Put This in Your Soil

Imagine that one day you decide to venture into Pomona’s good ole’ farm, beaming cheerfully in anticipation of helping sort the treasured dining hall compost. Only when you get to the Farm, you’re given terrible news: the dining halls have refused to participate in any composting programs any longer. Oh no! How will you continue to sustain the Farm’s robust plants without the dining halls’ precious nutrients?

For those of you who don’t know, the Farm relies on the food waste from the college dining halls for compost. It’s of great benefit to our operations, as the halls typically deliver significant quantities of nutrient dense waste on a daily basis. However it is not very difficult to imagine what might happen if we lost this resource. I don’t know about you, but if I ever found myself in such a predicament, I would definitely want to have some comfrey in my plant arsenal. Comfrey is a green-manure crop, meaning that it can be used as a soil enhancer and fertilizer. The plant’s broad leaves contain the complete array of nutrients needed to grow any crop. They can simply be chopped off from the base of the plant and cast over soil (this method promotes invertebrate life underneath the leaves, which further breaks down nutrients into the soil) or shredded and incorporated into the soil. Another option would be to simply add large quantities to your compost pile and use the compost as you normally would, which works very well. But this soil enriching potential alone is not what makes comfrey so special.

Comfrey is also great because it is so easy to propagate and plant. If you were to snap off a fraction of a plant’s root off, even if that piece was smaller than your pinky finger, another comfrey plant would be able to grow from it. That means if I have one comfrey plant that has a massive root system, I can chop it up and have many more plants providing me with fertilizer in a few weeks (comfrey grows quickly). The photos below demonstrate how resilient comfrey is and how easy it is to have success growing it. Shown is a comfrey plant 2 weeks after I had taken it as a transplant and thrown it into a gopher hole. The gopher reclaimed the hole, but the tiny root that remained allowed the comfrey plant to continue growing in that spot. That’s a tough plant!

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comfrey2In a few more weeks, the comfrey plant’s purple flowers will start to bloom. They not only look beautiful, but are edible and sweet too (in small quantities). Comfrey leaves are also medicinal and can be used as a topical poultice for wounds. By now I hope I’ve convinced you to plant comfrey so you can enjoy these flowers, and the many other benefits comfrey provides, in your own garden. If not, then make sure to come on down to the Farm and check out ours!

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