Marsh Creek Farmstead

Comfrey And Its Many Uses

Russian  ComfreyComfrey is a useful and powerful helper. Do you have any growing? Buy Russian Comfrey Today

It is a dynamic accumulator that improves your soil, prevents disease and provides free mulch for your plants as well as livestock fodder. Comfrey is also a powerful compost activator and will get your compost pile off to a quick start.

Do you have a plant in your garden that gives free mulch, compost activator, and a potent plant food?   The plant is Russian Comfrey. It has long taproots that harvest nutrients from deep within the ground.  The dynamic accumulation of minerals and nutrients is what makes comfrey leaves an excellent natural source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The NPK ratio of comfrey leaves is 1.8-0.5-5.3.  Comfrey is also rich in calcium and many other valuable plant minerals it mines from deep in the subsoil.

Here are some ways that you can Harness the Power of Comfrey

Mulch. Freshly cut comfrey leaves make good mulch because they're high in nitrogen, so they don't pull nitrogen from the soil while decomposing, as high-carbon mulches like straw and leaves do. And comfrey's high potassium content makes it especially beneficial for flowers, vegetables (such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers), berries, and fruit trees.

Comfrey as mulch

Soil amendment. Use freshly cut comfrey leaves (but not the flowering stems in this case—they can root) as fertilizer in planting holes. The leaves break down rapidly and provide nutrients right at the roots.

Compost activator. Comfrey is especially useful if you have lots of dry brown material and the pile is slow to heat up. Just layer the fresh comfrey leaves and stems in as you add other material to your pile.leaves and stems in as you add other material to your pile.

Liquid fertilizer. One of the best ways to tap your fertilizer factory is to brew comfrey tea. Fill a barrel or trash can about halfway with fresh comfrey, add water, cover it, and let it steep for 3 to 6 weeks. Comfrey tea smells foul, so brew it away from sensitive noses (yours or your neighbors). The tea may be used full strength or diluted to about half strength—to the color of weak tea. Use it whenever you water your plants. It's great for watering stressed plants to help get them back on track.
You can also make liquid fertilizer concentrate by packing fresh-cut comfrey tops into an old bucket, weighing them down with a big rock or a plastic bag of water, covering tightly, and waiting a few weeks for them to decompose into a lovely thick black goo. Some gardeners put a hole in the bottom of the bucket and collect the concentrate in another container as it drips out. Dilute this comfrey concentrate about 15 to 1 with water, and use as you would comfrey tea. You can seal this concentrate in plastic jugs until you are ready to use it.

Pest prevention and control. Scientists at Moscow State University in Russia observed that powdery mildew spores that landed on wheat seedlings sprayed with comfrey tea did not germinate, and the wheat seedlings did not become infected. The researchers concluded that the comfrey tea sprays had activated natural defense mechanisms in the wheat seedlings, making them more resistant to disease.

To use comfrey tea or diluted comfrey extract as a foliar drench or spray, add a few drops of liquid soap (it helps the spray stick to leaves) and apply it to your plants. You can use a watering can with a fine rose, but you'll get better coverage with a garden sprayer. Be sure to strain yourliquid very carefully (let it drip through a large coffee filter) before you put it in your sprayer, or you'll clog up the nozzle before you even get started. When you spray your plants, don't coat just the tops of the leaves; reach under and spray the bottoms, too, at least until the liquid starts to run off.

Easy to Grow
If you're not yet ready to put comfrey to work in your garden, wait until you find out how little it expects from you. Russian comfrey is a hardy perennial (USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 to 9) with large, hairy leaves; long, fleshy roots; and clusters of small cream, pink, or blue flowers. Unharvested plants grow to about 3 feet tall and wide. Comfrey spreads rather enthusiastically both by self-seeding and sprouting from even small sections of severed root. You can prevent this by planting only sterile cultivars such as 'Bocking 14' and not digging or cultivating around your comfrey.
Comfrey grows best in full sun or partial shade. It thrives in clay soil with plenty of moisture but tolerates a wide range of conditions. Once established, it is difficult to get rid of, so choose a site where it can stay. Six plants is enough for most gardeners, which means allowing a planting space of about 6 by 10 feet or 3 by 20 feet. Don't plant comfrey in any area you cultivate, as breaking off bits of root will create oodles of new plants. Remove any perennial weeds in the bed. Plant root cuttings or plants about 3 feet apart either in spring or fall, and keep the soil moist until plants are well established. Don't harvest the first year, and cut off any flower stalks that form, as your plants need to establish a good root system.
If you have a small yard or you're concerned about comfrey taking over your garden, grow it in large trash cans. Just cut drainage holes in the bottom of each can, fill with a soil and compost mix, and plant.
Comfrey produces huge quantities of leaves during the growing season (4 to 5 pounds per plant per cutting) and will happily soak up any nitrogen-rich fertilizer it's given, though it grows just fine without extra feeding.

'Bocking 14' Russian comfrey is sterile but individual plants will expand, so divide them every few years if your patch is getting crowded. Don't even dig them up; just slice through each one with a sharp spade while its in the ground. Replant the sections you remove or share them with friends, but don't put the roots in your compost pile, or you'll have comfrey plants popping up everywhere next year.

Comfrey is ready to harvest when it is about 2 feet tall or starts to form flower stalks. Depending on your climate, you will probably get four or more harvests a year. Cut off the whole plant about 2 inches above the ground with pruners or a sickle. Be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting comfrey, as some people find it irritates their skin. After harvesting, give your comfrey a good watering and renew the mulch layer.

Technical Difficutlities

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Comfrey Cubes the DIY sunburn soother from

I was listening the The Survival Podcast today and caught wind of this gem from Erica over at Comfrey is an amazing plant with many uses you should add some to your matter where you live!

DIY Sunburn Soothing Comfrey Cubes

When I was nine, my parents took my younger sister and me to Disneyland. It was the kind of vacation every little girl dreams of – Main Street Parade, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, pictures with Minnie Mouse, and a teeth-rotting amount of cotton candy.
I know, because there is visual proof of all these activities, carefully organized across my mother’s photo albums. But what do I really remember? What single thing from the vacation made that deep, visceral, never-going-to-forget-this impact that changes a kid’s life?
My sunburn.

I’ve been a Northwest girl for longer than I’ve been able to walk, and that California, Disneyland summer sun fried me to a crisp. Even slathered in SPF 10, or whatever skin protection was top-of-the-line in the mid-80s, over the course of a long day of cartoon idol-worship, I turned from my natural just-this-side-of-albinism pinkish pallor to bright scarlet. (If you are nerdy, think #FFFAF0 to #FE2E2E.)
I remember so clearly lying face down on the polyester bedspread of our hotel room. It was black with a Hawaiian flower motif. The bedspread looked shiny and smooth but any touch against my shoulders, chest, arms, or the tops of my feet was like a kiss from the cat o’ nine tails. Even weeks later, I was peeling patches of dead skin off the sunburnt areas.
That experience fused a conviction in my young mind: sun = evil.
And so, for the better part of 15 years, I hardly went outside. I’m not exaggerating. I didn’t play sports, I didn’t go camping, I didn’t hang out at the beach, and I sure as hell didn’t “tan”. In high school, while all the pretty girls got punch cards for strip mall tanning salons, I embraced my naturally porcelain skin as a statement. By this point I was watching My So-Called Life and Daria. I was wearing Dr. Martins and thought Ally Sheedy was cooler when she was wearing glasses and decorating her pictures with dandruff. The whole goth-look skin was part of the package.
Everything might have continued along this way had I not become a gardener and a mom. Now, between planting, playing, harvesting, weeding, and time at the park or beach, I spend a lot of time outside. I still try to cover up, hug the shady spots and stick to the cooler hours of the day, but my knee-jerk reaction to avoid the sun at all costs has changed.
My skin, unfortunately, has not.
Walking my son home from school yesterday (a 20 minute walk even at kid pace) led to a fairly painful sunburn across my shoulders. Luckily, I had a stash of Comfrey Cubes in the freezer.

Skin Soothing Comfrey Cubes

skin soothing sunburn comfrey cubes
These cubes are my top pick for DIY emergency skin care. Comfrey (yes, the same plant that permies never shut up about. Just kidding, love you guys.) is phenomenally useful for skin care because it’s a rich source of allantoin, a compound that helps skin regenerate, soften, and recover from damage.
Allantoin is quite amazing. Wisegeek sums it up well:
Allantoin is odorless, safe, non-toxic, and non-allergenic in both natural and chemically synthesized form. When sold on its own for use in homemade soaps, lotions, and bath products, allantoin is a white, crystalline powder. It is moisturizing and keratolytic, meaning that it causes keratin in the skin to soften. This property helps skin to heal more quickly and to bind moisture more effectively, making products containing this substance useful for dry skin and for healing wounds, burns, and scars. It is also effective against sunburn, chapped lips, cold sores, diaper rash, and similar skin irritations.
Because of all that allantoiny goodness, these Comfrey cubes are useful for sunburns, regular burns, rashes, abrasions – pretty much any kind of non-puncturing skin damage. Every home should keep a stash on hand.
Confrey cubes for sunburn
In my neck of the woods, comfrey is a common weed. When I need some, I just walk across the street and dig. The thick, fleshy roots are what we are after for the Comfrey Cubes, but the leaves are very useful in herbalism too.
Comfrey root
Familiarize yourself with this under-appreciated medicinal herb and you may start to see it everywhere, too. If you live someplace where comfrey isn’t available wild, you can substitute 1 oz of dried comfrey root, available online, for the fresh.
This recipe for Comfrey Cubes is from my book, The Hands-on Home. If you like this kind of thing, you should go pre-order my book right now! Actually, seriously, if you’re a regular reader and you are planning on buying the book anyway, my publishers tell me that good pre-order numbers really help convince book sellers to carry the book. Thank you for considering!
5 from 1 reviews
DIY Sunburn Soothing Comfrey Cubes
An allantoin-rich skin soother, these Comfrey Cubes are useful for sunburns, regular burns, rashes, abrasions, skin softening and healing. If fresh comfrey is unavailable, 1 oz. of dried comfrey root may be substituted. For external use only, do not take internally.
  • 4 oz. fresh comfrey root
  • 3 cups water
  1. Very thoroughly scrub the comfrey roots, then chop them finely, by hand or in a food processor. Add the chopped comfrey root and the water to a medium saucepan. Bring to the barest simmer over medium-low heat, and maintain that temperature for 30 minutes. Remove comfrey gel from the heat, cover, and let cool completely, about 2 hours.
  2. When the comfrey gel has cooled, strain it through a very fine mesh strainer. It will be brownish and highly mucilaginous (goopy) - this is normal. Use a spatula to push as much of the comfrey mix through the strainer as possible without getting any root bits in the finished gel. You should have about 2 cups of comfrey gel when you are done.
  3. If you have a sunburn you can smooth a small amount of the comfrey gel right on your skin. To save the gel for later use, pour the cool comfrey gel into an ice cube tray (I use silicone trays like these) and freeze.
  4. When the comfrey cubes are frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer safe plastic bag, label the cubes so everyone knows they aren’t edible, and keep frozen.
  5. To use, rub a frozen Comfrey Cube directly onto sunburned skin.

Two words of warning

Any time you wildcraft (harvest medicinals or edibles from the wild) you must be absolutely, 100% certain of your plant identification. If you are uncertain, find an experienced herbalist who can show you what to look for before embarking on the wonderful adventure of wildcrafting.
Comfrey root is not for internal use. There are compounds in comfrey that can cause liver failure if taken in large doses internally. If you have any concerns about limited, external use of comfrey decoctions, talk to a qualified herbalist or doctor before using this gel.

Biochar production

Do you make biochar?

Ive attempted to make biochar several times in the pase with less than stellar results. 
After watching some videos about top lit down draft biochar kilns I decided to throw one together.
I used some old steel drums but I unable to achieve a full char on the wood chips. At best it was a 50% and I would loose so much of the volume (about 2/3 reduction) that it didnt seem like it was worth my effort.

I tried several tweaks but never really got it to work very well.  

After listening to The Survival Podcast episode #1602 about small scale biochar production I decided to give it another go. In that episode I learned of a biochar cone kiln and after seeing what this style of kiln actually was decided that I could make something very similar by cutting off a section of a closed head drum and laying it down.

What is biochar exactly??

Biochar is a fine-grained charcoal made by pyrolysis. The process of heating bio-mass (wood, manure, crop residues, solid waste, etc.) with limited to no oxygen in a specially designed furnace capturing all emissions, gases and oils for reuse as energy. Biochar has been used in agriculture for more than 2,500 years and is now becoming popular in modern horticulture as a safe, sustainable soil amendment.

What are the benefits?

Biochar Enhances Soil & Protects Water Quality by increasing the nutrient and water retention properties of soil. Biochar outshines all other organic soil material in its ability to attract and retain water and nutrients. Plants are healthier and less fertility runs off into surface water and leaches into groundwater.

Biochar is relatively inert and persists in soil far longer than any other organic soil additives. Because biochar lasts hundreds of years, its benefits of nutrient and water retention and overall soil porosity keep working, unlike common fertilizers and conditioners.

When added to soil, biochar improves plant growth and crop yields while reducing the total fertilizer required.

More info can be found at the US Biochar Initiative

Here is a video of the process.

I have returned! Let the shipping commence....on Monday.

We cut our trip a little short and have returned. Backlogged orders will be shipping out monday! Thanks for your patience:)

I will be shipping my final orders (comfrey and otherwise) this coming Monday June 29th. Orders submitted after 7am Monday morning will not be shipped until I return.

How to Make Comfrey Salve - from

Comfrey is an amazing herb with many uses.  Learn how to make a salve for soothing minor bumps and bruises. ~The Homesteading Hippy #homesteadhippy #fromthefarm #naturalmedicine #comfrey

Comfrey is an amazing herb. It has anti-inflammatory, analgesic and decongestant properties that make it a must have for many home herbal apothecaries.

I like to have it as a salve to use on bumps and bruises, and to help soothe pain from sprained wrists and ankles. With kids in taekwondo, and a busy homestead, those things happen on a regular basis around here. I usually make a batch of this every 3 months or so in order to keep up with demand. You only need some dried comfrey, which you can find at my affiliate partner, and some carrier oil. I used fractionated coconut oil here, but you can use almond, hemp seed, or even olive oil for this.
Comfrey is an amazing herb with many uses.  Learn how to make a salve for soothing minor bumps and bruises. ~The Homesteading Hippy #homesteadhippy #fromthefarm #naturalmedicine #comfrey

Place about 2 grams (weighed) of the dried comfrey into a clean glass jar.

Cover the herbs with about 1 cup of oil. Carefully place in a pot of barely simmering water and cover the jar to keep the essential oils in. Allow to sit in the barely simmering water for 45 minutes. Don’t allow the oil to get too hot. I use a thermometer to make sure it stays under 100°. Allow to cool completely. For a double infused oil, drain the oil from the root and add it to new herbs and place back in simmering water for another 45 minutes. Personally, I have never used double infused oil for this, but there is no reason you can’t if you would like.
Comfrey is an amazing herb with many uses.  Learn how to make a salve for soothing minor bumps and bruises. ~The Homesteading Hippy #homesteadhippy #fromthefarm #naturalmedicine #comfrey

Drain the herbs from the oil using a metal strainer.

Carefully press down on the herbs to ensure all the goodness is drained out of it. Put the infused oil back in barely simmering water and add 1 tablespoon of beeswax and slowly melt together. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before use. Label and store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6 months.
Comfrey is an amazing herb with many uses.  Learn how to make a salve for soothing minor bumps and bruises. ~The Homesteading Hippy #homesteadhippy #fromthefarm #naturalmedicine #comfrey

To use, simply apply a thin layer to bruises, sprains or owies.

You DO NOT want to use this on open skin, however, as it may irritate the healing. This is only for surface wounds that are closed like bruises and sprains.
Comfrey is an amazing herb with many uses.  Learn how to make a salve for soothing minor bumps and bruises. ~The Homesteading Hippy #homesteadhippy #fromthefarm #naturalmedicine #comfrey