Something Stinks About Manure Tea

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Robert Pavlis

In may last couple of posts on manure tea and compost tea I explained why there is little or no reason to brew the tea. I am sure that I have not convinced all of you since the web is full of stories promoting manure tea as a good thing for your plants. If you want to brew some tea it  probably will not harm you or your plants, but it could; see the bottom section of Compost Tea.

If you must brew some tea, please do it intelligently. Don’t use commercial products!

Manure Tea bags ready for brewing your own.
Manure Tea bags ready for brewing your own.

Commercial Manure Tea Bags

Let’s consider a much hipped product called Authentic Haven Brand (pictured above).

This company takes a small amount of manure and packages it in a handy little bag that resembles a large tea bag. They sell 3 tea bags for $12.95. You can get 3 gift wrapped tea bags for only 19.95 – my wife will be so pleased with this gift. Here honey – I bought you some horse dung.

They recommend one tea bag for 5 gallons of water. That will produce a tea of much lower strength than the usual recommendations for making manure tea (1/3 manure to 2/3 water) which already produces a tea of low nutrient value.

The company makes the following claims about their product:

1)       It conditions soil. Not true. The few nutrients in the tea will have no effect on the soil’s condition.

Soil Science for Gardeners book by Robert Pavlis

2)      There is an implication that the tea increases root mass. That is not likely, given the very low levels of nutrients provided by the tea. Besides any fertilizer will increase root mass.

3)      Chemical fertilizers are dangerous to your plants health. Not true. The nutrients in manure tea are exactly the same chemicals as found in commercial fertilizers–see What is Organic Fertilizer for more details. The author clearly does not understand the basic chemistry of plant nutrients.

They don’t say much else about their product. There is no nutrient analysis – they are probably embarrassed about the results. There is no reported study to back up their claims.

Ridiculous Price for Manure

They don’t even tell you how much manure is in each bag. Based on the pictures I would guess that each bag holds about $0.05 worth of manure. I can get a delivered trailer full for $45. At $4.32 a tea  bag, that is about a 10,000% mark up. That is a crazy price to pay for a small handful of manure.

Given that the scientific evidence shows manure tea does very little for your plants, why would anyone spend so much money for so little manure?

Manure is great for the garden–don’t waste your time making tea.


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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

13 thoughts on “Something Stinks About Manure Tea”

  1. Regarding manure tea: I’ve made mine in a large 20 gallon tub using composted chicken manure with some black strap molasses and fish emulsion thrown in and aerated it with a garden hose set on “bucket filler”.
    I’ve done my own tests by pouring this concoction on some plants….same plant, planted same time, exact same conditions…..and not on some others. Within a few days we could see a noticeable difference in all aspects of the plants. Plants with compost /manure tea doing far better …

    • What was your control? If it was water – which is what most people use for the control – your test does not show the value in the tea.

      We all know and agree that the tea contains nutrients.

      If you want to use a control it has to be water with the same nutrients as the tea. Then you show value of the brewing process.

  2. This manure tea is absolutely fantastic. I’ve used it for the last two years and the results are phenomenal. Even my succulents love it!

  3. Thank you, I used these once based on a recommendation and was contemplating rebuying but decided to do more research. Ever since I heard you on the Joe Gardener show and found your website I’ve been interested in your take on things because I know it will be based in actual science and studies. This helped me decide not to buy again.

  4. It’s not fertilizer, it’s soil conditioner. Compost and manure tea add live microbes to the soil which assists in breaking down organic materials and making them bioavailable for the plant. Teas should be used together with organic fertilizers.

  5. Would you please take my photo off of this post? It was published under my garden blog, Red Dirt Ramblings. I would appreciate it!

  6. We sell a much better grade of sheep manure tea bags in much bigger bags and at a better price. We’ve seen the wonderful results in our own gardens and did a study of plants with and without our sheep manure tea bags. The manure tea bags are much easier to handle than manure as the tea goes right into the roots.

  7. Marking something up by a factor of 100 would be a 10,000% markup. 100% would be a factor of 2, and would be quite common in high-end retailing of silly stuff.


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