Plants Need Tea, Too!

Teas provide a wealth of nutrients and trace minerals for growing plants.

  • Michael Otteman
  • Use fertilizing teas when planting, transplanting, during the growing season or when plants appear to need a boost.
    Susan Belsinger

  • Dawna Edwards

  • Dawna Edwards
  • To make manure tea, add aged manure to a 5-gallon bucket, add water, and box it back and forth by pouring from one bucket to another (or stir). Allow the mixture to set from three hours to a couple of days (boxing or stirring daily) before applying to plants.
    Susan Belsinger
  • Compost, rich in nutrients, makes an excellent fertilizing tea.
    Susan Belsinger

When we make tea for drinking, we are extracting the flavonoids, essential oils, vitamins and minerals from the plant material. We brew the tea, strain out the solids and sediment, and drink the tea. Our bodies take up the nutrients we need, and the excess is flushed out in our elimination processes.

A similar process takes place in the garden with the use of natural fertilizers. Liquid fertilizers are multi-taskers, feeding and watering plants at the same time. Using plant- and animal-based ingredients to fertilize the land is a common practice among organic gardeners and farmers.

Brewing your own fertilizer tea can be messy and stinky. Live bacteria and algae will multiply rapidly, which is good for the soil but intense for the senses. Think of these teas as earth medicine — even if they smell a bit brawny.

First Teas — Something Fishy

When each of us began gardening organically more than 30 years ago, the first fertilizer we used was liquid fish emulsion. It came in a brown plastic bottle full of a thick, dark brown concentrate, which smelled as fishy as its name. The directions were to mix it with water and water the plants with the diluted solution. These were our first experiences using a type of tea to feed our plants. Later, we tried a liquid kelp fertilizer that was also a concentrate with similar instructions, although besides watering the plants with it, the label suggested using it as a foliar spray. Fish emulsion and liquid kelp are excellent fertilizers we still use today, but over the years we’ve added other natural and botanical substances to our arsenal of nutritive garden teas. 

Manure Tea Experiences

Living on a biodynamic farm in Italy, Susan learned about the art of manure tea. There was a large old bathtub outside by the garden for this purpose. The farm had chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and the manure from these animals was put into piles and aged for six months to one year. A large bucketful of the aged manure was dumped into the bottom of the tub, and the tub was filled with water. This was allowed to sit for at least three or four hours and stirred every now and then with cherry-tree branches that had been tied together loosely to form a broom-like whisk. We filled the watering can or buckets from the tub and carried this smelly water to each of the plants in the garden. The tea was prepared whenever there were new transplants, and also was used throughout the growing season. It was amazing to see how well the plants responded to this manure tea.

While gardening at the Ozark Folk Center, Tina made her first manure tea. She would go to visit Bob the mule and gather his manure. After letting the manure age, she’d put a gallon or so of it in a 5-gallon bucket, add water and stir with a hickory stick. Bob’s manure tea fed the herbs and old-time flowers planted around the park.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Get the latest on Natural Health and Sustainable Living with Mother Earth News!

Mother Earth News

Your friends at Mother Earth Living are committed to natural health and sustainable living. Unfortunately, the financial impact of COVID-19 has challenged us to find a more economical way to achieve this mission. We welcome you to our sister publication Mother Earth News. What you sought in the pages of Mother Earth Living can be found in Mother Earth News. For over 50 years, “The Original Guide to Living Wisely” has focused on organic gardening, herbal medicine, real food recipes, and sustainability. We look forward to going on this new journey with you and providing solutions for better health and self-sufficiency.

The impact of this crisis has no doubt affected every aspect of our daily lives. We will strive to be a useful and inspiring resource during this critical time and for years to come.

Best wishes,
Your friends at Mother Earth Living and Mother Earth News

Save Money & a Few Trees!

By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of Mother Earth News for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter