What is compost tea?
Is it the same thing as regular compost?
How do you use it?
Compost tea is a liquid that is made from composted materials. It’s not the same thing as compost, but you do need compost in order to prepare it.
You can use compost tea on many types of plants. However, you can’t simply spread it or mix it into soil like you would with regular compost, and many people prefer to spray it onto the leaves and bases of plants instead.
In this article, we’ll give you some information about compost tea and help you learn how to make it for yourself. When you’ve finished reading, you should be prepared to create compost tea for your own purposes.
Read on to learn how to make compost tea as well as how to use it.
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Defining Compost Tea
Understanding what compost tea is can make a big difference in your ability to work with and make it. Read through these key points before you continue on your journey toward learning how to prepare the perfect compost tea for your plants.
- Although it may sound like a drink, compost tea is actually a byproduct of compost. However, it does require human intervention to create, and compost doesn’t naturally product tea without some assistance.
- Compost tea is made by “steeping” compost in water for some time. After the compost steeps, it is removed and the remaining nutrient-rich water is the “tea.” The process isn’t a difficult one, but it does take a little time to complete.
- The liquids that seep out of regular compost are not the same thing as compost tea. These should not be used as compost tea, because they may contain harmful bacteria. These liquids should be allowed to seep naturally out of your compost and into the surrounding soil, as they are not harmful to the soil but may cause issues for your plants if you add them directly to the roots or leaves.
- Compost tea can be purchased or made. You can buy powder that can be mixed with water for a simple store-bought compost tea, but making it yourself is easy and can be a great way to use some of your own compost, too.
Compost Tea How-To Guide
In this section, we’ll give you a quick rundown of how to make compost tea for yourself. It’s not too difficult to make it, and once you have the hang of it, you’re sure to be a pro at compost tea production in no time!
- 5-gallon bucket (any material is fine, but plastic is most common)
- Bag for compost tea brewing
- This should be any bag that water can seep through. An old pillowcase is a good choice, but you can use any mesh or see-through fabric.
- Aquarium aerator/tubing
- Aquarium thermometer
- Molasses (organic and unsulfured)
- Compost that has already processed
- Watering can
The water you use for this purpose should be dechlorinated. You can use well water or rainwater for this purpose, or you can fill a bucket with tap water and let it stand at room temperature for a day. This causes the chlorine to evaporate from the water.
- First, prepare your compost. The compost should be thoroughly processed before you use it for this purpose. Remove any bugs or worms that might be present, and gather about a gallon of compost from your compost bin.
- Fill the pillowcase or other type of bag with the compost. Use the twine to tie the bag shut tightly—you don’t want any of the compost to come out of the bag while it’s steeping, if possible.
- Place your bucket near an outdoor outlet. You will need to be able to hook up the aquarium tubing later on, so it’s a good idea to go ahead and have your bucket in place before it gets too heavy from the water inside.
- Fill your five-gallon bucket with dechlorinated water, with just a little room to spare at the top of the bucket.
- Add one cup of the organic molasses to the bucket and stir to dissolve it as well as possible.
- Hook up the aquarium tubing and aerator (or pump). Place the pump into the water and operate it just like you would if it was inside an aquarium. You may need to refer to the aquarium pump’s directions in order to install this correctly.
- Place the bag of compost into the bucket and make sure it’s still sealed tightly.
- Leave the compost bag in the water with the pump running for about 48 hours.
- Don’t leave it any longer than this, or you will risk destroying the compost tea.
- Check the pump often. If the water isn’t aerating, the mixture will quickly become harmful instead of beneficial.
- Use the aquarium thermometer to check the temperature of the water often during this 48 hours. Try to keep it above 68 degrees Fahrenheit and below 72 degrees Fahrenheit. A couple of degrees give or take shouldn’t be an issue, but too cold or too hot can ruin the compost tea.
- After 48 hours is up, unplug the aquarium pump and let it stop running before you remove it from the bucket.
- Take out the compost bag and recycle it on some of your plants.
- Fill a watering can with the compost tea and use it on the roots and leaves of your plants.
- Use compost tea on plants during the early morning hours or the late evening hours for best results. Otherwise, the leaves may burn due to the presence of the compost tea in sunlight.
Now that you’ve had a chance to read up on compost tea, it’s time to try making it for yourself! Just remember that this type of compost material may not work for every plant, and there are always some considerations to keep in mind when using it.
Here are a few tips to remember when using your compost tea:
- Some of the key benefits of compost tea include loosening soil so nutrients can reach plants more easily, stimulating the growth of deeper roots, and adding helpful bacteria and microorganisms to the plants’ soil and leaves.
- The types of plants that benefit most from compost tea are most decorative flowers and some garden plants. Trees don’t seem to get much benefit from compost tea and generally do better with traditional compost in most instances, although some people do provide their young saplings with compost tea as well.
- There are some plants you should never try to grow with compost tea. Many unique plants, such as some tropical species and all carnivorous plant species, cannot handle the presence of compost in any capacity, including compost tea.
- You can use compost tea on edible plants as long as the compost did not include human or animal waste.
With these suggestions in mind, don’t be afraid to gather your materials and make some compost tea! This type of nutrient-rich water is a great addition to many gardens and flowerbeds, and with a little knowledge, you can easily start using it for yourself with excellent results.