Friday, 26 October 2007

Food Gardening For Beginners - Part 10

Teas for Plants

Making Plant Based Liquid Fertilizers
Plant based teas, or brews, are made by half filling a bucket or larger container with the leaves of the chosen plants and filling it up with rainwater.

You then allow the mixture to 'brew' for a couple of weeks, stirring occasionally, until the plant materials have broken down. Be warned this process usually stinks (badly) so don't leave it too close to your (or your neighbours) house or windows.
A lid is a very good idea too!

When it is ready strain a small amount off, through an old stocking, and dilute with more rainwater to the colour of weak tea and water the plants with it.
A very weak (half strength again) solution should be used on young seedlings.
The plant residue can then be added to the soil, mulch or the compost heap.

Plants that are useful are:

Comfrey - Symphytum officinale
- provides calcium, nitrogen and potassium

Nettles - Urtica dioica
- provides calcium, copper, iron, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Dandelions -Taraxacum officinale
- provides calcium, manganese, phosphorus and potassium

Other deep rooted plants or weeds (don't include the seeds but these would probably drown anyway)
Some of these can include the leaves of greens from the veg garden like beetroot, brassicas, spinach and watercress.
Alfalfa - Medicago sativa (Lucerne to us Aussies), chickweed, fat hen and bracken.
Herbs like borage, chamomile, valerian and yarrow.
A mixture of any or all of the above.

There may be other useful plants in your area to use especially 'weeds' as these plants are often found growing on poor soils or problem areas. They actually are trying to help improve the soil by 'mining' up nutrients from deep in the soil, as their leaves die off the residues of these nutrients are left at soil level and help build the soil up naturally.

Compost tea from well made Compost is also useful.
As is a worm cast brew made by adding worm castings from composting worm farms to rainwater. Go here to see an excellent worm farm set up, step by step from Rhonda at Down to Earth.

I have said to use rainwater here because our tap supply is heavily treated with chemicals and some of these (like chlorine) can inhibit the breakdown process.

Liquid manures can be made in a similar way by tying some animal manure in a bag (hessian or shadecloth) and suspending it in a bucket or container of rainwater, leaving it to brew and then diluting the resulting liquid as above. Again this really stinks so positioning (and a lid) is important.
Liquid fertilizers can be purchased as a quick fix solution but it is easy to make your own and save your money.

Read more:
Comfrey Tea
Compost Tea
Brewing up Worm Castings

To read this series from the beginning go here: or follow the links on this page.

Part 11: Planting Bare Rooted Fruit Trees

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