Tea lovers swear by a well steeped cup (or two) in the morning to smoothly jump-start their days, especially during the long winter months.
While caffeine supplies the kick, healthy nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, ions and flavonoids are added advantages.
As spring approaches it’s nice to know that those same teabags providing cold-weather comfort contain yet another perky benefit, especially for gardeners.
Having been boiled, they provide a compact seed-starting medium which is pest free from the get-go.
They’re naturally embedded with nutrients the seed can feed on.
There’s no need to uproot the tender young plant from its incubating nursery, so into the ground it safely goes, bag and all.
That’s one small step for your newly sprouting garden, and one less addition to the landfill.
“Teabag gardening” has been touted by, no surprise, the Bigelow Tea Company, but also the Kiwi Conservation Club of New Zealand and Dr. Ken Thompson, a British plant biologist and gardening writer.
The process requires just a few basic household items, including 1) tea bags — either freshly brewed or dried and remoistened — 2) unbleached paper towels, 3) plate or tray, 4) watering device, and 5) seeds.
Begin by lining the tray with folded paper towels, then place moist tea bags atop in rows (KCC recommends “packing them together like pillows” in three rows while the Bigelow blog writer instructs leaving space between the bags.)
Next make a tiny slit or hole in the bag and carefully insert seed (just one according to KCC, two or three per Bigelow instructions, covered lightly with the tea leaves).
Place the tray in a sunny spot and keep the towel moistened KCC instructs, with Bigelow advising to first wet paper towel beneath tea bags then place in sun, maintaining moistness.
Signs of growth should appear in about 10 to 15 days, and when the sprout reaches about three quarters of an inch it’s time to embed the entire packet into its cultivation destination soil.
As simple a venture as it seems, one preliminary caveat may include finding out what material your teabags are made from, how they’re fused together and whether they’re compostable, information which can be found by calling the company or checking the website.
Thompson, the British garden columnist and author, noted in an article in The Guardian that many teabags are heat sealed using plastic polypropylene.
While this prevents the bags from breaking down completely, he argues that the relatively small amount of residue remaining eventually breaks up and dissipates, and therefore is not a formidable factor.
He added that most British teabags are made from strong Manilla hemp fiber, originating with a plant in the banana family, which nevertheless breaks down completely in soil.