Last month I talked about making your own compost. This month I’m going to talk about using that compost to make a nutrient rich solution called compost tea. Besides stimulating plant growth, compost and compost tea can also help fight off diseases by inoculating plants with beneficial microorganisms. I call compost tea the drink of the gods and think it should be applied weekly.
What is compost tea?
It’s called tea because you put compost in a “tea bag” and suspend it in water. Using water and aeration to extract the microorganisms off the compost surface. We’ll add other food sources to the water to feed the bacteria and fungi to get them growing rapidly. Be sure to use chlorine free water. Chlorine is in tap water to kill microorganisms. We’re trying to reproduce microorganisms so we don’t want chlorine in our water. Compost teas should be brewed with an air pump for 24 hours in warm water for best reproduction. By the end of the brew there should a nice foam layer on the surface of the tea and it should smell sweet and earthy.
How to make compost tea
Compost tea can be diluted 1:1 with chlorine free water. Depending on how much water you need will determine how much tea you will brew. So, get a barrel or bucket and fill it up with chlorine free water. Next, throw a couple handfuls of compost into a burlap sack or tea bag. After that you can add some extra food sources: kelp, fish hydrolysate, oats, and molasses. Although recently Dr. Elaine Ingham said that you don’t need to add molasses because it’s a quick sugar source that feeds the bad bacteria. She says you should focus more on fungal dominant teas and carbohydrates that get converted to sugars. After brewing the tea for 24 hours it is ready to use. Unfortunately compost tea must be used immediately after brewing or else the tea will go bad hours after the aeration stops. This is way companies can’t bottle and sell this stuff. So, set yourself apart and create your own nutrients. When you are ready to apply you can soil drench the tea or foliar feed. I usually do both but the foliar spray has a lot of benefits for helping strengthen the immune system and fighting diseases on the plant leaves. Here are two recipes from compostjunkie.com both of these have molasses in them so try it out and decide for yourself.
– 5 gal chlorine free water -1/4 cup vermicompost (worm castings)
– 1/4 cup fungal-dominated compost
– 1/4 cup garden soil
– 1/4 cup forest soil
– 1.5 ounce of soluble unsulphured black-strap molasses
– 1 ounce of soluble kelp
– 1 ounce humic acids
– 1 ounce fish hydrolysate
– 3 tablespoons rock dust
Get a microscope and give up the bottled nutrients!
The only way to truly check the quality of your tea is to inspect it under a microscope. Elaine Ingham says to assess the compost you use pre brew: Using a 1:5 dilution of compost, 400X total magnification, there should be a MINIMUM of thousands of bacteria in each field of view, 1 strand of fungal hyphae in each 5 fields, 1 flagellate or amoebae in each 5 to 10 fields of view and 1 beneficial nematode per drop. I added a few picture of microorganisms so you can see what they look like. It will blow your mind the first time you see good quality organic soil under a microscope and see all the microorganisms moving around. In 1 tsp. of organic soil there is more microorganisms than people on this planet. Conventional agriculture doesn’t take in consideration the microorganisms and in fact bottled nutrients kill them. There isn’t a piece of ground on this earth that doesn’t have the right nutrients to grow plants. What’s really lacking is the microorganisms there to convert the nutrients to plant available food. So, go out and make your own compost and compost teas. Organics is definitely more labor intensive at the start but after a couple of years of building soil you begin seeing an ease in your workday. Once you have good quality soil you can feed nothing but water and crush it!