All plants need water and nutrients to grow properly. A tea fertilizer combines these two elements into a nutrient-rich solution that feeds garden plants while simultaneously keeping them hydrated. If you are an organic gardener, you can take advantage of these benefits by watering your plants with a fertilizer tea to grow a lush, healthy garden without relying on synthetic chemical fertilizers. Many organic tea fertilizers contain similar ingredients.
Organic tea fertilizers are liquid formulas based around plain water. Commercial tea fertilizer manufacturers may use distilled, filtered water. Backyard gardeners who brew their own tea fertilizers will typically use fresh water from a garden hose or household tap.
Solid Fertilizer Base
A solid organic fertilizer material is steeped in the water. The material leeches its water-soluble nutrients into the water. Fertilizer materials typically used include aged farm animal manure and homemade compost. More exotic fertilizer material, such as bat guano or kelp meal, can also be used.
"Tea Bag" Holder
The organic fertilizer material is emptied into a burlap bag, cloth bag or similarly permeable object and suspended in the water for an extended period of time. This allows the water to penetrate the fertilizer and dissolve its inert nutrients, which then dissolve into the water for future use as plant "tea."
There is no set standard on nutrient percentages or content, especially when the organic tea fertilizer is made at home. The nutritional content of a tea fertilizer varies widely according to the nutrient content of its solid fertilizer base. In general, organic tea fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the basic nutrients required by plants. Additional contents include beneficial bacteria and enzymes, peptides and trace elements. The higher the nutritional density of the fertilizer base, the higher the nutritional content in the fertilizer tea.
Making Tea Fertilizer at Home
Stuff a standard knee-length cotton sock with compost, aged manure or a similar organic fertilizer. Knot the end of the sock, or tie it shut with a piece of garden twine. Place the sock in a 5-gallon plastic bucket and fill with 4 gallons of water. Place the bucket in sunshine to encourage beneficial bacteria growth, which helps decompose the submerged fertilizer and encourages the release of nutrients and enzymes. Let the tea brew for 48 hours, then remove the sock. Use the tea to water your plants once every 3 to 4 weeks.