That “green thumb” urge strikes when the weather turns even slightly more Spring-like. And tea can be your garden’s best friend. Whether in compost or a liquid fertilizer, using tea to promote growth in other plants is becoming increasingly touted. And it’s no small wonder. A lot of good stuff gets infused out of those tea leaves into the water during steeping, but quite a bit remains.
This article addresses tea used on a private basis, not a larger commercial scale done at tea gardens with the leftovers from tea processing. We are also not talking about “compost tea” here, a very misleading term that describes a liquidy version of compost ant is used to water plants.
Composting used tea is a great way to enrich the soil in your garden. Used tea leaves are nutrient rich, having a high nitrogen content, plus phosphorus, potassium, and various trace minerals, all of which are needed by plants (and used in commercial fertilizers). Adding your used tea leaves to compost or applying them directly to your garden puts these resources to use.
Not all teabags are biodegradable. In fact, a great deal of fuss has been raised about this, with tea vendors being made to feel like total cads for using them. But even teabags said to be biodegradable break down slower than the tea leaves or dust in them. To solve this, let the teabags dry out overnight and then cut or tear them open, discarding the bag. Better yet, switch to steeping loose leaf tea (my little side note here).
True “Compost Tea”
Tea waste (usually the spent tea leaves) is used to prepare compost “tea” (a very watery form of compost) that inhibits leaf diseases, increases the quality and quantity of nutrients going to the plant, and helps breakdown toxins. It influences plants more rapidly since it is absorbed more rapidly by the roots.
Tea as Mulch
Broken-leaf tea can be applied directly to the soil as a mulch. It then breaks down quickly, mixing readily with the soil. In contrast, whole-leaf teas have a coarser texture but still finer than commercially available mulches. Use broken and whole leaf mulches either mixed or in separate applications. Either way, this mulch will hold water well like other leaf mulches, so a good location to use it on is exposed areas of soil to hold in moisture. Use around plants that can take a bit of extra dampness versus those that need a drier, well-drained soil.
If you have an urge to grow your own mushrooms, first be sure you know which ones are safe to eat and then save your tea waste for use in growing them. A mixture of tea waste with peat in a 1:1 ratio improved the yield of mushroom.
Watering with Tea
Both plants you grow in your house and outdoors in containers will benefit when watered with steeped tea. Let it cool first, though, to room temperature. Don’t forget to make use of those spent tea leaves and grounds, but remove them from the bag first. Used tea leaves are especially good for roses.
Blooming Tea Times
That bit of tea boost to your garden will give you a wonderful location for a blooming tea time. Steep some tea and bring it out to the garden in a travel mug to sip on while you take in the view!
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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