Compost Tea Recipes
Compost Tea For Your Organic Garden
I have had friendly competitions over the years with friends and neighbors on who can grow the largest healthiest plants. It was not uncommon for them to come by and take pictures of my monstrous tomato plants that would easily meet five to six feet in height.
All would ask how I was able to get them so large, and while there are many factors that contribute to large thriving plants I must say my Compost Tea is the difference maker.
What is Compost Tea?
Compost tea is liquid “brewed” by extracting bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes from high quality compost. This is a brewing process of agitation and aeration of a small amount of compost in water. Adding fungal and bacterial food after this process causes the populations of organisms to increase dramatically, producing a concentrated liquid fertilizer version of the original compost.
Why use Compost Tea
Everyone knows that good quality compost will benefit your garden, potted plants any lawn but how and why?
The decomposed organic matter present in compost will improve your soil quality and nutrients for the plants. The living components of your compost do the dirty work though, the billions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and other micro and macro soil organisms, that do the work of building soil and unlocking the nutrients and mineral that plants need to thrive.
Good compost tea will:
Increases plant growth
Full of minerals and nutrients that give greener leaves, bigger and brighter blooms, and increased size and yield of vegetables
Provides beneficial organisms
The live microbes enhance the soil and the immune system of plants. Growth of beneficial soil bacteria results in healthier, more stress-tolerant plants. The tea’s micronutrients are easy for plants to absorb.
Helps to suppress diseases
Being natural and creating a healthy balance in your organic garden, increasing the ability to ward off pests, diseases, fungus and such. It competes with disease causing microbes; degrades toxic pesticides and other chemicals; produces plant growth hormones; mineralized a plant’s available nutrients; fixes nitrogen in the plant for optimal use.
Replaces toxic garden chemicals
Perhaps the greatest benefit is that compost tea rids your garden of poisons that harm insects, wildlife, plants, soil and humans. It replaces chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides. And, it will never burn a plant’s leaves or roots and save you money.
So should you use compost tea?
Absolutely, especially if this is your first venture into organic gardening!
If you were previously using chemical-based pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers odds are you killed a range of the beneficial microorganisms that encourage plant growth, while compost tea improves the life in the soil and on plant surfaces. The compost tea will coat the leaves of your plants and inoculate them from disease instead of killing every organism.
In the past our ecosystem did not need harsh chemicals for desirable plants to thrive By using compost tea and other organic gardening methods we are returning beneficial organisms to the ground that was present before these unnatural chemicals became so prevalent.
Not to mention that you can do all this absolutely free!
How to use Compost Tea
Well there are many methods to apply compost tea, here is what works for me.
Initially when I set up my garden I use an organic product called Thrive (amazing) that has a garden hose sprayer attachment as a pretreatment. Once that is used up, I clean it out and use the container to mass distribute my compost tea to the garden and lawn. I use this treatment every other week.
In the weeks between watering I use a spray bottle to make sure I coat the leaves of my plants. Normally I will do this in the morning or night to prevent the sun from killing the micro organisms in the compost tea.
Are all compost teas the same?
Each plant has different needs as does the soil, so your mileage may vary depending on what you are brewing. However all compost tea is beneficial, so you do not need to worry about harming your plants.
If you know what type of plant you are growing, than it’s easier to decide which ingredients to include in your compost tea recipe.
|Type of Plant||Type of Tea|
|Most brassicas||Highly Bacterial|
|Vegetables, Grasses||Moderately Bacterial|
|Berries||Balanced Bacteria to Fungi|
|Deciduous Trees||Moderately Fungal|
|Coniferous Trees||Highly Fungal|
if your plant is not specified in the list above, simply find the type of plant that is most similar to the one you want to grow, and use it as a guide. For example, if you want to apply compost tea to a bed of perennial flowers, we would suggest using a more balanced (equal bacteria to fungi) compost tea recipe.
If you’re growing plants in sandy soils, you would benefit from applying fungal-dominated teas. Fungi help to build soil structure, which is always needed in sandy soils. Otherwise, I suggest you cater your tea to the type of plant, as shown in the table above.
Also don’t be afraid to experiment. If you apply several bacterial-dominated teas, and nothing seems to happen, try a fungal tea for a couple of applications.
Most importantly make good quality compost, this will be your biggest reason on how effective your compost tea is.
Compost Tea Recipes
Use a large waterproof bucket, vat, tub or other container with a lid. I prefer a 5 gallon bucket.
A tap at the bottom is nice but not necessary, it does make it easier to extract the liquid. If you haven’t got a tap in your container, it’s not difficult to buy a faucet and drill a hole and put one in or buy a ready-made container with dispenser.
Fill the bucket half full of compost; including any plant matter that has not properly broken down to form compost yet. Top up with water and cover with lid. The lid does not need to seal; it just helps keep the strong smell more contained!
After 3 weeks your compost tea will be ready to use diluted about 1:10, or the colour of weak tea. Leave it longer and keep topping it up during that growing season as you use it, or throw the mush on the garden and start again.
I use finely composted material to start with but it isn’t necessary, it just expedite the process.
During those 3 weeks, you can do the following to increase the beneficial nature of the plant tea:
Keep a handy forked stick or tool and vigorously stir the tea every couple of days or more at least. If you follow the biodynamic method, spend up to 10 minutes and stir one way to create a vortex going then change direction and make the vortex spin the opposite way. Keep changing and you may notice how the water takes on the look and feel of ‘softness or smoothness.’
To make a truly aerobic tea supplying plenty of oxygen, you can buy an aerator from garden supply shop or fish and pet supply shop. Follow the instructions to set it up in your container and keep it bubbling away to produce your plant tea. Don’t minimise the bubbles with an aquarium air stone and make sure the hose is kept down the bottom of your container under the tea material so that big bubbles boil to the surface. Aeration like this speeds up the process and helps form beneficial bacteria and microorganisms.
In fact this aerobic tea is potent enough and ready to use even within a few days. Once you stop the aeration process use this tea asap whilst the microorganisms are alive and hearty as they soon die when their oxygen supply is gone.
Add a large spoonful of sulphured molasses as a sugar and micro mineral source. This feeds the microorganisms, helps the fermentation and extraction of all the beneficial elements from the material.
Another method is to simply do nothing and your compost or plant tea will be useful but not so potent because it will not have developed so many active microbes.
Balanced Compost Tea Recipe
- 1.5 pounds of balanced compost
- 1.6 ounces of humic acids
- 1 ounce of liquid kelp
- 1 ounce of soluble unsulphured black-strap molasses
Bacterial-Dominated Compost Tea
- 1.5 pounds of bacterial-dominated compost (vermicastings work well)
- 2 ounces of cane sugar
- 1 ounce of soluble kelp
Bacteria love simple sugars, so feel free to add in a teaspoon of maple syrup, or even white sugar.
Fungal Compost Tea
- 2 pounds of fungal-dominated compost (see tips at bottom of page)
- 2 ounces humic acids
- 2 teaspoons of yucca extract*
- 1 ounce of liquid kelp
- 2 tablespoons of ground oatmeal
Ultimate Compost Tea
- – 1/4 cup vermicompost (worm castings)
- – 1/4 cup fungal-dominated compost
- – 1/4 cup garden soil
- – 1/4 cup forest soil
- – 1.5 ounce of soluble unsulphured black-strap molasses
- – 1 ounce of soluble kelp
- – 1 ounce humic acids
- – 1 ounce fish hydrolysate
- – 3 tablespoons rock dust
Seaweed TeaPut a large handful of seaweed in a bucket of water (preferably rainwater) and leave to soak for at least 3 weeks and up to a year. Put a loose lid on.
On a larger scale, use a net onion bag or a porous sack to hold seaweed and put it in, or tie it to hang in a larger barrel or rubbish bin of water. After using the compost tea, you can reuse the seaweed several times with fresh water, then put the seaweed in the compost or use on your garden.
Chicken Manure Compost Tea
- Use a large bucket or other container. Fill the container half way with fresh or aged poultry manure and top up with water. Allow this to stand for 4 weeks minimum before using.
- Dilute by one pint fertilizer with two gallons of water (half a litre mixed with 10 litres of water).
- Other manures can be used, though poultry best.
Weed Compost Tea
Weeds make a great plant tea — make use of your weeds; get your own back on them! Throw in different sorts from shallow rooted to deep rooted varieties, because each variety contributes different amounts of valuable minerals and factors.
Some commonly used weeds, particularly noted for their deep roots to bring up minerals from way down, are dandelion, plantain and dock. But throw in some of the nasty creeping weeds like wandering willy and watch them turn into useful sludge!
Earthworm Compost Tea
- Place a shallow container upside down on the floor beneath your vermicompost bin to catch any liquid that drains out. This liquid is called “worm tea” and it is an excellent fertilizer.
- Fill a 5-gallon bucket with water. Let it sit overnight to be sure that the chlorine will disperse, as chlorine will kill beneficial micro-organisms. If you use rain water, you do not need to let it sit.
- Take a couple handfuls of worm castings and put them in an old sock or nylon stocking. Tie the open end so that the castings will not fall out.
- Add 2 tablespoons molasses or corn syrup to the water. This food will encourage the growth of beneficial micro-organisms.
- Let the stocking soak in the water for 24 hours. Stir the water with a stick occasionally to stir up the micro-organisms and aerate the water, being careful not to break the stocking. (You can also use an aquarium bubbler pump to make stirring unnecessary.)
- Remove stocking and squeeze all the liquid from it. Place the leached castings into your compost pile and use the liquid compost tea to water the plants in your home and garden.
- Dilute with ¼ cup of tea to 1 gallon of water (non-chlorinated water). It is best to use tea within 48 hours of making, so the micro-organisms will still be active.
Quick and Easy Compost Tea
- 1 cup leftover waste vegetables or 1 cup leftover waste fruit or 1 cup eggshells
- Puree 1 cup vegetable peels.
- Add 3 cups water and blend well.
- Pour this fertilizer on soil immediately.
Passive Compost Tea
Passive compost tea is simply a “tea bag” suspended in a bucket of water and allowed to soak for several weeks. The compost gradually colors the water as the microbes and nutrients leach into the liquid through the porous fabric bag. The Nothing should be added to this mix, because added nutrients will cause the tea to turn anaerobic and rancid. Which makes this tea worthless to plants.
If you have any questions or suggestions about compost tea, please leave a comment below!