Everyone loves a good cup of tea—even your gorgeous garden! Making a good compost tea provides your garden with a host of benefits, including increased plant growth, crop yield, and soil quality, so we want to give you the tools you need to do it yourself this summer. Whether you’re a seasoned brew master or a compost tea newbie, this guide has everything you need to know to brew your own compost tea with confidence this year!
What Is Compost Tea and Why Should I Make It?
Compost tea is exactly as it sounds: a “brew” made by steeping finished homemade compost in water. The resulting liquid is incredibly nutrient-dense and is an exceptionally effective natural garden fertilizer. While not a hugely studied and scientifically-confirmed method for boosting overall plant health, many gardeners swear by it and tout its beneficial health-giving properties. Some of compost tea’s reported benefits include:
- Improving the soil’s nutrient retention.
- Boosting the number of beneficial fungi and nematodes within the soil.
- Enhancing plant growth
- Increasing harvest yields
- Promoting bigger, stronger roots
- Improving soil structure.
How To Make a Homemade Compost Tea
If you have some finished compost in your garden just waiting to be used, you already have the main ingredient for making compost tea! Here’s how to brew your own batch:
What you’ll need:
- Some high-quality, finished compost
- A big bucket
- A mesh bag
- Aquarium bubbler (for the aerated method)
What you’ll do:
- Put 1 ½ cups of finished compost into your mesh bag.
- Put your mesh bag full of good compost into a 5-gallon bucket.
- Fill your bucket with 1 gallon of non-chlorinated water.
- Put the bucket in a cool place away from a light source.
- Let it sit for one week, stirring the mixture once a day.
There are two brewing methods you can try: aerated and non-aerated. The aerated method involves inserting an aquarium bubbler into the bucket to aerate the mixture as it brews. This aeration process drastically speeds up the brewing process by accelerating the production of a larger microbial community, allowing you to have a finished batch of compost tea in just two days instead of a week. The main downside of the aeration method is that the resulting compost tea has a much shorter shelf life since the microorganisms will quickly consume all the oxygen in the brew if it’s not used immediately, rendering it ineffective. On the other hand, the non-aerated brewing method simply involves letting the mixture steep in a cool, dark place for about a week, stirring regularly. While this method does take longer, many backyard gardeners find it simpler to use.
How Do I Use Compost Tea in My Powell River Garden?
Compost tea is typically used in two different ways: to promote plant growth and to protect against pests and diseases. For optimal plant growth, pour your compost tea directly onto your plants’ bases so it soaks directly into the roots. To help protect your plants against pests and diseases and to increase the levels of healthy microbes on your plants’ leaves, spray their foliage and surrounding ground with tea weekly when watering.
Are There Disadvantages of Using Compost Tea?
The jury is still out on that one, but it mainly boils down to the quality of the compost used. If you know anything about compost, you’ll know that its quality and nutrient profile can differ drastically depending on what goes into your compost bin, how long you leave it, and other factors like aeration. For example, compost made with animal products will have higher nitrogen levels than a more vegan-based compost pile, while harmful bacteria, molds, pathogens, and viruses can proliferate in compost made from lower-quality materials, resulting in a very toxic tea. Your compost’s ingredients will also impact its pH level, thus altering its effectiveness for specific plants.
Many gardeners still prefer to use their own compost when making compost tea for their gardens and houseplants; however, if you’re new to composting or just don’t want to go through the hassle, you can make compost tea using pre-packaged compost or a specialty pre-made powder from a reputable distributor.
Making your own compost tea might sound like a lot of work, but if you’re up for the challenge, we can help! Come visit us today at Mother Nature in Powell River, BC, for more expert advice on making a compost tea, along with some other great ways to keep your garden healthy.