Does anyone use compost tea?

gsevensJuly 21, 2009

This is my first year having a vegetable garden. I started out thinking you plant seeds and water them. Boy, was I wrong. Well, I learned a lot fast due to all the info you can find online. Compost tea was one of those things I read about and saw some videos online about it. It made sense to me so I started making my own tea about 1 month after getting started in the garden. I've had people tell me that the tea must be working because my garden has grown better than theirs ever did. Does anyone else use compost tea? Any special concoction that works better than others?



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asarum(z6 Boston)

Paul: I don't use compost tea. I tend to use Cockadoodle doo in my raised vegetables beds. I make and use all the compost that I can but usually end up adding it to the sandy soil in my flower beds. I have my own question to add to yours. Is there some greater benefit that accrues to going to the trouble of making up compost tea as opposed to just working compost into the soil or using compost as a top-dressing? It is hard to find answers to this on the compost vs. compost tea on the internet.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 12:41PM
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I don't make tea out of my compost, but that's mostly because it's so full of worms, and I don't want to kill them. I think of compost as a great soil conditioner, in that it improves tilth, increases water-holding capacity, and brings lots of micro-organisms back to the soil. As far as nutrition, yeah, it has that too, but why would I give up the other features, plus kill the worms, by making tea, when I can just use it as a top-dressing and get all those benefits? Maybe using it in tea lessens the weed-seed viability?

Anyway, I'm too lazy.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 1:16PM
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To my understanding, and if I am wrong I appolagize, but I believe if you brew compost tea using air stones like I do to airate the water, the number of micro-organisms in the water begin to multiply (as long as you put in something like molasses for them to feed off.) I learned about it by watching videos on You Tube. Someone went to a seminar on it and videotaped the whole thing. It is in 9 - 11 parts. The video below is what got me looking into compost tea though.

Here is a link that might be useful: The secret is in the soil

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 7:08PM
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asarum(z6 Boston)

Paul: This is a question you may want to post on the soil and compost forum, since there are many gardeners who use compost tea, but none who are writing in here at this time. It is a great forum for that type of info.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 10:12AM
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ellen_s(z5 centralMA)

I do use Compost Tea...the plants take up the nutrients faster from the liquid than just working compost into the soil. I use it mainly on vegetables and sometimes also for small plants that I've grown from seed that need a little boost. Our pepper plants were looking very sad a few weeks ago from all the rain - an application of compost tea and some sun gave them what they needed and they are doing great again.

I just take a shovelful of good compost every week or so and put it into an old piece of pantyhose and put it into a bucket filled with water. I stir it with a stick a couple of times per day to aerate it (the oxygen increases the number of beneficial microorganisms in the tea). After a few days, I add about 1/2 to 1 cup of the solution into a watering can to dilute and then water my plants with it. Easy, free, and my plants love it!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 3:15PM
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spedigrees z4VT

I don't have compost because I only very rarely throw away any food. (Plastic and paper, yes. Food, no. We eat every bite of leftovers. Raised by grandparents who remembered the depression, and have absorbed their philosophy I guess that it is wrong to waste food.)

But I have mountains of pony poop which works well. At least I will have while the old girl is still with us. (She's very old!)

I wonder about a liquified version of manure though. What would I get if I added a shovelful of poop to a pail of water and let stand for some days, stirring occasionally? It would be easier to apply. I would think that organic material is organic material.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 6:40PM
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I have heard of manure tea. If the manure is too fresh though, I wonder if it would be too high in Nitrogen. It may need to be aged like compost. (Not sure on that one.) Actually the compost I use is aged chicken manure. When I make my compost tea, I put air bubbler in it though to keep it aerated. I've heard that the more air, the more microbes you get growing, because of all the oxygen in the water. I only brew mine for about 24 hours. My tea smells like earth while it is brewing. I've read that if you don't have enough air and it smells BAD, it is BAD. I sometimes add some seaweed to it just before I put it out in the garden. The seaweed makes a good foliar spray too.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 8:52PM
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I started using compost tea this year on lawn and flower garden after reading about it in the book, "Teaming With Microbes." The book tries to show how compost tea is the best practice in organic gardening.

Yes, you should head over to the compost and/or organic gardening forums in order to get expert advice.

My notes on a few comments people have added here (caveat: I am a compost tea newbie):

(1) I suspect that brewing without forced aeration (e.g., air pump like that in fish tanks) is inefficient and may not result in compost tea with full effectiveness.

(2) Only used AGED compost (or manure).

(3) You should aerate the water BEFORE adding the (aged) compost, in order to remove chlorine. Using the bubble aerator for an hour in the bucket of water should work, then you can add the compost.

(4) I use around 4 cups of aged compost in pantyhose in a 5-gallon bucket of water, and brew for 12-24 hours. It's a very efficient use of limited quantities of compost, since the brewing process multiplies the microbes many times over. At the end, you'll see lots of frothy bubbles on the top, and the stuff should smell earthy, not rotten.

(5) Advanced brewers: look up how to pre-treat your compost (prior to brewing tea) to increase the fungal content.

(6) Do it every couple of weeks early on; slowly migrate to every month or two.

(7) The claimed advantages of this organic gardening practice are significantly decreased water usage by the plants (by improved root systems, particularly due to mychorrizal fungi), improved balance in microbial content of the soil, and better pH for the soil.

(8) A complete brewing system can be bought online for $100 or so, or put together yourself for much less.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 1:34PM
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Thanks extragalactic for the info.

I will be checking out the compost/soil forum too. I give the credit of my garden success this year to compost tea. This is my first garden, and I would have to say that it has done pretty good so far. I believe it has made my plants healthy enough that even bad insects haven't done any damage to my garden. They only damage I have experienced has been from slugs. I see all the other pests out there. They just aren't doing any damage to speak of (YET!!!) I have heard that bugs usually aren't a problem when you have nice strong plants. It is when you have weak plants, it is not hard for the bugs to gain control of your garden.

I think I will go brew a batch of tea.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 8:56AM
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ellen_s(z5 centralMA)

Extragalactic, you have persuaded me to get an aquarium aerator...have been thinking about getting one for a while. I think that the foaminess is key to compost tea, an indicator that it has been well aerated....

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 9:59AM
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Here is a link for anyone wanting to learn to make your own tea maker. The video in kind of long, but good info. This is how I do mine.


Here is a link that might be useful: Bruce Deuley - DIY Compost Tea Maker

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 10:46AM
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