Can you really improve poor sandy soil with Comfrey

Before we purchased our farm, I read almost every book on permaculture designs and soil improvement techniques. That knowledge would come in handy when it came time to improve our poor sandy soil.

The farm had been continuously cropped for 136 years. There is no topsoil - just sand. Many, many feet of sand. Like a beach. We started out planting trees and even though we mulched and had a rainy spring, the ground was still dry and hard. The trees suffered.

Fortunately, I came across a woman selling perennial plants and when I went to check out her plants, I spied a rare type of comfrey. It had blue flowers and grew well in our climate, so I bought a few plants from her. Then I planted them - and they wilted and flopped on the ground.

Checking in with Dr. Google, I learned that comfrey is one of a few plants that grows easily from root pieces. Meaning - every chunk of root should grow a new plant. So those floppy plants should regenerate from the roots below the surface.

Walking through the woods, I came across a stand of the pink flowered comfrey. I dug out 3 plants and cut the roots into 58 pieces. These were planted all around our farm. Since our soil is so dry, I planted them along the forest edges (as they were originally found) and near our wetlands - so they could suck up the nutrients from that fertile area.

Why did I do all of this? Well - Comfrey is a hardy plant that put out a lot of vegetative growth. It can have deep roots that will draw up micronutrients from below the surface. In many climates, it can be cut 3-4 times per season and used as a fresh mulch to add nutrients to soils - or can be made into a compost tea.

Hopefully, a great percentage of those 58 roots will create plants. I will cut them down once they are nice and tall and use those leaves to mulch around our trees and garden plants. They will break down, providing nutrients and organic material. If they multiply, that's even more free mulch! But will it work?

Time will tell!!! We may see sprouts coming up from the roots this summer yet. I just planted them on 6/17/17 - (yes, you can even plant the roots in the summer and they are supposed to survive!)

As they pop up, I will update this article and keep it updated as I use the comfrey leaves to improve our sandy soil. We have a large garden space, so it is going to take a lot of leaves - and a lot of years, but it should be self sustaining in the long run. Fingers crossed!

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