Brewing & Using Manure Tea
Looking to make your garden grow even better than it does now?
Well—if you have chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats, cows or horses you have all you need to make your own power packed liquid fertilizer.
Yep, that’s right. Manure can be made into a liquid fertilizer, often referred to as “manure tea”.
Mulching your garden with leaves, grass clippings, used livestock bedding or any other organic material is a great way to add nutrients back into the soil, making it friable and easy to work. But, adding a dose of manure tea will punch up the nutrients ten-fold.
We have a routine around our homestead…late fall is the time when the livestock trailer is cleaned out and old shavings and straw is used to fill the nesting boxes in the chicken coop. It’s wintered over in the coop and the hens add another layer of manure to the mix. Come spring we have a good amount of compost to add to the garden beds, enriching the soil and increasing the good bacteria and microorganism population. Gotta keep up the good stuff in our soil, right?
But now we have one added step. We add a generous dose of manure tea to the beds before mixing in all that great compost. Unlike compost tea, which increases the good microbes in the soil, manure tea pulls the nutrients out of the manure, dissolving them into a liquid tea. Making manure tea is also a simple and fast process, so it won’t take long before your garden can benefit from all those added nutrients.
Although chicken manure has the highest level of nitrogen and one of the highest levels of Phosphorous and Potassium, any manure can be used to make manure tea. Since we have chickens, rabbits, ducks and sheep that’s what we’ve used over the years.
So—how simple is making manure tea?
- Grab yourself a 5-gallon bucket (preferably one without a crack, (sometimes hard to find around here).
- Dump in a heaping shovel full of aged manure. (Use aged, as fresh can burn your plants and roots).
- Fill the bucket with water and vigorously stir to churn everything up.
- Let the bucket sit for about a week so the “tea” can brew. Stir every day to aerate the mixture so bad bacteria doesn’t grow.
I told you it was simple.
How to Use Manure Tea
Finished manure tea can be used straight from the bucket using a ladle or watering can.
If your tea turns out really dark it should be diluted at a 1:1 ratio. Simply pour half the tea into a new bucket and fill with water, then strain out the solids from the original bucket and fill with water. Now you have two buckets of tea. Add the solids to your compost pile or till them into garden beds.
Manure tea is best used around the base of young seedlings or plants, giving them a boost of nitrogen to help them grow. Applications can be made once a week using a watering can or pump sprayer. Be cautious, though. Manure has pathogens that can cause illness, so manure tea should not be used on root crops like beets, carrots, onions or potatoes. Also, it should not be applied to the leaves of edible plants like lettuce, kale, spinach or other greens where the leaves can be eaten.
NOTE: I make a big batch of manure tea using an old 35-gallon water tub. Because of the container size I fill it with about 8 to 10-inches of manure, then fill with water. I let it steep and pull out the finished tea using a bucket or watering can. It is used straight on the garden beds as I am preparing them for planting in early spring. I wait about a week or so before planting. After planting I can reapply using a watering can or ladle.