Tag Archives: animal feed

Herb Blurb – Comfrey

With all of the talk about comfrey in the podcast (2 Midwest Guys.com), in the tour, in classes, on the blogs, on Facebook, I think it is about time we added comfrey to the Herb Blurb.

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Comfrey as a permaculture plant

Comfrey is a great and almost necessary plant in permaculture. It has deep tap roots that can go down 12 feet or more into the soil to m in minerals out. You will almost always find comfrey in any permaculture designers tool box of go to plants. Typically they are planted around fruit or nut trees. When the trees are just planted and establishing themselves, a ring of comfrey around the tree can boost tree growth. It is extremely fast growing. You can harvest the leaves several times over the season. Here in the Midwest comfrey will die back to the ground during winter. The leaves can be added to compost as a nutrient booster. You can make comfrey tea as a fertilizer for plants. You can feed it to livestock. I can say that our chickens completely devoured a comfrey plant when we first got them. The additional minerals found in the leaves benefit, chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, cows, pigs. We haven’t seen any of our pets eating it yet, that being the dog and cats. I mentioned harvesting several times a season. Harvesting consists of cutting the leaves back, and you use the leave portions for teas, compost, or feed.

We haven’t had much luck with starting comfrey from seeds. The best way to spread it is through root cuttings. After 2-3 years the plants are well established and you can split them. Much like you would split a hosta. Taking a spade you can divide the root mass into several clumps. Only 1 inch of root is necessary to propagate. The Russian variety do not spread by themselves. Be warned, once you introduce comfrey into an area it can be difficult to remove, since it can regrow from only 1” of root. It is best to cut back all leaves when propagating and allow the plant to send out new shoots from the crown and/or roots.

Comfrey can survive in just about any soil and condition. It does prefer partial to full sun. When on a tour at Brambleberry farm we were told that if you do not expand and move the ring of comfrey around your tree to keep it roughly with the drip line, the tree will shade them out and the comfrey will die out. I believe it is a combination of root competition with the tree and the shade that does it in. The one nice thing about it is as it grows it chokes out all the other plants around the tree, and if you plant in a ring, you have a nice little circle to mow around…if you mow. Throw in some garlic, and you have a good pest deterrent. Add an annual climbing pole bean once the tree is established (2-3 years and 4-6’ tall) and you have the makings of a nice little plant guild. The beans fix nitrogen, the tree is the pole to climb for the beans. The garlic deters moles and other rodents from eating at the tree. Comfrey mines minerals, and all of its other functions.

Bees love the purple flowers that come out in the spring for a mature plant. In the 3 years we have grown comfrey the bees, honey bees, bumblebees, mason bees, and even butterflies have been seen on the purple flowers. We have never observed any insect damage to the comfrey plants. No caterpillars, no Japanese beetles, no aphids and no real leaf damage whatsoever.

Comfrey ad a medicinal herb

As if all the above reasons are not enough to make you want some comfrey. It also has many medicinal properties. While the FDA says it is a plant that has toxic effects, a person would have to consume insane amounts of the plant to reach the levels they say are harmful. Let us not forget, these are the same people that say fluoride, GMO, and thousands of other chemicals are safe. I used to deal with these people on a regular basis for 16 years. My confidence in their ability to determine what is and is not save is absolutely zero.

Comfrey a great first aid for external treatment for wounds and to reduce inflammation associated with sprains and broken bones. Keep this herb growing in the garden so it is readily available for external salves and poultices to help broken bones heal faster.

From WebMD: Comfrey is used as a tea for upset stomach, ulcers, heavy menstrual periods, diarrhea, bloody urine, persistent cough, painful breathing (pleuritis), bronchitis, cancer, and chest pain (angina). It is also used as a gargle for gum disease and sore throat.

Comfrey is applied to the skin for ulcers, wounds, joint inflammation, bruises, rheumatoid arthritis, swollen veins (phlebitis), gout, and fractures.

WebMD also states that it is Unsafe to take by mouth, however many people have done it for years

I can speak from personal experience that I have used comfrey on swollen and sore joints due to arthritis, my wife has used if for deep and severe bruises and sprains (she is a kick boxer). We have used in when I am so accident prone and had cuts, scrapes, deep bruises due to my own clumsiness. We have a athlete who has injured ankles and applied it. In all cases the healing process seems to go much faster than not using it.

Purdue researched comfrey as a feed crop to animals and in the 70-80’s it was used as a feed crop. Here is an article on comfrey as an alternative feed for livestock. https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/comfrey.html

Brambleberry farm has comfrey for sale, and if you are interested in a tour we are heading out June 7th for a plant sale and tour of their property. Details on the tour are below. The cost is $10/person paid to Darren and his wife Espri.

Brambleberry tour

Comfrey in our garden
Comfrey in our garden
Comfrey crown 2 weeks old from bare root.
Comfrey crown 2 weeks old from bare root.
Comfrey crown sprouting
Comfrey crown sprouting

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Cold Hardy Bamboo

Recently we took a trip down to Southern IN to check out a bamboo farm. I have been looking for local sources of bamboo for referral in permaculture designs, and for general gardening purposes.  We found a great connection. Tim runs his bamboo farm, and sells the cut bamboo and live bamboo to help feed and take care of the exotic leopards he is rescuing. I learned something new, that bamboo is actually a type of grass. Lets see you try and mow this stuff!

Here is a picture of the bamboo we got along with Dustin my co-hose from 2 Midwest Guys, and Tim the owner in front of a bamboo grove we were digging from. I am 6′ call and this bamboo is roughly 20-22 feet tall (based on what we dug).

Bamboo Grove

This was just one of the many varieties Tim had on the property. This particular stand was known as Incense Bamboo Phyllostachys atrovaginata . It can get up to 30+ feet tall and 2 3/4 Inches in diameter. This particular grove we were in front of was only 5 years old and we could only get a portion of it in the picture. Tim explained that the bamboo will grow 2-3 feet per year until it starts to max out around 25 feet then slows down on growth each year.

Tim had some timber quality bamboo as well. Here is a picture of Kevin from Values Driven realty holding one of the cut shoots Tim had handy. This type of bamboo is used in construction, and is very solid. Some varieties of timber bamboo is stronger than steel and 1/4 the weight. In more tropical climates where the timber variety thrive they make buildings, scaffolding, and even bridges able to support 16 tons, out of it.

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Bamboo doesn’t really have many pests or diseases here in the US. It can spread but with proper management it can be contained.

If you are looking for a fast growing privacy fence, wind row, dust barrier bamboo might be the trick. It is also good for erosion control, shade tolerant, evergreen, and these varieties are cold hardy. You can eat it, use it as building materials, vegetable garden poles, fishing poles, trellis, literally 1000 uses for it.

I had originally intended to use it as a living privacy fence. By chance I took some that I had growing at my suburban home up to feed to goats at the Global Soaps facility. The goats ate it like it was candy. So, now we have a new source of feed for our oats we hope to get soon. The less feed and hay I have to buy the better. So I now have a new permaculture plant to add to my grab bag of tools. Bamboo has many uses, and as such is acceptable for our homestead.

The university of KY put out a great publication about bamboo.

bamboo

I am taking another trip down to see Tim and will be bringing my trailer to purchase more clumps. Tim doesn’t have a website, and only accepts cash. If you are interested in getting some of you own bamboo, and are relatively local (Indiana)  please let me know, and hopefully we can work something out. I DO accept credit cards.  I hope to go within 2 weeks of this posting because I wanted to get the bamboo before it starts sending out new shoots and runners with the warmer weather.

Depending on order size and variety it will be $40-70 per clump. These are 3-4 year old plants, 15-25 feet tall with about a 1-2′ root ball on the bottom. They will be available on Indy Southside or could be delivered for an additional fee. The root balls are 50-200 lbs depending on how many shoots are in a bundle.  If you are planting for a privacy fence, 6-10 foot spacing recommended for faster fence, wider if speed is not an issue. If you are wanting some help incorporating bamboo into your landscape contact us!