No, we weren’t serving compost tea at the herbal fair. But, we did do a compost tea brewing demonstration at the Frosty Hollow Herbal Fair, held annually on the first Saturday in August in Sweden Valley, Pennsylvania. “What is compost tea?” was the most common question of the day. Well the first thing you should know about it is that people don’t drink it but your plants will love it. So, you might think of it as a health drink of beneficial microorganisms brewed from compost for your garden plants to enjoy.
There were many attendees at the fair who stopped to ask us questions about compost tea and its uses. Luckily, Jim Reed from Fallen Leaf Farm was also available to give a detailed and very informative talk about it. We can definitely say that there is a growing interest in this natural way to fertilizer the garden without dependence on chemicals. And with the use of compost tea, you get the added benefits of lowering the cost of fertilization while increasing yields. So when you consider all of these things, its a pretty soothing cup of tea.
We learned how to brew tea compost for use as part of our soil nutrient plan and have completed construction of our own 55-gallon compost tea brewer. By altering the tea recipe, one can control the fungi to bacteria ratio of the teas and by ”aerating” the tea batch in the tea brewer one can create favorable conditions for the growth of these beneficial microorganisms. Of course, success is mostly a result of starting with really good compost. For the demonstration, we used composted worm castings (about 1 cup per gallon of water) and blackstrap molasses (about 1 teaspoon per gallon of water). For aeration we used a 50 watt outdoor Air Pump which can deliver up to 2.5 cubic feet of air per minute.
Here is a picture of the final product after three days of brewing. The compost tea is a watery extract of plant soluble nutrients and microorganisms derived from the compost by the brewing process. It looks very much like brewed black tea; hence the name. The tea is dark brown tea-like color and odorless. It is not at all unpleasant. We applied the freshly brewed compost tea as a foliar feeding to vegetable plants in Field 5 (~0.25 acres) using the Chapin 4-Gal. Backpack Sprayer.
Use compost tea to:
- Rebuild soil structure and improve drainage
- Stimulate root growth and seedling vigor
- Reduce transplant shock
- Stimulate flowering and fruit set
- Encourage growth in stressed plants
- Protect plants from insects and diseases
Scientists tells us that microorganisms in the compost tea, such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes, give soil its structure, water holding capacity, and the ability to get nutrients to the plants. This essential web of life in the soil is damaged when synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides are used or when soil is intensively tilled. Compost tea restores soil ecology by restores these missing microorganisms.
To learn more about compost tea, read our previous post A Good Sense of Humus.