DIY Compost Tea

What is Compost Tea?

Making your own compost tea is a great way to boost plant growth during the slow winter months. It reinforces nutrients in the soil which improves water retention (Read: healthy soil = less watering. Hooray!) and helps plants be more resistant to disease and pests.

The tea serves as a dose of soluble nutrients for plants, think of it as a plant multivitamin essentially.

By brewing compost tea, you are extracting all of the microbial nutrients and beneficial microorganisms from aged, finished compost and condensing into a liquid form for your leafy friends. Yum!

Not only can you water the soil and improve plants root systems, you can also spray the tea directly onto the foliage, adding beneficial nutrients to the surface which helps prevent potential disease and damage. 

Many organic gardeners prefer using compost tea to artificial fertilizers which often times have harmful chemicals or pesticides. 

There are many different recipes and variations available, so be sure to do your research and feel free to fine tune your recipe to suite your needs.

 

 

How To Make The Tea

For our recipe, you will need:

Two 5 Gallon Buckets

1 Fish tank Pump

1 Airstone

Plastic Tubing (to connect pump to airstone, size will vary depending on pump)

Cheesecloth

Finished Compost

Unsulphured Molasses

*Optional: fish tank thermometer 

Step 1: Dechlorinate Your Tap Water 

Fill a five gallon bucket with at least three gallons of water. Place the water outside in a sunny area for several hours. This will allow the chlorine and any chemicals in the water to break down. Chlorine will kill your beneficial organisms. If you're using water that has already been dechlorinated, you may skip this step.

Step 2: Attach Aerator to the Pump

Attach your pump to your air stone with the plastic tubing. Make sure the tubing is long enough to allow the stone to sit in the bottom of the tank. Your pump can sit outside of the bucket on the ground.

It's important to keep your tea moving as it brews, so it doesn't become anaerobic and stinky. 

Step 3: Add the Compost

Fill your cheese cloth with several large scoops of compost. We recommend filling at least four inches of the bucket. You may fill it up to halfway, if desired. Tie the compost in the cheesecloth, forming a makeshift "teabag" of compost.

It is very important you're not putting raw or fermenting materials in the tea, this could contaminate the tea with pathogens that can hurt your plants. The compost must be completely matured and smell pleasant and earthy. 

You can now fill up the remained of your bucket with the dechlorinated water and turn on the pump.

Step 4: Add Unsulphured Molasses

Add roughly 1/2 cup of molasses for every three gallons of water and mix it in so it is spread evenly throughout the tea. Don't worry, adding more won't hurt. Feel free to adjust your recipe as needed.

This step is optional, but highly recommended. Molasses is a food source for your microorganisms and allows them to multiply. More beneficial microbes is a good thing, we want this. Check to make sure the molasses says "unsulphured" on the bottle. Sulphur is an anti-microbial agent. Don't kill your little microbe buddies!

Step 5: Brew

Brew your tea for at least 36 hours. Two to three days should be plenty of time, any longer than that and you start to lose nutrients. Monitor it for temperature and and stir it occasionally. Optimal temperature is between 68F and 72F. If it any point smells sour or rotten, throw it out and start a new batch.

When done steeping, remove the cheesecloth "tea bag" and strain if desired. 

Your tea is ready to use! 

Using Your Tea

You can soak your soil directly with the solution to improve root systems and reinforce soil structure, or apply it using a spray bottle onto foliage and fruits or vegetables. Mix it with 1 part tea, 1 part water and a teaspoon of olive or vegetable oil to use on foliage. 

Use it on mature or young plants, and newly transplanted ones, preferably early in the morning or the evening. 

You may use your tea in a number of ways, but be sure to use it within the next several days. Microbes have a short life span and will not survive much longer than 36 hours without food.

Happy Brewing!