I’ve had many gardens in my years as a homesteader. My first was a single aloe plant in the window of my apartment kitchen. Then I had a single raised bed which seemed like a huge thing (and it totally was!).
After that, I had 4 raised beds. Now I have an in-ground garden that is growing every year.
I use a permaculture system of building quality soil now (more on that in a future post), but even with the best system for building soil (rotational gardening anyone?), you may still need to feed your plants.
If I don’t get a chance to add manure or compost to the garden in the spring I can still add a lot of nutrients in other ways:
- Organic fertilizer– this organic fertilizer is safe for organic gardens and works great in a pinch, but I always prefer a more sustainable/permaculture approach if possible.
- Manure Tea – Since I have access to free cow manure, I prefer to make manure tea over buying fertilizer (though I’ve done both).
Manure tea is so easy to make. You can use this same technique for compost tea too.
Why Manure Tea is the Best Way to Have an Abundant Garden
Some homesteaders go to great lengths to understand their soil’s unique needs and deficiencies. While I think this is important and necessary sometimes (and definitely helps boost fertility in the soil!), it’s not always possible.
Sometimes you’re running late in the season getting plants in the ground and don’t have time for soil tests. Other times you just don’t want to have one more thing to do!
But if the garden is floundering (why is nothing growing!?) manure tea (or compost tea) is a quick fix.
What’s great about manure tea is that it can be added at almost any time throughout the year and it’s almost always free (or cheap) to make.
If you follow my tips in this post on crop rotation, you’ll be in a great place to feed the plants that need feeding.
How to Make Organic Fertilizer
Making manure tea is really easy and (perhaps) a great chore for kids!
- a bucket (or more) with a lid
- an old pillowcase or another fabric you don’t mind getting manure on
- cured cow manure (or another animal but cow is best)
- clean water
How to Make Manure Tea
Line the bucket with the pillowcase and fill with cow manure. 1/3 manure to 2/3 water is a good ratio.
Then fill the bucket the rest of the way with clean water. Cover and let steep for a week.
When it’s done steeping, take the pillowcase out of the bucket and squeeze the tea out.
If you want to add some extra magnesium you can add Epsom salt to the manure tea before using it.
How to Use Manure Tea
Dilute your manure tea until it looks like weak iced tea before watering plants. You don’t want to burn the roots with a mixture that’s too concentrated. The tea in this picture is undiluted.
We (actually Matt, since I was taking pictures) used an old jar to scoop the tea and pour it onto the garden. It worked fine since I have a relatively small garden. You could also use a watering can, hose with a sprayer, or irrigation system.
Apply manure tea earlier in the growing season to give the plants a boost. Too much nitrogen later in a plants life (around flowering) could mean beautiful plants but fewer flowers and fruit. That doesn’t mean that you can’t feed them, just be cautious about overfeeding.
How to Make Organic Fertilizer: Storing Your Manure Tea
Because cow manure (or any manure for that matter) can contain pathogens it’s best not to store manure tea. But if you do want to store it make sure it’s covered and kept in a cool place. If you can’t use it up in a few days to a week pitch it into the compost pile.
Do you know how to make organic fertilizer? How did you do it?