Margaret Roberts: Compost rooibos tea

Margaret Roberts, a prominent figure in the world of natural health and gardening, has been using rooibos for composting ever since she can remember.

She says rooibos makes a fantastic natural fertilizer as it contains nutrients and trace minerals beneficial to plant growth.

“Instead of throwing away your used rooibos tea leaves or bags, use it along with other vegetable and fruit peelings to make a balanced compost mix,” advises Roberts.

“Our thriving herbal centre, near Hartbeespoort dam, keeps compost heaps going in much the same way, with rooibos tea being among the critical compostable materials. We use it on all our vegetables and fruits in the huge herbal centre gardens that supply our restaurant, and the produce is of excellent quality,” she says.

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Roberts’ herbal garden is considered to be one of South Africa’s top 10 gardens and is totally dedicated to organic farming.

Tanya Visser: Feed the earthworms rooibos tea

Rooibos tea leaves also enrich the soil by increasing the nitrogen level and give earthworms something to munch on.

Tanya Visser, gardening TV personality and editor of The Gardener/Die Tuinier magazine and associated editor on the Grow to Eat magazine, feeds used rooibos tea bags to the worms in her worm farm.

“You can also use tea bags for mulching your garden, but you have to drink a lot of rooibos tea to get the quantities needed. So I actually buy the rooibos tea mulch for my garden,” says Visser. “I love the courser grain of it, the smell and feel of it is wonderful too and it keeps the goggas away from my plants.”

Most gardeners prefer rooibos mulch to bark mulch, as it’s extremely gentle on the hands (you don’t even need to wear gloves) and since it’s easier to control the flow as it pours beautifully.

After watering a few times, rooibos mulch forms a crusty layer on the soil. This layer reduces water loss through evaporation, is ideal for reducing stress on young transplants and contributes to considerable water saving in gardens and pot plants. It’s also ideal for fertilizing vegetable planters and looks beautiful between pavers and dainty flowers.

JJ van Rensburg: Use rooibos to deter snails

Another of SA’s favourite gardeners, JJ van Rensburg is an equally big fan of rooibos.

“One of the best-kept secrets is to break open steeped tea bags and to sprinkle the tea leaves around the plants to deter snails and other unwanted pests – it’s a very effective biological pest deterrent,” says Van Rensburg.

He says that, contrary to the belief that all tea makes the soil acidic, rooibos doesn’t. The efficient microbes in the soil (the good bugs) actually thrive on rooibos tea leaves.

The tea also reduces the germination of weeds through the formation of an insulating layer above the soil, thus facilitating cleaner seed beds and pot plants. Rooibos is also low in tannins and is beneficial to both plant and root development. Mixed with potting soil, it provides an excellent growing medium.

“A soil rich in organic compounds, such as rooibos, will give any gardener a healthy and generous crop that will make them proud,” says van Rensburg.

To ensure a bountiful bloom come spring, the experts recommend getting started in autumn, which is considered the second most important gardening season.

DIY rooibos gardening tricks

Try these DIY rooibos gardening tricks, prepared by the Rooibos Council , in your yard:

  • Use rooibos teabags for cleaning the leaves of household plants. Since plants absorb the tea through their leaves, they get a real treat.
  • Steep used teabags in room-temperature water until it slightly changes colour and then pour the liquid over the plants. This provides them with extra nourishment.
  • When potting a new plant, use rooibos tea leaves or teabags (dried or steeped) in the drainage layer at the bottom of the pot. Since tea is highly absorbent, it will retain water, that will then get released slowly back to the plant.
  • Feed plants by scattering steeped tea leaves into the top layer of soil around the plant.

For more information about the benefits and uses of rooibos, visit