In honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day, we thought we’d take a moment to give a shout out for an environmentally friendly thing to do with your used tea leaves: compost!
Tea leaves are a great source of organic material for gardens and compost piles, as well as soil amendments. As a “green” or nitrogen-rich component of compost, it provides a valuable counterbalance to the “browns” or carbon-rich materials. If you brew your tea in a bag, you can compost the tea and the bag as well.
The loose or bagged tea swells in the pot, ball, or strainer, making it nice and moist and therefore more suitable to break down. Just dump it on your compost pile after use; end of story. If you have a tea bag instead, cut the bag open and empty the contents into the pile. The bag can be composted as long as it’s made of biodegradable materials: paper, silk, or muslin; otherwise, just throw away the bag the normal way.
In addition, some tea bags aren’t fully compostable, as 20-30% of their makeup can be polypropylene, according to research in London’s “The Telegraph.” These type of tea bags tend to feel slick to the touch. If the tea bag doesn’t decompose, remove it later from your finished compost and dispose of it.
If you don’t have the space for a compost pile, vermicompost (worm mulching) works as well. Here’s a good explanation of the process. If you’ve got a worm compost setup ready, just clear a pocket in the mulch, place the tea leaves in it, and put loose bedding over it
If you’re really out of space, or just too busy to put time into these endeavors, simply spread brewed tea leaves directly on the ground around thebase of acid loving plants like roses, most fruit and vegetables, and pines. It works just as well and can provide mulch for the plant when it’s dried out, as well as dropping in some nutrients.
Using chai teas (teas blended with herbs and spices) in your gardens’ soil may yield mixed results. The addition of spices could be counter productive as a soil amendment. In my experience, however, I have found that using brewed tea leaves in soil that was also blended with cinnamon helped to keep fungus away.
Just remember, it’s not how you do it that matters. As long as you keep the tea from ending up in a landfill, you’re doing your part.
This post was co-authored by Aaron Hammond