Spent tea leaves make for a great garden

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Did you know that tea leaves are a great source of organic material for gardens and compost piles, as well as soil amendments? As a “green” or nitrogen-rich component of compost, it provides a valuable counterbalance to the “browns” or carbon-rich materials.

The loose tea swells in the teapot, tea ball or tea strainer, making the leaves nicely moist, a precondition for breakdown in your compost heap. As a "green" or nitrogen-rich component of compost, it adds valuable counterbalance to the "browns" or carbon-rich materials. If you brew your tea in a bag, you can compost those tea leaves, too.

Sprinkle the used leaves on the soil and gently scratch them in. Of course, you can also add tea leaves to your compost pile. Loose leaf teas and compostable tea bags may be dug in around plants. Using tea bags in compost adds that nitrogen-rich component to the compost, balancing the carbon-rich materials.

Items you will need when using tea bags in compost are:

  • Tea leaves (either loose or in bags) A compost bucket
  • A three tined cultivator
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After steeping each successive cup or pot of tea, add the cooled tea bags or leaves to the compost bucket where you keep food waste until ready to place in outdoor composting area or bin. Then proceed to dump the bucket into the compost area, or if composting in a worm bin, dump the bucket in and cover lightly. Pretty simple.

You can also dig the tea bags or loose leaves in around plants to utilize the tea bags for plant growth directly around the root system. This use of tea bags for plant growth will not only nourish the plant as the tea bag decomposes, but aids in moisture retention and weed repression. The beauty of using tea bags in compost is that many of us have a serious habit that requires daily doses of tea, providing ample contributions to the compost pile. The caffeine contained in tea bags used in compost (or coffee grounds) does not seem to adversely affect the plant or raise the acidity of the soil appreciably.

Composting tea bags is a “green” method of disposal and terrific for the health of all your plants, providing organic matter to increase drainage while maintaining moisture, promoting earthworms, increasing oxygen levels and maintaining soil structure for a more beautiful garden.