Can Manure or Compost Tea Replace Fertilizers

Q.  I recently purchased a soil soup brewer to improve my soil and my yields. Unless I’m mistaken, this soup [compost tea] contains some or all (?) of the micronutrients I’ve seen discussed here.  Am I getting the micronutrients I need or do I need to supplement them further?  Can I use my soil soup alongside the nutrient/fertilizer without causing damage? With increased benefits?

A.  These questions can best be answered properly and completely by browsing the Mittleider Manuals on Growing Without Fertilizer, Fertilizers, and Fertilizers Condensed, which are available at  I recommend the Mittleider Gardening Library CD as the best bargain, since it contains the 9 manuals ($19.95 by themselves) as well as NINE other books costing over $200 and not all of them even available by themselves anymore.  A brief answer follows, but I highly recommend the 3 manuals for a more complete answer.

We teach people who can’t get the Weekly Feed fertilizers – which have just
the right amounts of all of the nutrients, and who can’t substitute with a reasonable facsimile – to substitute with what we call manure tea.  To make manure tea fill a large burlap bag 2/3 full of manure or good compost, put that in a 55 gallon drum of water and let it sit for 24 hours.  Use that mixture to water the plants, then repeat the process – this time soaking or “steeping” the tea for 48 hours.  After two times, the manure or compost is disposed of and new materials are used.

The problem with any manure or compost is that the nutrient content is a big
unknown.  First, it can only start with as much nutrition as the original materials had, and they may have been deficient in some things.  In addition, nutrients are lost by 1. being taken up by the animal eating the hay, etc., 2.  some is lost in the decomposition process, 3. some is contained in and lost with the urine, and 4. some is lost through leaching from rain, etc.  Researchers estimate that manure only has about 25% of the nutrients contained in the original vegetative materials.

It is for these reasons that we don’t depend on compost or manure to feed
our plants, but rather we give them everything they need for healthy plant
growth, thus assuring fast, healthy growth and minimizing problems with
pests and diseases.

Of course for those with readily available manure, it should be used.  Just
don’t use materials that may have disease or pests, and consider the weed
seeds that may also be present.  And don’t expect it to feed your plants everything they need for healthy, fast growth.