Three weeks ago, I started a spring weed tea, making a concoction from water, leaf mold, and weeds that I pulled out of my flower beds. The weeds that I pulled out in early March flourish in cool weather and are relatively easy to get out of the ground (henbit and chickweed). I shook the soil off of the weeds, put them in a bucket, added water from our well (rain water is best), put in a handful of leaf mold from under a healthy tree in the woods, and put a lid over it all. It will sit for a few months before being used as a soil drench and foliar spray. Below is the tea the day I put it all in the bucket.
As I have been farming these past four years, I have learned more and more about soil health and regenerative farming. This means that we practice no or low-till farming, we have mulched and living pathways, we use compost, and we are learning how to use the weeds from our flower beds to feed the flowers we grow instead of buying synthetic fertilizers from off the shelf. Yes, the weeds that are naturally growing (or trying to grow) in my flower beds are getting put to good use.
Weeds are usually seen as a blight to the perfect green lawn or flower bed. However, I am learning that weeds have more positive qualities to them than meets the eye. First, weeds are an indication of the minerals that are depleted in the soil. The weeds are able to draw those minerals out of the soil and into their leaves. When they die back and are left as compost, the minerals are able to be added back to the soil. Different weeds indicated different deficiencies. Because weeds are able to draw out minerals from the ground they are chock full of amazing nutrients and minerals. Edible weeds like dandelion and purslane make great additions to salads. Dandelion roots or stinging nettle make a wonderful hot tea to drink. These nutrients make weeds ideal for root drenches or foliar sprays for the flowers growing on the farm, i.e. weed tea. So when the weeds are combined with rain water and allowed to break down, those minerals become accessible through that mixture. This mixture is then diluted with water and able to be used as a fertilizer on your plants or crop.
Let's make weed tea
An important part of weed tea is using clean water. Clean water consists of water that does not have additives such as chlorine. Rain water is the best water to use. Well water works, as well. If you are on city water, you will need to let the water sit for a few days in order to let the chlorine dissipate.
Gather your weeds. Best practice is to use only one kind of weed as you make a tea. Fill a 5-gallon bucket with weeds. Add the clean water on top.
If you do not live near woods, make sure to gather a handful of leaf mold in a small bag the next time you go for a hike and have it on hand before you begin the process. Leaf mold is the layer of decomposed dirt directly underneath the top layer of leaves on the forest floor. Add the leaf mold to the top of the bucket that has the leaves and water. The leaf mold helps to jump start the fermentation process.
You have two options at this point. You can put a lid on the bucket, label it, and set it aside. You can also put a piece of cheesecloth on it, fastened down with string or a rubberband so that no smell builds up but it is sealed from insects and critters. Make sure to label the side of your bucket. I decided to go with the lid and labeled it so I know what is inside and when I started the tea.
I am letting the weeds in the bucket ferment and create a mineral-rich liquid. I can choose to strain off liquid at any point in the process. However, the longer it sits, the more fermented the weeds become and the more potent the tea.
Today, I strained off enough liquid to dilute in 2 gallons of water with a ratio of 1:500. I sprayed it on a small patch of ranunculus leaves, not my whole patch. I will observe this patch over the coming weeks. I will continue to apply the diluted liquid as a foliar spray early in the morning once a week. I will report back with my findings. An important part of this process is keeping notes. Make sure to write down details of what you apply to your plants and when.
For more information on this topic, check out the links below. Nothing is sponsored. These kind people are passing along their knowledge so that I and other farmers and gardeners can benefit and learn.