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Plant vs. gardener: A battle of wills


Four years ago when I planted comfrey, I went into it with my eyes wide open. I knew that because comfrey grows very deep roots (like 15 or more feet deep), and because it grows very easily from root cuttings, that once I planted it, odds are, it would be in that spot forever. So, after selecting the Russian bocking 14 variety, which is sterile so you don’t have to worry about reseeding, I chose a spot for a small patch of comfrey that I knew I’d be happy with forever.

Until, of course, I wasn’t. 

It was really the only hiccup in the placement of the new vegetable garden, which would end up right over the top of the former comfrey patch.

The comfrey had just starting coming up when we had the area for the new vegetable garden leveled, so I dug up what I could (so I could move it, because I still want comfrey), and hoped for the best. Had the plants been bigger, I would have sprayed them with Roundup, one of the few times I’ll go to that drastic measure. 

The comfrey I moved is growing well in its new (hopefully permanent) location and I’d pretty much forgotten about the comfrey until last week. When I returned from more than a week away from the garden I found a surprise waiting for me. A very healthy looking comfrey plant had popped up between two beds (we’ve still not gotten around to digging out the soil around the beds and putting in paver base and gravel).

comfrey popping up

I shouldn’t have been surprised as this was right where the comfrey had been planted. But I was a little taken aback by the vigor the plant was showing. After all, it’s been through quite an ordeal this year, having been driven over, scraped and generally abused.

But the proof that comfrey really means business was lurking behind me. To be precise it was lurking in the raised bed where I’m growing a collection of herbs, a good 12 feet away from where it started and growing up through all 21 inches of soil in that raised bed. Right there, nestled between cilantro seedlings and basil, was a little comfrey sprout. I have no doubt that it would have been a very happy plant if I hadn’t yanked it out then and there.


And I harbor no illusions: it will be back. I will just keep pulling it for now, but if it’s still around after the herbs are gone, I will use Roundup on it, although I question whether even that will be enough to kill it.

That herb garden interloper may have been uprooted and moved in the leveling process, but it may have also grown that far looking for a place to pop up. Comfrey is determined.

Even though the true nature of comfrey has been made quite clear, I’ll keep growing comfrey for all its great attributes. It makes a great fertilizer (I have a bucket going right now), an excellent addition to the compost pile, a great mulch (I just lay the wide, fuzzy leaves on the soil) and it has beautiful blue flowers that bees love. 

Comfrey fertilizer
I have a batch of comfrey fertilizer brewing. Just chop up some comfrey (sometimes I strip the leaves from the stems but this time I left it all in there), throw it in a bucket of water and wait for it to smell absolutely putrid (a couple weeks). Then I’ll strain it and mix with water for a high potassium fertilizer.

Plus, it’s not like I have a choice. The comfrey is here to stay. Now if I can just get it to stay where I want it.

7 Responses

  1. I think your comfrey had to be uprooted. I have never heard of it being a plant that travels and I’ve never had it travel. I chop and drop it 2-3 times per year to use as mulch around trees. I love it, the bees love it, other plants love it, but it is definitely never going to die. But, that’s it’s charm…..endless free mulch.

    1. The more I think about it, the more I agree that it must have been dug up and moved during the leveling process. But I also agree with you that as much as this has the potential to be problematic, I wouldn’t want to be without it!

  2. I remember an orange daylily that I told Mark should be dug out before we piled dirt on it for one of our hills. It grew up right through the dirt but luckily was not as persistent as your comfrey!

  3. Given its ability to sprout from root cuttings maybe it’s good that you haven’t gotten around to the paver base yet.

  4. I have Comfrey in my garden too. I had no idea it is so tenacious. I have had it in one place and moved it with no trouble of it popping up but maybe it wasn’t as established as your is. I have some in a place that has been there for years. I will remember your battle with it if I ever want to move it.

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