Thursday, August 4, 2011

Making comfrey tea

Back in March 2010 I established a comfrey patch in the suburban veg plot. It established itself well (despite the variable summer) and I followed the advice not to cut from it in its first season to allow it to establish well. Come spring 2011, it reappeared as promised and grew strongly, taking advantage of the plentiful nutrients coming out the back of the compost heap. However, my access to said comfrey was not so easy as I imagined. Blocking my way to the comfrey from early spring was a bramble stem so thick and strong you could have swung around on it like Tarzan. Albeit it Tarzan wearing a pair of heavy duty thorn-proof gauntlets, but you know what I mean. And even once you got past the bramble, which, by the way, grew faster than a courgette on steroids, there was the virtually impenetrable barrier created by the basal shoots of the laurel hedge to contend with. Now, I do have the tools to deal with the vegetation, but then we got the are-ay-tea invasion. Eeeugh! With their long snakey tails and their beady eyes, they took up residence in the compost heap creating an entrance burrow at the rear, right through my comfrey patch. Anyway, now that we have a new - and more importantly rat-proof - composter, full access to the comfrey patch has been restored.

Aside from using comfrey leaves as a compost activator, a mulch and as a direct feed in the bottom of planting holes/trenches, it can be used to make a 'tea' liquid feed for any veg or fruit plant you grow.  So, to make your comfrey tea - first harvest your comfrey. Leaves and stem can both be used. I would recommend the use of gloves for this as comfrey has small hairs on both leaves and stem that can irritate the skin.

There are various vessels you can employ for stewing comfrey tea. I've gone for the small but perfectly formed 2-pint milk container.
I'd definitely recommend a method that has the brew closed in, rather than left open - the smell is absolutely rank.
Stuff said container with as much comfrey as you can possibly cram in.

Fill container with water and replace the lid. Leave for 5-6 weeks to brew - date the bottle to help you keep track. The decomposition of the comfrey in the water may give off gases which could build up in the container. The beauty of the milk container is that the cap usually allows most of these to escape as it's not the tightest fit. If you use a squash or fizzy water bottle then these caps usually fit very tight and so you might need to release any built-up gases every week or so.
Your resulting tea needs diluting down with water before using on plants (1:10 tea to water is usually recommended). Once you've got the hang of this, you may never need to buy liquid plant feed again.


  1. Bees love comfrey too! We made the tea using a bucket with a hole in it (and of course the necessary lid. The comfrey was weighted by a brick and the bucket raised on bricks. Under the hole we popped a large coffee jar to catch the drips.

  2. I was looking at comfrey plants in the local garden centre yesterday. I know they're brilliant for feeding other plants and the compost heap but wasn't sure I could put up with the smell. I like your idea of using an old milk bottle - do you strain out the leaves at the end?