Composting Tea Bags: Can I Put Tea Bags In The Garden?

Hand Placing Tea Bag On Food Compost Pile
composting teabag
(Image credit: Christian Dahlhaus)

Many of us enjoy coffee or tea on a daily basis and it is nice to know that our gardens may enjoy the “dregs” from these beverages as well. Let's learn more about the benefits of using tea bags for plant growth.

Can I Put Tea Bags in the Garden?

So, the question is, “Can I put tea bags in the garden?” The resounding answer is “yes” but with a few caveats. Moist tea leaves added to the compost bin increase the speed with which your pile decomposes. When using tea bags as fertilizer, either in the compost bin or directly around plants, first attempt to identify if the bag itself is compostable-- 20 to 30 percent may be composed of polypropylene, which will not decompose. These types of tea bags may be slippery to the touch and have a heat-sealed edge. If this is the case, slit open the bag and discard in the trash (bummer) and reserve the damp tea leaves for composting. If you are unsure about the makeup of the bag when composting tea bags, you can toss them into the compost and then pick the bag out later if you are feeling particularly lazy. Sounds like an extra step to me, but to each their own. It will be patently obvious if the bag is compostable, as the worms and microorganisms will not break down such a substance. Tea bags made of paper, silk, or muslin are suitable composting tea bags.

How to Use Tea Bags as Fertilizer

Not only can you compost tea bags as fertilizer in the compost bin, but loose-leaf teas and compostable tea bags may be dug in around plants. Using tea bags in compost adds that nitrogen-rich component to the compost, balancing the carbon-rich materials. Items you will need when using tea bags in compost are:

  • Tea leaves (either loose or in bags)
  • A compost bucket
  • A three tined cultivator

After steeping each successive cup or pot of tea, add the cooled tea bags or leaves to the compost bucket where you keep food waste until ready to place in an outdoor composting area or bin. Then proceed to dump the bucket into the compost area, or if composting in a worm bin, dump the bucket in and cover lightly. Pretty simple. You can also dig the tea bags or loose leaves in around plants to utilize the tea bags for plant growth directly around the root system. This use of tea bags for plant growth will not only nourish the plant as the tea bag decomposes, but aids in moisture retention and weed repression. The beauty of using tea bags in compost is that many of us have a serious habit that requires daily doses of tea, providing ample contributions to the compost pile. The caffeine contained in tea bags used in compost (or coffee grounds) does not seem to adversely affect the plant or raise the acidity of the soil appreciably. Composting tea bags is a “green” method of disposal and terrific for the health of all your plants, providing organic matter to increase drainage while maintaining moisture, promoting earthworms, increasing oxygen levels, and maintaining soil structure for a more beautiful garden.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.