It is time to start feeding your plants some tea. It turns out plants love tea as much as we do.
Only, its compost tea, which is hot and trending among gardeners now.
It is no secret that compost is among the best plant boosts you can give your garden. It is organic and highly nutritious. So, why not brew a tea out of it instead?
Garden experts say compost tea is just what your plants need to grow stronger, faster, healthier, and tastier.
Unpack what all the fuss is about so you can learn how to make compost tea that makes a massive difference to your garden.
What Is A Compost Tea?
But what is it about this magic concoction that has taken the gardening world by storm?
We’ll be making sense of everything throughout this read, including how you can brew your very own compost tea.
To be precise, compost tea is a liquid solution extracted from solid compost. It is the water that remains when organic compost manure is steeped.
As you well know by now, compost is made of decomposed organic material. Things like dead plant matter and animal waste, even kitchen scraps, rot to make compost.
The benefits of this “black gold,” as gardeners know it, are incredible. It’s so nutrient-rich that, sometimes, compost is all the fertilizer you need for your garden.
So, why not be a little creative and brew a tea out of it to tap the core of its essence. Yes, compost tea contains the best fertilizer that boosts your plant growth, unlike anything else.
The tea comprises a complex community of super microorganisms, including protozoa, nematodes, fungi, and bacteria.
These beneficial microbes are magic in the garden, providing plants with the necessary nutrients for better growth. Basically, they are extracted from organic manure during the brewing process as solvents.
The deal compost tea contains all the nutrients that are in the solid compost. You simply use the solid matter to learn how to make compost tea to deliver soluble nutrients to your plants.
I like to think of compost tea this way – it is like regular healthy juice that you extract from a blend of fruits. So, you can view compost tea as just a healthy drink for your plants.
It’s easier for plants to absorb nutrients in this liquid form rather than in compost in a solid form.
In addition, because plants regularly drink water, it makes sense to deliver liquid fertilizer to them rather than taking longer to absorb nutrition from the soil. Essentially, plants absorb this nutrition faster, which boosts their health and growth.
Some gardeners call it compost beer for plants due to the fermentation process of brewing. The aerobic process also increases the nutritional value of the compost that you give your plants.
Is Compost Tea Better?
You can already tell how beneficial this tea can be for your plants and your soil. However, is using compost tea better than using solid compost itself?
Let’s find out.
Before you learn how to make compost tea, let’s look at why it generates so much of a buzz among gardeners. Is compost tea better than manure and other forms of fertilization, or is it just another gardening fad? But, first, let’s see what the expert gardeners have to say.
First, compost enriches the soil with essential nutrients and microbes to aid plant growth. It also buffers soil pH and improves soil structure significantly.
Compost tea, on the other hand, is credited with all these benefits and more. Most experts agree that compost tea is terrific stuff, a kind of super compost, to say the least.
But let’s scrutinize the evidence by looking at what makes compost tea better.
Better, increased nutrient uptake–compost tea extracts nutrients from compost creating a liquid fertilizer. Liquid fertilizers are better because they contain microbes and other nutrients in smaller particle sizes than solid matter. These small particles enhance the uptake of nutrients by plant roots substantially. If you want a fast-acting organic fertilizer, then compost tea is your cup of tea. It will allow your plants to immediately uptake nutrients as soon as you apply the liquid. Plants absorb nutrients through mass flow, so when you use compost tea (already in liquid form), mass flow takes place to enable the plants’ efficient absorption of all nutrients.
Ensures uniform application–observant gardeners realize just how uneven granular application of solid fertilizer can be, only covering patches of soil at times. You avoid this problem with liquid fertilizer as it applies more evenly and accurately, right up to your garden’s edge. Just like the way you water your plants–you can add compost tea uniformly to all areas of your garden. If you pour the liquid over a specific location, you’re guaranteeing even distribution for uniform absorption.
It is more convenient. Let’s face it, if you have a vast garden, carrying heavy, awkward loads of compost material can be tiring. However, you only need your watering equipment when dealing with compost tea–no carrying around heavy bags. As mentioned earlier, compost tea is healthy juice for your plants, is entirely liquid so that you can apply it to your garden just like water.
Can be sprayed on foliage–there is no way you’re dumping heaps of black gold on the leaves and flowers of your marigolds. It will damage them. However, compost tea allows you the pleasure of nourishing your plant’s foliage by spraying them with beneficial microbes without risk. The microbes fend off disease-carrying microorganisms, ensuring you a healthier, more vigorous plant.
Improves water retention–frequent use of compost tea for your garden improves the overall water retention capacity of the soil, especially if the soil is sandy. Moreover, when you apply compost tea to clay soils, it loosens the soil particles and improves aeration and water uptake.
Stimulates root growth by enhancing the uptake of water and nutrients.
You can fine-tune compost tea to meet specific soil needs. Use particular recipes to make compost tea that fits the soil condition.
These benefits of compost tea are unique. Imagine feeding the tea directly to the foliage of plants using liquid organic compost. It is magical and certainly better than synthetic fertilizers. You cannot go wrong with compost tea.
How To Make It
Well, even if the benefits are compelling, you still must grapple with how to make compost tea. You need not worry, though.
The process is relatively easy, and, of course, we have a quick, DIY plan for you.
First, understand the soil conditions of their garden to help you customize the best compost tea for your specific needs.
Leveraging the fact that you can customize compost tea to only supplement deficient nutrients in your garden, it is vital to do a soil test. You can perform a pH test to get the necessary data before making compost tea. A test guarantees optimal soil performance, which boosts plant growth.
All compost teas follow a basic recipe. Here’s how to make a compost tea starting with what you’ll need.
5 Gallon pickle bucket
18w air pump for Oxygen
Microbe food: Mostly sugar found in ingredients like maple syrup, cane syrup, fruit juice, or sulfur-free molasses. Just ¼ – ½ cup. Fish hydrolysate, humic acid, or liquid kelp for fungi.
Bag or sock (optional)
4 Cups of compost
Step By Step Guide
With this step-by-step guide, you can find out how to make a compost tea for your garden needs.
Use the 5-gallon pickle bucket to collect non-chlorinated water. You can use dechlorinated tap water by letting it sit in the bucket for a day or use rainwater.
Pour your compost in the bag or sock and immerse in the water so that it hangs by a string. Some gardeners prefer dumping the compost right into the water and then straining it later.
Using a porous material can save you time by keeping the tea free of organic matter. You can stir the water a little for a better blend.
Add ¼ – ½ cup of your preferred bacteria or fungi food. Stir thoroughly to mix the compost, water, and bacteria food.
As suggested, if you are using molasses, make sure it is sulfur-free because sulfur kills the healthy bacteria in the tea.
Drop in the air stone and fire up the air pump to oxygenate the tea.
The pump system is designed to churn the tea to keep it aerated as it brews. Stagnant tea will become anaerobic, which is not the best plan for your garden.
Let the tea steep anywhere from 48-72 hours to brew well, basically two to three days.
Any longer than three days and the microbes will start to die, making the compost tea less effective. In severe cases, the compost tea will do more harm to your plants if you brew it longer than the required time.
Remember to brew your compost tea in direct sunlight as UV light kills bad microbes.
You will want to serve the tea to your plants within four hours of maturity, or the beneficial microorganisms will die out. But, if you are not yet ready to use it, you can keep it in the refrigerator for later use.
Like always, some gardeners are not handy, and others just do not have the time to make compost tea. If you are an urban gardener, making compost tea may not be the best plan.
Luckily, you can skip the lengthy process by purchasing instant compost tea. This option is for those who may not have the time and resources to make their own compost tea.
Where To Use Compost Tea
You’ve just learned how to make compost tea. Let’s now address some fundamental things you need to know about its application.
You will need to understand how to apply compost tea for optimum use and results.
Seasoned gardeners recommend diluting your tea to a ratio of 1:4 cups to one gallon, at least. Most gardeners dilute using a ratio of 1:10.
You can use your sprayer or watering can, to deliver the compost tea to your plants. Experts recommend applying compost tea to your garden at least twice a week for maximum results.
It is also imperative to know exactly where to spray the tea.
If you miss critical spots, your efforts may be in vain since organic tea works best immediately following application.
Spray directly on the foliage, especially on sickly plants, or right below the stems in the root area. You can also water the whole garden if you prepare enough for the benefit of your soil.
Timing is critical when applying compost tea. By timing, morning, noon, or in the evening are the best times.
It is best to apply compost tea early in the morning or near dusk when temperatures are cool. This is because the plants and soil are relatively moist at these times, allowing the microbes to remain active for longer.
Applying it during hot hours may not be a good move. Most essential microbes will no longer be active, and no beneficial nutrients will be available for your plants.
Can You Overuse It
There is no real risk of overusing compost tea. In fact, regular use of it is advisable. You can even use compost tea daily if you feel the need.
However, it’s not necessary to apply compost tea daily as this will simply be a waste.
Note that liquid compost contains nitrogen and can still burn your plants if delivered without caution.
So, even though there isn’t a set limit on the dosage, you should be careful about how much compost tea you apply to the garden.
For instance, only spray your plant’s foliage until the tea starts dripping off the leaves. Twice a week is adequate for most pants.
Learning how to make compost tea is simple. It revitalizes your garden and restores your confidence in your gardening skills because it is such an incredible growth booster.
Expert gardeners are just starting to understand the many benefits of liquid compost, and gardeners across the globe are going crazy over this “new” practice.
Everybody who isn’t using this technique still wants to learn how to make compost tea, and now you have the guide.
Bathe your plants in a tea full of beneficial microorganisms to nourish and protect them from disease. Then, brew, serve and let your plants sip.
Tyler C Rich is the founder and chief editor at TopsyGardening.com. An experienced gardener and a professionally trained agriculture development expert, Rich has worked in the gardening and landscaping industry for more than a few decades. Although he has retired, his spark for developing the best urban and indoor gardens has not faded a bit. He uses TopsyGardening.com as a platform to come across enthusiastic gardeners and share the unique insights he has acquired through years of experience. Rich is interested in aquaponics and technology apart from conventional gardening techniques.