How to make your own liquid fertiliser (Weed Tea/Manure Tea/Compost Tea)
Benefits of liquid fertiliser:
The benefits of making your own liquid fertilisers include:
- low cost and low tech
- recycling an otherwise waste product
- providing nutrients in an easily accessed form to your garden (great for fast growing, leafy green vegetables).
Any of these teas can be applied direct to the soil, or used as a foliar feed. Remember its best to apply to leaves in the morning to reduce any chance of fungal disease (from damp conditions overnight), and remember to thoroughly wash any produce before consuming it.
Liquid teas are like a "protein shake" for your garden. They are quickly taken up, help stimulate microbial activity in the soil and can quickly address nutrient difficiencies. They are best used in conjunction with good organic soil building techniques to provide optimal growing conditions over the long term.
Using weeds from the garden to make a rich fertiliser is a totally satisfying win:win situation. Who doesn't like the idea of drowning weeds and making your own free plant food?
What you will need:
A large drum in which to brew the tea (a plastic rubbish bin with a well fitting lid is ideal). The brew can be quite vile smelling; so the lid is quite important! If you have the choice, position the drum away from the house and from neighbours.
A large plastic plant pot with drainage holes which can stand inside the drum; or
A porous sack or bag which can be placed inside the drum (an old pillowcase works well).
Weeds - of any description!!!
Pick enough weeds to fill the pot or sack (squish them in!) and place in the drum. Now fill the drum with water; ensuring the weeds are totally submerged.
Fit the lid; and walk away. (Easy enough so far?)
After about five or six weeks, the weeds will have been drowned, and are decomposing into a brown sludgy mess. Remove your "teabag" or pot and allow to drain. (I would suggest rubber gloves or tongs to do this, if you don't want to wear eau de tea for the next day or so!) This material can be put into your compost or worm farm.
Give the liquid a stir with a stake and use diluted at approx. one part tea to 10 parts water (it needs to look like weak tea).
This "liquid gold" contains all the nutrients those weeds were sucking from your garden; so you can return them to the soil by applying the tea. The liquid can also be added to compost heaps and used just about anywhere.
What is comfrey? It is a low growing, leafy herb which makes a great addition to any garden. It is very deep rooted, which means it is great at accessing nutrients in the soil which are below the reach of other plants in your garden. By using it's leaves to make tea (as per weed tea) you are effectively making those nutrients available to other plants.
A border of comfrey also helps to keep grasses like couch and kikuyu out of your garden beds. It also has medicinal uses - consult a good herb book to find out more!
Manure Tea, / Compost Tea*
This is made in a very similar method; although a porous bag would be preferable to a pot to hold the manure or compost. Any form or mixture of animal manure can be used, provided it is not fresh. Pelletised chicken manure (eg. Multigrow) can be used, and a mixture of manure and compost is great too.
Fill the sack to approx 2/3 and tie off using twine or rope. Place the bag inside the drum. (You can suspend the bag by the rope if you like to allow water to penetrate evenly all around.)
Allow to steep for about 2 - 3 weeks; stirring every couple of days - if you remember. Remove the bag and allow to drain (catch the drips into a bucket!). The soggy manure or compost can be added to garden beds, compost bin or worm farm.
Stir the liquid and dilute at at least one part tea to 5 parts water.
For an even faster tea:
Use the manure or compost directly in the water (no teabag required). Stir daily. After about 3 days, strain off the solids and use the tea diluted as above on your garden.
(* Compost Tea. This method describes the basic method of compost tea making. More complex, aerobic methods are possible. We will have some news on an exciting new Compost Tea business in Perth coming soon on our website.)