August 3rd through August 9th, 2015
We Finally Tried Compost Tea
When we bought our Exacto Areobin Composter several years ago, I was really excited about one of the features that it had, which is a reservoir at the bottom of the system for the collection and use of ‘liquid fertilizer.’ We have been using our Areobin very happily for many years but we have never taken the next step to install a spout and start using the liquid down there, if there was any. We partially assumed that there was probably very little liquid in our hot dry climate and partially were too busy and too ignorant of the benefits of this compost juice to bother with it.
I still haven’t done the work I need to tap into this reservoir, but thanks to the advise I received during my Master Gardener visit, my eyes have finally been opened to the wonders of compost tea. I started hunting around the internet for how to make some compost tea, and I must say there is a bewildering amount of information out there. It seems that every garden blog has their own technique and there is a bit of a debate about whether to add sugars and other foods to the mix or to aerate the tea as it brews. Don’t let all of this information get in the way. Every one of these options is interesting and will give you different benefits, but the important thing is that you go ahead and take the first step. Then you can start exploring on your own and find what works best for you and your garden.
I didn’t want to get involved with all of the supplies needed to aerate a bucket of compost tea with added sugars and nutrients, so I went with the simplest and most direct method. I mixed a scoop of compost from the bottom of my bin in with a bucket of rain water. I stirred this up and let it sit in the shed over night. The water was instantly a deep rich brown, and didn’t seem to change much after sitting over night, although I did notice a bit of bubbling beginning (which may have meant that some of the bacteria was busy in there!). I then diluted the tea with more rain water and applied it to my garden unfiltered. Quick and easy, and the results were immediately apparent. My sweet potato plants, which had been pretty wilted all summer and were suffering leaf loss, became a deeper darker green by the next day, stayed quit robust even in the middle of the afternoon, and have started putting on lovely new dark green growth.
In my pepper bed, I had just about given up on the Thai Peppers, which have not been doing particularly well this year, but I thought I would try a test. I applied compost tea to only one of the plants, just about a gallon diluted. Can you tell which one of the plants got that treat? I have since applied the compost tea to all of the peppers and am hoping that we will actually get a pretty good harvest off of them this year for a delicious Asian Pepper Hot Sauce.
I will now be incorporating this simple compost tea application into my weekly watering cycle. I will first apply the compost tea to the beds, and follow with a deeper watering to help all the goodness really settle into the soil. We have such a big garden and as two people we have really felt like we could never produce enough compost to effectivley replenish the nutrients, but this technique will really help with that, making our compost go a whole lot further than I would have imagined. I am sorry I waited so long to give this a try.