In our last class, one of the things we learned about was compost tea. Many of you may be familiar with compost and the importance of maintaining compost for our garden. Something new we wanted to introduce to our gardeners was how to make compost tea from the compost we create.
One of the benefits is that it increases the healthy microbes in the soil. The healthy microbes feed on the bad microbes reducing the chance of diseases. Therefore, it allows the plants in our garden to be healthy.
There are two ways to use compost tea. The first method is putting it in a garden sprayer, then spray on the foliage itself. Spraying it on the foliage can act as a coating on the leaves giving added protection from harmful microbes, diseases, and insects. The second method is applying compost tea to the root zone. Appling it to the soil at the root zone can help with the soil structure and aid in water retention.
With good solid practices such as composting, mulching, rain barrels, and compost tea, we can reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides in our gardens. Some people call this organic gardening. For me it’s going back to the way our grandparents gardened years ago. I call this gardening the natural way.
I personally want to garden naturally, using organic practices as much as I can in my own garden. I want to know what is in my food, what is in the soil that grew that food. I want to know if one of my grandbabies eats a strawberry or picks that Tommy toe that it is safe for them to eat it.
We have more to share with you in upcoming blogs, so check back each week to find out more ways to grow naturally.
University of Tennessee Master Gardener
Simple Method for Compost Tea
Making compost tea you will need to gather the things listed below.
- One five gallon bucket with handle
- About four and a half gallons of rain water
- Two cups finished compost
- An old sock, bottom of legs from panty hose
- Stick to stir with
This first method is a simplified way of making compost tea. Add water to the five gallon bucket. It is important to use rain water if possible. The reason for rain water is that it is naturally soft and most important of all does not contain chlorine, chemicals, and minerals that are added to tap water that makes if safe for us to drink. Chlorine kills off the healthy and harmful microbes alike. If you need to use tap water fill the bucket up the day before and let it sit for 24 hours allowing the chlorine to dissipate. I cut the bottom 1/3 of the legs from a pair of panty hose, then I add about one cup of compost to each leg. On each side of the bucket handle, I tie my little compost panty hose bag letting it hang in the bucket of water. Allow this to steep for about two days. Stir it 3 or 4 times a day with the stick. When done, it will look like muddy water. At this point you can strain it and add it to a sprayer. Put it in a water can and water the roots of your plants. One important note to remember, you must use this up within a day. After that your healthy microbes in the water will start to die off. Any leftover can be poured into the compost pile.
Super Compost Tea
Now with the simple method explained, we have another method that I can characterize as compost tea on steroids. (Not that there is any steroids involved just a figure of speech).
- Five gallon bucket
- Four gallons of rain water
- Two cups completed compost
- Sock or leg of panty hose (as from above)
- Aquarium pump
- Sections of aquarium tubing
- Air stone
- Two tablespoons of molasses (Yup Molasses)
Add water to the bucket, make your little panty hose bags, add one cup compost to each panty hose leg, tie them on to the bucket handles, and drop them into the water. Now I screwed the aquarium pump to the outside of the bucket. Add the aquarium hose to the pump, then attach the air stone. Add two tablespoons of molasses to the water. Stir. Drop the air stone into the water. Plug in the pump. Allow it to bubble for at least 24 hours, but no more than 48 hours. In this method, the molasses and aeration feed the healthy microbes, increasing them dramatically.