The Wonder of Manure Tea

There’s nothing like the long days of summer to get you thinking you could really get used to this. The plants are blooming, the veggies are finally producing and it seems summer will go on forever.

For many, gardening is a way to recharge their batteries. Planting, mulching, pruning or weeding- they are happiest with their hands in the soil.  For others, maintenance is a prison sentence. I fall somewhere in between. Spring finds me out in the garden planting till dark, but now I’m ready to sit back and enjoy the garden more.

Here’s a tip that’s easy enough even for me to tackle this time of year and will make all my plants ever so happy. A drink of manure tea is just what the doctor ordered.

Manure tea experts start with well composted manure because fresh manure may contain E. coli bacteria. If you buy composted manure or sufficiently compost your own, the E. coli should be long gone. Manure from animals raised organically usually do not have e. coli or salmonella in their gut. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association recommends that manure tea be applied 60 days before harvesting vegetables and 120 days before harvesting root crops just to be sure.   Cow manure is the most common type used but composted horse, rabbit, chicken or sheep manure can also be used.

To get started, you need a 5 gallon bucket, a generous shovel full of pure manure and water. Put the manure in the bucket, then fill with water and mix vigorously. Allow to sit covered for three days, stirring once each day. This allow time for nutrients to infuse the water and all the solids to separate. The result is a liquid enriched with all but the organic matter from the manure. At this point, it may be too strong to apply to plants. Thin it with fresh water until the color is like ice tea, then you don’t have to worry about it burning any of your plants. You can work the residual organic matter into the soil or add it to your compost heap.

For a large garden make your manure tea in 50 gallon drums. Keep the drum in the garden all the time adding manure and water as you use up the current supply. With such a large container, you can dip a smaller bucket to water down the strong stuff. Another way to make large quantities of manure tea is to use a 40 gallon trash can. Fill a burlap bag with about 8# of manure and place it in the water filled can. Raise and lower it occasionally. Always cover your containers to keep insects out.

As the growing season rolls along, you may find your vegetable garden slowing down. This is because the original organic matter and fertilizer you tilled in have been used up. Manure tea is the perfect way to refuel your garden so it’s geared up to take advantage of the cooler fall days. If well fed, you can coax many plants, especially greens, to put on enough growth for a second harvest season.

Manure tea makes a fine transplant solution when diluted 3:1. Diluted tea can also be used on potted plants, shrubs, trees and perennials.

Remember organic fertilizers of any kind are beneficial to the soil. They build up the organic content which improves its drainage and structure. By improving a soils structure you also increase its ability to hold and release nutrients.


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