Worm Tea vs. Leachate vs. Compost Tea

jgoreMarch 17, 2009

Someone told me in an earlier post this week, in regards to the liquid collection tray at the bottom of my Worm Factory composting system, that the liquid is leachate and not "compost tea". I went back through the WF literature and read that this liquid, according to WF designers, is referred to as "worm tea", which can be used as a fertilizer, similarly to compost tea I believe.

Now, when I think of leachate, I normally consider a negative connotation referring to liquid waste, but since this liquid collection tray is simply collecting the runoff from the organic matter (food and paper scraps) I'm putting into my worm bin, I don't think this is a fair categorization.

I'm wondering what other people think about this...what the difference is between "compost tea" and "worm tea" -- if any -- and any other thoughts on this topic.

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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

Jgore -- I was the one who said that leachate wasn't the same as worm tea. I'm not saying that giving it to your plants is bad for them, just that it is different from worm tea. Worm Tea/Aerated Vermicast Tea/AVT is brewed with molasses and air to promote microbial life. The leachate at the bottom of the WF is merely drippings from the trays. There are lots of discussions on this and other forums about how to make Tea. But there are also strong discussions about the usefulness of tea versus top dressing with VC. Search. Search. Search.

One of the posts I found here after searching for AVT said:
"Vermicompost tea is made by mixing finished compost with water. Compost tea is NOT the juice from the bottom of your bin. If you have that much liquid in your bin, it's too wet and likely a symptom of more serious problems."

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 6:00PM
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After I bought my WF and following the posts here, I have e-mailed WF and commented a.o. on their description of "worm tea". I got a reply and they admitted that the run-off is not worm tea, rather what is called leachate in the vermicomposting community. The name will be changed with the next printing.

I agree with folly grows, if you've got leachate then your bin is too wet. You will get mite problems and smell. So, add dry shredded newspaper to soak excess liquid. The bin usually gets enough moisture just from the veggie/fruit scraps added.
I have never made vermi or compost tea but came across postings from people who have brewed them. You have to add molasses and aerate the brew etc. like folly mentioned. I do not have the link handy but you can google for the recipe.

If I do get leachate, I dilute that with water (1:10 just to be safe it is not too strong)and water my houseplants with it. None have died so far.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 6:43PM
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Thanks both of you for your helpful responses. I'm glad I now understand what's going on here. It's unfortunate that the WF designers made such an obvious miscategorization. I had posted earlier too about my confusion regarding their measurement of 1/2lb. of food per 1lb. worms to the measurement I received with my worms themselves which said 1/2c. to 1lb. worms. I'm not sure which of these is correct either, but am just watching to see how quickly food disappears. It seems they aren't doing the best job...

I'll keep digging through past posts for more information on tea.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 11:52PM
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To summarise:
Leachate - the correct word for the dark liquid that comes out to bottom of your bin. If your bin in maintained correctly you should have very little leachate and what you do have can safely (in diluted form) be given to your plants. Sometimes leachate is incorrectly referred to as "worm tea". Some sites refer to at as "worm wee", but even that is technically incorrect.

Compost tea - a mix of VC and water. Useful if you don't have leachate and want some liquid fertilizer.

Worm tea - a mix of VC, water and molasses. It is brewed in the sense that hot water is used and it must be used almost immediately otherwise the benefit is lost. There is a lot of controversy regarding the benefits of creating and using worm tea. My person view is: "If in doubt, leave it out."

Hope that clears things up.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 5:27AM
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I see many sites that are referring to any worm bin runoff as worm tea which is really just "leachate". Im guessing much of the presented info is old and they were just recopying the info and digging into the facts. The fact that any runoff could be just juices from water, fruits and veggies or anything else that has not yet even passed thru a worms body. So therefore I consider any runoff useless. True worm tea is obtained by using the mature vermicompost which has been run thru a worms body and been aerated and the billions of microbes that will be multiplied by the aeration process. The result being true "worm tea" and applying the tea quickly after stopping the aeration to get the most use of before they start dieing off.

As an added thought I have never even had one drop of runoff from any of my bins so my thoughts are anyone having lots of runoff is that their bins are way too wet. Have a good day.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 8:19PM
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boredsogarden(8 VA)

I believe I am the one who stated "compost tea." ... but I do not have a "WF." Rather, I have several barrels that are watered by gutter rain and fed with kitchen and garden scraps, as well as chicken poo.

At the bottom of the barrel there are several spouts that feed into holding containers. The water that drains through to the holding tank is what I refer to as "compost tea." I use this directly on plants without diluting, and have had only marvelous results.

As for the smaller tubs of concentrated redwigglers -- I use the large Wal-Mart totes that held items sent to the thrift store. Stacking two, three, four, or more depending on the amount of worms and accumulated castings. On the very bottom is a solid tote with holes in the lid which holds anything that drains through the top bins. I equipped the bottom bin with old spouts from large detergent containers to dispense the liquid as needed. This liquid...I have no name for it. It is sometimes there, sometimes not, and sometimes I drain water all of the way through to have a bit of concentrated liquid. The concentrated liquid I use on my open-air compost piles or throw in the Compost Tumbler to heat up the compost.

But if you have an indoor worm bin, which I believe a "WF" is...I wouldn't want water on the bottom. When my indoor worms (meals and supers) get too wet I think I am seeing spots...then I realize fruit flies are multiplying like crazy. Then it's off to the big-box for some apple cider vinegar and some Damp-Rid. :)

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:24PM
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