Spring has definitely hit! My lapse in writing is due to the fact that things are heating up again and I’m spending a good amount of my time at the drafting board or on site (see my facebook page for some photos of what I’ve been up to). That said, the other day I had the opportunity to attend a live demonstration on compost tea given by my friend and fellow organic gardener, Javier Gil. Brewing my own compost tea has been something I’ve wanted to do for some time, but always thought it would be difficult. So Easter weekend, my 4-year-old and I decided to conduct our compost tea ‘experiment’—it was so easy and a total blast!
For those who are unfamiliar with compost tea, it’s an amazing way to boost your soil’s (and therefore your plant’s) health. You ‘brew’ a tea made from a compost mixture and water and quite literally grow the beneficial bacteria and fungi that attach themselves to the root systems of your plants, thereby increasing their surface area and ability to efficiently take up water and nutrients from your soil. This amazing stuff has also been shown to suppress plant disease. In essence, it’s an effective, low-cost, low-strength (won’t burn plants), natural (organic) fertilizer. Brilliant!
For around $30 in reusable materials, I was able to brew my first 5 gallons of tea (enough to cover half an acre). I’ll brew additional tea every 5 weeks or so throughout the growing season. What I needed to purchase was a 5-gallon bucket, compost (in the future, I’ll be able to use my own), a cheesecloth bag (the kind you use to stuff a turkey), molasses (the stuff you use to make cookies), fish fertilizer (available at my local garden center), an aerator (the kind you use in a fishtank) and a hose end sprayer (available at my local hardware store). Then I did this:
Step 1: Fill the 5-gallon bucket with water to about 2-3” below the rim.
Step 2: Combine two small scoops of your own site soil (one from your plant beds and one from your lawn area) with approximately 2 cups of compost. The reason for this is so you can capture the specific bacteria and fungi from these two different kinds of plants.
Step 3: Fill your cheesecloth bag with the compost mixture and submerge it into your 5-gallon bucket.
Step 4: Add one tablespoon of molasses and one tablespoon of fish fertilizer to the bucket. This provides the food for your bacteria and fungi need to feed on and propagate.
Step 5: Place the bucket in a protected spot that is around 50-60 degrees and submerge your aerator. I placed mine in the garage.
Within 24 hours you should start to see foam on the surface of the water and within 36-48 hours it will be ready to use.
Step 6: Carefully pour your compost tea (in batches) into your hose end sprayer and apply it to all areas of your yard.
I’ll be posting updates periodically on my tea. Stay tuned!