Growing your Own Tea, Part 1

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Tea is a versatile shrub, even if it is quite sensitive to cold. At first this may seem like a wonderful fit for Australia; we’re an extremely hot country that becomes steadily more tropical the further you move north. However, we’re also extremely arid, and particularly in the South Eastern states such as New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, cold winters await. Neither aridity nor cold is a friend to the tea plant (camellia sinensis), so growing it in southerly areas of Australia may be difficult unless you own a greenhouse or are willing to bring the shrub inside during the winter.

It should be noted that frost can and will ruin tea leaves and destroy part of the plant, so avoid exposing camellia sinensis to it at all costs.

However, while this may at first seem to be an uphill battle, tea is still a wonderfully hardy plant and a good ornamental, if you don’t intend to harvest the leaves and turn them into drinkable tea. In order to turn them into drinkable tea, however, you will need to learn the proper treatment procedures.

Planting the Tea

Seedlings for tea plants can often be found at a local nursery, however if that doesn’t pan out, you might like to see if any online nurseries have it (and are allowed to deliver; a company based in Australia is best if this is the country in which you live, due to strict customs laws about organic matter).

Once you’ve obtained your tea seeds, you can go about planting them. If you live in Queensland you can quite safely plant them in your garden, but further south you may want to think about using a greenhouse (if you own one) or planting the seeds in a pot that you can take inside during cold days and nights. Its okay, even preferable, that the soil you plant the camellia sinensis seeds in is a little on the sandy side; it grows best under these conditions. The soil should also be well-drained (while tea plants need a lot of water, they also need excellent drainage) and have a small amount of acidity. You can raise or lower the pH of your soil through a number of methods, as detailed by this site. Please be careful when doing this, as other plants in your garden may be sensitive to different pHs, and plants adjacent to your tea plant may notice and react poorly to the change in acidity.

If you intend to plant your tea in a pot, it may be wise to use potting mix with some sphagnum moss added in, in order to promote growth.

Growing your Own Tea, Part 2

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