I recently completed a project that I’d been thinking about for a while: I made manure tea. I learned how to make it during training in Peace Corps, and used it on my own garden in Paraguay. Here at the farm we are practically swimming in manure thanks to our lovely dairy cows, rabbits, and chickens, so I figured we could make our own.
Our hoophouse residents (a whole lot of tomatoes and other things right now) were looking like they could use some nutrients, and I thought it would be good to have on-hand to use when needed, so I made a lot: a 55-gallon drum’s worth.
The idea behind manure tea (no, it is not what I drink every morning; that’s maté) is taking a natural fertilizer like cow poop, soaking it in water, and using that diluted water to water your plants every so often. This takes the place of a commercial fertilizer. Here’s what you need.
porous bag (or bag you have poked holes in) – this can be the size of a reusable cloth grocery bag
lots of water
big barrel or bucket (I used a 55-gallon plastic drum)
manure (of the cow or chicken variety) – enough to fill the bag
smaller container to dilute in (10-15 gal?)
watering can or a way to apply tea to plants
Making Manure Tea
- Locate your manure. I used fairly fresh cow manure from the dairy parlor. The 9-year-old who shoveled it into the bag I was holding open said “I’ve never seen anyone put poop in a bag before. That’s weird.” I know. Put the poop in the bag and close the bag.
- Fill your barrel/bucket with cold water. The amount of water is not as important as the fact that you remember to dilute the tea when you are using it. Put the bag into the water. It will float.
- Cover the barrel, and wait. Now your tea will steep. The longer you wait the more you have to dilute the liquid before you use it. I waited about a week before using mine. To use it I filled one watering can full of the manure tea, then poured the tea in a blue tub (pictured).
- Then I used the hose to fill the blue tup up the rest of the way with water, diluting the manure tea. This was approximately the recommended dilution of 1:10 (tea:water) for cow manure. Horse manure can be used 1:5, apparently.
- I used the same watering can to distribute this mixture among the potted plants in the greenhouse. I watered each plant as much as I would during a normal watering, which meant that I had to repeat the process of diluting and making more manure tea for the blue tub twice, to accommodate all the pots.
Now you have some liquid fertilizer to use on your plants! It is useful for repleting nutrient content in soil. There are many ways to make manure tea, and many funny names for it. My favorite is “poop soup.” A couple useful links about manure tea are this and this.