Using Compost and Manure Teas in the Home Garden

comments (9) November 30th, 2012

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Feed your vegetable garden organically with compost and manure teas.
Photo by gardener41 under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Compost and manures teas may bring you bigger and better roses next season.
Photo by favouritethings under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew Moo Poo Tea Bags.
Feed your vegetable garden organically with compost and manure teas.
Photo by gardener41 under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

Feed your vegetable garden organically with compost and manure teas.


Photo by gardener41 under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Manure and compost teas are currently a hot gardening topic even if they're up for scientific debate. The question is "Does 'tea' brewed from compost or aged manure really give plants (soil) a burst of life-supporting nutrition?"

In my experience, the answer is yes.

Personally, I feel that my plants have benefited from applications of both compost teas and manure teas throughout the growing season. Am I a scientist? Not by any stretch of the imagination. However, I can tell you that I'm (by far) not alone in my theory and many successful, highly-regarded gardeners have used these organic brews as fertilizers for their gardens and have had what they've referred to as "impressive results."

I've seen Carolyn Binder of Cowlick Cottage Farms rave about her experiences with manure tea and Rosechat Radio co-host, Teresa Byington of The Garden Diary is sold on it big time. There are those in the industry who claim that inviting your plants to high tea doesn't do much of anything due to the fact that these brews haven't been scientifically proven or recorded as doing so. Fair enough.

I base my beliefs on what's working for me and what's growing on around here (pun intended). Perhaps the only way to decide is to try it for yourself and see if it makes a difference for your plants. One thing is certain; it won't do any harm.

If you'd like to give manure or compost tea a try, this is what you'll need:

  • A burlap sack, cheesecloth, or fine netting in which to strain the compost
  • A 5-gallon bucket or any large, water-tight container
  • Water
  • Compost

You're after a ratio of about 1 part compost to 5 parts water. Using more compost will brew a stronger tea. Add the compost to the burlap sack or tie it into the netting like a giant tea bag.

Fill the bucket up with water and place the tea bag into the bucket to steep for 24 hours to several days. Remove the tea bag from the bucket, empty the contents into your garden and use the tea to water your plants. I like to water with the tea every couple of weeks.

You can also make manure tea by replacing the compost with aged manure and using the same method as above. The key here is aged (6 months or more)-- not fresh from the local horse stable. Also remember that the manure should be from herbivores such as cows, horses, goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, or my personal favorite -- rabbits.

Pre-Packaged Moo Poo Tea Bags

Of course, you can always take the easy route and purchase pre-packaged 100% organic, moo poo tea that comes in "personal-sized" tea bags, which are perfect for home gardens. My favorite moo poo tea bags come from Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew. Using the tea bags is a no fuss, no muss way of feeding your garden simply and organically.

If you do put your garden on a tea feeding schedule, share your experiences here with us!

posted in: compost tea, manure tea, Authentic Haven Brand Natural brew, moo poo tea

Comments (9)

ganesm writes: I've bookmarked the Authentic Haven site and have contacted them to find out how aged the manure is. I will be ordering some of their product for use, but wanted to know if it was safe to use straight away or if I needed to let it sit somewhere to age firs - but I wanted to thank you for the article and for posting the link. :)
Posted: 10:49 am on May 10th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Josefly: Correct, I mean both compost teas and manure teas in that sentence.

LillianInIowa: Totally agree that many gardeners add the molasses or what-have-you and the results are suppose to be enhanced because of them.

However, I didn't "forget" to add this to the article, as I use both compost teas and manure teas without any added sugar. The results seemed clear!

Posted: 7:09 pm on December 29th
chanetc8 writes: Actually, there is science behind the use of compost teas. You can find the science and the directions for correctly making compost teas in books by Elaine Ingham. She is one of the foremost authorities on soil microorganism and the new Director of Research at the Rodale Institute.
As far as manure teas, I would question the safety of these as manures harbor lots of pathogens and activating them in a airless water solution may contribute to spreading these pathogens onto your plants or inhaling the mist, when spraying. When making a tea, oxygen is very important, so one should use as large capacity bubbler, not just a low capacity fish tank variety. The addition of sulfur free molasses is to feed the microorganisms. The teas should bubble for 24 to 48 hours and be used right away. Once you remove the oxygen source.
A much safer alternative to a manure tea is urine tea. Dilute your urine 15-20 to one and you can safely use it on your plants. All of the nutrition of manure, but without any of the pathogens. Test and experience around the world from Sweden, Finland, Africa, India, and the Philippines have show that human urine makes an excellent and cheap fertilizer for your garden and requires no brewing, stirring, and as long as it is not diluted, can be stored for long term, in a sealed container, without degrading. It should only be diluted just before use.
Posted: 2:33 am on December 20th
Doremus writes: lillian I know that alot of organic landcare companies are spraying compost teas. I spray my garden with a 3 gallon sprayer as a foliar spray and add some liquid seaweed.I would like the source of not using a pressure sprayer which will kill microbes. I was planning on using a siphon system from fedco and others to feed the compost tea to my garden hose which will have a walking tractor/sprinkler applying water and tea to lawn.I dont ever water the lawn but will make an exception to apply tea. I have heard that a acre only needs a 5 gallon batch. I plan to use 5 gallons to a smaller area but not if the microbes are compromised. An other important item is too use water from a brook, rain water, pond etc. If using city water let the water sit for a day or two before adding compost to let the chroine disapate.Or run a fish pump with air stones for a couple of hours before hand.
Posted: 8:44 pm on December 19th
Josefly writes: Isn833, I had to read that sentence twice, about using "both compost and manure teas" and had the same question that you did. But I think the author meant "both compost teas and manure teas." Compost and manure are different, so their teas would be different.
Posted: 7:35 pm on December 19th
LillianInIowa writes: I often wondered why waste my good compost by soaking it--and then having to haul the water around my garden.

So I did some research. What compost tea does is multiply the beneficial microbes in your compost exponentially--at least, at first. (After 24 hours, the aerobic microbes use up all the oxygen and you start to get anaerobic critters that are not good in the garden.)

Two ingredients missing from the article: something sugared, preferably unsulfured molasses, about 1/4 cup; and air, which you can best instill with vigorous swishing about with a big stick. Toss that water!

Then be sure to apply the compost tea very gently so you don't squash your tiny organisms (they actually do break and die if applied through a pressure sprayer or dumped too vigorously).

Good luck with it!
Posted: 4:05 pm on December 19th
Doremus writes: I agree Chefin that adding compost to soil is just as good as a tea above
However compost tea made with aeration similar to the video and article yourownvictorygarden | March 31st, 2011 ( shown to the right is a whole different story. Research will show that the microorganisms are multiplied at such a rate to make it well worth while. There are also ways to easily add it to even a large garden or lawn.
Posted: 11:56 am on December 19th
lsn833 writes: I agree with Chefin1950. Also, it is so much easier than making the tea! Even the author of the article states "I feel that my plants have benefited from applications of both compost and manure teas..." So, why go to the trouble of "brewing" the tea?
Posted: 10:20 am on December 19th
Chefin1950 writes: I like the idea, but am not sure I see how this is different than mulching with the compost and letting the goodies be extracted by rain and watering and just leaching into the soil.
Posted: 9:24 am on December 19th
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