Comfrey is your (plant’s) best friend

Comfrey is perhaps the most useful companion plant in permaculture for good reasons. Comfrey has deep tap roots that don’t compete with tree roots, and can mine nutrients from deep within the soil and bring them up to the surface where your exotics can access them. This makes comfrey a great nutrient accumulator, which is important in permaculture systems that aim to minimize the use of external inputs like fertilisers.

When I (Anthony) moved to a horticulture block with 40 struggling avocado trees, the very first thing I did was plant comfrey root around each tree.

Comfrey is tenacious and fast-growing. It produces a lot of biomass. This makes it a good candidate for use in mulching, as the leaves can be chopped up and used to cover the soil around other plants. Comfrey’s high nitrogen content makes it a great addition to compost piles as well. So grow it by your exotics and in winter it will die down and all those lovely minerals accumulated in the leaves will be available to your fruiting trees.

Another benefit of comfrey is that it can attract beneficial insects to the garden. Its flowers are a source of nectar for pollinators like bees and butterflies, while the leaves can attract predatory insects like ladybugs and lacewings that help control pests.

Obligatory warning: do NOT plant comfrey somewhere you might one day want to remove it. Comfrey is not generally considered an invasive plant as it doesn’t spread aggressively to new areas. However, it can be difficult to remove from a spot once established, as it has a deep root system that can regrow from small pieces of root left in the soil.

So, while it’s not likely to spread to new areas and become a problem in that sense, it’s still important to plan carefully where to plant comfrey. If you do decide to remove it, you may need to dig up the entire root system, which can be time-consuming and difficult.

Where to buy

Try your local gardening center, Trade Me or Koanga Institute. If there is sufficient interest I may offer comfrey for sale here too.






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