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Thursday, 24 May 2012

Making my first ever comfrey tea

At long last my comfrey is big enough to harvest the leaves from to make a fertiliser. Everyone I know who has this plant swears by it as it contains both nitrogen and potassium and is good for fruiting plants which have high potash (potassium) requirements such as tomatoes, courgettes and squash.

I planted my small comfrey out several years ago on the boggy side of our pond - I think leaky might be the correct term for it as it stays moist on this far perimeter side whilst everything wilts from lack of moisture on the other, garden side. I'd heard comfrey was tough and spreads like crazy so thought in amongst the nettles and wild bog type umbellifers it should manage to hold its own. I was not disappointed and it's spread really well over the last two and a half years and hasn't been swamped by any of these other rampant plants!

The comfrey is the plant with the white flowers

You can see its oval shaped leaves better in this photo.
It's not the leaf in the centre foreground though, that's some big boggy plant that loves
the growing conditions here and in the ditches.

Once I'd collected all the leaves in my bucket I added water to just about cover the leaves. The bucket originally had fat balls in it for the wild birds; I thought this would be perfect as it has a tight fitting lid and I have heard ALL about how vile comfrey smells as it rots down. I'm quite looking forward to finding out just how horrible it is! Yes I am a bit wierd but I need to know these things!

I thought that would be it and leave it for a few weeks with some sniff tests along the way, until something caught my eye in the bucket. Luckily for it.

Uh-oh, poor spiddy spider drowning. I quickly fished him out, along with an earwig and checked for other bugs. Popped them on the leaves on the ground so they could dry out a bit and amble off. The earwig ran around a lot enjoying its freedom whilst the spider just looked at me. And probably said something I wouldn't want to repeat on a nice blog like this.

Actually, there is a bit of a story behind this comfrey. Originally it came from my mother's garden, who has quite a bank of it. Mum brought me over 3 teeny tiny little plants in her luggage which I duly potted up and nurtured. One day it became apparent that actually one of these plants was slightly different from the other two. As they grew it became apparent that one was, in fact, very different from the other two, so the two were nutured and repotted better than the one. As I was curious I posted this photo on a self sufficiency forum asking what the rogue plant which wasn't comfrey was.

So which one is the comfrey?

OK I don't mind you having a laugh at my expense all you comfrey growers out there. Yup, the answer came back - the rogue plant IS the comfrey. The other two plants you have been tending, nuturing, talking to and repotting are teasels!!!

So comfrey quickly got repotted and tended to whilst the teasels were planted out in a wild patch near the pond on the dry side, where they flowered pathetically, never to be seen again (it's just too dry on that side). And yes, on further questioning my mother she does have teasels in her garden from time to time..... I will be wary next time she brings me small seedlings! 

A teensy edit to say: it has been pointed out to me that the spider is more than likely a Harvestman, which although of the family of arachnids, is not actually a spider. Also it's missing one leg which I hadn't noticed!


  1. My friend gave me some comfrey to plant the other day but it had purple flowers - are there different versions? I did the fertiliser tea thing with nettles. Dear God, it stinks. The nearest thing I can think it reminds me of is really REALLY bad halitosis. Quite vile. I think I'll stick to Earl Grey in future, ho ho.

    1. Yeah there are various kinds of comfrey but I didn't want to go into any detail cos as you can see I'm hardly an expert on the subject. lol. The kind which people say is best is called 'Bocking 14' and is a Russian Comfrey with purple flowers. Had a quick look at google images and it seems to grow tall rather than spread and doesn't self seed. Mum's comfrey has pretty red and white flowers and doesn't grow up, just spreads out. Which is fine where I have put it. I don't know if there is a difference to the quality of the 'tea' and I don't even have a clue how much to dilute it when I use it. According to the Self Sufficientish Bible it's a bit trial and error!

  2. I made comfrey 'tea' last year. Not sure how much good it did the tomatoes because it was very cold here and a lousy year for them.

    There is nothing to prepare you for the smell of the evil brew when it really gets going - as a starting point think vomit mixed with decaying sheep.

    Lovely blog, not sure how I found you but enjoying reading about Chateau Moorhen and your photography is wonderful.

    1. I must say I'm getting rather excited about just what a decaying sheep really smells like - I can do septic tanks and grease traps no probs :-) The worst thing I've ever smelled so far was when one of the ducks went broody a few years ago and emerged weeks later from the pampas grass with all the dried nest material stuck to her bum where she'd crushed an egg and it has all congealed together - boy that was gag making!

      Also - hello! and nice to meet you and thank you very much for the lovely compliments. It's really great to hear that there are actually people out there who I don't actually know who have looked at my blog (as opposed to been forced to read it, lol).

    2. Just had a really quick look at your blog (I'll be back) and I just want to say I am so glad to meet another person who religiously measures every last mm of rain every month!!!

    3. Don't take the rain measurements too seriously. Recently we saw one of the pheasants drinking from the rain gauge - stupid bird, thousands of litres of nice pond and she has to drink from a dirty plastic cone. Bird brain?

    4. Well my chickens prefer drinking out of puddles, so does the cat!