I have always enjoyed gardening, particularly flower gardening. When I lived in the northeast, I had perennial gardens everywhere and enjoyed three seasons of fresh cut flowers in my home from my own gardens.
It was easy to grow beautiful plants in that area of the country. The soil is rich, the rain is plentiful, and the temperatures are moderate most of the growing season. I usually met with neighbors and friends each spring and fall, and we shared divisions of our plants with each other when we needed to thin them out. It was a fun way to expand our gardens and have a tribe that enjoyed Mother Nature as much as I did.
Now I live in the southeast and gardening is much more difficult. Spring can be a wonderful growing season, but then summer hits and the heat and lack of rain and direct sun is incredibly harsh on my gardens. However, I missed my beautiful gardens and decided it was time to do some serious research to understand how I can have flowers and vegetables growing here to enjoy.
One such discovery is the addition of used tea leaves to feed the soil and help with creating compost for the gardens. Tea leaves are organic matter that improve the condition of the soil. They also increase soil drainage, help with aeration for the plant roots and assist in retaining moisture and nutrients.
Tea leaves contain nitrogen, which can be as high as 4.15 percent. This makes them an excellent source of nutrients for your plants because as they decompose, they gradually release nutrients into the soil.
You can use tea leaves as mulch by placing them on the surface of your soil, around the base about 3-4 inches thick, but not touching the plant. Applied this way they will keep the soil moist and help regulate its temperature, so the plants’ roots do not get too hot or too cold. The nutrients slowly being released into the soil attracts earthworms which help in the decomposition process. The tea also blocks sunlight from the soil which prevents weeds from germinating and overtaking your garden.
Tea leaves can also be added to your compost bin along with other kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peal, used coffee grounds and eggshells (do not include meat, fish, poultry, grease or dairy products in your compost). These items are called “green” materials and should be mixed with “brown” materials such as grass clippings, twigs and dried leaves at a ratio of 1 part “green” to 3 parts “brown”.
Turn your compost pile every week to aerate it and lightly water it occasionally to keep it damp. In two to six months the materials should decompose into brown, crumbly compost that you work into your garden’s soil. Be sure not to work in the compost during the growing season as this might damage the plants’ roots. Add the compost during the plants’ dormant season.
Use only tea leaves, do not include tea bags unless you are sure they are biodegradable. Also make certain there are no plastic strings or staples. If there is any doubt, cut open the teabags and only use the tea leaves.
As a tea lover I drink many cups of tea a day and that means I have lots of used tea leaves to use in other ways than steeping for a beverage. This spring I have begun to experiment using my tea leaves around some of my plants for mulch and I started a composting barrel so I will have my own organic compost. I look forward to seeing how my gardens grow with this added effort in my “tea inspired life”.