When I set out to write this blog post my objective was to research and bring light to self-sufficient organic fertiliser solutions available to every balcony and small space gardener. I expected to talk about compost and worm farms but I was absolutely astonished to discover that a plant that I grew up knowing about for its homeopathic properties would become my new best friend in our balcony garden.
Comfrey is the ideal Permaculture organic solution to fertilisers
Comfrey is a great dynamic accumulator
Comfrey has a very long taproot. That taproot digs deep under the earth to mine all the nutrients. Comfrey sucks those nutrients up through the leaves, recycling soil nutrients and giving fresh life to your soil.
Comfrey is a soil fertiliser
Comfrey is high in potassium and nitrogen. Potassium and nitrogen are valuable elements that assist fruits, vegetables and herbs to flourish and fruit.
Comfrey is a compost activator
Healthy compost requires a good balance of green matter, like leaves fruits or vegetables, and browns, such as dried, fallen leaves and even cardboard. ‘Brown matter’ is rich in carbon. Adequate nitrogen is needed to get the microbial activity in your compost heap really working. Comfrey is very high in nitrogen as well as phosphorus and other trace elements. Comfrey ‘activates’ compost, helping the composting process to occur quickly, decreasing odours that occur when there is an imbalance.
Happy compost leads to happy worms and happy worms lead to a flourishing productive and healthy soil, alive with good microbial activity. Healthy soils lead to healthy and happy plants.
Comfrey composts quickly, making it an available source of fertiliser for your other plants.
Comfrey can kill powdery mildew by preventing spores from sprouting
In a previous post we talked about how to prevent, manage and treat powdery mildew in a small garden.
A preparation of Comfrey tea (not to be drunken) with a tiny dash of soapy water has been found to prevent powdery mildew spores from growing.
Comfrey is a medicinal warrior in the alternative medicine cabinet
Although not the focus of this post, using leaves, a poultice or properly prepared compress on skin ailments like sunburn, eczema or even superficial cuts or scrapes, may have anti-inflammatory properties and assist with topical cellular repair.
Bathing in a Comfrey leaf bath after childbirth may even assist with perennial recovery. Comfrey must never be eaten though as it has been found to cause liver damage in laboratory studies. We recommend you seek advice from a qualified practitioner before using Comfrey, other than in the garden.
Comfrey’s appearance, identifying Comfrey
Comfrey has small beautiful abundant purple or white/cream, hanging clusters of flowers, clustered around stalk. It has long, deep green leaves. Comfrey is known for its very long tap root that digs deep into the earth.
Comfrey is from the Borage family but also has an appearance similar to Foxglove. Be careful though as Foxglove is poisonous. Comfrey leaves are toothed and have an almost serrated appearance, whereas foxglove leaves are smooth.
Ideal growing conditions
Comfrey self seeds easily if allowed to do so and is a hardy plant to grow. It will grow better in richer soils however will dig deep to mine out the essential nutrients from deep within soil beds. It will bring those nutrients up into its leaves, making them more accessible to other plants.
Comfrey can grow up to 3 feet tall although I have found when grown in a pot it is much smaller.
How to make comfrey tea for your garden
Pick a handful of Comfrey leaves and steep in water. Set and forget them out of the way in a covered bucket.
Warning, Comfrey tea does smell, ideally if you can prepare Comfrey tea somewhere away from living quarters, such as a garage or even better, behind a common garden shed, that is best.
Shred leaves and dig them into soil
If you would prefer a less smelly way of using Comfrey but still with all the benefits, you can simply shred the leaves with your fingers and place them on the soil or dig them into your garden bed. I like to put them in the hole when planting a new plant.
Comfrey is the best organic fertiliser to grow on a balcony
Comfrey in balcony gardens, attracts bees due to the flowers, breaks up the soil because of the tap root and is an ever ready soil fertiliser. They are beautiful plants and quite easy to grow. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Read more about How to start a balcony garden
Thanks for reading and happy growing!