Recipes from the Garden

Andy Crossland
Adams County Master Gardener

Alfalfa Tea

There are probably variations of this receipt, but the basic formula will give your roses a real shot in the arm. When danger of frost is past, brew some "alfalfa tea".

What you need:

A thirty gallon container with a large open top and a lid. A trash can works well. dehydrated alfalfa meal. The pellets don't work as well. water. a sunny area, preferably away from the house, close to the rose bed. a stick , stout, for stirring

What to do:

Place the container in the sunny area. You will have to fill this with water, so an area where the hose reaches is preferred. You will also have to remove liquid from this container, with a sprinkling can or five gallon bucket, and carry this liquid to the roses. It gets heavy. Let your back be your guide. Fill the container with water to within 10 inches of the top. Now place 10 double handfuls( as much as you can carry in both hands) of the Alfalfa meal into the container, and stir it up until it is all mixed in. Fill the container up the rest of the way with water. Fill to within a couple of inches of the top. Put the lid on and go away.

Come back about the same time the next day. Open the container and stir the mixture up, again. The alfalfa will have settled to the bottom of the container, stir it into the liquid. Do the same on the third day, only you may want to use a longer stick this time. Put the lid back on. When you come back the 4th day, open the container, but do not stir the liquid. Use your five gallon bucket or sprinkler can and gently dip out the liquid, without disturbing the sludge that is in the bottom of the container. Give each rose about 1 gallon of the liquid.

Place this liquid around the roots and let it soak in. When the container is empty of liquid, fill the water up again. Let it work again, only on the 4th day this time stir the sludge into solution and put it all on the rose roots. That's all there is to it. Your roses will love it. The neighbors may not. The odor may make you think a large cow has been very ill in your yard. The odor only lasts a little while. Usually 2 hours is all it takes to have that "country fresh " air replaced by regular air. When the roses bloom, take the neighbors a bouquet.

What to do next

The first time I do this in the spring, I follow in a week to 10 days with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Epsom salts per bush. Sprinkle the Epsom salts on the ground, around each bush, and water in. This will encourage basil breaks, which will become the largest, healthiest canes on the bush. Many people think that the breaks ( as they are known ) are suckers, and cut them off. If the bush is grafted and the break is coming from the graft area, it is probably a basil break. Watch it as it matures. If the leaves are the same as the rest of the bush, the roses that follow should be too. This tea is used in addition to the commercial fertilizers for roses. Repeat 2-3 times a season. Stop fertilizing about 6 weeks before the first frost.

Read other recipes from the garden

Read other articles by Andy Crossland