How to Make Aerated Compost Tea

Rehabilitate soil with aerated compost tea. Containing thousands of useful microorganisms, this method is sure to bring life to barren patches of dirt.

  • "Earth Repair" by Leila Darwish is packed with simple, accessible and practical tools for healing and regenerating damaged ecosystems.
    Cover Courtesy New Society Publishers
  • Aerated compost tea bubbling in a bucket with the tea stocking clearly visible over the side.
    Photo Courtesy New Society Publishers

Earth Repair by Leila Darwish (New Society, 2013) is packed with simple, accessible, and practical tools for healing and regenerating damaged ecosystems from contaminated urban lots to polluted waterways and oil spills. Compost tea is just one of the tools that can help you bind and break down contaminants in the soil. 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Earth Repair: A Grassroots Guide to Healing Toxic and Damaged Landscapes.

Actively Aerated Compost Tea

According to the Toolbox for Sustainable Living, actively aerated compost tea is a “water-based oxygen rich culture containing large populations of beneficial aerobic bacteria, nematodes, fungi, and protozoa, which can be used to bioremediate toxins.” Good compost tea should contain thousands of beneficial microorganisms; this increases the chances that some of them will be able to bind and break down the range of contaminants on your site. Compost tea allows you to amplify a small amount of compost into a dispersible liquid form, helping a little compost go a lot farther.

Compost tea is relatively easy, cheap and fun to make — it is also a really great activity to do with kids. It requires an inoculant of beneficial bacteria and fungi, some key food sources, dechlorinated water, oxygen and agitation.

Inoculant for Compost Tea

Worm castings and aerobic compost are the best inoculant choices. Worm castings are a great inoculant because worms use bacteria instead of digestive acids in their stomachs to break down food. The castings are rich in beneficial microorganisms, some of which have been found to be effective in breaking down certain contaminants. Worm castings are also a source of humic acid, which is a good food source for your tea. Similarly, good aerobic compost (especially thermophilic compost) is a great inoculant; if made properly, it should be full of beneficial microorganisms.

8/26/2017 2:08:41 PM

I'm looking for a way to organically fertilize gardens and a hay field. I have little money but resources on hand are a 500 gal galvanized tank with a hole for a spout in it, a slurry pump, a pine forest that has a several years old mound of wood chips in it and acres of pine needles, several acres of hardwood forest that have a thick layer of naturally composted matter on the floor where I see mushrooms growing in some areas but I don't know if they are poisonous, a lake with running spring water and a lot of vegetation (grasses and lilipads) in it, a worm composter new in the box. My thought was to put the tank on a platform, install a spout on the bottom and make compost tea in it 400 gals at a time and use it on my hay field and garden. I have to have organic fertilizer because my water well is shallow and at one end of the field. I prefer no chems anyway. Do you think this is doable? Will the compost tea react to the metal of the galvanized tank?

7/27/2013 9:38:13 PM

This is a great article. What you are making, Gina, is completely different.  There are many plants that I am growing that were dying from diseases, but I saved them through compost tea.  Aerated compost tea kills diseases on plants, so you don't have to use toxic poisons.  What you are making is a good fertilizer, but it doesn't kill diseases.  It is more complicated to make, but well worth it.

John S

7/27/2013 6:12:31 AM

If you want to complicate matters even more, why not include the phases of the moon while you're at it? This is the kind of advice that turns neophytes off organic gardening. To make compost tea you just need a covered container, compost, water, and time. I use a cotton pillowcase or a square of unbleached cotton. I move the bundle up and down a few times whenever I walk by the container. I leave it 15 days then I start using it, diluted, by pouring it at the base of the plants during a dry spell. (When it rains a lot I sprinkle straight compost because the rain dilutes the nutrients in the soil.) I don't spray the foliage because most of the plants I grow are for eating, but yes compost tea makes a great foliar feed.




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