E.G. Rall Jr. Landscape Design & Horticultural Services

© 2017 by E.G. Rall Jr.

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Afternoon Tea? Would you like Earl Grey or Compost?​

Compost tea is a process by which you steep compost and spread the solution on your garden, crops or lawn. Using compost tea is also an efficient way of applying organic matter if there is not enough compost to spread around.

Old growth meadows and forests decompose plants and leaves cyclically. Applying compost brings that same type of biology to the crop’s soil.

Does this mean that fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are unnecessary? Yes! In conjunction with other good organic farming practices like cover crops, crop rotation and inter-cropping, compost and compost tea give the soil all the nutrients it needs. Under these healthy conditions, weeds are less likely to proliferate and the plant’s immune system is strong and can better ward off pests. If a garden or farm has sickly plants, lots of weeds or an outbreak of pests, the first thing to do is ask, “what’s wrong with the soil?” not, “grab the spray!” Good compost will help repair the problem and correct the imbalance.

To brew compost tea, you will need a 5-gallon plastic bucket and a few aquarium supplies: a pump large enough to run three bubblers (also called air stones), several feet of air tubing, a gang valve (which distributes the air coming from the pump to the tubes going to the bubblers), and three bubblers. You’ll also need a stick for stirring the mixture, some unsulfured molasses (preferably organic), and an old pillowcase, tea towel, or nylon stocking for straining the tea. An extra bucket comes in handy for decanting the tea.

Don’t try to make compost tea without the aeration equipment. If the tea is not aerated constantly, the organisms in it will quickly use up the oxygen, and the tea will start to stink and become anaerobic. An anaerobic tea can harm your plants.

Also, keep in mind that tea made using this bucket method needs to brew for two or three days and then be used immediately. If you work Monday through Friday, start the tea on Wednesday or Thursday, so it will be ready in time to apply it on the weekend.

Sustainability February 27, 2012