In our continued efforts to provide educational outreach, the Baltimore County Master Gardeners (BCMG), volunteers who are part of the University of Maryland Extension, offer this newest installment in our monthly newsletters designed to provide timely, informative articles to assist you in your gardening activities.
Get comfy with comfrey! BCMG events you can enjoy. Earth Day at the Park. Learn horticulture a CCBC.
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Inside My Comfrey Zone
An article by Deana Karras, Baltimore County Master Gardner
Full disclosure, I love this plant, so I will stick to the facts even though impartiality will be unrealistic! Comfrey, also known as ‘boneset’ or ‘knitbone’ colloquially, is an herbaceous perennial in the borage family. Native to Europe and Asia, it has been cultivated since at least 400 BCE. Brought to the Americas by early settlers for its medicinal qualities, it was most often made into teas and poultices (using the leaves) reported to speed the recovery from broken bones (hence boneset) among other things. Modern science, however, has identified high levels of toxic alkaloids in all parts of the plant that can cause serious liver damage and even death if misused. That is most definitely not why I love comfrey. This is why- it is beautiful, vigorous, easy to grow, beneficial in key ways, and has almost no pest or disease problems. There are several varieties of comfrey, but the most commonly available and desirable is the so-called Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum). ‘Bocking 14’ is a sterile hybrid which is highly recommended as comfrey but can be somewhat invasive. This sterile variety can be propagated by cuttings or by division, a simple process due to the vigor of the plant. Comfrey thrives in zones 3-9 in full sun to part shade and prefers a moist, well-drained soil but is tolerant of less ideal conditions. ‘Bocking 14’ blooms late June through September with purple bell-shaped flowers on 2-3 foot stems rising above large basal, hairy, and lance-shaped leaves.
When planting comfrey consider your site carefully because it is not easy to relocate or eradicate. It can be very long-lived - 20 years and more. Comfrey has a deep and expansive root system that can extend down 10 feet. This depth in part, makes it a bio-accumulator, a plant that draws essential nutrients (potassium, calcium, nitrogen, magnesium . . .) from deep in the soil making them accessible to more shallow-rooted plants. This is why we have comfrey planted as a plant partner in the BCMG Demonstration Garden orchard, as it is an excellent companion for fruit and nut trees. The long, thick taproots also help break up heavy soils, like the clay we have in the garden. Also, incredibly beneficial for the orchard is comfrey’s popularity with pollinators - bees and pest predators such as spiders, lacewings, and parasitoid wasps frequent the plants.
There is more. Comfrey makes an excellent green mulch. Plants are so vigorous that once established, you can cut them back to a few inches several times a year (but let some bloom for those pollinators!). Leaves are rich in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins, and trace elements. Cut them and lay them on the surface as a mulch, or if that is too visually unappealing, chop them up and mix them into the top few inches of soil. Place leaves in the bottom of planting holes. The nitrogen in the leaves can also give a boost to your compost pile, speeding the composting process. And if you are feeling ambitious and slightly brave (it’s the smell), cook up some comfrey tea for your plants. Cut the leaves and shake off any insects, chop them, and put them in a lidded container. (You will definitely want that lid). Cover the leaves with water, secure the lid, and let it all sit for up to six weeks. To use it, pour off the liquid tea and mix one part tea with four parts water, and fertilize away. The tea is well-balanced in critical plant nutrients, and the high potassium content is especially good for berries and fruit trees.
Photos taken in the BCMG Demonstration Garden orchard.
MASTER GARDENERS IN ACTION
COCKEYSVILLE LIBRARY Gardening for Kids
Leader- Randy Low
Saturday, May 14, 2022 at 2:00 PM
HEREFORD LIBRARY Vegetable Gardening Basics
Leader- Norman Cohen
Monday, May 2, 2022 at 6:00 PM
Integrated Pest Management
Leader- Norman Cohen
Saturday, June 11, 2022 at 2:00 PM
FREE IN THE GARDEN SUMMER SEMINARS
These are 1-hour seminars held in our Demonstration Garden at the Ag. Center (1114 Shawn Road, Cockeysville). Each 1-hour session is led by Baltimore County Master Gardeners beginning at 10:00 am. Each session has a distinct plan if rain is in the forecast for that day; please see the description for the specific session.
June 4, Bay Wise Garden: "Gardening for Beauty and a Healthy Environment”
Learn about gardening in harmony with nature by using native plants, controlling stormwater runoff, reducing lawns, and using fertilizers and water sparingly.
Rain plan: Cancel if hard rain. If light rain, we will proceed in the garden, bring umbrellas! REGISTER HERE June 11, Deer Resistant Garden: “Oh Deer!!! Don’t Eat That!!!”
Deer are present in much of Baltimore County, so in this session learn about how to plan your garden through plant choices, barriers, and design strategies with deer in mind.
Rain plan: light rain, we will proceed in the garden bring umbrellas, harder rain we will meet outside the Ag Center Main building classroom on the West side of the building. REGISTER HERE June 25, Orchard Garden: “Growing Fruit in Your Backyard”
A conversation in the Orchard based on the premise that no garden is too small to have fruit! Subjects covered will range from site selection to propagation.
Rain plan: We will have a rain date of July 9 if the forecast calls for heavy rain. REGISTER HERE
CHILDREN IN THE GARDEN SUMMER SERIES
We will have 3 sessions in the Children’s Garden, especially for kids ages 7-10. Each session will begin at 10:00 and will last an hour. The theme this summer is: Inviting Creatures into the Garden. Each session will focus on beneficial garden creatures. We will demonstrate how each creature helps enhance the vitality of the garden, and we will build creature houses for each participant to take home to their own garden. Rain Plan: Any rain, these sessions will move under cover of the Ag. Center Main Building. There is a $5 fee for each participant, to cover the costs of supplies,
Sign up on Eventbrite is REQUIRED-
June 18 Session 1, “Bring on the Birds” Children will learn how birds help manage bugs in our yards, and how they can promote the growth of plants that keep our environment healthy. We will be making birdhouses using house paint. Please dress for potential splatter!!!
July 16 Session 2, “Thanks to Toads” We will explore the differences and similarities of frogs and toads, then discuss how they help keep the bug population under control in our yards. We will be building toad houses. Please dress for paint splatter!!
August 13 Session 3, “Benefits of Bees” We will learn the difference between bees and wasps, how bees help as pollinators in the garden, and their importance for our food supply. We will build bee houses and paint. Please dress for splatter!!!
Where: Baltimore, Agricultural (Ag) Center and Farm Park
1114 Shawan Road, Cockeysville
When: Sunday, April 24, 2022
Time: 10 AM to 2 PM
Join us for a site-wide special event celebrating Earth Day on the Farm!
Live, music, food vendors, games, activities, face painting, greenhouse tour, animal encounters, scavenger hunts with prizes, hayrides, mazes, and much more. Don't forget to visit the Master Gardener Demonstration (Demo) Garden for educational and fun events as well.
Free for all ages
No Registration Required
The American Landscape Institute
Is Accepting New Students