tips + how-tos

diy compost tea

What is compost tea?

In a basic sense, compost tea is a liquid fertilizer and disease suppressant made by soaking small amounts of active compost in water. It contains beneficial microorganisms and vital nutrients for plant growth. By brewing compost into tea form, it makes everything more readily available to the plants. There are many different methods and recipes for creating the ‘perfect’ compost tea. From green plant parts to finished compost, available materials have historically dictated the ingredients that go into a compost tea recipe.

compost-tea-brewing

A simple DIY compost tea recipe

Making your own compost tea can become a huge value to your garden and save lots of money. I keep it very simple. Here is how I go about making compost tea:

  • Start with a shovel full of finished compost. I like to add vermicompost (worm castings) to my compost tea as well

compost-tea-vermicompost

  • Place composts in cheesecloth or a thin old cut up t-shirt or cloth. Tie it up tight to keep it closed with twine to create a jumbo sized compost tea bag.

compost-tea-step-one

Sometimes it's nice to have a little help....

Sometimes it’s nice to have a little help….

compost-tea-bag

A great use for a throwaway t-shirt

  • Fill a bucket with fresh water and drop the compost tea bag in it.

compost-tea-watercompost-tea-bucket

  • Put the bucket in a safe location protected from the heat and cold
compost-tea-lid-on

You can cover it, but don’t seal it up

  • Stir constantly (minimum of once a day). You don’t want to create anaerobic conditions that allow harmful bacteria to begin to grow.
  • After a minimum of 5 days, the tea is ready to use. Remove the compost tea bag. Wring it out. The compost from it can actually go right back in the compost pile.

compost-tea-bag-wringing

  • Use the tea within a few days. Be sure to stir daily if you don’t use the compost tea immediately. You don’t want it to start getting funky. If it does, don’t use it on any sensitive or edible plants.

Optional ingredients

I have recently started trying a mix of half regular compost and half vermicompost (worm castings) and a little handful of shredded comfrey leaves. There are many other ingredients that can be used to spruce up your tea. If you use a sugar based ingredient like molasses, corn syrup, or cane sugar, be sure to set up a method of aerating the brewing process. The simplest way is with a simple aquarium pump and bubblers. There are benefits to both aerated and non-aerated teas. We are keeping it simple for now.

How to use it

Using it is simple. You can either spray it onto the foliage of plants or water the roots of the plants with the tea.When I use it, I tend to stick with diluting 1 part compost tea with 1 part water. I spray plant foliage and soak thoroughly into the roots of the plants. Through the growing season, I spray every other week as I am establishing a new garden. Older gardens that have healthier soils need it less often.

What does it do?

The benefits of using compost tea on your garden are numerous and interconnected. It is used most frequently as a replacement for fertilizer, but this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Compost tea rejuvenates and nurtures beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that help create healthy soil. It is essentially an inoculant helping to engage the natural processes in the soil.

Try it out yourself. We would love to hear how it works for you.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Nathan Frazee
    October 16, 2014 at 9:59 am

    The Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston uses compost tea and I recently went out a tour of their setup. They use a sugar based approach with molasses, humic acid, baby rolled oats, alfalfa meal and food compost from the farmers market.

    • Reply
      this natural dream
      October 16, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      I have heard of similar types. That sounds like an aerated compost tea recipe. It’s definitely a future project of mine to build a simple aerator with a small pond pump. For now, this simple recipe is giving great results.

      -Ryan

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