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7 Steps to Perfect Compost Tea

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Give your garden plants some extra love with a shot (or spritz) of compost tea! Here’s how to make your own…

Every organic gardener knows how important compost is for building healthy soil and growing healthy plants. But compost comes in more than one form. For example, “compost tea” is a liquid form of compost that may be more versatile than the regular kind.

Compost tea can be applied to the soil to provide it with some nutrients like regular compost, but some gardeners also spray compost tea on plant leaves, as it is thought to contain beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that may enhance plant health and help combat disease.

Want to give it a try for yourself? It’s not hard to make! You will need a bit of equipment though – as the key to creating good compost tea is to “create an aerobic environment that will cause the best types of microbes to multiply in your tea (it’s also less stinky)” – according to this article from Rodale’s Organic Life. So you will want to pick up a basic aquarium aerator to make this task easier (you can find one at any pet supply store for just a few bucks).

Here are 7 steps to brewing your own compost tea:

Step 1: Place three or four air stones in the bottom of a five-gallon bucket and connect the tubing to the aerator. You may need to pick up a splitter valve (also called a gang valve) along with the aerator that allows several stones to run off of one device.

Step 2: Fill a five-gallon bucket one-third of the way with finished compost. Use the best quality compost possible—there should be no identifiable chunks of kitchen scraps, manure or other organic waste in it, just the crumbly brown stuff. The bottom of a compost pile is often the best place to find fully ‘finished’ compost.

Step 3: Add water to the bucket to within 2 or 3 inches of the top. It’s important not to use chlorinated municipal water, as the chlorine will kill the microbes. Rain water or well water are good options, but you can also dechlorinate city water by leaving it out in the sun for 24 hours. If you run the air stones in the water with the aerator, the chlorine will dissipate within an hour.

Step 4: Run the aerator in the compost slurry for two to three days, stirring the mix occasionally with a stick to encourage the substances in the compost to leach into the water.

Step 5: Filter the solids from the tea before using. If you’re applying the compost tea only on the ground, a filter with large holes is sufficient (a burlap bag will do). If you want to spray it on the leaves (if, for instance, you want to treat or prevent foliar diseases), you’ll need a finer filter, such as panty hose or an old pillow case. Simply hold the filter over another five gallon bucket and pour the mixture through it.

Step 6: Dilute the tea before applying at a ratio of one part tea to five or 10 parts dechlorinated water.

Step 7: Apply within several hours of turning off the aerator to prevent the mixture from becoming anaerobic and losing its potency. A spray bottle is sufficient for applying the tea to individual plants, but you’ll need a backpack sprayer (sold in garden centers for applying pesticides) if you’re going to apply it to the entire garden.

Read more tips for using your compost tea at RodalesOrganicLife.com

 

 

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