How to make compost tea for lawns?

How to Make and Use Compost Tea

Q: Can you give me the recipe for making compost tea?
—John Stumpo, Detroit

Roger Cook replies: Compost tea is a natural liquid fertilizer loaded with beneficial bacteria and nutrients that reach the roots faster than traditional compost. A lawn treated with the tea grows slower, needs less mowing, and uses less water because of its deep roots.

My compost recipe is 2 parts carbon-rich “browns,” such as dead leaves, to 1 part nitrogen-rich “greens,” like rotted grass clippings. I put 7 pounds of it in a mesh sack and suspend the sack inside a rain barrel filled with water and fitted with an aerator. Then I add 12 ounces each of molasses, liquid kelp, and fish hydrolysate. These last two are sold by Neptune’s Harvest. It takes about 24 hours to brew 55 gallons of tea, enough for more than an acre of lawn. Once it’s used up, discard the compost and start a fresh batch.

Step 1

Add the Tubing

Photo by Kindra Clineff

Cut a length of ⅜-inch-diameter irrigation tubing and bend it into a ring that fits the bottom of the barrel. Join the ends with a T-fitting, and attach the remaining tubing to the T’s third leg. Using a 3/16-inch bit, drill a series of holes into the top of the ring about 1 inch apart; they let air bubble up, encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria and reducing odors.

Step 2

Place the Lid

Photo by Kindra Clineff

Drill a ⅜-inch hole in the barrel’s lid, and thread the irrigation tubing up through it. Fill a nylon-mesh bag or cheesecloth with about 7 pounds of aged compost. Pull the top of the sack through the lid’s center hole, and hang it from a dowel so that the sack is suspended in the center of the barrel. Place the lid over the barrel.

Step 3

Let it Brew

Photo by Kindra Clineff

Connect the barrel to the downspout. Using a stainless-steel hose clamp, secure the aerator to the end of the tubing coming out of the barrel. Once the barrel is full of rainwater, run the aerator for at least 24 hours. (If using tap water, aerate for 20 minutes before adding compost.) Leave the aerator on whenever there’s tea in the barrel, to keep the bacteria alive.

Step 4

Spray the Lawn

Photo by Kindra Clineff

For lawns of 400 square feet or less, wet the grass with the tea using a pump sprayer. Use a backpack or walk-behind sprayer for larger lawns. One gallon covers about 1,000 square feet. At minimum, apply the tea in early spring, summer, early fall, and just before the lawn goes dormant, although there’s no harm in letting your grass drink the tea more frequently.

0 Post Comment 0 0 An example of a unique item

During your travels in the game world, you can come across different unique items which you can give to someone to receive a reward. Sometimes you will find them in toasters and sometimes you’ll see them lying on the ground. Lots of items you can give to Flintlock (usually you’ll get money or experience to choose from) or captain Mercaptain (additional item to take from her stock) in the Guardians’ Stronghold; some items can be given to people scattered all around the wastelands. Flintlock is interested mostly in historical items, and Mercaptain wants to get pieces of technology. The game doesn’t tell you directly what needs to be given to whom, but you can reasonably add two and two together. For example, doctor Baum in the Temple of Titan keeps saying that he’s looking for his glasses so you can give him the contact lenses, and captain Sadler of Rattlesnake Militia has hemorrhoids, and you can find that out by talking to him properly, so he can definitely make use of a cream. Basically, it’s always worth keeping all the items with a white name, because you never know when something might be useful. If there’s an item in your inventory that you can give to someone, a proper keyword will appear during the conversation.


  • 7″ Single – a toaster in the Ag Center (only in the undestroyed one), in the corridor leading to the antenna. You can give it to Werewolf Wally in the radio station in Damonta. In return you can get $150 or a Turntable, that you can further give to Mercaptain;
  • Aethelwolf’s Utopia – on the ground by the cars leading to the damaged radio tower in the Rail Nomads Camp. Mercaptain;
  • Bushnell Ocelot – a remote console in the Tinker safe in Damonta; Mercaptain
  • Contact lenses – a toaster in Jess-Belle house in Highpool. You can give it to doctor Baum in the hospital in the Temple of Titan; in return you’ll get a book with +1 to field medic;
  • Depleted uranium – a toaster by the Titan in the temple’s underground. Mercaptain;
  • Do Androids dream of electric sheep? – a book in a car not far from the arcade place. Mercaptain;
  • Doggie Bones – a toaster in the restaurant of Binh’s parents in Damonta. You can give it to Drhku who guards Danforth’s dogs in the Prison (you can get to the Prison peacefully). You’ll get a book with +1 to Animal Enchanter;
  • Double Six report – a newspaper in Sierra Madre airplane in Silo 7. Flintlock;
  • Fertilizer Sprayer – a toaster in the abandoned house on the corner of the Atchison Camp. You can give it to Honeydew Louis on the western fields of Agrocenter in exchange for unique melons that boost your statistics temporarily;
  • Harry the Bunny Master’s Axe – a tomb on the western fields of Agrocenter. Flintlock;
  • Painting – in the water company in Damonta. Flintlock;
  • Preparation G – a toaster by the Prison. You can give it to captain Sadler in the Canyon of Titan in exchange for a unique sniper rifle, but first you need to find out that he has hemorrhoids thanks to the trait Smartass;
  • Airmall Catalog – a toaster in Sierra Madre airplane in front of Silo 7. Flintlock;
  • Wasteland – a floppy disk with a game that you can find in a computer in Darwin. Flintlock – a unique prize, a trinket of a fan of Wasteland that gives you +1 to luck and perception;
  • Spray Paint – a toaster in a cave in a Radio Tower. Give it to the guardian Khass Tet in the northern part in front of the Guardians Stronghold in exchange for a book that gives you +1 to Brawling;
  • Ace’s Ranger Star – you can find it in the entrance to the Radio Tower. Flintlock;
  • CD-i console – you can buy it from a merchant in Topekan village in the Rail Nomads Camp (Quarx from the Campi s also looking for it). Mercaptain;
  • Miniature leg lamp – a toaster in the underground sewer in Highpool, you need to save the village to get it; Flintlock – as a reward you’ll get Red Rayder’s air gun with ammo (200 pieces) (100% chance to knock out the eye);
  • Dessicated Juniper Berries – a toaster in the Happy Valley, by the rocks, right to the entrance to the Prison. You can give it to Ben in Gorinkovich’s Distillery to get $125 and 3 pieces of Special Lizard Juice (+2 to luck, -1 to Coordination, 200 seconds);
  • Faded Photograph – you can find it in a toaster by Rick’s RV. You can give it to Deputy Mona Shera in the Angel Oracle (California) in exchange for the energy weapon (non-unique);
  • Pocket Knife – in a toaster in the Canyon of Titan. You can exchange it for a unique bladed weapon at Rambeau’s in Hollywood;
  • Medal of Honor – on a graveyard, in a tomb of “Oracle”, on the right side in the back (you can read the names on the tombstones). On the reverse there is a password for opening the safe located by the entrance, right next to the isolation room with the imprisoned Jan in Darwin;
  • Sarah’s Locket – you will get it from Sarah that was injured in the explosion of the monk (Canyon of Titan). She will ask you to take the locket to Damonta and give it to David Barns – you will find out that he is dead but you can still put a locket around his neck;
  • Display Screen – in the junk in Darwin’s undergrounds. You can use it on a ship in Playa del Rey in California to repair the broken panel of the GPS transmitter;
  • Binh’s Basket – in Damonta, if you fail to rescue Binh, you will be able to take the basket from the floor and give it to her father;
  • Turntable – you can get it from a Werewolf in Damonta if you bring him the 7″ Single from a toaster in the Agrocenter. Mercaptain;


  • Babi Ruth – you can find it in a toaster in the Angel Oracle (3 pieces). Give it to O’Biggun in exchange for a book +1 to Brute;
  • Sanford and Sons VHS – you can find it in Los Alamitos, California; you can give it to Samuel (merchants) not further away in Long Beach. In exchange you will get a book +1 to Gunsmith;
  • Baby Wipes – you can find it in a toaster in Angel Oracle. You can give it to Portapotty guy by the toilet in Seal Beach in exchange for $500;
  • D. Wealthy Battlemonster Bomber (guitar) – you can find it in a toaster in a smaller location called La Cienega; Raji will take it from you in Hollywood in exchange for a unique gadget;
  • Dog Whistle – you can find it in a toaster in Long Beach. You can exchange it for 50 Hard Boiled Eggs from Dekkar Firehawk in Los Alamitos;
  • Gloves – in a toaster in Playa del Ray. Ethan White who takes care of goats in Agel Oracle is looking for you and in exchange you will get Milk x3;
  • Hair and Shoulders (shampoo) – you will find it in a toaster in a building by the radar in Rodia. You can give it to Arjuna Rabindranath in exchange for a book +1 to Perception (only if you didn’t report on him to deputy Marshall);
  • Climbing boots – once you visit Angel Oracle again, John that you met before (he was shoveling manure in the northern part of the complex) will be imprisoned. You can either help him or take his shoes and give it to Sandra, if you took her off the tree in front of the gate;
  • Toaster Heating Element – in a toaster in the LA Aquaducts. In order to be able to get to that location, you need to accept a quest from Mister Culture to get him Tori’s head. Bring the heating element to the cook, and Culture will give you his grit;
  • DAT tape – you can find it in a toaster in the undergrounds of Seal Beach. Give it to Mercaptain in the Guardians Stronghold in exchange for upgrades to weapons;
  • House of Pies Menu – in a toaster in the road house in Los Feliz. Give the menu to the gravedigger on the graveyard in Hollywood in exchange for the unique shovel (you can’t use it to dig);
  • Big black dildo – behind a bar in a casino in Rodia you’ll find a toaster with that item. You can exchange it for a unique blunt weapon at the Master Sergeant’s in Hollywood;
  • Galileos Telescope – in a toaster in the Griffith’s Park. You can give it to the weapon seller in Salt Lake for a good SMG;
  • Pooka Shell Necklace – you can find it in a toaster in Santa Monica. Martha in Hollywood will take it from you for food. If you can’t offer to give that item to her, have one of the characters put it on and then the proper dialogue option should appear;
  • 761 Metro Bus Schedule – you can give it to Maggie in Griffith in exchange for a unique gadget;


In the March/April 2012 issue of Organic Gardener magazine, SIMON WEBSTER investigates how to make a successful brew of compost tea: the essence of organic farming and gardening. Plus he provides a step-by-step guide to building your own brewer.

Photo: Simon Webster

Food growers have long added nutrients to their gardens by soaking manure or compost in containers of water and pouring the resultant brew on their plants. But according to soil microbiology expert Dr Elaine Ingham, this traditional method of making “compost tea” can produce mixed results, particularly in terms of the vital microbial life the liquid contains. Dr Ingham, chief scientist at the US organic research institution, the Rodale Institute, first studied anaerobic “tea-like preparations” in 1977.

“It was my first introduction to the horrors of what can happen when manures are allowed to ferment,” she says. “A large number of the organisms in the ferment were human disease-causing organisms, or pathogens.”

Animal manures contain large amounts of E.coli, Dr Ingham says, and should always be composted. But even when compost rather than manure is used to make tea, the bucket method can be problematic. When bacteria grow too quickly they use up all the oxygen, creating anaerobic conditions that favour pathogens and cause good microbes to go dormant.

“If the compost is not mature and there are lots of available foods in the compost it can cause anaerobic conditions,” Dr Ingham explains. “If the compost is mature, it is not as likely to result in something detrimental to your plant… rapid microbial growth won’t occur.”

Dr Ingham says that weed teas (made by soaking weeds in water) also produce mixed results. She says that while weeds from a healthy garden will have good microorganisms on their surfaces, weeds from gardens with lots pests and disease problems may produce tea full of disease organisms.

Weed teas generally turn anaerobic in the first week, Dr Ingham says. The best thing to do is leave them for weeks or even months. When the food runs out, the bacteria stop growing, oxygen moves back into the tea and as it becomes aerobic the good microbes emerge from dormancy, growing slowly on the wastes that the pathogens produced.

Abundant life

To quickly produce a compost tea packed with good microbial life (bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes), a different method is needed. These days a number of farmers and backyard growers are “brewing” compost tea using a constant, substantial supply of oxygen. This allows good microorganisms to multiply rapidly without turning the brew anaerobic. The result is actively aerated compost tea (AACT). It contains an abundance of biological life: the essence of organic farming.

Compost tea is becoming widely adopted by organic farmers and is used on a wide range of crops including vegetables, fruit, vines, cotton and cereals. It is used on trees, grass and gardens in public parks, on golf courses and bowling greens, and in the remediation of mining sites and saline and acidic soils.

Good compost tea requires good compost. To make this, assemble a minimum one-cubic-metre heap of balanced and diverse materials (50 per cent brown, such as twigs, dried grass and shredded paper; 40 per cent green, such as fresh grass and soft stems; and 10 per cent high-nitrogen, such as manure or legumes) and keep it damp but not wet.

Monitor with a temperature probe and turn the heap each time its temperature rises above 55°C and starts to drop, or if it reaches 65°. When you turn the heap and the temperature does not rise again, it is ready for tea brewing.

If you suspend this compost in water and connect a pump, the turbulence knocks microbes off the compost and into the water. Give the microbes food, such as kelp, fish or molasses, and they breed prolifically.

Of course, you could introduce these microbes to your garden simply by applying compost. But spreading compost over large areas can be back-breaking and expensive. Compost tea is easier – a 20-litre brew made from a handful of compost can inoculate an acre (almost half a hectare) with good microbes. Compost tea can also be applied as a foliar spray, with potential pest and disease-fighting benefits (see below).

If you are not certain about the quality of your compost, author and soil expert Tim Marshall suggests enlivening it with recently collected liquid from a worm farm. “It is free and easily obtained and will definitely contain viable organisms,” he says.

Soil biology

“If we ever want to reduce the cost of growing crops, and want to have sustainable production where we regenerate soil instead of destroying it, we have to concentrate on managing soil life,” says Dr Ingham, who in 1996 founded Soil Foodweb Australia, which runs soil food web courses and advises farmers on compost tea use.

While a detailed description of the soil food web is beyond the scope of this article, to summarise:

Plants attract microbes to their root zones by giving off “exudates” of carbohydrates. Microbes feed on the exudates and each other, producing their own wastes and exudates, which becomes food for plants.

Any nutrients that plants don’t use are locked up again by other microbes, which means that – unlike chemical fertilisers – they won’t be washed away. Food is constantly being cycled, and made available for plants to take up whenever they need it.

As well as improving nutrient availability, a healthy soil food web will:

improve soil structure and reduce compaction: bacterial exudates are sticky and make soil particles stick together, while fungi, earthworms and arthropods move through the soil, creating pathways; control disease: fungi and bacteria form protective nets around roots, outcompete pathogens or consume them; decompose chemical residues and toxic materials.

In short, a balanced soil food web is what organic growers should aim for. Chemical fertilisers, pesticides, land clearing and tillage destroy this biology. Compost and compost teas are ways of putting it back.

To buy or make a brewer?

Instead of the bucket or bin brew method, better results come from brewers that pump oxygen into the mix. Commercially made compost tea brewers vary in size from 20 litres to thousands of litres. Home-made brewers are cheaper and can be easy to put together. If you follow the right plan they can also be effective (see ‘Make Your Own’).

“Home-made brewers can be as good as mass-produced brewers,” Dr Ingham says. “The sticking point is aeration and good cleaning.” Note: In stories still accessible online, Dr Ingham describes making a brewer using aquarium airstones. She no longer recommends these, which she says are difficult to clean. Anaerobic microbes build up, leading to the contamination of tea with pathogens.

How to use compost tea

Compost teas are used in a couple of ways. Sprayed (or watered using a watering can) on soil, they add soluble nutrients and biological life to that soil. Applied as a foliar spray, they allow these goodies to occupy the leaf surface so that baddies such as powdery mildew have nowhere to get a foothold. Exactly how efficacious compost teas are in preventing disease has varied greatly in different trials. This may be because there are so many variables in tea-making. Dr Ingham says problems often arise when trials don’t use well-made compost.

She recommends three foliar applications of compost tea in a growing season to control foliar disease and insect pests: “More may be needed in particularly difficult seasons or if inadequate air flow through the crop occurs.”

Compost tea used as a foliar spray will stick to leaves without adding a surfactant. “Actively growing organisms make glue layers around their bodies in order to hold themselves on surfaces,” Dr Ingham says.

To add microbial life that will help control soil pathogens and pests, Dr Ingham recommends an annual application of compost (a minimum of 3kg of compost added to a 1m seed row), or several applications of compost tea to soil each year.

If using a backpack sprayer to apply compost tea, it’s important not to kill the good microbes in the process. Nozzle apertures should be no finer than 450 microns. Fan jet nozzles are best, and pressure should not exceed 65 PSI (about 4.5 bar). It is best to spray during cooler parts of the day, when evaporation and UV levels are low. Dusk is ideal. Microbes take 20 minutes to adhere to leaves, so apply foliar sprays at least 20 minutes before rain. Soil sprays can be applied during rain.

Do I need a microscope?

Serious compost tea makers might consider investing about $400 in a microscope to see exactly what they are brewing. Classes and books can help with identification of microbes. For those without a microscope, Dr Ingham advises: “Maintain conditions that are as aerobic as possible. Pay attention to smell, colour and plant response once you apply the material.” OG

Fruit trees grow best in fungal-dominant soils, whereas vegetables prefer bacterially dominated soils. Brewing the right compost tea will help give the plants the conditions they like best.

Commercial growers rely on soil tests to brew teas specific to their existing soil life and crops. For backyard growers, the following recipes, provided by Soil Foodweb Australia, are a good place to start. Each recipe makes 20 litres of tea, which will cover one acre (0.4 hectare), but can be used on a smaller area: you can’t apply too much.

General purpose tea

(balanced fungal-bacterial brew)

  • 20 litres water
  • 80ml fish hydrolysate*
  • 40ml liquid kelp
  • 200g compost

Add water to bin. If using town water, turn on pump and aerate water for 30 minutes to get rid of chlorine. Add food (fish and kelp) to water. Put compost in ‘tea’ bag. Brew for 24-30 hours.

Vegie patch tea (bacterial brew)

  • 20 litres water
  • 30ml fish hydrolysate*
  • 60ml liquid kelp
  • 10ml blackstrap molasses
  • 200g compost

Brew as per general purpose tea, above.

Orchard tea (fungal brew)

  • 200g compost
  • 10ml fish hydrolosate* mixed with
  • 20ml water
  • 20 litres water
  • 80ml fish hydrolysate*
  • 40ml liquid kelp

Three days before brewing, feed compost by mixing 10ml fish hydrolysate with 20ml of water and sprinkling over the compost. Keep compost in a cardboard box (the cardboard will absorb any excess moisture and allow compost to breathe) and keep in a warm spot (20-30°C). After 2-3 days the compost will have a ‘fuzz’ growing over it – this will be laden with fungal spores. After the compost has ‘fuzzed’ you are ready to brew. Brew as per general purpose tea, above.

* Fish hydrolysate is made from whole fish, broken down by enzymes rather than heat. It contains fish oils that are good food for fungi. The more commonly found fish emulsion is less effective at growing fungi but will suffice as a substitute if need be.

Note: In hot weather reduce food and brewing time. With overnight temperatures above 20°C, brewing will take only 18 hours and food should be halved. Teas should be used within four hours of brewing, before oxygen and microbe levels drop. A quick alternative to brewing compost tea is making compost extract. The same equipment is involved, but only compost is brewed, with no added food. It can be used after just 20-30 minutes of brewing. It will be lower in microbial life but still effective. Food for the microbes can be added to the tea just before it is sprayed.

By: Simon Webster

First published: July 2013

What’s the difference between compost tea & plant/manure tea?

Compost tea is a brown liquid which has been actively aerated, it’s produced “by extracting bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes (all members of the soil foodweb) from compost.” However, compared to compost, it’s an incredibly efficient method of injecting valuable nutrients into your soil (and plant foliage) and creating and/or maintaining the soil foodweb in your soil across small or large areas of land. Dr Elaine Ingham, founder of the Soil Foodweb Institute, is responsible for flying its flag in a major way, traveling the world educating people and working with farmers to integrate it into their land management systems.

Now, I’m no compost tea expert. Sure – I’ve completed a short course with Dr Elaine Ingham and am in love with all things compost, however this stuff’s deep and despite years of experimenting, I still consider myself a novice. What’s that saying, the more you learn – the less you know. Anyway, here’s an overview of compost tea, some recipes and insights from various folks around the globe…

Pant/manure tea is the age-old practice of soaking manures or a range of plants in a vessel of water where they leach their nutrients into the water. This can include compost, beneficial plants (comfrey, borage, dandelion to name a few), fish guts and animal manures. It’s then left to ‘stew’ for up to one month in which time it becomes incredibly stinky, indicating that it’s gone anaerobic. I remember working on a farm and having to spread very mature plant tea around the market garden… No matter how many swims I had in the dam I stank for days.

In contrast, compost tea is an aerated brew which doesn’t smell bad (at all) and is usually ready between 24-48 hours depending on the weather and ingredients. The liquid is aerated through an air blower (or fish pump), or if you have no power by stirring it vigorously regularly. By getting air into the liquid, the right environment is created for diverse soil foodweb to form.

So while both provide nutrients, the compost tea also provides *life* to the soil – and that’s what we’re after.

What’s the soil food web?

It’s a complex collection of a trillion or so life forms including bacteria, protazoa, fungi, nematodes, cilliates etc. It describes the relationships between them and how they form a whole system which cycles nutrients through the layers of the soil, making them available to plants and other life forms, above and below the ground. You can read more about it here.

When you think about the type of compost tea you’d like to make, think about what crop you’re trying to grow, this will determine the ingredients you need to put into your brew. For example all annual vegetables naturally thrive in a bacteria rich environment, whereas orchards and other tree crops naturally evolve when fungi dominates. If you check out the basic ecological succession chart below you can see the stages of succession and the areas where bacteria and fungi naturally flourish.

Image adapted from here

There are a hell-of-lot more complexities and overlaps going on than this chart shows, but it gives you a general sense. When making compost tea, you can tailor the tea to suit the crop you’re growing. So if you’re growing annual vegetables, make a compost tea with more bacteria and if your growing tree crops, favour the fungi. Ingredients which foster bacteria are nitrogen materials including manures and plant foliage, to attract fungi include carbon ingredients like wood chips. However, a good compost will have a healthy balance of bacteria and fungi suited for any crop. And fungi is the ultimate soil life form for any crop – in our own garden we actually put a significant amount of carbon into our annual crops by using ramial wood chips to attract fungi… I told you it was complex.

To simplify it, here are two recipes and some great resources for you to go through.

Elaine Ingham has a basic recipe on her website which is centred around having *really* good compost, and a microscope. If you’re after something a bit more approachable, Hobart market gardener, Suzi Lam, has shared her recipe with us below.

Suzi brews her compost tea in a 20 litre bucket for up to 48 hours and dilutes it to (approx. 10:1) to water her 1/4 acre market garden. It’s important to note that you need dechlorinated water, if you’re on town water, simply leave a bucket of water out for 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate before you make your brew.

A good looking brew in process, those bubbles are a good indicator that things are going well, the other main indicator is the smell – it should smell sweet and earth.

An important tip is to clean all the materials thoroughly after you’ve finished so there’s no ‘scum’ left on the bucket for air blower, otherwise there’s risk of contamination for the next brew. Everything needs to be clean and fresh, you can use hot water and elbow grease to clean.

Can you put too much compost tea on your garden?

No, however there’s no need to do it every week, make and apply compost tea strategically to help get a crop started or just before fruiting.

Is compost tea the answer to all soil problems?

Some people say yes, but we think no. Specifically, it does not resolve mineral imbalances, it may help – but as far we understand things, it cannot fix it. We recommend approaching soil remediation by first doing a soil test to determine the mineral/nutrient content and then using a range of methods which can include compost, compost tea and possibly (depending on scale and context) applying some minerals to help bring everything back into balance. A good book to read about using minerals and growing nutrient dense food is The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon.

Other good resources

  • Teaming with Microbes (Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis)
  • The Compost Tea Brewing Manual (Elaine Ingham)

What is the difference between compost tea, manure tea, compost leachate and herbal tea?

Starting from scratch:

  • “Manure” refers to organic material used as fertilizer. This includes animal manure, compost, and green manure.
  • “Compost” is decomposed organic matter.
  • “Tea” in this context is the liquid resulting from steeping compost (or manure) in water for a period of time.
  • “Leachate” is liquid that leaches out of something.

Given the definitions above, compost is manure, and broken-down animal manure is compost. Most people I know who say “manure” mean animal manure — any other use is qualified, e.g. “green manure”. “Organic” regulations in some places may make a technical distinction between “manure” and “compost”.

Below when I say “manure” I mean “animal manure”, and “compost” means compost produced without any animal feces.


  • “Compost tea” is the liquid product created by steeping compost in water.
  • “Manure tea” is the liquid product created by steeping manure in water.
  • “Compost leachate” is the liquid that seeps from the bottom of your pile or tumbler.
  • “Herbal tea” is something I’d make in the kitchen to drink… I’m not sure about this usage in a gardening context except to assume that it involves steeping herbs in water to use as a spray for plants…

The leachate may have high concentrations of pathogens if they are present in your pile. I wouldn’t spray it on my vegetable garden. I’d just let it leach into the soil around the pile and enrich the soil there — it is likely to contain nutrients that leach out of the compost pile. Covering your pile can reduce the amount of leachate produced and thus the amount of nutrients lost from the end product.

I’d only make manure tea with well-rotted (composted) manure to avoid contamination with pathogens — or use it only on non-edibles.

Compost tea is useful as a fertilizer. Research indicates it may help fight certain plant diseases.

Finally, just like compost has many “recipes” and techniques, and widely varying quality levels, there are many recipes and techniques for creating teas, each with widely varying quality levels.

Garden Myths – Learn the truth about gardening

In may last couple of posts on manure tea and compost tea I explained why there is little or no reason to brew the tea. I am sure that I have not convinced all of you since the web is full of stories promoting manure tea as a good thing for your plants. If you want to brew some tea it probably will not harm you or your plants, but it could; see the bottom section of Compost Tea.

If you must brew some tea, please do it intelligently. Don’t use commercial products!

Manure Tea bags ready for brewing your own.

Commercial Manure Tea Bags

Let’s consider a much hipped product called Authentic Haven Brand (pictured above).

This company takes a small amount of manure and packages it in a handy little bag that resembles a large tea bag. They sell 3 tea bags for $12.95. You can get 3 gift wrapped tea bags for only 19.95 – my wife will be so pleased with this gift. Here honey – I bought you some horse dung.

They recommend one tea bag for 5 gallons of water. That will produce a tea of much lower strength than the usual recommendations for making manure tea (1/3 manure to 2/3 water) which already produces a tea of low nutrient value.

The company makes the following claims about their product:

1) It conditions soil. Not true. The few nutrients in the tea will have no effect on the soil’s condition.

2) There is an implication that the tea increases root mass. That is not likely, given the very low levels of nutrients provided by the tea. Besides any fertilizer will increase root mass.

3) Chemical fertilizers are dangerous to your plants health. Not true. The nutrients in manure tea are exactly the same chemicals as found in commercial fertilizers–see What is Organic Fertilizer for more details. The author clearly does not understand the basic chemistry of plant nutrients.

They don’t say much else about their product. There is no nutrient analysis – they are probably embarrassed about the results. There is no reported study to back up their claims.

Ridiculous Price for Manure

They don’t even tell you how much manure is in each bag. Based on the pictures I would guess that each bag holds about $0.05 worth of manure. I can get a delivered trailer full for $45. At $4.32 a tea bag, that is about a 10,000% mark up. That is a crazy price to pay for a small handful of manure.

Given that the scientific evidence shows manure tea does very little for your plants, why would anyone spend so much money for so little manure?

Manure is great for the garden–don’t waste your time making tea.

If you like this post, please share …….

Manure Tea On Crops: Making And Using Manure Fertilizer Tea

Using manure tea on crops is a popular practice in many home gardens. Manure tea, which is similar in nature to compost tea, enriches the soil and adds much needed nutrients for healthy plant growth. Let’s look at how to make manure tea.

Manure Fertilizer Tea

The nutrients found in manure tea make it an ideal fertilizer for garden plants. The nutrients from manure dissolve easily in water where it can be added to a sprayer or watering can. The leftover manure can be thrown in the garden or reused in the compost pile.

Manure tea can be used each time you water plants or periodically. It can also be used to water lawns. However, it is important to dilute the tea prior to use so as not to burn the roots or foliage of plants.

How to Make Manure Tea for Garden Plants

Manure tea is simple to make and is done the same way as passive compost tea. Like compost tea, the same ratio is used for the water and manure (5 parts water to 1 part manure). You can either place a shovel full of manure in a 5-gallon bucket, which will require straining, or in a large burlap sack or pillowcase.

Make certain that the manure has been well cured beforehand. Fresh manure is much too strong for plants. Suspend the manure-filled “tea bag” in the water and allow it to steep for up to a week or two. Once the manure has fully steeped, remove the bag, allowing it to hang above the container until the dripping has ceased.

Note: Adding the manure directly to the water usually speeds up the brewing process. The “tea” is usually ready within only a few days, stirring thoroughly over this period. Once it has fully brewed, you will have to strain it through cheesecloth to separate the solids from the liquid. Discard the manure and dilute the liquid prior to use (a good ratio is 1 cup tea to 1 gallon of water).

Making and using manure tea is a great way to give your garden crops the extra boost they need for optimal health. Now that you know how to make manure tea, you can use it all the time to give a boost to your plants.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *