Stanky Fertilizer Tea.... Dangerous?

metsuyanJuly 9, 2012

Hi everyone...

I am an amateur organic gardener and this year planted some tomato plants using the "earth box" planting system. For those of you unfamiliar, it is basically a planter on wheels that has a screen on the bottom with a tube that comes up to the soil surface so as to create a reservoir beneath your soil so that you may water below your plants as well.

That being said, I had followed the directions of making a fertilizer tea listed on the bag of a well known organic gardening product manufacturer. I placed the indicated amount of fertilizer in a bucket with water and let it sit for 48hrs (they had only direct me to 24 but that's what happened). As it turns out, I covered the bucket fearing that something would get in it and left it outside (where it was hot). When I opened it up.... Holy mother of Jesus.... What a foul fish smell!!! Being the idiot that i am, I assumed that that was just a sign of its active potency so I strained it as directed and distributed the tea to the solid beds of my tomato plants.

Now after reading on the web, I'm getting the idea that that was clearly not the correct course of action. The manufacturer never said anything about using a circulation pump to prevent anaerobic bacterial proliferation. Then I read about dangerous E.Coli bacteria and I'm worried that even if my plants do survive that I might kill my family by feeding them the fruit of these plants...

Can someone with great knowledge in this area offer me some insight? FYI... My plants are all already showing medium to large fruit that is just waiting to grow a bit more and ripen red.

Thx for your help.

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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

While the potential exists for disease pathogens to develop when making non aerated compost or manure teas I would not get overly paranoid about that since washing the fruits produced is an effective way to keep from ingesting those pathogens. It can be a bit more difficult with the leafy vegetables but it can be done.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 6:02AM
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metsuyan

Thx for your response...
How about those pathogens passing thru the soil and up into the fruit itself?
Is that something that can happen?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 9:12AM
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oliveoyl3

metsuyan - pathogens are not likely to rise through the soil

dilute before application
good to cover it & prevent flies
save rest of it or apply to inground garden areas
flowering plants like it, too.

smell dissipates when soil microbes eat it up

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 2:31PM
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gardengal48

The smell is associated with anaerobic fermentation - heat, lack of air and time combine to make a potently smelling concoction out of any organic material. That's kinda where wine comes from, ya know :-)

What was your starting ingredient? If an organic fertilizer - not a compost or manure - you have minimal concerns about any harmful pathogens. Most fertilizer teas are anaerobic, even many compost or manure teas, and they are not necessarily any more dangerous or potentially harmful or more pathogenic than aerobically prepared teas. Alfalfa tea is almost always prepared in an anaerobic fashion and it is an excellent foliar and soil application. You just need to be familiar with your source material. Uncomposted manures run the greatest risk of carrying pathogens: a thoroughly prepared compost or commercial organic fertilizer or even a homemade plant tea run very little risk.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 7:58PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Perhaps this will answer some questions.

Here is a link that might be useful: disease pathogens in compost teas

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 11:28AM
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