Often referred to as “gardener’s gold,” Manure tea is a natural and cost effective plant fertilizer. It is high in nitrogen and has the benefit of containing not only trace elements but also phosphorus and potash. These are essential to plant growth. Manure tea breaks down in the soil and as it is in a water base, it is easily absorbed by plants. Manure tea is easy to make easy to apply and, if tended properly, doesn’t smell too bad.
Step 1 – Obtaining Manure
Manure tea requires that only small amounts of manure be used as opposed to mixing large amounts directly into the soil. It is applied directly to the plants that need it, saving both time and money.
Purchase vegetarian manure from chickens, pigs, cows or horses. This is readily available from a home and garden store. If there are farms in the area, it may also be possible to obtain it directly from the source and for free or at a discounted rate. It is easiest to use cured or baked manure. Fresh manure will require an extra step for preparation.
Step 2 – Curing or Composting Manure
Fresh manure contains pathogens which can contaminate produce. Curing or composting manure reduces these pathogens. If there is any question as to the safety of the manure being used, cure or compost it. Manure tea should never be sprayed directly on produce producing plants.
To cure the manure it must sit, much like a compost heap, for 6 to 12 months. It will break down over time and resemble rich soil. To facilitate breakdown, aerate the pile frequently by turning it with a pitchfork. Manure can also be added to compost for faster curing. In a healthy compost pile, it will break down in 4 to 6 months.
Step 3 – Preparing the Manure Tea
Fill a large bucket half to three-quarters full of manure. Add clean water until the bucket is full. If only a small amount of manure tea is needed, a leg of pantyhose can be filled with manure and used like a tea bag.
Step 4 – Steeping the Tea
Steep the manure by soaking it in water for 2 to 3 days outside and in a sunny location. If the weather is warm enough, it may only take 24 hours. This will leech the nutrients out of the manure and into the water.
Stir the tea on a daily bases to prevent it from becoming smelly and stagnate.
Step 5 – Straining the Tea
When the manure tea has finished steeping, strain it into a second bucket through a screen or piece of cheese cloth.
Step 6 – Dilution
Dilute the manure tea prior to plant application. It should resemble very weak tea. Manure tea is high in nitrogen and if it is too concentrated will burn roots and leaves.
For foliar applications, mix one-eighth teaspoon with one quart of water in a spray bottle. Add one-eighth teaspoon vegetable oil or soap to the solution to help it adhere to the leaves.
Use manure tea on most indoor and outdoor plants in place of a fertilizer. Feed plants regularly to keep them healthy. Store the tea outdoors in a covered container for future use.