Print This Page

Note from Howard - Compost Tea

Technique and technology are not always thought of related to organic tools. But the science of organics is increasing rapidly. For example, compost is not just compost and the same goes for compost tea. Of all the tools we use, they may be the most important.
To make quality compost tea, start with good fungus-filled compost that contains aerobic beneficial microbes, then make them multiply by feeding and aerating them with a simple aquarium pump to increase the number of many microbes including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, flagellates and beneficial nematodes. Typical garden soils are weakest in fungal species and this
procedure helps them greatly. Buy a pump rated for about a fifty-gallon aquarium. Do not overdo the movement of tea and beat your fungus to death but provide enough oxygen to keep the tea from going anaerobic.
Air stones, also from the pet store, are used to pump air through the tea by creating lots of bubbles. When stones become stained from the tea, clean them between each batch of tea by soaking them in a hydrogen peroxide (3% solution that comes from the grocery store). Cleaning the tea maker between every tea batch is very important.
Worm castings are one of the best composts for making tea but any quality compost will work. Compost can be put in a nylon tea bag or loose. Larger air stones go on the bottom of the bucket. Small air stones can be put in the tea bag. Five gallon buckets are good to use and will make about 4 gallons of tea. Add ½ ounce of molasses per gallon of water to help feed the microbes. Too much molasses can destroy microbes in the tea. Look at the movement of the water to make sure you
have plenty of air and water movement. Put a lid on the bucket and let it brew 6 or 8 hours.
Bruce Lee Dueley has an even more thorough explanation of this process on his website:
Visit Captain Compost’s website:
The commercial alternative to compost brewing is extraction. No aeration is needed for this product and it has a shelf life of 5 - 10 days.
With molasses the tea will have a sweet smell. When the molasses is used up, the aroma of the tea will change to a yeasty aroma. Remove the tea bags if used, and continue to brew the tea with the air pump running for another 16 – 20 hours. The tea will start to deteriorate immediately after the air pump is turned off. You can prolong the life of the tea for a day by leaving the air on, but when all the food has been used up it will deteriorate even with the air on. Never try to store your finished tea in a closed container. It will develop pressure inside and blow.
Five gallons of tea will cover an acre of planting. As a soil drench five gallons will cover about 10,000 square feet of lawn or garden. It doesn’t matter how much water you use to dilute and spread the tea.

  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns