Updated: Mar 2, 2021
Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Compost tea, worm compost tea and fertilizer tea – what is the difference? Compost tea is simply the liquid that drips from your composter while your compost bin makes compost. It is strong and should be diluted before using. Worm compost tea is the extra liquid from your red wiggler worm bin and should also be diluted before use. Fertilizer tea, also referred to as Garden Tea, can be made several different ways. The best definition I found is a concentrated liquid fertilizer made from steeping plants in aerated water.
Garden teas can be made from any healthy plant that grows in your yard, even weeds. Finally, a use for dandelions. They are full of vitamins A & C along with calcium and potassium. Grass works great too. Grass clippings are high in nitrogen and potassium. Collect your clippings next time you mow the lawn, fill a five-gallon bucket half full of clippings, add water and steep, stirring daily. You will want to cover with screen or landscape fabric to be sure you don’t grow a crop of mosquitos.
Another way is to use pieces of healthy plants you are trimming or removing. Cut them into manageable pieces and put in a five-gallon bucket. When the bucket is half full of plant material, fill the bucket to the top with water – rainwater is best. I have had good luck adding alfalfa pellets at this point as well. Alfalfa is high in nitrogen, vitamin A, folic acid, potassium, and calcium. Stir daily to aerate. After two weeks strain out the solids and use as a fertilizer.
Plants remove the nutrients from your soil and by making this “tea” the nutrients can be leached out of the plant and added back into the soil.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.