Since when did poop and water get so complicated?
When I began my research on compost teas, I figured it would be a fairly easy subject to tackle … Boy did I ever underestimate that one.
It’s no secret that compost is one of the best fertilizers you can possibly add to your garden. And the sky’s the limit when it comes to all the options you have when it comes to different styles of compost piles and the ingredients that you can use.
Compost tea is basically a brew made from water and finished compost. It has a myriad of reported benefits and I like to think of it as a natural alternative to the “miracle growing” products sold at the gardening stores in town. It’s a fantastic, easy way to improve your garden soil.
Not only does compost tea add extra nutrients to your soil, it also has the potential to increase the microbe population in the soil. (Because I’m a big fan of good germs, and you should be, too.)
When you start to learn about compost tea, you’ll quickly learn there are approximately nine million different compost tea methods, techniques, and recipes … And that is where it begins to get confusing.
The biggest differentiation in compost teas are the aerated or non-aerated varieties. Aerated compost tea (ACT) uses an electronic device of some sort (usually a bubbler for a fish tank, or something along those lines) to force oxygen into the brew, while non-aerated tea simply relies on water, compost, time, and a bucket.
As you can imagine, there is much debate as to which method is superior. Some folks swear by ACT and claim it is the only appropriate way to brew compost tea, while others reason that there is no scientific research backing these claims.
After a lot of digging around, I’ve settled on non-aerated compost tea for my homestead, and here’s why:
- Simplicity- While I will be the first to admit that there are probably benefits to ACT, I simply do not have the time to add another semi-labor intensive project to my homestead. If gardening is your primary passion, then by all means, I encourage you to do some research and become an aerated tea expert. But keeping it simple is my number one priority right now.
- History- Different cultures have been brewing forms of compost tea for centuries. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have fish tank motors.
- Laziness– Err… I meant efficiency. 😉 Steeping and stirring sounds better to me than babysitting an aeration system.
As I mentioned above, if you want to pursue the ACT methods, I think that’s great. But if you are a homesteader like I am who struggles to keep her head above water, let’s keep it simple, shall we?
How to Make Compost Tea
- 5 gallon bucket
- 1 shovel-scoop of good-quality finished compost (as you can see, the quantities here are super-scientific)
- Non-chlorinated water (rain water is great, too!)
- Dump the shovel-full of finished compost into the five gallon bucket. Fill the rest of the way with water. Stir vigorously, and set aside for about a week. Stir it once or twice a day.
- When you are ready to use it, strain the compost from the water.
How to apply:
- Your finished compost tea can be used undiluted, or if it turns out very dark, try diluting it 1:1 with water.
- It may be sprayed directly on the leaves of your plants or poured around the roots and allowed to soak into the soil (I personally prefer using it as a soil drench). If you are applying your tea to a large area, it can be diluted further to make it stretch.
Compost Tea Notes
- Here’s how to make compost, if you’re new to the idea. I suppose you could buy compost for this recipe, too, but buying compost sounds a wee bit crazy to me. 😉
- You can also use worm castings for homemade compost tea.
- Some sources warn against compost tea since they are worried it could harbor dangerous bacteria like salmonella or e.Coli 0157:H7, since these organisms reside in manure. This is why it is important to use finished compost, and not raw manure. Other experts warn not to spray the foliage of a plant if you plant to consume it or its fruit right away. Personally? I’m not too worried about this, but I wanted you to have the full story. Since I’m using compost from my healthy, grass-fed animals, instead of manure from questionable sources, I feel completely comfortable using compost tea in my garden. But in the end, I’ll leave the choice up to you.
- As mentioned above, my compost pile is a giant pile of horse and cow manure that we turn with the tractor and allow to “cook” until it becomes beautiful, mellow compost. You could absolutely use kitchen compost for your compost tea as well.
- You can add other stuff to your compost tea, like kelp, molasses, etc, to add various nutrients to the soil if you need them. Me? Well, I like to keep it simple.