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Old 07-29-2008, 10:01 PM   #1 (permalink)
Eat your vegetables
 
genuinegirly's Avatar
 
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Location: Arabidopsis-ville
Compost Tea?

Is anyone experienced with brewing compost tea?

I'm caring for my parents' 1/2-acre garden this summer and would like to use this method of ammending the soil. We're dealing with dry, depleated soil that looks like it could benefit from some healthy microbes.

Hoping for some practical advice - all I have so far are recipes. I'm thinking of going with this recipe from OrganicGardening.com:

Actively Aerated Compost Tea

This technique is courtesy of Elaine Ingham, Ph.D., a noted soil ecologist, author, and the founder of Soil Foodweb, an international group of soil biology laboratories.

What you'll need:

Several feet of air tubing

An aquarium pump (500-gallon-tank size) large enough to run three bubblers (also called air stones)

A gang valve (which distributes the air coming from the pump to the tubes going to the bubblers)

5-gallon plastic bucket
Three or more bubblers

About 1 pound of compost

Microbial food, such as kelp powder or fish powder/emulsion, or humic acids (available at garden centers)

A stick for stirring the mixture

A mesh bag (an old pillowcase, cheesecloth, tea towel, or nylon stocking will do) for brewing, and for straining the finished product.

1. Attach one end of a piece of tubing to the pump and the other end to the gang valve.

2. Connect a bubbler to each of the three ports on the gang valve with tubing.

3. For adequate aeration, weight or tape down the bubblers so that they sit on the bottom of the bucket. Clean the weights, or replace tape, with each batch.

4. Fill the bucket with 4 gallons of water, leaving enough space on top so the water can bubble without spilling. Aerate municipal water before adding compost until you can't smell any chlorine.

5. Add the compost. If you plan on using the tea in a sprayer, place the compost in a mesh bag with several fish floats or Ping-Pong balls so it will tumble at the surface.

6. To feed the microorganisms, add 1 to 5 teaspoons microbial food. More food will be needed in cold temperatures, less when it is very warm.

7. Stir vigorously a few times daily to shake free as many organisms as possible and to increase aeration. Reposition the bubblers after stirring so they're well spaced.

After brewing

Maintain aeration until you use the tea. Do not expose it to high heat during the summer.

After one to three days, strain the tea into another 5-gallon bucket using a mesh bag.

Put leftover compost solids back on the compost pile or in the garden.

If the tea smells bad, it's anaerobic-don't use it! Put it on your weeds.

For best results, apply the compost tea to plants within one hour of brewing.

Any advice appreciated!
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Last edited by genuinegirly; 07-29-2008 at 10:09 PM..
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Old 07-30-2008, 04:55 AM   #2 (permalink)
Eponymous
 
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Location: Central Central Florida
I have no clue but actually thought you were making tea out of compost (for human consumption). Now that would be scary.

Fertilizer, banana peels and coffee grinds are the only things I've used to add nutrients to plants.
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Old 07-30-2008, 05:24 AM   #3 (permalink)
Junkie
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Interesting.

But will it work during summer - I mean, it could be too hot right? Bugs would die quick? (And dry ground looks dead anyways).

I'm wondering if it might be best used in Autumn. At least in this part of the world.... I'd consider trying I guess.
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Old 07-30-2008, 08:04 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: Oregon
genuinegirly, my main resource for gardening/composting/etc questions is my university's extension service. They turned up plans for a larger compost tea brewer using a 25-gallon garbage can: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lan...erplans_2_.pdf The plans also include a recipe and links to other resources on compost tea, including a link back to Elaine Ingham's site.

For the extension's main page, go here: Oregon State University Extension Service Lots of other information on various gardening topics--it's very handy, though of course it's tailored more to the climate of the PacNW.
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Old 07-30-2008, 09:05 PM   #5 (permalink)
Eat your vegetables
 
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Thanks, snowy. Great resources.

jewels- you gave me a good laugh.

Nimetic - from what I've read, it looks like it's best to use compost tea in the springtime, with fresh new growth. Around here we get our new growth in December.

August - December: That gives me a few months to figure it out. Apparently it's incredibly difficult to strike a balance with compost tea. Proper aeration seems to be key, as most efforts seem to go atrophic. Also requiring time - one must have an adequate population of microbes in their compost before one can breed them through compost tea.

As it sits, we have a rather lousy excuse for compost - mainly grass clippings and some fruit that didn't make it from tree to table. So, not the ideal mix. Our compost turner is me and a pitchfork - not sure if it's getting proper air and moisture. Sure, we get plenty of soil from it, so we must be doing something right - but when I spread the compost, our plants don't respond with a perk. This leads me to believe that it is low on several vital nutrients. When I lay fresh compost, the soil isn't any less drought-resistant compared to where I have not laid it out. Healthy, microbe-rich soil should retain water better (from what I've read so far).

I'm no soil scientist. I'll gladly bow to anyone with some gardening experience.
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Last edited by genuinegirly; 07-30-2008 at 09:10 PM..
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