Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Compost Tea


Skill Level: Intermediate
Skills Attained: Compost Tea
Supplies:

  • Composted Soil
  • 5-gallon Bucket
  • Strap Molasses
  • Water
  • Screen 



My husband, Todd, helped me with today's post. We are novice gardeners (or "farmers" as he likes to say...ha!). We have composted for the last 4 or 5 years, which has really cut down on our garbage waste and been a great addition to our garden. We want to step it up a notch and try "compost tea" this summer. No, not to drink, silly. You water with this "tea" to give your plants an added boost of nutrients. Without further ado, here are my husband's findings on Compost Tea...


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As a guest blogger (flattered by the invitation to blog), one might expect me to write about something in which I’m already proficient.  Not the case here.  I’m writing about something I’ve never attempted, but plan to this summer:  compost tea.  All the information I’m sharing, I’ve pulled together from the sources cited below so I do not claim to be an expert in this, just interested in trying it out.

The goal of making compost tea is to multiply the beneficial microorganisms that are present in your compost by feeding them and then getting those microorganisms into the soil around your plants.  There are two basic approaches to making compost tea:  steeped and brewed or aerated compost tea (ACT).  The simplest explanation I could come up with to differentiate between the two approaches was that for steeped tea you stir the mixture to oxygenate the system and for brewed tea a pump does the work.  Either way, the oxygen needs to be present to allow for aerobic reactions to take place.   (Note: If your tea smells like vomit, you need to introduce more oxygen.)

Decomposing Compost
While there are many different ways and recipes for making compost tea, I’m going to keep it simple.

  1. I’ll be taking a couple cups of our “sweet” smelling compost we have in the yard, adding it to a five gallon bucket, and then filling it with water.  (If you prefer, you can put the compost into a porous bag to allow for easier filtering when it is time to spread the tea or use a window screen to filter after brewing.)  
  2. Next, I’ll add a half cup of black strap molasses for food.  (There are a number of other ingredients that can be added as well if you find a recipe you like.)  
  3. Next stir it once a day to ensure the beneficial microbes are getting the oxygen they need and after about a week the tea should be steeped enough to spread on the plants.  (Note:   ACT is much quicker taking only about 24 – 48 hours.)
  4. After the brewing is complete, filter the tea using a screen, and add the filtered tea to a spray bottle or just pour the tea onto your plants.  Use the tea shortly after brewing since the goal is to move the living organisms in the tea to the plants to be fed. 
There are many, many sites that have explanations as well as videos to help you through the process in a more detailed way.  For you biology nerds out there, the first citation below has a lot of explanation on the science behind compost tea.

If you have other recommended resources or ideas, please share below.  I hope to share my experience later in the summer!

Sources: 
Wilson, Tim. "Compost Tea." Microbe Organics. Tim Wilson, 2013. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. <http://www.microbeorganics.com/#What_is_Compost_Tea_>.

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (2008), Miracle-Gro Complete Guide to Vegetables, Fruits & Herbs. Des Moines, IA: Meredith Books

Check out more posts on my 2014 A to Z Challenge!