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Composting Tea Leaves

With the amount of tea I drink, I’m realizing that I’ve been throwing away a lot of steeped tea leaves and I should start composting them or something.

I don’t have a compost, but I do have a couple fruit trees (lemon, dragon fruit and pomegranate) and house plants. I’d like to do more with my yard.

1. Where do I put the leaves? Right on the soil? in a bucket outside? Some kind of container in the kitchen?
2. Can I compost tea blends that contain stuff like chocolate, fruit, or sugars? My yard gets quite a bit of ants, so I’m worried they’ll go to town on them.
3. Can I compost all types of tea? Rooibos? Mate?

I googled a bit, and got lots of compost tea hits. Eww, I thought, people drink that? Before I actually read what it is!

If you compost your leaves, what do you do?

11 Replies
Lala said

If you go to a few gardening websites you will get a few good tips.

1. You have to mix the compost in with dirt. So either you dig a bit around the trees and put the compost in and cover with dirt. Or mix the compost with dirt them put around the trees. It’s more beneficial if it is closer to the root system, so better to get it dug down.

2. Do not compost any meat, sugars, candy, etc. the sugar will attract ants, flies and rodents. You want to compost fruits, vegetables, egg shells, tea leaves, coffee grounds, tree twigs, grass clippings.

3. You can make compost tea. In a bucket, fill with water, put in compost able items, then you need to aerate it with something like a fish tank bubbler. After a few days you can use it to water your plants.

Lala said

And yes you can compost all types of teas but you do want to be careful of teas containing sugar, because of the ants/pests.

You can even use left over brewed tea and coffee to compost.

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Uniquity said

I compost all my leaves but I live in NS and compost is standard here so it just goes in the green bin which goes out as part of regular collection. If I were composting for gardening purposes I would also mix it up with some dirt or other compost as Lala suggests.

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Anyanka said

You ‘make’ the compost before putting it on whatever you’re fertilizing. Don’t add tea leaves right to your trees- they might be more acidic than what the trees need (but I don’t think this was what you meant). If you don’t have a huge amount of food/yard scraps to compost, you can make a small composter like this http://organicgardening.about.com/od/compost/ht/storagecompost.htm and put it outside. You don’t need to shake it up nearly as often as the person in the article advises, but you do need to move it around sometimes. If you have racoons, expect that they’ll help you with this part and get a bin that latches closed.

Don’t compost meat or fats. I’d say no to the chocolatey teas unless you rinse them well. Just tea leaves alone won’t become compost. You need to try to get a good balance between brown things (leaves, dry grass) and green things (spent tea, veggie trimmings).

I compost all my veggie scraps, tea, coffee, washed eggshells, yard waste, chicken coop cleanings, leaves, and plant trimmings. I keep a bin by the kitchen door and I empty it into one of two 4 ft by 4 ft bins of compost. But, that’s kind of overkill.

sweet, I’ll try the small composter out! I have a bunny and I bet I could toss his dirty litter box bits in it too!

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Apparently steeped tea leaves can be used as fertilizer without being composted first: http://gardening.about.com/od/fertilizer/qt/Tea-Fertilizer.htm

ETA: Only for plants that favor acidic soils.

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I have a 5 bin compost area in my garden made from recycled pallets. We compost all kitchen scraps, yard waste, etc. No meat. I have a plastic tub on my counter that gets dumped there regularly. All the scraps, including tea leaves, go in there. There are lots of tea leaves! We turn our bins regularly, adding grass clippings to keep them hot, sifting through them to use the stuff that’s ready.

I don’t recommend adding tea leaves directly to your garden, as they are too high in nitrogen & will burn your plants. I know this from personal experience! They need to be allowed to age & decompose for awhile first. They can be sprinkled around blue berry bushes & some other acid loving plants however(as can coffee grounds),to help acidify the soil, but not too heavily.

If you combine tea leaves, kitchen scraps, & bunny manure, you can make some kick ass compost! You’ll also want to add a source of dry carbon: straw, shredded paper… Ideally you could get a few smallish trash cans, fill them 1/2 to 2/3 full, bungie cord the lids on, put them on their side in your yard, & roll them over every couple of days. After a couple of weeks, open them & see if the contents are still giving off heat. Meanwhile, start another one, & before you know it, you’ll have a constant supply of compost!

Ants, flies, worms, birds, beetles, etc are all a natural part of the composting process. All varieties of teas, including sweetened, can go in your pile. They will all break down. Chocolate & sugar will break down. I compost coconut shells. They take awhile, but they eventually break down. Those ‘silk’ teabags won’t.

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Uniquity said

For those who DIY compost, I understand WHY no meat but I wonder what you do with your meat scraps (if you happen to be meat eaters). Since mine all goes into the municipal compost I just toss it all in but I don’t know what I would do with my meat scraps if I were doing my own compost. Just bits of trimmed fat and bone but it needs somewhere to go. :(

The reasoning behind not putting meat scraps in the compost pile are:
1. It attracts animals
2. bacteria
The reality to #1 is animals will always visit an open pile, as they like to pick through the scraps, even if there is no meat there.
Regarding the bacteria, if your compost pile isn’t ‘hot’ enough, the meat scraps could introduce unfavorable bacteria into your garden. Since all of the action of the pile is bacterial & fungal, I don’t really worry about it. Plus, if you throw meat scraps in your pile, chances are a raccoon or other scavenger will carry it off anyway. Also, if it’s just small amounts, it’s not really a problem, at least not in my opinion.
I know people who build extremely hot piles & compost meat scraps in it with no problems. I include bones in mine, as they breakdown & add minerals to my garden, although it can take some time for them to break down. Whenever I sift through one of my piles, I bring a hammer. Any bones, coconut shells, etc that haven’t broken down get tossed into the next pile, smacked a few times with the hammer to help them along, & then mixed in with grass clipping & other hot stuff for the next round.

The best thing to do with meat scraps is feed them to a dog.

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Thanks everyone for your advice!

I started my compost bin yesterday (Sunday)! I held onto kitchen scraps and tea leaves since Friday. It’s now Monday evening and I’m surprised how much composty items I have! I mean, I feed my bunny quite a few items, but many things I can’t, plus I change his litter box (all newspaper) every day, which will be going to the compost. It has noticably lightened my garbage can combined with getting a recycling bin in the house (and ranting at my roommates to use it).

It also has inspired my husband to want to cut the lawn soon to get some grass trimmings! wooot!


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