Soil & Fertilizer: Liquid manure, compost tea

Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

I have read somewhere about liquid manure. It says that it is good for potted plants. Can someone throw some light on how to prepare it? Dungs from horse, cattle, sheep, etc.

Santa Barbara, CA

I personally would not apply liquid manure (manure tea?) on potted plants. Manures tend to be "hot" and may harbor pathogens bad for your plants or bad for your family. Byron who posts on soil and compost matters (and tomatoes and peppers) can give you details on making and applying the "tea."

I would recommend that you make a compost tea from finished compost: a shovel-full of compost per 5 gallons of nonchlorinated or dechlorinated water, stir from time to time for a minimum of 6 hours. Strain and then dilute to color of strong tea or weak coffee (no cream please, lol). You can spray on plants, especially the underside of leaves or douse soil. Repeat ever couple of weeks through the growing season. For edibles, don't apply two weeks before harvesting food; wash well before eating.

This message was edited Wednesday, Jul 18th 3:24 AM

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Comfrey makes a good liquid manure I'm told. The leaves are steeped in water until they rot (and smell) and then the liquid drawn off and diluted with water.

I own a ComposTumbler. About 3-4 days after I start a new batch, I set a 5gal bucket under the tumbler to catch the drippings. I usually collect about a gallon of pure liquid compost each two weeks.

With this, I dilute 9 parts water and 1 part liquid compost. It makes a great fertilizer.


Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

It DOES sound great Dave - any burning of plants?

No burning, louisa - it's quite weak after diluting it 10:1. As marshseed said, dilute it to the color of weak coffee and it'll be just fine. I've watered just about everything I have with it, and they all did great.

It was especially useful on my tomato seedlings. I had over 250 tomato plants in 16 ounce containers in the greenhouse this spring, so I mixed up a 25 gallon batch of this compost tea and watered from there every single watering. They performed beautifully.


Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Where did you buy the tumbler Dave?

I bought it from the company who makes it.

They gave me a 20% discount for being the webmaster of DG. :-)

It's pricey, but in my opinion is worth it. It heats compost to 150 degrees in less than 24 hours.


Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Thanks for the info Dave!

Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

Thanx Dave and others. I shall give it a try. Can it be made from used tea leaves? I understand that it is good for roses.

Yes, Dinu, used tea leaves and coffee are great for compost bins!

Rockford, IL(Zone 5a)

i have a worm composter that gives me ph balanced worm tea..once per week i pour two liters of water in the worm condo and receive back two liters of liquid fertilizer. worm castings will not burn works great for garden and house plants.

Ottawa, ON(Zone 4a)

Worm composter? I'm all ears...

Lyndeborough, NH


This is how I do my manure tea.

I take a 3 lb coffee can full of 1 year old min, manure.

Place it in a leg of panty hose and tie a knot in the open end of the leg.

I toss this in a 5 gal pickle bucket that I get from my local deli for free.

I put on the cover and let it steep for a week.

You can use the same batch of manure 3 or 4 times.

I apply with a 6 gal hose end sprayer, That is 1 qt of manure tea to 6 gal of water.

In the GH Tomatoes and peppers transplants like 2 doses of 1 tbsp of manure tea in a gal of water.


This message was edited Monday, Aug 27th 11:08 AM

I have been doing worm-based composting for 2 years now & the worm manure tea is the finest liquid fertilizer I have ever used. I have mixed it as strong as 1:1 with water with no burning of houseplants or even outdoor transplants. The worms change the nutrients to forms more easily taken up by plants & the results are almost immediate. I have my "vermicomposter" under my sink inside & have never had any trouble with smells or anything. I encourage ALL organic gardeners to look into vermiculture before winter arrives: it's LOVELY not to have to trek out to the compost pile in the snow!

Ottawa, ON(Zone 4a)

What kind of "vermicomposter" do you use? I've read up a bit on it, but would like to know more.

I made my worm habitat from a 5-gallon Joint Cement bucket & it houses about 1000 worms. It's just the right size to fit under my kitchen sink. I just drilled a line of breathing holes all around the diameter about 2" from the bottom, & a second ring of air holes about half-way up. I put a layer of rocks on the bottom (for drainage) & cut a round circle to fit from an old shower curtain & poked some holes into that too & laid it atop the rocks. Next layer is the worm "bedding" which is just newspaper strips soaked in water, then rung out until just damp & fluffed up. You put those in until the bin is a little over half full. Your worms (special red wigglers: NOT common earth worms) get tucked into the bedding. Then all your veggie scraps, egg shells, tea bags, coffee grinds, etc. get tucked in each day just under the top of the bedding. 1000 worms can eat between 1/4 lb. & 1 lb. of scraps a day, but you can miss days with no ill affects. I drain off the "tea" by just slanting the habitat in my sink against an old ice cube bin until it runs off. If anyone gets involved in this, I'd be happy to chat with them via email on harvesting the worm poop or anything. Once you use this fertilizer NOTHING compares. & in 2 years that habitat has NEVER stunk or gotten any other disgusting bugs or anything in it. They used vericomposting in a BIG way at the last Olympics. Sure beats trotting out to the compost bin over winter!

Ottawa, ON(Zone 4a)

Lindap, thank you so much. This sounds like the ideal solution for me. I have very limited space seeing as I'm in a townhouse and I've been trying to figure out how to do some composting. I've used the soil incorporation method a bit, but I don't have too many unused spots where I can do that.

I've read about how to harvest the castings elsewhere, but if you want to throw out your method, I would be most interested in hearing it.

I have a friend that lets her vermicompost dry for days then scrapes off the top layers & replaces the worms (who crawl down to the bottom) & the lower layers into her habitat & that's that. I haven't the space for days of drying. So, I spread out an old shower curtain liner on my kitchen floor (or on my back porch in summer). I remove the newest uneaten food scraps & stuff & any newspaper bedding not broken down & set that aside to return it to the habitat when I'm done. Then I pile the remaining vermicompost into little hills of about 2 cups each & wait about 10 minutes. The worms HATE bright daylight & wriggle down to the very bottom of each mound. I scrape off the sides & top of each little pile & put that aside in 1 container to use as fertilizer, rescuing any worms I come across, which go in a separate temporary 'worm Tupperware'. The mass of worms at the bottom of each pile go in with their buddies, of course until I've harvested all the worm poop & clean & re-build their habitat with fresh bedding. (Be SURE & save all the water residue from cleaning the habitat too: WONDERFUL manure tea!) I'll see if I still have an article I wrote about it saved in "Word" & email you if I do to see if you want me to send it along. It's short & easy to understand.

Ottawa, ON(Zone 4a)

Sure, that would be great, Linda. Sounds like the hardest part of this one will be getting it past my squeamish husband, LOL. How often do you go through this process?

I harvest my worm poop about 4 times a year. My 16-year-old step-daughter would be HORRIFIED to know there's 1000 worms living under the kitchen sink, so I've never told her. (2 years & she's NEVER gone under that sink for any cleaning products, but THAT'S another story,...;) The worms dislike sunlight immensely & so scoot down the second the lid is open. Anyone visiting that is helping scrape plates or anything after dinner, just thinks this is a little trash receptacle to hold stuff for my composter outside. I'm not saying to LIE to your squeamish hubby, but you don't have to actually SHOW him the writhing worms! I wait till I'm alone in the house to harvest the poop.

Ottawa, ON(Zone 4a)

Too funny! :o)

I'll be answering your email soon, haven't forgotten you (got to take inventory of my seeds...)

Beverly, MA(Zone 6b)

Hello! I got an issue of organic magazine, back in the spring, which had an article and instrucctions on how to do the worms composting! SO, I got the bin,and first I sent check for worms to thsi source in Iowa, and since I am in Mass, they were having problems with the worms staying alive since it had started to get a bit warm. So, they sent back my check and a list of other nearby farms that would accomodate my order. And so I got mine lil angels from the Cape there is a farm down there that sells them. HOWEVER, I
prepared a mixture of (slush compost, peatmoss, and top soil
and the worms love it! My one and only regard with this is that!! I have not been able to feed them my kitchen scraps,
at first I gave then corn meal mixed with water, as they omstructed me but, since the slushed compost is too rich they had more than enough to eat, so they are happy! since May to now Oct 2001, 5 months, I should be ready or overdue to harvest their poops, any time, every time we check on them they seem very active! So next time I know to either use very lil slush compost or none at all.
So you see that is my case.

Best wishes :)


Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

You've all been giving some good suggestions. I'd like to try them out.

Newnan, GA(Zone 8a)

linda, I told my DH about this, and he asks how you keep the worms from getting out the holes you drilled.

The holes are small but the worms COULD squeeze through if they wanted to I guess. They simply have no motivation to leave a place with the food & bedding & darkness they crave. They aren't smart enough to be curious or anything. I have never had one in the 2 years I've had them EVER try to wiggle out a breathing hole. They stay where life is good; they're not all that adventuresome, I guess. On the post regarding the rich bedding/food setup: the worm farmer that I originally got my worms from suggested some kind of manure-based habitat, but I really think that is for people who want to raise worms to sell. They have very little needs. Shredded dampened newspaper & table scraps is all they really need to live & reproduce enough to keep your population stable,..and poop poop poop!

what is the best composter on the market

Waterville, KS

Hi Linda:

Can you tell me how you make the worm tea? I have 2 worm composter bins, only because they were dumped into the main composter late last fall and when I emptied it they had not only survived, but multiplied enough to make up 2 vermiculture bins.

I will leave them under the carport in the shade for the summer and then put them in the bsmt over the winter.

What I like best is that they seem to break down the scraps quicker than the outdoor composters. Cutting up the scraps into tiny pieces is a bit of a pain but it works.

Please advise how to make the worm tea? Many thanks

Bethany, OK(Zone 7b)

Try using a food processer for your scraps. prcastle

Lakeland, FL

help!!!!!!!! i have lost my recipe for black spot on roses using octagon spray. can not remeber the ratio. thanks, corky

Mason, TX

I have a new garden (not quite a year old) and no room for a compost pile and and no access or desire to fool with manure tea. Before planting anything I hauled in top soil and mixed it with compost so I have really good soil and everything is doing well but I need to know if there is a good commercial fertizlizer that will work for my garden generally and when the best time is to put it out. I have daylilies, rose mallow, yellow bells, iris(bearded, Dutch & African), butterfly bush, a fig, salvia, red bud trees and plan to put in a border of wood violets. Does anybody have suggestions about WHAT I should use and when I should use it? I'm in Central Texas.


Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I can't give you a good commercial fertilizer, but I have found that alfalfa tea is as easy as mixing up commercial stuff. It's easy to store the dry alfalfa pellets and mixing it up in a 5-gallon bucket is easy. And it works on just about everything I've used it on ;o) You can also (according to some references) sprinkle the pellets on your beds and let nature take its course to break them down and water them in.

San Jacinto County, TX(Zone 8a)

I use lots of alfalfa pellets in exactly the way you mention. Direct! On lots of different things. Tomatoes -flowers etc. [Litter Green] kitty litter is 100% alfalfa pellets... if ya jus need a little! Wonder oh wonder!
For compost tea I use mushroom compost, see pic. Must use it for other stuff too lol.
if you have or get Downey Mildew It'll wash rite-off using compost tea.
Catch it early, and use as needed.

Thumbnail by heycharlie
Crossville, TN(Zone 6b)

Terry, you did not say how you mix the alfalfa. Is it just like the compost tea? I just bought 50# LOL

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Yes, or how much is "lots" sprinkled directly on the garden?

San Jacinto County, TX(Zone 8a)

I sprinkle the pellets lightly around the plants.
haha Lightly as out of a can walking down a row. Some are touching each other, some bounce. A very scientific method huh lol.

Soon as they get wet they dissolve, looks like a layer of something brownish all around and touching the plants.
Harmless to any stems!

So, whats tha fuss about alfalfa pellets?

It cantains a primary growth stimulant called (triacontanol)
Because its a deep rooted legume it must be bringing back lost nutrients from deep in the soil.
Alfalfa is one of those miracle crops that can take nitrogen from the air and fix it onto its roots.

See pic

Thumbnail by heycharlie
San Jacinto County, TX(Zone 8a)

Alfalfa is one of those miracle crops that can take nitrogen from the air and fix it onto its roots.
I use it fairly heavy on peas, beans so forth that I wide row.

Can't get back in to do it twice. See pic!

Thumbnail by heycharlie
Crossville, TN(Zone 6b)

I was wondering if wildlife like the alfalfa. Maybe I should sprinkle it on just before it rains.Linda

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Good question, Linda! I would hate to attract all the neighborhood deer and bunnies straight to my garden!!

Hope Mills, NC

So do you buy alfalfa pellets or kitty litter?

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