Why Make Compost Tea?
Making compost tea is cheap and easy, especially if you already have your own compost or vermicompost system set up in your home. You only need a few things and you will be ready to continually brew this amazing natural fertilizer in your own backyard. Substitute compost tea for store bought fertilizers and use it to encourage biological growth in your soil and on your plants!
Compost tea is about cultivating microbes. You can adjust your teas to encourage a bacterial or fungal brew. Deciding which one depends on what types of plants you want to feed with your tea! Annual and herbaceous plants prefer a more bacterially dominated brew, whereas woody shrubs and trees, for example, prefer fungal.
You can’t overfeed your garden with compost tea! Compost tea will not burn or harm your plants. Fill a watering can with the magic brew and water as you normally would. It can be sprayed liberally on the leaves of plants and at the roots. By using compost tea, you are inoculating your garden with beneficial microbes that will promote a healthy relationship between plant roots and the soil. Ultimately, this will increase the immunity of your plants, not only supporting optimal growth, but also helping them to withstand disease or better cope with pest infestation.
How to Make Your Home Made Compost Tea
You will need:
- 5 gallon bucket (be sure to make correct recipe adjustments according to your container size)
- Nut milk bag
- A double hose bubbler (with hoses and air stones–see link)
- 5 cups of compost/vermicompost
- Food for biology:
- For Biological Growth: 2 Tbsp of un-sulfured molasses or maple syrup
- For Fungal Growth: 2 Tbsp of Kelp powder or rock dust
Let’s get Brewing!
- Fill the bucket with water. If you are using tap water, let the bucket sit for two days to make sure chlorine has burned off before adding anything to the water. Alternatively you can run your bubbler through it to aerate it for a few hours. This will also encourage the chlorine to burn off. If you are using rain water, even better!
- When you are ready, add the food! Make sure it is mixed in with the water well. An easy way to do this is to mix it in a small bowl, with some of the water, before adding it to the bucket. Use a whisk if you have to! Throw it in!
- Put your compost or vermicompost into your nut bag and tie it off tightly (you don’t want anything floating in your tea). Place it into the water filled bucket.
- Add your dual bubbler to the bucket, make sure you are getting bubbles everywhere. Now relax and let it do its thing!
- In about 2-3 days you will notice a foam will start to occur on the top, this is normal. As the larger biology die (like worms and other bugs that were in your nut bag), they create proteins in the water which is the catalyst for the foam. If you do not see foam, it’s ok, your tea is still rich with microbes!
- Once a day, check on things and give it a whiff. Make sure it smells earthy, like the forest floor. If there is a rotten smell, it has become anaerobic. There are differing opinions about the cultivation of anaerobic bacteria in your garden. Overall it is best to be avoided unless you are purposely cultivating anaerobic liquid fertilizers (such as in JADAM farming). If this happens, try mixing it to aerate it, move your bubblers to a different spot and see if the smell persists in a day.
- Remove the bubbler and nut bag. You can place the contents of the wet nut bag next to a plant that looks like it might need a little boost!
- Immediately wash tubes and airstones.
- Apply compost tea to plants as quickly as possible, within the next 4-6 hours. The longer you wait the less microbe inoculant you will have as they begin to die off. The sooner you use it the better! You have about 3 days before a substantial loss of microbe population. Another option can be to leave the bubbler inside the bucket till you use up the tea, this will keep it aerated.
Other Things To Keep In Mind:
- Temperature: Keep in mind that colder temperatures hamper microbial growth. Things most definitely slow down when it’s cold. These teas are best used starting in spring, summer or early fall, as a fertilizer for your garden.
- Placement: Keep the brewer outside, tucked away from the elements and out of the sun to avoid exposing microbes to UV.
- Most importantly, . . . have fun! Experimenting in the garden can be therapeutic and connecting with nature in this way can be therapeutic, for both you and your garden!