Compost Tea for Health, Wealth, Vitality and Fabulous Roses.

The arrival of Spring usually means the pests and diseases that have been dormant on our fab roses and fruit trees become active with the warmer weather. Once the worst of the frost has past it’s time to think about prevention and cultural control of pest and diseases in the garden. Roses reap the chemical free, health benefits of using a natural based plant tonic and spray consisting of Compost tea, Baking soda and Canola oil.

Want the recipe for improved plant health and vitality plus save you money on expensive branded chemicals? Compost Tea for health, wealth and vitality find my own tried and tested recipe below and how to use garden spray safely at home>>

‘Nathalie Nypels’ a dwarf polyantha x china Rose  perfect where space is limited.

I have never been comfortable using chemicals in any garden unnecessarily and frankly when you are prepared to take the time to trial healthy alternatives chemicals are no longer required! #notinmygarden

Gertrude Jekyll by David Austin a sure winner and a favourite of mine

A natural winter wash will rid your fruit trees and roses of any unwanted hanger on’s! Those pest’s that simply wait for warmer weather to become active and begin feeding on your plants.

Gardener’s the world over, know how important it is to add organic matter back into the soil, essential when growing a whole range of plants especially vegetables that need a readily available source of nutrients to perform often in a single season.

Climbing Rose ‘Teasing Georgia’ a stunning rose grown as a large shrub or as a climber.

Over fertilising with dry powered nutrients can be extremely harmful to your soils delicate balance so instead of rushing to apply bonemeal or blood fish, grow more and bonemeal products consider the alternatives. Carry out a soil nutrient test to ensure you are not locking away valuable nutrients found naturally in your soils makeup.

Often applied when plants begin to look sick fertilisers can sit for months before breaking down and becoming available for fine plant roots to absorb. Instead consider using a compost mulch or even better a compost tea solution with watered or sprayed on the plants leaves to provide a much needed tonic or foliar feed.

Crocus Rose is an English Shrub rose bred by David Austin awarded RHS Garden Merit.

A compost tea can be made up really easily, however you will need a large water butt, a fresh water and a supply of well rotted farmyard manure. If you do not have a friendly farmer or a well rotted compost heap of your own then purchase a bag of well rotted farmyard manure from your local garden centre. Purchased manure will have the fine crumbly consistency that you need for making compost tea.

‘William Shakespeare’ “A Rose by any other name will not smell as sweet”

The simplest method is to make a few fork holes in the plastic bag that the manure came in and place the bag complete with manure into the bottom of your water butt. Allow your water container to fill and allow the manure to steep for several days before using.

The result will be a diluted compost tea that is ready to use on your garden plants, you can apply this directly to the soil around your plants but remember to keep topping up the water level in your water butt. If the liquid begins to darken or smell then simply add more water, ideally you want a shade like a light tea. This provides a light tonic that will help plants that require a natural to high PH. Do not use on Ericaceous plants that require acid soils like Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camellia.

To help control those unwanted pests and diseases you can use compost tea as a base in a hand held or knapsack sprayer be sure to filter the liquid before adding to your sprayer to avoid blocked nozzles.

In recent trials of my own I have added a canola oil, some dish soap and a molasses to the mix to further enhance the composts ability to deter pest and diseases from establishing.

I believe gardening is more about balance than control, I’m not looking to totally wipe out my gardens wildlife food source! Total control with the use of dangerous chemicals is in my opinion unnecessary and a waste of precious resources and money. Instead whilst tending to my own David Austin English roses, wall climbers and ramblers I ensure I have a sprayer handy with a seasonal combination of natural ingredients based on compost tea.

The ingredients are up to you and you can make a mix of your own based on my suggestions.


Use on dormant or pre-bud fruit trees and roses

In five litres of compost tea solution I add:

A tablespoon of canola oil or horticultural oil

A teaspoon of washing up liquid

A tablespoon of liquid molasses (Optional contains many trace elements)

A pinch of bicarb of soda (less than 1% per solution)

A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with garlic

Foliar feed and tonic:

Spray on emerging buds or plants in full leaf and/or use as tonic by watering containers or around the base of perennials and shrubs.

In five litres of homemade compost tea solution I add:

A tablespoon of canola oil or horticultural oil

A teaspoon of washing up liquid

A tablespoon of liquid molasses (Optional contains many trace elements)

A pinch of bicarb of soda (less than 1% per solution)

A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with garlic

As with applying any type of spray be it chemical or natural you need to take a few simple precautions follow my guide to Safe Application of Homemade Remedies here >>

The above recipes are used regularly in my own garden and if you were one of the recent 1250 visitors who made it to our annual NGS Open Day then you will know first had that the plants and trees under my care are in great shape.

Interested in learning more about the recent experiments carried out in the gardens under may care? My trials over the last 12 months have indicated that plant health and vitality can greatly reduce pest infestations and limit the spread of plant diseases and improve the overall performance of your gardens plants.
Interesting research

Grow with me on


Stephen Pryce-Lea

Head Gardener and International Horticultural Consulatant




“It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, when you find it in a Garden it’s like finding Paradise“

iGrowHort – A Head Gardener’s Horticultural Journey of love, life and learning.


About Head Gardener 331 Articles
Award winning, 40 something year old professional plantsman and horticulturalist with National Trust, private parks and estate management background. My vast plant knowledge and hands on techinical experience, afforded me the opportunity to work in various horticultural landscapes, in the UK, USA & Eastern Europe. Having worked in both garden retail & the design service industry gave me the practical diversity and managerial skill set, required for running a large prestigious gardens and stately homes. I strongly believe knowledge is to be shared and have worked closely with people and staff of all ages and abilities keen to develop their passion for gardening, including groups of children, special needs and adults. I have hosted guided walks, talks and tours for those keen to learn about cultivated and wild plants, garden development, history and design. As an member of the NNCPG and National Trust, I am actively involved in the preservation of several important plant collections both in public and private gardens throughout the UK. “It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, in a garden it’s paradise” Follow @IGrowHort on GardenTags. Stephen is passionate about gardening as Head Gardener with a team of ten staff he manages a prestigious Cheshire country estate of 55 acres, inc wild flower meadows, woodland, organic kitchen and formal gardens. Follow Stephen today”

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