Manure Tea Application Guidelines

Preparing for Application

Dilute manure tea to about this color, the color of weak iced tea.

Once I have brewed my manure tea, I dilute it with water until the color is that of a weak glass of iced tea. This will help to keep it from burning plants and roots. Some people add in Epson Salts for added magnesium. I prefer to get my magnesium by adding an ounce or two of concentrated ocean minerals to the bucket. These are an excellent source of magnesium, but also enrich my tea with a complete spectrum of valuable trace minerals!

If I am applying my tea through a hose end sprayer or even a watering can, I screen it first to keep from clogging my equipment. An old nylon or a piece of cloth works well for this.

Uses for Manure Tea

In this application of tea on cucumbers, I try to fertilize the base of the plant, avoiding getting it on the leaves.

Root Zone Applications. Generally, I apply 1 to 2 pints of weak tea per plant, depending on the size of the plant. I apply my tea to the soil as a liquid fertilizer, primarily for the nitrogen, but also for phosphorus or potassium, depending on the manure I use. Manure tea also contains organic matter and microbes which help to improve the soil.

Watering It In. Once I have applied my tea, I like to water it in, which further spreads it out, and keeps it from burning the roots.

I didn't apply manure tea to my sweet potatoes.  Too much nitrogen produces a lot of foliage, but a long, skinny sweet potato.

Root Crops. Because of possible pathogen contamination, I don’t feed manure tea to root crops like radishes, carrots, and potatoes where I eat the roots. Also, too much nitrogen will grow a wonderful looking plant above ground, but will cause the root to become long and thin, good for nothing but the compost pit.

Vining Crops. When I apply my tea to vining crops like melons, pumpkin, pole beans and tomatoes, I am careful to gently water it in, so that rain water doesn’t splash possible pathogens up onto the fruit. Since nitrogen grows a plant but isn’t useful for growing fruit, once my plants start to set fruit, I stop feeding them with tea.

Foliar Applications. For a quick burst of nutrients, sometimes I use my tea to spray the leaves of young plants. First, I dilute it down to a very weak looking tea so that it doesn’t burn the leaves, then wet the leaves. To avoid contamination by pathogens, I don’t apply it over crops like celery, lettuce, spinach, kale that I plan on eating raw.

A Planting Solution

For a planting solution, I further dilute my already weak tea, using 3 parts water to 1 part tea. This makes a perfect tea for transplanting.

  1. When I am transplanting a plant with a root ball, I dip the ball into my tea until I don’t see any more bubbles coming up from the root ball.
  2. For shrubs and trees, I fill the prepared hole with the tea, allow it to soak in, and then plant.
  3. Sometimes I pour my tea into furrows and let soak in before planting the seed. This give an extra shot of nitrogen to get the plant started.

Potted Plants

Because potted plants need watered more often than other plants, nutrients leach out much more quickly. Tea may be applied weekly to these plants to give them a constant supply of nutrients, for as long as I want vegetative growth.

My Compost Pile

My compost pile, where I add some manure tea as a nitrogen source.

Compost piles need nitrogen to balance out carbon items such as like dried leaves and dried grass. If I am short on nitrogen items, (which I usually am), I can add manure tea to my compost pile. The nitrogen is needed to help increase the temperature of the pile to the optimum 150 degrees Fahrenheit, where microbes are most active. My tea really helps my compost pile to get to composting!

How to Apply

For faster applications, I like to use my hose end applicator, especially when plants are young and there isn’t a danger of the tea splashing up on fruit. A hose end applicator thins the tea way down, greatly lessening the possibility of burning anything.

For later and more controlled applications, I like to apply my tea using a watering can. Another really easy way to put it out is to apply it through my drip line irrigation system. (drip line page)

Leftover Tea

I don’t like to store manure tea, since it's an easy way to multiply pathogens. I try to brew what I need, and then add the rest to my compost pile. However, if for some reason I need to store my tea for a day or two, I cover it with a lid to keep out flies and other insects, and store it in a cool place in the shade.

Spent Manure

Once I have extracted my tea, the spent manure is still beneficial. I either add it to my compost pile, or lightly dig it into a part of my garden where nothing is currently growing.

For more tips on healthy gardening, please check out my home page.

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