How To Grow Comfrey and Use It Safely // A Must in Everyone’s Garden

ELASTIC

Growing comfrey in your garden can offer a wide variety of uses and benefits and it’s an herb that I think everyone needs to have growing in their garden. This herb is not only medicinal and will add so much to your herbal remedy tool belt, but it’s also a very attractive plant.

What is Comfrey?

Comfrey is a perennial herb (that comes back every year). The genus name for comfrey is Symphytum, and means to “heal together”.  It is well known to assist healing in any part of the body that is torn or broken. Otherwise known as knitbone or slippery root, comfrey plants have been used medicinally since 400 B.C. to stop heavy bleeding and to treat bronchial issues.

 

COMFREY IN GARDEN

Growing Comfrey Plants

Growing this herb is super easy. Propagation can be done with seed, division, or separation. Sow comfrey seeds in fall or early spring directly in the garden or in a cold frame and pot seedlings to be over-wintered inside.

Division of comfrey herb plants may occur at any time, however, spring is suggested. Divide by cutting off 3 inches (8 cm.) of root below the soil level and then plant directly into a pot or another area of the garden.

Propagating Comfrey

I find the easiest way is to find a start. You may need to get a start from someone who already has it growing, as I have not seen it in any nurseries or garden centers.

All you need is a piece of the root and you’re good to go. As comfrey can be an aggressive spreader, you may want to plant within a physical barrier and deadhead flowers to rein in its spreading habit. MAKE SURE WHEN YOU PLANT THIS HERB, THAT YOU PLANT IT SOMEWHERE THAT YOU’LL WANT IT TO REMAIN. Because the roots go down so far, if you ever want to move it, most likely after you dig it up, it will come back.

We made a BIG mistake once in our garden and rototilled a few plants up and we had bits of the root all over and then we had comfrey everywhere. We finally got it under control and have this herb growing where we want it. I find it doesn’t spread if the root it left alone. In fact, I find that weeds do not grow around it either. (Very interesting).

This herb requires very little maintenance once established. It is generally frost and drought-hardy and primarily disease and pest-resistant.

We have grown this herb in our garden for years and use it frequently.

Comfrey Benefits and Uses

As mentioned above, the comfrey herb plant has a long history of medicinal use. Useful not only for staunching blood flow and arresting some bronchial ailments, but comfrey has also been used to heal broken bones. Comfrey tea is often ingested for internal illness and poultices are applied to external ailments. Comfrey contains high amounts of allantioin (also found in nursing mother’s milk) and is said to increase the rate of cell growth, which in turn increases the number of white blood cells. The application of allantoin has been shown to heal wounds and burns more quickly and promotes healthy skin with high mucilage content. I have personally seen it heal chemical burns, and sunburns, and assist rapid healing in deep wounds with no scaring.

COMFREY PESTAL

A Personal Experience with Comfrey

When my son was in his teens he hit his face pretty hard on a rail while skiing and his lip was pretty messed up (not the first time this has happened), he asked if we had any comfrey to put on it. Even my kids know the many benefits of this plant.

Typically, we would just go out and pick a leaf from the garden, but at the time the comfrey plants were under 2 feet of snow. Luckily I had some already blended up in the freezer.

In the fall I took a bunch of comfrey leaves and washed them and blended them up to make a thick paste. I then spooned it out into ice cube trays and froze it. Then I just popped them out into zip bags and put it in the freezer for times just like this. Then all we have to do is take a cube out, thaw it and apply where needed.

My son just took a blob of green goop and placed it all over his top lip, and sat there while he did his homework. He did this a few times and by the third day, you could hardly tell he even had an injury.

I could go on and on about this amazing plant and give you several more personal experiences on how it has helped us.

COMFREY POULTICE

In a nutshell, comfrey leaves and roots are used externally as a poultice or ointment for:

  • bruises
  • broken bones
  • wounds
  • pulled muscles and ligaments
  • reducing inflammation
  • sprains
  • sunburn
  • burns

I use comfrey to make a wonderful healing salve, which is very easy to make. You can find the tutorial and recipe for the salve HERE.

Having this herb growing where you have easy access to it is a good step in being a little more self-reliant. I feel much more at peace with my comfrey plant just outside my door!

LEARN MORE ABOUT OTHER HERBAL REMEDIES HERE IN MY ALTERNATIVE REMEDIES BOOKLET

Benefits of Comfrey in the Garden

Comfrey is not only good for our bodies, comfrey can be helpful to our garden soil and other plants as well. Comfrey can be made into a “compost tea” which is beneficial for fertilizing your garden. Some of your livestock will happily munch away on this plant, particularly chickens and pigs as well.

This herb is an excellent mulch and fertilizer. It is well balanced with a good combination of potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. When you use comfrey as mulch, it will mine those nutrients from deep under the soil, and then return them to the soil where other plants can access them.

It is very easy to mulch with comfrey. Simply chop it down, and if possible, chop it into smaller pieces. Lay the pieces around the plants you want to mulch and the comfrey will quickly decompose, allowing the nutrients to go back into the soil.

How to Make Comfrey Tea Fertilizer

If you don’t want to use comfrey as a mulch, you can make comfrey tea to use as a FERTILIZER FOR YOUR PLANTS, NOT FOR YOU. Do not ingest this tea, rather, it is a liquid plant feed.

  1. Place your plant matter – the leaves, stems, etc – into a container and cover it with water. Put a lid on it to contain the odor. You’ll want to let this mixture brew for four to six weeks.
  2. To use it, mix it with 1/3 ‘tea’ and 2/3 water and use it as you would any other liquid fertilizer when you water your plants.

Spring is here and this is a great time to get your hands in the dirt. So be thinking of a place in your garden where you can plant this baby. If you live in Utah, I would love for you to stop by and I can give you a start. Just send me a note if you are interested.

jan3

Share:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest

Connect:

Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More

Lavender, Rosemary & Thyme | A Must for Every Garden

I am going to take you on a little garden tour and show you how to grow 3 of my most favorite plants: lavender, rosemary & thyme. These plants are a MUST for every garden.

In this post, I am going to show you what these plants look like, how to easily grow them, and what you can do with them. So let’s get to it!

You can watch the Lavender, Rosemary & Thyme garden tour video at the end of the post.

Lavender

There are a few names for English lavender including common lavender and its scientific name, Lavandula angustifolia. The classic English lavender is the toughest of the clan, and stays compact and tidy, with foliage to about 18 inches and flower stalks another 12 inches or more. This is the variety I prefer because it has long stems for crafting and drying.

Did you know that there are actually 47 species of lavender? English lavender is just one of them, and there are different varieties of English lavender. Don’t get overwhelmed, most nurseries will carry just the basic lavender plants, and English lavender will be one of them. Get one that has long stems!

How to grow lavender

Lavender plants will tolerate many growing conditions, but they thrive in warm, well-draining soil, and full sun. It’s possible to grow lavender from seed, but it will take a year or two of growing before they’re ready to plant in the garden. It’s so much easier just to purchase a plant already established in a pot.

Planting

  • Space the lavender varieties a foot apart to create a hedge, and three feet apart for an airier planting.
  • If you’re planting dwarf types, you can place them a little closer together since they’re naturally smaller plants.
  • Place them in a hole at the same level they were in their pot but make the hole twice as wide. Compact the soil and water them in well.
  • Keep the soil moist until they’re established, but after that, they don’t need a lot of water.

Pruning Lavender

Begin pruning the plants in their second year. After flowering, cut the spent flower stalks down and shape the plants. You will also want to prune the plants in the spring just after they begin showing the first flush of new leaves. Cut just above the new foliage. Also, take off any stems or branches that look brown and woody off.

Harvesting Lavender

The best time to harvest English lavender is when the buds have formed on the plant but the flowers have not yet opened and are still tight. If you wait until they fully bloom they won’t retain as much fragrance and the color will tend to fade. (There have been years when time gets away from me and I don’t cut them until they are bloomed. It’s not the end of the world, still cut and use the flowers).

Be sure to leave behind at least two sets of leaves on the green part of the stem. If you cut all the way back to the woody part of the stem, that stem will not regrow.

What can you do with Lavender?

Crafts

  • Enjoy the beauty of them in your garden.
  • The lovely purple color and contrast green stem is a complement to any garden.
  • Dry the flowers for crafts, floral arrangements, wreaths, gift wrapping, and aromatherapy.
  • Eye pillows, lavender wands, and lavender sachets are my favorite things to make with lavender. Stay tuned for these upcoming tutorials.

Recipes

ROSEMARY

Oh, how I love rosemary. Rosemary was probably one of the first herbs I was introduced to while visiting a lovely herb garden way back when I was a young mother. This garden had a quaint little gift shop nestled in among the plants. This is where my love for herbs started.

Rosemary is a perennial evergreen shrub with little blue flowers. It is an aromatic and distinctive herb with a sweet, resinous flavor. 

Planting

Rosemary can be grown from seed, but again the germination rates are generally quite low and seedlings are slow to grow. Therefore, I strongly recommended starting a new rosemary plant from cuttings taken from established plants or just purchasing a more mature plant.

Cuttings grow quickly in good conditions and should be ready for outdoor planting in about 8 weeks.

  • Plant in full sun.
  • The planting site should have well-draining soil. Rosemary doesn’t like wet feet either.
  • Be sure to give your rosemary plants enough room to grow. Once established, rosemary can eventually grow to about 4 feet tall and spread about 4 feet as well. It does really well in warm climates.
  • Water rosemary plants evenly throughout the growing season, but be careful not to overwater.

Pruning & Caring for rosemary

Prune regularly so that plants won’t get lanky. In the spring, cut off any dead stems or struggling stems.

If you live in a colder climate, you may need to bring it inside for the winter. I always transplant one of my rosemary plants into a pot and bring it in during the winter. I love having the greenery and smell in my house. It’s like having a little Christmas tree in my house for months.

Although I have found a place in my garden that is protected and sheltered, most rosemary plants will freeze during the winter. My plants always died when they were located in other areas of the garden, but their current location is on the south side of the house and in a little nook where they get the heat off the house in the winter. They are thriving there.

Harvesting

Snip off stems to use fresh, or hang them in the kitchen for dried rosemary. I usually have a little spring hanging on my fridge for decoration.

It is so nice to be able to just walk outside and snip a little stalk when I need it for a recipe.

Rosemary can be dried and stored in an airtight container.

How to use rosemary

  • Chopped and used in cooking.
  • Crafts, gift wrapping
  • Made into a tea
  • Added to floral arrangements.
  • Aromatherapy

Recipes

Thyme

Thyme is one of those herbs that I grow in my garden mostly for medicinal reasons. Although it does have the cutest stems with tight leaves, and I do use it in my cooking, I feel reassured I have it available for remedies.

Once again, there are many varieties of the plant. Thyme is a wonderful herb that has a pleasant aroma and a pungent flavor. It is used both ornamental in the garden and as a savory addition to many recipes. (Soups, grilled meats, and roasted vegetables).

How to grow thyme

Thyme is very easy to grow. It’s a low-growing hardy perennial, which has small, fragrant leaves and thin, woody stems. Thyme comes in over fifty varieties with different fragrances and flavors. Fresh or English thyme is used most often in cooking. I bought a yummy-smelling lemon thyme plant this year to add to my garden.

It is drought-friendly and very forgiving! (This is a plus in any garden). It is also pollinator-friendly, the bees love it!

Planting

  • Thyme thrives in full sun and loves heat. If you are growing in a pot indoors, plant near a sunny window.
  • Plant the thyme in well-drained soil. It doesn’t like to have wet feet!
  • It’s hard to grow thyme from seeds because of slow, uneven germination. It’s easier to buy the plants from a garden center or take some cuttings from a friend.

Pruning & Caring For thyme

  • Prune the plants back in the spring and summer to contain the growth.
  • If you have cold winters, remember to lightly mulch around the plants after the ground freezes.
  • Three to four-year-old plants need to be divided or replaced because older plants are woody and the leaves less flavorful.
  • You can propagate from your own cuttings, which is very easy to do. Just cut off a few stems, and sit them in water until they form roots. Then you’re good to plant or give to a friend.

Harvesting Thyme

Harvest the plant just before the plant flowers by cutting off the top five to six inches of growth. Leave the tough, woody parts.

It’s best to harvest thyme in the morning after the dew has dried.

What to do with Thyme

  • Cooking

I have several recipes and salad dressings that I add fresh thyme to. I love being able to go out in the garden and clip a few sprigs of thyme when I need it. Just so you know fresh herbs at the grocery store are quite pricey. So you are saving a lot of money by having them accessible in your garden.

Fresh thyme should be stored refrigerated and wrapped lightly in plastic, and it should last one to two weeks.

You can also freeze thyme in an ice cube tray with water.

To dry thyme, hang the sprigs in a dark, well-ventilated, warm area. You can also just dry the leaves by placing them on a tray. Once dried, store them in an airtight container. Crush just before using. Under good conditions herbs, will retain maximum flavor for two years. 

  • Make Tea
  • Use as an herbal remedy in salves, teas, tinctures, and bath soaks.

One of my favorite uses for thyme is used in a healing thyme bath. Works well for respiratory conditions and sore throats. You can get all the details HERE.

Recipes

Now is the time of year to add some of these new plants to your garden. You are going to LOVE them, trust me!

Lavender, Rosemary & Thyme Tour

Get your garden gloves on and enjoy your time in the garden.

Cheers,

Share:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest

Connect:

Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

Read More