Organic soil amendments for your garden and garden containers can be confusing. Although I have tried hundreds of products in my test gardens before, I have never regularly used compost tea as a soil conditioner. I went to my good friend Annie Haven, who sells the well known Haven Brand Manure Tea, and asked her if I could conduct an experiment with her tea to see how it might work in my garden. After all, I have always been a strong believer in manure as a soil amendment, and it is about time I tried soil conditioning with it as well.
A. What was the same in each container -
In order to make this a fair experiment, I placed the exact soil combination in each container. I used one-half rotted composted manure, one-half Organic Mechanics Potting Soil, and 3 Tablespoons Actino-Iron Soil Amendment.
Each container held 3 plants;
These three plants were measured and were the same height with similar root structure and size. I even cut the calibrachoa so that the height would be the same. In other words, each container held soil and plants that were near exact to their neighbors (see above photo which shows the first week of experiment).
B. What was different in each container -
- Container #1 had 1/3 of a Jobes Organic Spike placed in the middle of the container between the plant roots. It was watered once per week.
- Container #2 was watered once per week like the others, however, it was watered with Haven Brand Manure Tea once per week while the others were just given water.
- Container #3 had nothing additional whatsoever given to it and was watered once per week.
How To Make Compost Tea:
Compost tea, when brewed, will look like the liquid you see in the bucket in the above photo. I typically put one manure tea bag in for one bucket or watering can of water. I add rainwater from my rain barrels. Let it steep until a dark brown color.
DO NOT DRINK – this tea is made from manure and is only to be used as a soil conditioner for your plants.
Water your plants with the tea and be sure sprinkle on the leaves as most experts say it is also absorbed through the leaf system as well as through the soil.
The Experiment Results:
Below you see photos of the growing progress. You can see that the container #1 definitely has a stronger green color, more growth and more flowers as the season progresses. This is because the fertilizer spike is different than a soil conditioner. It has 3% Nitrogen, 5% Phosphate, and 3% Potash.
Manure tea has strengths as well – manure tea’s are known to have micro-nutrients that help build up the organic content of the soil. By improving a soils structure you increase its ability to hold and release nutrients – you also increase the root structure of plants.
Early August Results
In early August I measured the results in inches. #1 had the fullest, greenest, plants. However, #2 had the tallest rosemary and placed second in flower and pepper production. #3 did not perform as well and produced less flowers, but it was alive still as long as it was watered regularly. I think #3 did as well as it did for the first few months because of the soil planting mix I used, but petered off towards the end of the season without a regular amendment source.
Late August Results – SURPRISE!!!
By late August I was out of town and away from my plants for several weeks, so everything got watered except the manure tea experiment. I forgot to water for two weeks – OH NO! So when my daughter went out to water for me, I was very surprised when she came back in running and shouting, “You HAVE to see the MOO POO TEA experiment! Bring a camera! HURRY It’s a miracle!!!” So we ran out and looked at the experiment. That is when we discovered a big surprise – both #1 and #3 have sagged and browned considerably (see photo above). They really had a rough few weeks without the regular watering. But the plants in #2 – the manure tea container – were not sagging, had not dried, and looked almost exactly as they had before.
My daughter said, “Why does the moo poo tea plant look like it has not been through a drought while the others look like they have been? They are all crispy!”
An obvious answer to that question is that the root systems in the manure tea’d plant grew “hairier roots”. More roots on the base of the plant enables plants to have the ability to take up more nutrients and become stronger based on the weekly manure tea amendments.
The Final Determination
Manure tea did not seem to help the plant over-produce ridiculous quantities of flowers, but what it did do was strengthen the root systems enabling the plant to survive drought better than the other containers. It also contributed as a fertilizer for the plant, enabling it to place second in flower and pepper production compared to the plant that had no soil amendments at all.
My daughter and I have determined this growing experiment a success – it has shown us that manure tea as a soil amendment works for our garden. We will use it next year in all our containers and wall gardens.
Special thanks to Annie from Haven Brand Manure Tea for allowing us to use her Moo Poo Tea, and to all the plant and soil amendment contributors for helping make our experiment a success!
AN UPDATE POST TO THE EXPERIMENT!!
TO SEE THE RESULTS ON WHAT THE ROOTS LOOK LIKE AFTER I PULLED THE PLANTS OUT OF THE CONTAINERS, PLEASE GO HERE — LINK.