Manure Tea: The Whole Stinking Truth

Manure Tea

If you have backyard chickens or live near a horse farm, you should take advantage of the unique wonders of manure. Not only should you be adding manure to your compost pile but you should also be making manure tea for an exceptional liquid fertilizer for your garden.   

What is manure tea?

Manure tea is a mixture of aged or composted manure steeped in water to make a liquid fertilizer to use around your garden. Animal manure is rich in nutrients and organic matter and when applied to plants and roots it can help develop healthy, living soil.

Why is liquid fertilizer superior to solid? Because in liquid form, key nutrients like nitrogen are more readily absorbed by plant roots and are more quickly taken up by the soil.

Manure tea helps to condition the soil for plant roots to more efficiently absorb all nutrients. That means that your garden will more easily absorb any nutrients that you add, including those in the tea and any other supplements including finished compost!

Compared to chemical and synthetic additives found in fertilizers, tea is a superior and natural method to excel growth in your garden, flower beds, and yard. It’s also much less expensive, if not entirely free! 

Pro Tip: Tea is not advised for root plants such as carrots, turnips, potatoes, radishes, and beets, as these plants required more potassium than nitrogen.

What is the difference between manure tea and compost tea?

Rabbit Manure Tea

Compost tea is created in a similar fashion to manure tea. Compost is soaked in water to extract key microorganisms: bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, and micro anthropoids.

While compost tea delivers these microorganisms and nutrients to the plants and soil, manure tea lacks all microorganisms and solely provides key nutrients unique to manure to nourish plants and soil.

How to make manure tea

There are two methods to make manure tea: throw everything in a bucket or make a manure tea bag.

Please note, it is best to use aged or composted manure to ensure pathogens are no longer living.

Throw everything in a bucket

  1. Fill a 5-gallon plastic container or bucket with two-thirds water.
  2. Fill the rest of the bucket with manure.
  3. Let steep for 1-2 days and stir it once or twice daily.
  4. When done steeping, let everything settle for an hour (or enough time to allow all the solids to settle at the bottom of the container.)
  5. Put a burlap bag over a second bucket and pour the tea through it to strain out excess manure.

Make a manure tea bag 

  1. Fill a 5-gallon plastic container or bucket with two-thirds water.
  2. Use a cotton pillowcase or a few layers of cheesecloth to tie around the manure.
  3. Let steep for 1-2 days.
  4. When done steeping, lift it out of the bucket and wring it out.
  5. What’s left in the bucket is your tea.

How long does it take to make?

Manure tea takes around 2 days to brew. Regardless of which process you choose, tea should be stirred a few times daily over the two-day process.

During this time, the liquid will turn dark-brown in color and tiny particles of plant food will be released.

What is the best manure to use?

Manure tea can be made from cows, poultry, goat, rabbit, and horse manure.

Avoid manure from cats, pigs, dogs and other carnivorous animals, as it contains harmful pathogens which can contaminant food.

Manure can be utilized from your own animals, bought from a local farm, or purchased as bagged manure from a gardening center. Below is a breakdown of different manures, their nutritional content, and suggested considerations.

Cow manure

Cow Manure Tea

Cow manure is a mixture of digested grasses and grains that is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients. However, it also contains high levels of ammonia and potentially dangerous pathogens.

When using cow manure, allow it to age or compost for 6 months to 1 year prior to brewing manure tea.

Chicken manure

Chicken manure is one of the most nutritive and best manures for plants. It contains calcium, nitrogen, and phosphorus.

Plants that benefit from a higher calcium level in the soil such as tomatoes, watermelons, asparagus, cabbage, peppers, and eggplant, greatly benefit from chicken manure tea.

However, chicken manure also contains higher nitrogen levels which can burn the plant and its roots. You should allow chicken manure to age or compost before using; the aging process will lower the nitrogen level.

Goat manure

Goat manure is rich in nitrogen, potassium, and contains less sodium than other manures. Since it is rich in potassium it is a great manure to utilize on potassium-loving plants such as tomatoes and summer & winter squash!

Goat pellets are harder and drier and are best aged or composted prior to using.

Rabbit manure

Rabbit manure contains a higher level of nitrogen that slowly releases over time, making it a better option for tender roots. For non-edible crops and plants, fresh rabbit manure can be utilized in manure tea.

However, if you plan on using rabbit manure tea on vegetable crops and gardens it is advised to allow it to age and compost.

Horse manure

Horse manure has ample amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and valuable trace minerals that are not found in other manures. Horse manure’s nitrogen is slowly released over time.

Since horse manure is mixed with the animal’s bedding material (usually wood shavings, pellets or sawdust) you should add more horse manure to your tea mix to yield an ample amount of tea.

How to apply tea

After steeping tea for about 2 days, it should be diluted with water prior to applying it to your plants.  It should ideally look like a weak tea or be a light-brownish yellow color.

Once the tea is ready, it can be applied around the plant’s soil. You can apply it with a sprayer or simply pour it around the base of each plant. You can also apply it as a foliar feed, which means directly applying it to the plant’s leaves.

No matter which manure you use or how you apply it, manure tea is a cheap and easy to make recipe for garden greatness.