Hay ives Plants Horsepower

Want great performance from your perennials? "Fuel them with high-octane alfalfa hay tea," says John Dromgoole, owner of Garden-Ville nursery in Austin, Texas, and host of the 'Gardening Naturally" radio program. Alfalfa has been used for centuries as livestock feed. But John says that everything that makes it a valuable feed-high nitrogen, vitamin A, folic acid, potassium, calcium, and trace minerals—also makes it a great foliar plant food. John says alfalfa tea is especially good for roses and long-blooming ornamentals. You can also substitute bagged alfalfa meal for the hay.

Ingredients and Supplies

5-gallon bucket

1 bale organically grown alfalfa hay, coarsely chopped, or 1 bag alfalfa meal Paniy hose or cheesecloth

Strain fertilizer mixes like alfalfa tea through cheesecioth or a piece of panty hose to catch plant debris so that it won't clog your sprayer.


  1. Fill the bucket % full with alfalfa hay or alfalfa meal.
  2. Add water (preferably rainwater) to fill the bucket.
  3. Allow the tea to brew for I week to 10 days. (This tea smells pretty strong, so don't mix it too near the house!)
  4. To make a foliar (leaf) spray or a soil drench, strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a piece of old panty hose. Dilute with water at a ratio of I cup of mixture per gallon of water. The final result should look like light transparent tea.

Yield: About 4 gallons of concentrated nutrient tea

One bale of hay should feed your garden for an entire gardening year. (Or you may be able to collect loose hay from the floor of a local feed store—for free!) Chop and mix the alfalfa as needed. Store the remaining hay under cover to prevent leaching and loss of nutrients. You can keep the hay in a garage or garden shed, or cover it with a tarp in a shady spot. if

Note: To replenish the mix, just add more hay and more water to the bucket as needed. When the bucket is full of used' alfalfa, you can use the dregs to sidedress established plants in the garden.

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