Compost Tea

Reader Contribution by Ron Ferrell
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When I was first attempting to build a garden at my Ecohut, even though I grew up on a farm, I had no idea how to build soil. I was privileged to grow up on a working farm before chemicals became the norm. We didn’t have an organic garden, we had a garden.  

I watched endless videos on YouTube and read many books. Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza is a great book and always Ruth Stout, but there was never a conclusive DO THIS! bit of information in any of the books I read. Yes, composting is vital, but the gardeners on YouTube who were growing amazing gardens were using this home creation called Compost Tea.  

I watched many videos on YouTube about compost tea, but every video had some ‘secret’ ingredient they were trying to sell, so after watching many videos I started to experiment with materials I had on hand. The secret I came to find out was a magical tea ‘activator’ for $49.95

A Recipe for Compost Tea

I have found there is no exact recipe for compost tea. My compost tea recipe is based upon materials readily available, so here is a basic recipe for compost tea, and short of killing your batch with sulphured molasses, there is no wrong answer for my witches brew.   

Water: I use rainwater when available or my awesome well water.  

Oxygen: I started with a small aquarium pump in a 5 gallon bucket. Now I make 40 gallons  at a time and use a large air pump that I bought. An air compressor will do.

Unsulphured Molasses: I use approximately 1/4 cup per 5 gallons. Make sure to use UNsulphured molasses only. The sulphur will kill all the microbes in the tea.

Manure: Cow, sheep, horse, rabbit, bat guano, whatever you have available.

Hay: Alfalfa, alfalfa or alfalfa is the best. Spoiled or new alfalfa both work great.

That is my basic recipe. Oxygenate the water, add dry ingredients plus molasses. Continue to inject air into your tea for the duration of brewing.

Microbial life grows and feeds on oxygen and carbohydrates (molasses) and will be evident by a frothy head on the batch.  When either of these is eliminated, the tea will go anaerobic very soon. Apply to your garden asap.

Compost tea can be added directly to the soil around your plants, or strained for use as a foliar spray.

I have made many recipes of compost tea, and no two batches are ever the same in terms of the microbial growth which is demonstrated by the frothing action of the tea.  So don’t be discouraged, keep brewing.

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