Spreading some comfrey
My initial intention was to harvest some of the comfrey growing in our guilds in Dreamland and to spread the leaves as mulch and re-plant some of the roots along the fruit trees next to the Homeland driveway “orchard”. In a roundabout way, this long line of netted trees is the first we planted ourselves – and where we have since learnt many lessons. However, up to now we have not really spent any effort in planting guilds around these fruit trees, a) because there are quite a lot of them (say about 40) so it is quite an undertaking, b) that stretch is quite dry (besides our irrigation line for the trees), and c) it is overrun with couch grass in some places and kikuyu in others. So you can’t really plant dainty Marigolds there as guild plants – they don’t survive and they will get severely damaged during the biannual kikuyu “fight”, when we try and pull out as much of the runners as we can, to coincide with our mulching and de-mulching activities. We’ve even tried nasturtiums and Lucerne in there, but they have all succumbed in the battle. So this time I wanted to start with some really deep rooted companions who would be beneficial to the fruit trees too. Comfrey with its deep roots and nutrient rich leaves as mulch seemed ideal.
So one day, when I had a break between the chicken, duck and school holiday activities, I went comfrey harvesting. Without damaging too much of the existing guilds, I got a wheelbarrow full of leaves and quite a large bunch of roots that I could split off. So not much, all in all, but a little bit to work with. Interesting some of the comfrey I harvested came from two cherry guilds, which were already second generations of comfrey grown on site. This stuff is really easy to propagate! (In fact, you have to take care where you spread it, because it is not easy / possible to get rid of.)
I was just about to leave Dreamland when my eyes fell on this little fallow terrace next to “native walk”, below the “cherry hill” where I harvested so of the comfrey. We have some Daffodil bulbs in there, and they are nice in the spring, but nothing came from the Portulaca that I sowed there to provide a ground cover for the remainder of the year. But then suddenly the penny dropped! I would like to have much more comfrey to “harvest” regularly, and a deep-rooted “miner” like comfrey could do quite well in that little terrace. It would fill the fallow ground, stabilise the terrace, mine under the hill and path for nutrients and provide some nice green growth along the path. So without moving the wheelbarrow much, I started splitting the comfrey roots and planting them all along in the little terrace. Comfrey factory in the making!
I still had enough roots left to stick some in around the top half of the trees along the Homeland driveway “orchard”, so although not completed, at least the process has been started. I can do the remainder in a subsequent run. I only had enough comfrey leaves to properly mulch a single pear tree, but I thought it better to do one properly than trying to spread it too thinly around. Rather do little by little thoroughly. In future that comfrey “factory” along native walk will surely come in handy!
‘planting’ comfrey?!?!? Wow! I suppose it is no worse than planting dandelions or chamomile. Okay, maybe it is worse than chamomile.
By the way, two of those pictures come in sideways.
Sorry, I’m a bit slow in replying to comments at the moment… too busy fighting the comfrey taking over! (Just joking… well, I sort-of thought the title should be “spreading some <
>). However, with our long dry summer, it doesn’t seem like the comfrey takes over – I’m very aware you can’t get rid of it – but if it creates a lot of nutritious mulch, it would actually help.
Mmmm, talking about dandelion – the chickens love it! So the chore of pulling out dandelion has now become the pleasure of gathering free chicken food!
When I was a kid, a tortoise came out of the orchard across the road, and came up onto the lawn where it ate the dandelions. It scared the heck out of us when we saw what seemed to be a rock moving very slowly toward us from a distance, and it got even scarier as it came closer. Once it arrived and stuck it’s head out to take the first bite, we ran off screaming. Eventually, we came back. No one believed us that a big rock came out of the orchard to eat a dandelion on the lawn. It did not seem to care that we were there as it went around eating the dandelions. After eating them all, it went around back and started the process all over again. The tortoise lived with us for many years, and was pleased to get vegetable scraps, such as the cores of cabbages and the tops of carrots. We gave it scraps of meat and chicken skins too.
Your mulching looks like mine 😊. I don’t mean because of the comfrey, as I don’t have any, just the depth of mulch. It’s comforting that I’m not alone, having thought that a mulch should be inches thick.
Helen, I’ve learnt my lesson with too thin mulch – the weeds and grasses just grow through it and create a bigger maintenance nightmare! So I’m with you there! I think in our dry climate thick mulch works better too.
I don’t have problem with weeds and grasses growing through, thank goodness. Of course, they do grow but they prefer open ground, probably because most of the year light levels aren’t good enough!
Are you still getting weeds and grasses growing now? When we had our drought last summer, nothing grew at all.
We irrigate a lot to get the forest garden at Dreamland established, so there are a lot of weeds growing. Some are good though – like the dandelion we feed to the chickens. And the couch and kikuyu grass just keeps growing – even through thick mulch.
I have a big of love-hate relationship with comfrey. It does stay put (if you get the sort that doesn’t seed or run around) but it can get a bit big and is difficult to get rid of. Have a think whether turkish rocket http://tcpermaculture.com/site/2014/02/12/permaculture-plants-turkish-rocket/ may be of use. I suspect it’s one of those plants that if you don’t already have in Australia you don’t want to import. However it is a bit similar to comfrey, and is edible. I havn’t tried it yet, but am tempted to here.