By Sami Grover, TreeHugger
When I posted a video on how to make compost extractions, and later on how to make compost tea it awakened my interest in this lesser-known subset of composting and organic gardening. I already knew that worm compost suppresses plant diseases, but could it be that making these magical potions from plain-old compost could enhance biological activity across your whole garden? It turns out there is an awful lot out there on the internet about compost tea—how to make it, what to make it with, how to use it, and whether it is any good at all. I thought I’d offer a primer on some of the better materials I came across.
What Is Compost Tea?
The wikipedia entry on composting has a short but sweet overview of what compost tea is. Simply put, it’s a liquid fertilizer and disease suppressor that is made by soaking small amounts of biologically-active compost in water, often with other ingredients such as kelp or molasses to feed the microorganisms, and then aerated over a period of one to two days. The “tea” is then sprayed using a typical hand-held sprayer either directly onto plants, the soil, or it is applied as a soil-drench (root dip) for seedlings.
A Simple DIY Compost Tea Recipe
Elaine Ingham over at FineGardening.com has an easy-to-follow recipe for brewing compost tea. Using no more equipment than a bucket, some tubing, an aquarium pump and bubblers, and a strainer, she explains how soaking and bubbling a mix of compost, molasses and water over a 3-day period produces a biologically rich feed that spreads the benefits of a small amount of compost over your whole garden.
Compost Tea Alternative Ingredients
Meanwhile this video from Howard Garrett, aka the Dirt Doctor, also gives a simple walk-through of how to make compost tea, and explains how adding different ingredients can help skew the biological activity. For example, says Garrett, adding molasses boosts bacteria—something that benefits grasses in particular. Meanwhile protein feeds like fish oil or liquid seaweed boost fungal activity, which is of more benefit to larger shrubs and trees.
Next: compost tea kits & how to use compost tea