Working with Nature to Build Organic Soil, Part 4: Compost Tea

| 4/18/2016 1:28:00 PM

Previous articles in this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)  told how nature works with plants and soil microbes to create soil from atmospheric carbon. We’ve seen how to follow nature’s example, by using cover crops and compost, to create organic soil and nutritious food. In this article, I’ll discuss one more way of working with nature by using compost tea.

What is Compost Tea?

This tea is an aerobically prepared solution that contains both the microbes and nutrition necessary for healthy soil and healthy plants. The process of making compost tea greatly multiplies the number of microbes present and puts them in a soluble form for easy application.

What Are the Benefits of Compost Tea?

1. Unlike compost, compost tea is a liquid and can therefore soak into the ground where it is most effective.

2. Compost tea is easy to apply from a watering can or a sprayer.

3. Making compost tea is an inexpensive way to quickly multiply microbes. A small amount of compost becomes compost tea that can nurture many plants. One teaspoon of soil contains about a billion bacteria but one teaspoon of compost tea contains about four billion bacteria!

4. Compost tea helps control plant diseases. Spray it on the underside of leaves where plants have openings (stomata) for CO2 and O2. Because the stomata are most susceptible to bacterial and fungal diseases, the “good microbes” in the tea actually help prevent disease. Here’s a testimonial on growing heirloom Heinz tomato plants with and without compost tea! In our garden, this variety routinely contacted a fungal disease by late August. Since using compost tea, the plants grow much larger, never show signs of disease and keep producing until heavy frosts.

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