5. Jan, 2019

Herbal, Plant and Seaweed Teas & Liquid Feeds

 Fermented, or plant, teas are typically produced by soaking un-decomposed plant materials inun-chlorinated  water for two or three week and provide a natural  source of plant nutrients and an alternative to chemical fertilisers and pesticides  which may  harm insects, wildlife, plants and the soil. The www.carryoncomposting.com web page on plant feeds has been updated and now includes information on

Comfrey Tea

Comfrey is the most popular of these teas and we would recommend all composters to make it to supplement their composting and compost teas. Comfrey is a good source of potassium and nitrogen. Comfrey tea promotes the development of flowers and fruit and is best applied once the first flowers have set. It is recommended for use on tomatoes and peppers.

The most common method of making comfrey tea  involves soaking the leaves in water but this is the method that produces the famous stinking liquid feed. A barrel or tub is quarter filled with comfrey leaves  topped up with water and allowed to stand for 3 to 5 weeks. To make a good concentrated fertilizer the leaves should be pressed down into the container by a weight of top such as a brick of broken paving slab. Use a container with a lid to contain the smell.

Concentrated comfrey tea

Concentrated Comfrey tea has the advantage of not smelling anywhere near as much as the dilutes version. I recommend that it is made using a drainage pipe fitted with an end cap through which a single drainage hole has been drilled. Comfrey leaves are compressed in the pipe using a plastic bottle filled with sand or water or a sparkling wine bottle which is heavier and more fun to empty before use in the tube.

Dandelion Tea

Dandelions  can be eaten  in the early spring, the green buds can be eaten, and the opened blossoms used for jelly and the larger leaves dried to make a drink but to most of us they are a weed. But they are a weed that can be turned into a liquid plant feed with the remaining sludge being compostable.

Horsetail Tea

 Horsetail can be a nuisance on allotments as it is difficult to eradicate and while some might  want to grow it as medical or cosmetic herb it should be remembered that the next occupant of the plot will have inherited a problem or a very persistent weed. I advocate banning the deliberate cultivation, horsetail tea can form part of an eradication programme when the plant is present
Horsetail is high in silica and a when soaked to make a tea which, is said, to coat the leaves of treated plants producing a fungicide and protect against blackspot, mildew and mint rust. 

The plants need to be fully submerged under the water so  are best put in a sack or an old vegetable net  pinned down with a large stone or to suspend it in a submerged weighted bag .  Regular stirring is recommended. The fermentation process can range from  10 days to 3 weeks, depending on the ambient temperature. During fermentation the mixture will produce gas which will  bubble on the surface. Once the bubbling has stopped the  it has finished bubbling the liquid can be strained and used.

Nettle Tea

Cut young nettles to about 5cm above soil level. Crush the leaves by scrunching the stems in gloved hands or by placing them on a freshly mown lawn and using a mower to chop them.

Put the crushed nettles into a bucket,  weigh down with a brick and  cover with water. Use about a half a standard bucket full (about one kilogram) of leaves to 10 litres of water. Allow to soak for 2 - 4 weeks. Stir occasionally.  

 Seaweed Plant Feed

Seaweed is a good  source of  potassium,  up to 12%, and trace elements but it is  low in nitrogen and phosphate. spraying is said to increase resistance to insect infestation. 

 To make a liquid seaweed brew soak the seaweed for about two months. It turns  brown as it decomposes and will produce a fishy smell when being used.