Would you like a nice cup of tea? No, but your garden will thank you with its bounty. I first heard of compost tea when looking through a Lee Valley catalog and their compost tumbler collects compost tea as part of the process. Being curious about that I of course went to my trusty http://en.wikipedia.org and checked what they say about it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compost_tea. Of course as usual my thirst for knowledge sent me Google searching and of I ended up getting tons of sites, options, recipes, people selling stuff. After reading I decided why not try it, minimal expense which I love, and an opportunity to experiment.
I have decided to try and post the instructions in the method that my favorite blogger http://thepioneerwoman.com/ does her recipes; pictures and instructions. Check it out, you will become addicted to her site as I have.
So what do you need to make compost tea? 5 gal pail, aquarium pump & hose, descent compost either home grown or purchased, molasses, and a tea bag material or not, I will explain later. You can add, also optional, an additive of fish extract or kelp extract to change your brew slightly.
The process is pretty simple, fill your pail with water, if you are on city water let the water sit to reduce the chlorine. Plug your pump in and place your hoses in the water, some people use air stones but my pump isn’t big enough to power two stones so I add a nut to each hose to add weight to keep it on the bottom.
Add your compost. Now this is a question? Do you want a tea bag or do you want the compost lose? Another question is also how are you going to use the tea? Are you going to flood the roots, or spray the leaves? If you are going to spray you are best to make a tea bag. If you are going to flood then to me what’s the point in wasting time just dump the compost in and stir. To make a tea bag use something that will allow good water penetration and allow the compost goodness to come out. Some tea bag materials are; burlap I used this it works not bad, panty hose (make sure you ask before you take your wife’s/girlfriend’s or mother’s and if you are a woman then use away), cheese cloth. You get the idea. Get out the extremely accurate measuring instruments for this part (I use a 500ml large PB jar full) add compost to the water or the tea bag into the water and let steep.
This is when I add the extract if you are using it of fish or kelp.
After the first 12 hours add the molasses. The steeping time is all over the map with what people do. What works for me is 24 to 48 hrs ,I find longer then that it doesn’t appear to work as well. But I think environmental conditions play into steeping time also. Also give it a stir every now and again just to make sure nothing is settling on the bottom of the pail.
So after your tea is steep and ready you need to remove the tea bag if used, and air pump hose. Decide on how you are going to spread it. If flooding I like to use a watering can, if you are going to spray then of course a sprayer that isn’t used for herbicide or pesticide and you will want to use a strainer of cheese cloth so you don’t clog the tip. So empty your solution into the appropriate container I use an old watering can that has no sprinkler on it, go fertilize your garden, flowers, grass and trees. Remember if you are spraying on leaves don’t spray plants that have eatable leaves like lettuce or basil etc. There is a lot of talk about the benefits of compost tea a foliage spray, I haven’t tried this yet I plan to and will post of my experience later.
Okay how often to use compost tea, most web sites don’t have a common time, I look at it as being every 2 weeks during growing season. Next year I’m going to try an experiment and see how plants with no tea perform then plants with tea so check back next year if you can control yourself.