Monday, June 6, 2011

Blessed Comfrey

Once upon a time a gardener planted comfrey at the allotment gardens, and now there are big patches of it growing near my plots. Comfrey spreads readily from the tiniest piece of root left in the ground. Experienced gardeners will tell you, once you plant comfrey, don't ever dig it up, or else you will have it everywhere. Someone must have ignored this advice, or perhaps a new renter had a plot tilled with comfrey growing in it. Whatever the history, we are blessed to have access to such a wonderful plant growing in abundance.

I say 'blessed' because comfrey is rich in nutrients and minerals and makes a wonderful mulch for garden beds. You can add it to your compost pile to heat things up, or add it to buckets of water and let it steep into a funky smelling compost tea. Free, organic fertiliser! Not to mention that the plant also has wonderful medicinal qualities as well.

On Friday evening I took my wheelbarrow to the comfrey patch to gather some plants for mulch.
Sadly, not everyone sees this plant the same way I do. A lot of people, who do not know about the many benefits of comfrey, think of it as a nuisance weed that spreads and takes over their garden. They curse it and the person who brought it into the allotments. Even worse, they treat the comfrey patch as a trash heap, throwing garbage and other garden refuse into the plants (and I'm not talking about the biodegradable kind). Among others things, I uncovered this tangled mess of plastic trellising.

I pulled it out and carried it to the dumpster, feeling sad and a bit angry. Why would my fellow gardeners, who understand what it means to grow something in the earth and then eat it, do this? I wondered what it would take for people to stop using this space as a dump.

There is a large bulletin board in the centre of the allotments. If I posted some information there about comfrey and all its benefits, I wonder if that would make a difference? If people saw the comfrey as a valuable, free resource that could help make their gardens lush, their soil rich and their vegetables happy, instead of seeing it as a cursed weed, would they be more respectful of the space where it grows? I don't think a lot of people read what is on the board and for many people at the garden, English is not their first language. I think I'll try it anyway and see what happens.

Actually, I find that my visible actions tend to create opportunities for discussion. People see me harvesting nettle and other weeds and ask me about them. Now, I see some ladies picking nettle.

Maybe if they see me with my wheelbarrow full of comfrey, they'll stop and ask me about that too, and I can tell them how awesome it is!

1 comment:

Rob - @formerfatguy said...

And how horrible that you've not had a comment on this post for 2 years

I too am so very respectful and grateful for comfrey. I've looked and asked about it for 2 years but nobody has it, knows about it or grows it

A few days ago I mentioned it in passing while visiting a friend. She was in a meeting a few years back and someone old her of Its value in he garden and while she knew nothing of it, she took notes AND A PHONE NUMBER! The lady had lots in her yard and was willing to share

I called, left a MSG, she called back. I ran over and cut 3 very mature comfrey out of the flower bed of her neighbor who had no use for

I planted 22 around my yards food forest

2 for each of my fruit trees, a few for my shrubs in a patch, a couple in my raspberry patch and a few where I plan to put trees this year or next

I understand what I've planted will be permanent but I've had 2 years to think about where I'd put them when I found them

Now I've got a good portion for myself. Next plan is to plant a few in friends yards as well, in support of their fruit trees and gardens

I was googling pictures of comfrey when I found your site

I'm in Canada. Alberta to be exact