Compost Tea – Tea Time For Your Garden

If you would like a nice garden, you’ll need a bucket of water and some garbage. That simple recipe is all you need to grow healthy, beautiful plants all summer long. But before you start floating a tin can in a some water, you need to know that there is a catch.

Vegetable Gardening. Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Vegetable Gardening. Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The trick to this recipe is that you have to compost your garbage first. Compost and water are the only ingredients you need to create a powerful plant supplement known as compost tea.

Compost in the garden will improve your soil which in turn will reward you with strong plants that are better able to fend off droughts and diseases. Compost improves soil structure and drainage.

It can also be used as a fertilizer or a mulch and it enhances the soil’s ability to absorb water.

Compost tea provides the same benefits to a plant as compost but it doesn’t stop there. Not only can compost tea can applied to the soil around plants like regular compost, but it can also be sprayed on the leaves. When sprayed directly on the leaves, it increases the amount of nutrients available to the plant and helps fight foliar diseases.

It will even increase the nutritional value and improve the taste of vegetables.

There are many different ways to make compost tea but most recipes can be summarized by saying, if you steep compost in water you get compost tea.

Using rain water is the best way to make compost tea but you can get by with tap water if rain is scarce. Tap water usually contains enough chlorine in it to kill off all of the beneficial bacteria so it’s best to let it sit for a few hours before using it.

Recycled Seedling Pots ready to plant. Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Recycled Seedling Pots ready to plant. Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The quickest and easiest way to make compost tea is with an old sock filled with compost. Throw it in a bucket and let it sit for a day and you’ve just made compost tea. Sure there are more complicated ways to make the tea more effective such as using air stones or fish tank bubblers to feed the mixture enough oxygen but the old sock in a bucket method works just fine. Some people add molasses to the mix and there are many other secret home recipes.

But you’ll do fine by using a sock filled with compost and a bucket of water. And actually the sock is optional if you have no plans on using a sprayer.

When applying compost tea with a sprayer you have to worry about clogs. Attach some cheese cloth or a piece of panty hose to the sprayer’s intake with some rubber bands and you should be fine.

If you need more than a few buckets of tea, then an old fish tank or a plastic storage bin would make a great container for brewing compost tea.

After you’ve brewed a few batches and are happy with the results why not try aerated compost tea? You’ll need to feed your mixture a constant supply of oxygen so a bubbler or air stones will be required. You need to keep it aerated so it doesn’t grow any harmful pathogens. Some popular ingredients to add to bubbling compost tea are alfalfa, fish emulsion, powdered seaweed, corn meal, green sand and more.

Don’t use manure. Manure tea shouldn’t be used as a foliar spray especially if you’re growing vegetables and who wants manure floating around in their bucket anyway.

Ask a weekend gardener about compost and chances are they’ll tell you it’s powerful stuff with a lot of uses. But ask a serious gardener about compost and they’ll probably tell you that it’s the most important ingredient there is when making compost tea.

Great links to help create compost tea:

Wikihow instructions to make compost tea
How to make compost tea by Home Composting Made Easy