My grandfather was a blacksmith in Apollo, Pa. As a young boy, my father had the responsibility of cleaning up the hoof trimmings and horse manure. He put them into a big barrel that was sawed in half with drain holes drilled into the bottom edge.
Grandpa told Dad to plant tomato, pumpkin and squash seeds around the perimeter of the barrel. Every few days, Dad would pour 5 gallons of water into the barrel. The water would soak into the floor sweepings and then out through the holes in the bottom of the barrel, feeding the garden vegetables with nutrients. It was an easy way to make compost tea.
I decided to try this technique in my vegetable garden. I didn’t have a barrel, so I used small 2-gallon plastic containers with drain holes in the bottom — the kind that nursery plants are sold in. Instead of manure and hoof trimmings, I used year-old compost made from grass clippings and leaves. I placed a tub between my ‘Beefsteak’ and ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes. Each day I poured a bucket of water into the small tubs and the compost tea came out the drain holes to water and feed the plants. In September, we started to get 2 1/2-pound tomatoes that were 7 inches in diameter. One was large enough to make six BLTs. My grandfather sure knew what he was doing!