then I used the buckets to get the manure into the holes. (Chickens got the grubs! Bonus!)
After that, I used the buckets to water the holes from the nearest watering location which included a mini-pond, an irrigation pond, and two rain barrels.
Once all the holes were filled and watered, then I planted the comfrey root cuttings. Since the composted manure was pre-sifted, all I needed to do was burrow my fingers into the hole and lay the cutting horizontally. Planting instructions said to set root cuttings 2″ in the ground. I used the the length of my fingers as a guide, so they were planted a little deeper than 2″.
Finally, I marked the location of the planting with the empty wine bottles so I know where to water if we don’t get sufficient rain. I’ll take the bottles out and use them for other plantings once I see the plant tops poking through.
I’ve tried doing all steps at once and then moving on to the next planting, but it just takes way too long. This way took about 4 hours, 1.5 cubic yards of manure, and 22 buckets of water to get this done.
Now, our slope looks like a glorious minefield of fertility. Between the cow manure in the holes and the comfrey to come, our slope soil is all set to explode with life come spring.
I’ve got about 60 comfrey plants in the ground already. So, this makes 125. And I plan to add more next month. It makes a wonderful living mulch. My chickens, ducks, turkeys, pigs, and goats love it. Dried, it is supposed to have 15-30% protein which makes it comparable to legumes for animal feed but a lot easier to grow and harvest. It’s beautiful, has medicinal benefits, and with caution can be a good human edible food too.
In permaculture it’s considered a dynamic accumulator for its ability to grow deep roots and extract minerals. Once established, you can cut it to the ground a few times a year and let the leaves compost directly in your food forests. Or, if you use it as animal feed instead, then in winter, when the vegetation dies back on its own, leave it place for worm shelter. Oh, and did I mention it’s a really easy to grow perennial. Coe’s particular variety produces sterile seeds, so you don’t have to worry about it becoming invasive. However, after 3-4 years, you can easily take your own root cuttings and expand your comfrey army.
In other words, if you are not already growing comfrey…now is a great time to start.