Compost tea an excellent way of providing fast-acting nutrients to your plants. It is a cheap, easy, and fun method to make your plants happy and grow faster.
What is Compost Tea?
Compost tea is simply a “brewed, water extract of compost.” Unlike traditional tea, there is no heating or boiling of the water. In fact, compost tea is much closer to fermentation.
There are many types of compost tea, and each one had its own set of subscribers.
Types Of Compost Tea
- Aerated Compost Tea – It is a water extract of compost brewed in good aeration. Food might also be added to increase the microorganism activity.
- Non-Aerated Compost Tea – This is similar to aerated compost tea in preparation. However, no aeration is provided. This does not necessarily mean that it will turn anaerobic, but the microbial activity is less than the aerated tea.
- Anaerobic compost tea – This is prepared by adding a higher amount of food in water and compost mixture without sufficient aeration. The food will increase the microbe activity and will use up all the oxygen. Once the oxygen level drops below 6ppm, the mixture is taken over by anaerobic creatures.
- Manure Tea – Farmers commonly prepare manure by adding aged manure to water. Though it would be best if you skipped this one as manure tea often produces a foul odor and might also contain harmful pathogens.
- Compost Extract – Compost extract is prepared by running water through compost at high pressures. This helps in drawing out nutrients and beneficial microbes.
- Compost Leachate -Compost Leachate is the liquid that seeps from the compost piles and vermicompost bins. It might look similar to the compost tea, but it is very different. Compost Leachate is usually produced before completing the composting process, so there might be pathogens present in it.
How to Prepare the compost tea
Most people will only stick with fully or partially aerated teas, which we will discuss.
So, you can make compost tea; with an air pump and without an air pump.
Both methods yield good results. However, you get better quality using an air pump.
Let’s discuss these methods.
Method 1 – Without using an air pump
This method is very simple, and you need only three things
1. A five-gallon bucket ( Or any container of similar capacity )
2.. 2-3 handful or 2 cups of compost
3. Non-chlorinated water
Step 1: Take your bucket and fill it with non-chlorinated water. The chlorine in water can kill good bacteria in compost, so you should avoid using it. If you are using water from supplies, let it sit for 24 hours, it will help remove chlorine from water.
Step 2: Add compost into the water and stir it properly and leave the bucket uncovered.
Step 3: Let the mixture brew for 24-48 hours.
Your compost tea is ready to use
Method 2 – With Air Pump
This method requires a few more things than the previous method, but it gives a higher quality compost tea
1. 5-gallon bucket
2. Aquarium air pump
3. 1/4″ tubing
4. 1/4″ soaker hose
5. Weights to hold down the soaker hose
6. 2-3 handful or 2 cups of compost
7. Non-chlorinated water
8. Fish fertilizer
Step 1. Add non-chlorinated water into the bucket
Step 2. Connect air pump to the tubing and soaker hose using a T bar and drop the hose inside the bucket
Step 3 – Stabilize the hose using weights. And let it aerate for some time to remove the chlorine
Step 4 – Add compost into the bucket
Step 5: Add one tablespoon each of Fish fertilizer, Seaweed, and Molasses. These add-ons increase the microbial activity many folds.
Step 6 – Let the compost tea brew
How long should compost tea brew? You can use the compost tea after 24-48 hours, but you can get better results if you let it brew for 72 hours.
How To Use Compost Tea
The compost tea does not contain any harmful salt, so you can use it often on plants. Most people recommend using it once a week for the best results.
So, how much compost tea per gallon of water? You can use compost tea without any dilution. However, if you wish to dilute it, add one part of compost tea to 4 to 10 parts of water.
To use it, fill your plant watering can with compost tea and remove its nozzle, so it doesn’t get jammed.
They are two ways to apply it to the plants.
Soil application – You pour compost tea on the soil near the base of the plants. If you add it to the seedlings, they will experience faster growth.
Foiler Application – Foiler application involves the spraying of compost tea on plant leaves. This makes the nutrients readily available for intake.
How long does compost tea last?
It would be best if you used the compost tea within few hours of brewing. You can store it in a translucent container for four days. If you want to store it longer, you need to provide aeration using an aquarium pump. However, most gardeners use it fresh and brew it according to the need.
What should compost tea smell like
The compost tea should not smell bad. Normally, it has a pleasant earthy and yeasty smell. If it smells bad, there is something wrong.
The bad smell could be due to insufficient aeration, extreme temperatures, or prolonged storage.
Should you use foul-smelling compost tea? It would be best if you don’t use bad-smelling compost tea. The chances are that it might contain some bad bacteria that can harm your plants.
Benefits of compost tea
- Disease control – A 2013 study demonstrated the application of compost tea could suppress that plant diseases. Pathogens find it difficult to infect plants as beneficial microbes already occupy the potential infection sites.
- Enhanced plant growth – Compost tea definitively increases the growth rate in plants. A 2012 study published in Scientia Horticulturae studied the effects of compost tea on pak choi. The study established that compost tea enhanced the growth rate and mineral content in the plants
- Improvement of soil structure – Compost tea improves the soil structure by building up soil aeration. As more oxygen reaches the plant’s roots, fewer toxins are produced, which results in better plant health.
- Increased water retention – With the regular application of compost tea, the soil can hold more water. In some cases, there could be a reduction of 50% in water use.
- Enhanced Decomposition – Compost tea adds more beneficial microbes to the soil, which increases the ability of soil to decompose more plant waste and toxins
- No Harmful chemicals – Composting tea enables farmers to grow food plants without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. This not only helps in getting healthier produce it also preserves the ecosystem by reducing chemical pollution.
- Safe Working Environment – People working with compost tea are not exposed to harmful chemicals, unlike traditional farming that leaves growers unprotected against many dangerous chemicals.