BEES ENJOY COMFREY FLOWERS, SO DON’T CUT THE PLANTS BACK TOO SOON – 4th week in May 2013

Comfrey is a plant which gets organic growers very excited. It grows back and flowers after the plant is cut back to the ground, maybe three or four times a year between February and about November. It has deep tap roots which return leached nutrients from inaccessible depths to the grower in the form of leaf material. These leaves contain high levels of many beneficial elements, especially potassium and nitrogen. Both elements are key nutrients, potassium helps plants to fruit  (eg tomatoes) and nitrogen boosts leave growth (eg cabbage).

However comfrey is far more than a delivery system for kitchen garden fertility requirements. Its flowers are very popular with bees, especially bumble bees. In spite of the temptation to remove the leaves to encourage each comfrey plant to re-sprout from the ground, I held off when I saw the bee activity the other day as I was planting bedding plants in the front garden beside the comfrey bed. What the bees want, the bees get. The cutting of the comfrey can wait until the flowers are finished. The leaves will be then stuffed in a barrel. This will be topped up with water and left for a few weeks to soak and stew. A 1:10 ratio of this comfrey liquid diluted in water will then feed the fruit and vegetables as they are watered by watering cans.

One of the many bees which visit the comfrey bed. Note the proboscis mouthpiece of the bee probing the flower to reach the nectar.

One of the many bees which visit the comfrey bed. Note the proboscis mouthpiece of the bee probing the flower to reach the nectar.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I can echo all you say in this blog. We have grown comfrey for years as an organic fertiliser for our vegetables – now we have taken up beekeeping and it is wonderful to watch the bee activity on the flowers. We will wait to cut the plant down.

    We read that bumble bees pierce the flower to enable them to reach the nectar and we have seen this, however we also noticed that the honey bees were using these holes themselves, thus saving time when on the comfrey.

    Reply

  2. […] recently read a post on Trevor’s Kitchen Garden which inspired me to spend a few minutes standing by my comfrey patch, observing. As Trevor said, […]

    Reply

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