Elixir for ailing plants

Whenever I have a plant that is weak or not doing well, I give it a dose of a special homemade brew. This concoction is liquid manure also known as manure tea.

There’s nothing new about manure tea; it’s been used by generations upon generations of gardeners.

There are many recipes for brewing manure tea,  most of them involve making a giant tea bag out of a burlap bag. Some gardeners let the bag steep for a certain amount of time before using it. Others add their own secrete ingredients. None of that is really necessary.

The simplest formula is simply a mixture barnyard manure and water. I like to use manure that’s been rotting down in a pile and mellowing for a bit.

I add one shovelful of manure to a 5 gallon bucket of water and stir it up with the shovel. The ratio of manure to water varies depending on the the type of manure, the age of the manure and how much bedding is present in the manure. Bedding is usually straw but can also be wood shavings, shredded paper or other kind of absorbent material.

You have to experiment a bit in order to reach the mix that works best for you. It’s a good idea to start out with a weak mixture first so you don’t damage any plants. With that being said however, I’ve never had a case of plant damage due to the use of manure tea.

Manure tea works on potted plants and seedlings too.

Manure tea works on potted plants and seedlings too.

Manure tea has a value as fertilizer but there is more to it than that. There seems to be something in it that is very beneficial to plants. Ailing plants can sometimes respond dramatically to manure tea.

Since I raise chickens, I use partially decomposed chicken manure in my mix but any barnyard manure will do — cow, pig, horse. Do not under any circumstances use cat manure or dog droppings. Besides being just plain gross, cat and dog feces can carry parasites that will contaminate your garden.

If you don’t have access to barnyard manure, compost tea is a great substitute. Not too many decades ago, compost was called “artificial manure.” Follow the same procedure for mixing, adjust the ratio to your conditions.

To use manure tea, apply it to the soil at the base of the plant with a watering can. You can strain the larger particles out to make it easier to pour.

Any sludge left at the bottom can be remixed with more water for a weaker solution or added to the compost pile or garden directly.


Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.