Liquid Tea Fertilizer

(Bruce Harris) #1

Fertilizer cakes are made with several dry items to include bone meal, blood meal and cottonseed meal and several liquids. The cakes are sometimes placed in empty tea bags or spread as a top dressing. Water is applied and the nutrients in the bags or the top dressings spreads to the roots. Problems have been voiced regarding the tea bags being removed by various garden creatures seeking the contents of the bag. The top dressing often forms a barrier that becomes somewhat hardened and impedes watering. Has anyone tried to make a liquid tea mix with the dry and liquid ingredients used in making cakes for use as a liquid tea fertilizer? If this method has been used successfully, what would be a good formula for such a tea? Would it be used at full strength or would dilution be appropriate if a few gallons were made? Would the tea make an acceptable spray when applied the plants leaves? Lastly, would the proper dilution be applied at two week intervals?

(Frank Corrigan) #2

Hello Bruce
One suggestion, rather than a direct response to your question. I have tried to crumble the tea cakes or Bonsai Brownies as i call them and place the crumble just below the soil surface. Part of my regular routine is to change the top dressing so i started by crumbling the mix under the top layer. My thinking was that the nutrients would stay damper, attract fewer insects or animals and still give the results without draining away so quickly as liquid fertilizers can.
The result has been effective. the crumble stays damp, thus not caking or restricting watering, the nutrients break down quicker with a steadier rate. I believe the microbe activity is more consistent without the wet/dry cycle being so pronounced as on the soil surface. Tea Bags, Fertilizer cages, tooth picks etc are no longer needed.
I can tell from the questions you posed that you are aware of the possible concerns with application of liquid fertilizers so i thought this suggestion was in order even though i recognise it is not a direct response to your question.

(Paul) #3

My new routine is a little different. I use an organic dry fertilizer the same as Frank does. It is a 3 month feed. In between, ever 2 to 3 weeks, a liquid fish fertilizer is alternated with a liquid seaweed fertilizer. The liquid fertilizer is poured over the whole plant as a foliar feed and root feed and results have been good for me so far. The liquid fertilizer could be a combination fish- seaweed fertilizer but It hasn’t been tried yet.

(Bruce Harris) #4

Thank you for your responses. There are plenty of different formulas for cakes that use flour, elmers glue, molasses, humate and commercial products like Garrett Juice or Medina liquids. The solid meals to include cotton meal, blood and bone often have different NPK ratings listed by their makers. My assumption is that fertilizer choices are as varied as “soil” selections. I will attend my club meeting next Saturday with at least five folks whose bonsai experience far exceeds my age. I will consider your inputs and match them with their combined responses. I’m concerned about developing my"own" tea that has ingredients that could cause damage too the roots and or the leaves of my trees.


I suggest avoiding the usual ingredients and make your tea from " Dr. Earth" products and just follow there directions for tea application–works like a dream.

(Tom Knoblauch) #6

Winter time is coming, time to think about next years fertilizing. How did you tea fertilizing do? I would suggest reading Teaming with Microbes by Lowenfels & Lewis. A lot of relatable information to bonsai fertilization. It explains how the microbes in the soil break down and make nutrients available to plants. Chapter 17 Compost Teas. They refer here to actively aerated compost teas, highly recommended. This is not the same as compost leachates, compost extracts, or manure teas. The later may have some nutrient value, but leachates do little to impart microbial life to your soils. Microbial life needs oxygen, leachates may develop an anaerobic, alcoholic soup. (Sorry this is condensed by a non-expert)
I have used regularly, the actively aerated compost teas, and add it to my fertilizer mixes. It can be diluted 20/1, although i usually do 4/1. It will not burn. It does have a concentrate of beneficial, aerobic microbes that will leave a film like unbrushed teeth on all surfaces. Therefore I am careful not to get it on bark that is hard to scrub off, like a Black Pine getting ready for a show.
I am lucky to have found places that brew compost tea to pick up. (Ask your local nursery or Cannabis supply store) I apply once in spring as leaves emerge, and again at the start of summer, then whenever I am concerned about any stresses, and if I am still on top of things, in the Fall.

(Bruce Harris) #7

You have covered several of the issues I had hopped to avoid. Each tea you prepare with perhaps, horse or cattle manure, combined with other solid meal substances will brew at different NKP ratings that also depends on the quantities of each those solids, the amount of water used and the length of time and temperature of the brew. In order to determine those ratings I would have to send each tea to Texas A & M for their evaluation before it perhaps is used. The delusion issue would need to be factored in if the tea would be used as a foliar feed or a drench. My local nursery might be able to provide the factored amount of only the various liquids they sell. This is Texas, and I have no idea if we have a local Cannabis supply store to ask this type of question. I have not killed any of the trees I use the tea on but I can not recommend it’s use because of the above brewing factors someone else might employ.

(Tom Knoblauch) #8

I am replying to these post, not to any individual, because many others are reading also. There is much to understand when trying to figure out what works and why it does. It is not as simple as reading the back of a container to find the N-P-K. I will assume that fertilization of the bonsai is by using organics. Some research into this will tell you that the nutrients become available to the plants by the activity of fungus and bacteria and other life of the soil. Without this life, organic nutrients are not available to plants. By adding compost ball to the surface of our bonsai pots, we are feeding the soil life that makes the nutrients available.
Bruce, your quote “Water is applied and the nutrients in the bags or the top dressings spreads to the roots.” Is an over simplified statement that underlies a misconception. It is not a chemical fertilizer, it is a natural process.
Your question, how to make a tea, You would not want to suspend dry ingredients and pour into your soil, because you would be clogging the air spaces between your soil particles. I am thinking of boon’s mix soils.
Also there are reasons to remove the cakes of fertilizer during different growth stages, and having it mixed into the soil would prevent this. Using liquid organic fertilizers like fish fertilizer, or maxi-crop, algae, or manure dilutes it would be good to follow label directions, or if making your own manure dilutes (not recommended) use caution.
Brewed compost teas contain lots of bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and protozoa because that’s what’s in compost. Applying it to the soil won’t burn because the nutrients are locked up in the life, that as it eats, digest grows and dies release nutrients to the plant roots. I use brewed compost teas to reestablish biotic life in what seems to be sterile pumice akadama soil. To help the fertilizer balls break down, and to repair the damage from toxic insecticides and fungicides we to often use.
I think this topic needs further understanding as it relates to bonsai cultivation.