Looking for a quick, natural, and effective way to give your garden a nutrient boost? Consider feeding your plants with homemade alfalfa tea! We use it in our garden often. Read along to learn all about alfalfa tea: what it is, the benefits it provides, how often to use it, and most importantly – how easy it is to make organic alfalfa tea fertilizer at home.
What is Alfalfa Tea?
Alfalfa tea, also known as alfalfa meal tea, is a liquid fertilizer made by steeping alfalfa meal in water. It’s much like making herbal tea to drink, but on a larger scale – and for plants! As it soaks, beneficial nutrients from the alfalfa meal are extracted into the water. Yet compared to adding dry alfalfa meal fertilizer directly to soil, the nutrients in alfalfa tea are highly soluble and more readily-available to the plants.
Benefits of Alfalfa Meal Tea Fertilizer for Plants
Alfalfa meal is a great source of nitrogen. That means alfalfa tea fertilizer is ideal for tomatoes, leafy greens, corn, cannabis, brassicas (e.g. cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts), roses, and other nitrogen-loving plants. In addition to nitrogen, alfalfa tea offers an array of other vitamins and minerals essential for plant growth including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, boron, iron and zinc. Again, all these nutrients are more bio-available to plants when provided in tea form. It also makes a little alfalfa meal go a longer way!
Furthermore, alfalfa meal (and alfalfa tea fertilizer) contains triacontanol: a root-stimulating growth hormone. Large, healthy roots directly equates to larger, healthier plants! Plants with a robust root system are able to better access and uptake nutrients and water in the soil, and are also more resilient to stress, drought and disease. Finally, alfalfa tea is known to enhance photosynthesis and the activity of beneficial microorganisms in the soil.
Can alfalfa tea burn plants?
“Nitrogen burn” or fertilizer burn is a common concern when applying high-nitrogen fertilizers such as alfalfa meal or alfalfa tea. Though the nitrogen content in alfalfa meal is much lower than many common fertilizers (alfalfa contains about 3 to 5% nitrogen, while blood meal and feather meal are around 13%), you do still need to be careful with it. Alfalfa-based nitrogen is faster-acting than other forms, so it can be too strong and damage or shock plants when used in excess.
So in theory, yes, alfalfa tea could potentially burn plants. However, our alfalfa tea recipe already errs on the side of caution. With only 1 cup of alfalfa meal per 5 gallons of water, our recipe is quite mild and dilute compared to some others. (I’ve seen instructions to use as much as 4 cups of alfalfa meal for the same volume of water). Please see the section about using alfalfa tea on seedlings below.
How to Make Alfalfa Tea Fertilizer
- 1 cup of alfalfa meal. We love and use this alfalfa meal from Down to Earth.
- 5 gallon bucket full of water
- Optional: A reusable food strainer bag, cheesecloth, or other porous “tea bag” material. Keeping the alfalfa meal contained in a tea bag is a great option if you intend to disperse the tea through a watering can, which will prevent it from clogging. Or, if you simply don’t want the spent alfalfa meal in your garden soil.
- ¼ cup kelp meal (also optional)
- Fill a 5-gallon bucket with water
- Add 1 cup of alfalfa meal directly to the water and stir thoroughly
- OR, add 1 cup of alfalfa meal to a porous sack (explained above) to create a tea bag to steep in the water instead. Dunk the tea bag up and down several times to get it nice and saturated. We secure it to the bucket handle with twine.
- We also add ¼ cup of kelp meal to our alfalfa tea. It’s not required, but kelp meal is loaded with over 70 different vitamins and minerals – so it’s a welcome addition! It’s also exceptionally gentle on plants compared to most other fertilizers.
- Allow the alfalfa meal tea to sit and steep for 24 to 48 hours. Stir occasionally if your schedule allows.
- After 24 to 48 hours of steeping, water your plants with the finished tea! It’s best to use it all right away. See amounts and frequency below.
- If you didn’t use a tea bag, stir the tea as you use it so the alfalfa meal particles are evenly dispersed among your plants.
- If using a tea bag, gently squeeze and ring out the tea bag to extract the maximum goodness before removing it. Repurpose the spent alfalfa meal by adding it to your compost, spread around the base of a tree or shrub, or directly to your garden beds.
How much alfalfa tea to give plants
Because this alfalfa tea fertilizer recipe and concentration is quite mellow, it’s okay to give each plant a fairly generous serving of tea: as little as a few cups each, or as much as you’d usually water the plant (up to a half gallon each, depending on the size of the plant.) Tea recipes that call for more than 1 cup of alfalfa per 5 gallons of water should be used more sparingly. See notes about further dilution for seedlings below.
How often should I feed my plants alfalfa tea?
In general, once per month is a safe application frequency for alfalfa tea fertilizer. You can use it as often as once every week or two for large, established, vigorous plants like tomatoes or cannabis. Or, it can be applied on occasion only, such as a single mid-season boost for your summer garden. When in doubt, start with a small amount and wait a couple weeks to see how your plants respond before fertilizing them again.
We use alfalfa tea the most as part of our organic cannabis fertilizer routine (once per week), and also give it to our veggie garden as needed a few times throughout the growing season. For instance, our leeks are looking a tad sad right now, so this particular batch will be used to fertilize them as well as our tomatoes and peppers.
Keep in mind that alfalfa tea is not the primary or only way we fertilize our garden. We also top-dress the garden beds with fresh compost and several slow release organic fertilizers at least twice per year (before planting spring and fall seedlings). Last but not definitely least, we provide aerated compost tea several times per year. Think of alfalfa tea as just one more tool in your garden toolbox!
Using alfalfa tea fertilizer for seedlings
I don’t recommend using alfalfa tea on seedlings within the first month after germination. Young seedlings don’t need many additional nutrients, and are significantly more susceptible to fertilizer burn and shock than mature plants. Once they’re at least a month old, you can use alfalfa tea on seedlings but dilute the recipe to use only ¼ to ½ cup alfalfa per 5 gallons of water. However, we typically use seaweed extract and/or homemade aloe vera fertilizer on our seedlings instead. They’re both far more gentle!
All in all, making homemade alfalfa meal tea is a great way to feed your garden. It’s simple, effective, and more gentle than store-bought liquid fertilizers. Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below. If you found this information to be useful, please consider sharing or pinning this post!
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