Beau-tea-ful composts

By TheHindu on 14 Jun 2017 | read

The common complaint of most Bengalureans is we are no more the garden city. Instead, some feel it feels more like a garbage city. But then, how many of us really care to reduce garbage, to which we also contribute? Think alike? Then, composting is the solution, especially for wet waste. We are lucky to live in a place which helps break down garbage quickly and without any odour, if we are careful.

Composting is the recycling of organic matter in order to create fertilizer, which is great for your garden. Composting, along with used tea, is a great way to promote sustainability by reducing waste and enriching the soil in your garden.

According to the net, used tea leaves are nutrient rich and disposing them in the garbage is throwing out a valuable resource. Tea leaves have high nitrogen content along with phosphorus, potassium and various trace minerals, all of which are needed by plants. Adding your used tea leaves to compost or applying them directly to your garden puts these resources to use and reduces your need to rely on other fertilizers.

Sumithra Balu, a painter, lives in a building which is conscious of wet waste composting. She says, “Normally, dried leaves are added as a catalyst for composting. We use them all the time to speed up the decomposition of the wet waste in our garden pit as they absorb the excess moisture in the biodegradable waste. Used tea leaves are a part of the wet waste process and enrich the compost that we make in the pit.”

Unlike most kitchen waste which generally needs to be composted before application to soil, tea leaves can be applied directly to it. Broken-leaf tea makes a fine mulch that breaks down quickly and mixes readily with soil, whereas whole leaf tea has a coarser texture. Different textures of tea leaves can be mixed with your compost.

The plus point about tea leaf mulch is that it tends to hold water well like other leaf mulch. It is useful for covering exposed areas of the soil and preventing it from drying out which is good for our gardens.

Averil Coutinho, an avid gardener, says, “Both tea leaves and coffee grounds are great for accelerating the composting process.” However, we must remember that many tea bags are not biodegradable. Even biodegradable tea bags typically break down much slower than the leaves inside of them. So, a useful trick is to let the tea-bags dry out overnight and then they can be quickly and easily broken open.