Compost Tea - Not For Drinking (Unless You're A Plant)

Compost tea - doesn't sound very appetizing, does it? As you probably have surmised, compost tea is not something you enjoy with a couple of cookies. No, compost tea is merely one of the best things you can apply to your garden soil or plants.

Compost tea is basically just what the name implies. Compost steeped in water. There are a number of different methods for doing this, however. One important point to mention is that you do not want to use chlorinated water. The chlorine will kill the beneficial organisms in the compost.

The easiest method is to just steep some compost in water. However, some authorities claim that if the water is not somehow aerated during the steeping process, the tea will become anaerobic and smell terrible because the organisms in the compost will deplete the oxygen. They say that not only will the tea stink, but that an anaerobic tea is harmful to plants.

The recommended way to make the compost tea is to aerate it while brewing. For this you need to visit your local aquarium supply store and pick up a pump, three bubblers, a few feet of tubing, and a gang valve to distribute the air coming from the pump to the tubes that lead to the bubblers. You also need a jar of blackstrap molasses and a couple of five gallon buckets.

Specific directions for making the tea using this method are beyond the scope of this short article, but you can find step-by-step instructions at The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection's website at

The tea can be used as a soil drench or as a foliar spray. It seems to have the most value as a spray used to prevent foliar diseases. In order to have value for this type of application, the tea must be made from bacteria-dominated compost (as opposed to fungi-dominated). To make a bacteria-dominated compost, try to use around half green materials, with the remainder split about fifty/fifty between woody ingredients and high-nitrogen materials. It's important to note that if you've used any sort of manure in the compost that's been used to make the tea, you should not spray it on any edible plants.

One of the best types of compost to use for tea is vermicompost or worm castings. Regardless of the type of compost you use, if you'd prefer to stay away from synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides in favor of a natural and inexpensive solution, give compost tea a try.

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