Saturday, August 25, 2012

Brewing Comfrey Tea

Have you heard of Alys Fowler? To me, this young, pretty, hip British television star is to gardening what Jamie Oliver is to cooking in the UK. She makes it fun, fashionable and interesting with her shows and books set in picturesque, lovely locales. 

Watch her show "The Edible Garden" here - I'm in love with the way she makes her urban Victorian backyard both beautiful and delicious! A few years ago, I happened to purchase her book Garden Anywhere, and was captivated by her description of comfrey tea, a liquid fertilizer you can make at home from the leaves of the comfrey plant.

Alys writes, "Once [comfrey] is established, you may never need to buy commercially made plant food... Comfrey is a deep-rooted, hardy perennial... Its leaves are high in potash, a source of potassium important for cell division, and also have good levels of nitrogen and phosphate".

Due to her glowing description, comfrey was the first plant I chose for my backyard when we landscaped, and it has done extremely well. Though I have trimmed it down several times, it is still huge and overshadows the rhubarb and chives it borders.

Large-leafed and hardy, comfrey has pretty purple blossoms when it flowers, though they have dried up at the moment, here in August.

The leaves are supposed to "kick start" compost bins, so I had added them to ours, but hadn't yet attempted to ferment the tea. She recommended putting the leaves in a plastic bucket, covering it, and allowing them to decompose for 10 days at least, then using the liquid to fertilize. Alys notes that the comfrey tea smelled bad. I have smelled some bad smells in my time (like a bad composting attempt when the smell of dead bodies permeated our apartment), so I was curious what level of "stink" I'd be dealing with after the 10-day mark.

The finished compost tea was a murky brownish liquid, which I ladled with a bowl over all the plants in my backyard. The scent was like a baby diaper left to sit for several days- unpleasant to be sure, but not unbearable. My plants look healthy and strong, with some new blooms on some of my vegetables when I thought they were finishing up.  It's a project I would do again.

Note: It's important to keep the bucket covered to avoid attracting flies, as the moment the lid was off, they were all over that bucket. Also, Alys doesn't recommend using the comfrey tea on houseplants due to the smell.


  1. Intriguing, the new blooms of course, not the baby diaper scent ; )

  2. So interesting! I may have to add another plant to our backyard. When you first mentioned making a "tea" from it, I figured it would be a more complicated process. I think I could handle leaving something alone for 10 days...Hey, I have all kinds of "tea" going on in my house. =)


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