One interesting herb that we hear so little about is comfrey (Symphytum officinale).
This easy-to-grow perennial is from the borage family, and has broad leaves, and it blossoms with small bell-shaped, light-colored flowers.
It has lots of uses for the organic gardener, and also for those of us interested in botanical medicine.
Organic gardeners like comfrey because its leaves are rich in plant nutrients. As it grows and matures, comfrey mines a host of these nutrients from the soil.
You can use the herb’s leaves as a mulch, a side-dressing, make it into comfrey tea, or create a compost. Each method will provide organically-derived nutrients to your vegetables, flowers and landscape plants.
Comfrey is especially rich in potassium, an essential plant nutrient needed for flower, fruit, and seed production.
Gardeners can also use comfrey leaves in small amounts to activate compost. Its nutrients give a big boost to the process, helping to break down organic matter into rich soil amendments.
In the world of medicine, comfrey has been known as ‘knitbone,’ because of its ability to speed up the healing of bone fractures, bruising and cuts.
However, use of the herb internally is a somewhat controversial subject. The FDA warns against it due to possible liver damage.
Growing this herb is fairly easy. All you need is a shaded, well-drained location with plenty of compost and a slow-release organic fertilizer (blood and bone meal) to give it a start. Keep it on the moist side.
Your stand of comfrey can easily be increased by root division. Segments of these black, turnip-like roots can be cut and placed into the soil to create new plants.
Using comfrey in this way as an organic source of plant food, along with composting, brings the gardener yet another step closer to independence and self-sustenance.
Happy gardening everyone!
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