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Question about compost tea.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

I am starting to add compost tea to my vegetable plants, I have heard that this stuff is great and that it even protects them from bugs etc... I make the compost tea out of my own worm castings, my questions is how often can I add compost tea to my plants?

I let my compost tea brew for 2 days is that enough for all the bacteria to grow?

Thanks

Carmen

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Way to go Carmen. Best called what it is....Worm Cast Tea. It is good any way you make it. If you foliar treet your plants you are working on the occupation theory to grow stronger plants. The run off will feed your plants and keep your biology high in the treated beds.

I would use a three container system and enter a makeshift paddle to whip some oxygen into the brew. Start one container with your cycle of application....That will give you a couple of weeks to whip it up and make it better. You can not put on to much. I treat my plants every two weeks or after every heavy rain to maintain high biology counts on my plants. I may treat my tomatoes every week this year to see if I can prevent the wicked potato blight most growers got hit with this summer. Your Worm Castings have high fungus counts that may "may" occupy and prevent not defeat the potato blight.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Thanks Docgipe. The way I've been making it is by using a fish tank pump so it airates the tea, I let it sit for about 2 days with the pump running, and so far so good. Ive also heard you can make it the way you mentioned as well, but decided to go this way after seeing a bunch of videos on youtube about how to make it.

So for what you are saying I can feed my plants with this every 2 weeks or after a heavy rain, right? For some reason I did not make the compost tea before because we had been having rain about every single day here in mobile and I just did not want to saturate my plants with more water.

Another question is can I mix the worm castings with compost from my compost pile? I can only collect so many casting every month and I am already running out.

I appreciate your help

Carmen

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Compost Tea is another way to increase the native biology. Great that you are into aeriated tea. Yes you can mix just about any combo you dream up so long as you do the original mix changes gradually so as not to upset your good intentions. If you do not have a heater consider the largest fish tank heater and heat your water to 76 degrees. Extend your aeriation time untill you get a head of foam. My guess would be about three or four days at 76 degrees with fish tank equipment I always add a half cup of garden soil and a half cup of alfalfa meal, an ounce of fish/kelp liquid to any tea I make. This measure is for five gallons. A table spoon full of Black Strap Molasses will up your chances of getting the best results in a five gallon mix. Farm stores that mix their own feed have cattle grade
molasses.

To keep your stones squeeky clean have the air on when you put them in your container and for sure when you remove them. That way no biology can get inside your system. Then wash up with clorox water squeeky clean as soon as you are done with a brew. You just can not be to clean. If you mess up you will be replacing stones that get plugged up and you could house critters you do not want in the stones and hose which are hard to clean.

Don't worry about the little bit of water you add to deliver tea to your plants. It is in fact containing the good biology that may defeat fungus growths when there is to much rain. The very best time to apply is between four in the afternoon and two hours before dusk. You want to put them to bed with a snack and dry leaves if possible.

This message was edited Nov 12, 2009 8:43 PM

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Thank you so much docgipe, I guess I did it wrong, I did not let mine foam up. I also just placed regular tap water that I left in the room for a whole day to get rid of the clorine in a 5 gallon bucket, I did not know that the temp had to be 76 degrees. Just how do you heat your water?, I have a big canning pot would this work?

I do not own a fish tank, I just placed the aeration stones in a 5 gallon bucket that I purchased from Home Depot. I did add some unsulfured black Strap Molasses though but did not know I could add fish liquid and alfalfa meal to the mix.

This really helps a lot, thank you.

Carmen

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

You did fine with the water. The bucket is what I use for small brews. The heater is a fish tank heater. It may be the largest one they make. It's is out on loan so I can not look at it. If you tell your pet shop you have a thirty gallon set up you want to heat to 76 degrees they will know which heater to suggest. Don't buy less because if you grow into this you will sure want to heat a lager tank in the future.

Your stones will take between three and four days to get to this point. Seeing this foam is proof in the pudding that you are about at the top of your brew development. From this foam point you slowly start to lose value as the critters start to die off. I never tried to add more molassess at this point. It can be done but it is far better to get it on our plants at this point.

Thumbnail by docgipe
mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Docgipe, what a great system you have going there, I will look in my local petstore and see if they carry the heater, was your very expensive?

I just went and grabbed some more rain water and I was going to start another batch of compost tea, what would happen if I did not heat the water to 76 degrees, could I still get some bacteria growth in my compost tea or should I really wait until I get the heater? Sorry I just wanted to give it another try to see if this time I can do it right.

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

It has been a while...quite a while ago but I think $69.00 was my heater cost. I do not know what would happen because I read about that temperature need and determined it needed for my start up. I used it ten years until I goofed and broke one by moving to cold water to fast. It needs to cool off before going into cold water. A friend gave me one he found in a box of auction kitchen utensels. It is very old but works fine.

Missing here is the fact that agricultural suggested use of good finished compost aerobic tea is one gallon per acre for reasonable maintenance. I grew Giant Pumpkins and used it weekly the first year, every two weeks the second year and once a month the third year and each year there after. If we got heavy or frequent rains I would follow the rain with another application just for good luck. Note again this was competitive growing where rules and common sense sometimes get tested outside the box of reasonable use.

To compliment this system of aerobic tea soil building and plant support you need to work on getting as much organic content into your soil as you can manage to put in. Always plant an over winter cover crop. I used winter rye grass because our winters will not let better cover crops survive.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Docgipe, thank you for your help. I have right now just 2 raise beds but planning to get more in the future, I'll probably get a 3rd one next month. I did do the green manure in my 2 raise beds and planted a mixture or rye, different beans and other stuff that is suppose to help your soil building, along with that I digged tons of alfalpha hay into my raise beds, also put some blood meal, fish meal and bone meal to help with the nutrients.

I also do vermicomposting on the side so as soon as I have enough castings I do a side dressing on all my plants. And just now I have some homemade compost in one of my composter bins but was hoping to use this for my new raise bed along with some nice top soil.

The only problem is I am starting more plants that I can fit in my 2 raise beds so I was hoping to build my 3rd bed with the homemade compost and good top soil and then digg alfalfa in but not do the green manure and see how it would do.



NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

YOU are far ahead of most I attempt to coach. Only important thing I see missing is the modest use of trace minerals. For what you have going I would use granular Ironite gingerly over two or three years. Your plants don't use many trace minerals but you might be surprised how many are not in your native soil. If no instructions relate to your beds just very lightly sprinkle a few into either fall or spring tilling for two or three years.

You are going to see some beautiful crops or flowers in your immediate future. You deserve them for having worked at this with vigor.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

Wow, now I am going to have to go back and read this again. I have three large worm areas in my holding garden. Anywhere there is a bare spot, there is raw material and coffee grounds from Star Bucks. Then in two days or less the worms have moved to their new spot and the buffet is open 24 hours. (That's a Las Vegas thing, sorry). I have so many baby worms, I am going to have to get a worm babysitter. I read on another thread to add some coffee ground to the top of the compost pile and then water gently. The older worms will move to the top, enjoy their ice cream, (coffee), and after having their treat they notice each other and make baby worms. (Sorry, I was raised with Don Rickels.)

Docgipe, thank you so much for your knowledge and the ease you share it. I will keep you posted after my trip to the pet store and feed store. Sharon.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Thank you docgipe, I am learning a lot as I go. By the way where do you get Ironite gingerly, and is it organic?
I am looking to purchase the heater as well but I am running out of worm compost so I'll have to purchase some and mix it with mine if i am to make the compost tea every 2 weeks or so.

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Trace minerals are just that ....... minerals.....they are not organic but are certainly within the practice of natural organic management. I believe that there are sixty seven known trace minerals. I suggested Ironite because it is readily available here in the Northeast at Lowe's and other big box garden centers.

If you are going to purchase tea quality compost I suggest the site of North Country Organics. You might have to call them for pricing. Buy one bag of tea quality compost and a small pouch of bacteria and fungi booster. This will make four or five..... five gallon brews. Use the last half gallon onto your native compost. In short order your compost will be innoculated with the best of the best and equal to that which you purchased. Then use your own always feeding the last half gallon back into your fininshed or nearly finished compost pile. Incidently North Country Organics has a trace mineral product that is excellent too. I forget exactly but try this word...for that product ( azromite. ) That's close!
Even if you purchase the best do not neglect to use a small portion of your compost and native soil in the brew. You may have a few components that your purchased best quality may not have and it is always better to have some native contents instead of all imported biology. You do not need the booster packets after you make a few brews and feed some back to your native compost piles. This is likely not as important as I make it sound but it just makes good sense to my way of thinking.

Incidently if you come across a product called Soil Soup being sold as the next best thing to Mother's Milk don't bite....It is earthworm cast tea basics. If you combine compost and earthworm casts you will have the real deal better than either used alone. You guys are going to produce your tea for fifteen or twenty cents a gallon. That can not be beat!!! or bettered either!!! I should warn you that you will need a wheel barrow to bring in a green pepper next summer. ROGLMAO

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Docgipe, thank you for all the info, I'll have to look in my local Lowes for the trace minerals you sugested, if not I think I found a place online that might sell them as well. I still have to build more raise beds so I really would like to have some at hand.

There is a nursery here in mobile that sells worm compost castings, they come from a local guy that makes compost for local people, they are not dry castings and look very much like the castings my wormies produce so instead of buying online and having to pay the big shipping and handling $ I was just going to try to buy his and mix a little of my castings as well to the mix.

I tried making compost tea with the homemade compost I have in my back yard the other day just to try and see, but the mixture was not fully composted I could still see some grass clippings in the mix and within 2 days it started to smell bad so I decided to dump it out just in case it was a bad batch.

I still have to buy the heater sytem that you have, I really want to do this right but I only get so much $ per month to spend on my hobby and this month I use it to put together a really cool grow light system to grow all my seedlings, and for some blueberries bushes as well, next month I am thinking of putting together another raise bed so we will see.

"I should warn you that you will need a wheel barrow to bring in a green pepper next summer" LOL I really hope you are right, I can't wait to see the payoff, I tend to be a very impatient person sometimes which is not good when it comes to gardening.



Provo, UT(Zone 5a)

new here and thrilled at all the wide rage of experience here,, thanks !
i use to buy liquid fish emulsion..costly for my needs..so read about compost tea
i now have 55 gal plastic garbage cans..use gals in neighborhoods nylon stockings..filled
with mix of coffee grounds,chicken manure,compost/soil,and rabbit manure.. i tie it off
put in garbage cans..fill with water..let them sit for couple weeks..then use on everything in
my garden.. only thing ive wondered..is phophorus content .. thought of buying seabird
guano to add to my mix.. thoughts?
thanks in advance..and cant wait for next spirng..
happy holidays to all

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Can not answer your question because that enters into rocket science. My simple way of life is one measure of green and ten of brown. Give it time to work around. The only tea I am really fond of is finished aerobic compost tea sometimes with additives but...............always finished aerobic tea when it is properly made. At that point there is no NPK what so ever in the liquer. It is totally living biology and trace minerals that may have been added or included in the makings.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

as always, doc, thanks for your expertise.
Re the phosphorous Q: (and without trying to understand chemistry in detail)
You may have been the person who said something that sticks with me: compost (primarily) comes from decomposed plant parts so it (mostly) contains all the right proportions of the things that plant parts are made of, for new growth. (this excludes nitrogen just because that is so volatile)

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Well you are just about correct. However the process continues to make new nitrogen 24/7 in a form that appears sometime after the creation of humus and humic acid. It is totally created in just the right amount by the bacterial zone or in the bacterial zone created by the plant roots. The other amazing fact is that micorrhizae working with the roots goes out and finds the raw materials so to speak and delivers it to the roots. I have never seen a technical educational presentation of this whole process. In fact it is so little found in printed documents that I have been flat told by a few others that I am full of the fine stuff that starts off this whole process. To that I say thank you I am proud to be a source of that wonderfull stuff. I've had the honor of catching some flack now and again. I think it makes life more interesting.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

Doc, I know enough about gardening to be dangerous. I have been gardening the Las Vegas desert top soil, which is actually blow sand, since 1960. Took me 10 years to even come close to success. I have read your posts and I think you are right on and if someone else feels different, Oh Well....Their Loss. Please keep up the flow of your information.

I am starting my worm casting compost tea next week. I have everything I need, just been to busy with to many different projects.

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Good...........you are definately on a simple relatively easy to understand soil development track. You just keep on trusting the developing biology in your soil. Please feel free to rattle my chain anytime your fancy pleases to do so.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

Thanks Doc, I will do that. Everyone have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

I missed all my fungi friends in this thread. The subject I guess should be Mycorrhiza facts. #1 You need the Endo type. #2 The more difficult your soil condition the more benefit you will see for trusting Mycorrhiza to help bring you back into more and better production.

This site has oodles of correct information....go see... I use this product because I believe it is one of the best.
http://www.bio-organics.com/

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

OK Doc, I went to the web site and I do not know one product from another. Which one is Endo, I see many Endo. Am I just not awake yet.

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Endo is all you need to see for general lawn and garden use. Ecto is the other type. Ecto is for trees foundation plants and shrubs. Some products have both and use that to confuse us into believing that makes the product better. I am reasonably sure that firm has both. I never paid Ecto any attention and do not remember. I do also remember that this firm did not have smaller sized containers of product. When I was really active in gardening that made no difference because I could use it within two years. Bio Organics has one of the best archives of newsletters from which we can learn to use the product.

As to not finding the different fungi types........I believe you will with more carefull reading.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

I was looking for Endo #2. You did not use a comma. Doc, my confusion was all your fault. Hope you had a good day. I spent most of the day inside because there was no sun. That is unusual for Las Vegas.

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

You have to read my posts with both eyes open. My age is catching up with me and my stroke stole my human ability to correctly use my learned software, memory banks and maybe an overloaded hard drive. I'm seventy four. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. The doctors can not find a better excuse either....save one. The lung function that feeds all the rest is acting up too. I noticed half my outdoor living biology is lined up not far from the back door while the other half is hanging around my shovel for some reason.

I continue to be a "ROAD'S SCHOLAR". Some of the folks I continue to learn from are older than sin. As I go up and down the roads I like trying to learn even more. Before my head grows to large let me assure anyone what I profess began the first growing season after the first caveman dug out in his first spring. Stuff he noticed grew better where he made his first peeing post before the deep snow. Funny observation from that time clear up to about 1930's no one used any manufactured chemistry in the soil. Those of us who understand every soil or plant treatment developed and used since that time harms and kills the very biology we need to rebuild the soil. The smaller we are the more easy it is to emulate and return to those simple practices. Those who do in time grow better, healthier and more per acre than can be imagined. Up to a thousand dollar fresh food production is not a pie in the sky expectation from a well worked thousand square feet of garden.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

Well I am 67, had a stroke in 1994 but all is well. Just cannot jump over tall building but I can walk around the building a hundred times. Thank you again for your knowledge and now your sense of humor. Have a great day.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

docgipe, thank you so much for all the info you have given us it really helps. By the way I have found the ironite in Lowes, I was very excited, the bag has granules instead of powder like substance, is this the one that you are talking about?

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Ironite granular is what I used for many years. Cut their suggested application at least in half and do it for two or three years. You will be pleased with what transpires.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Thank you docgipe, I am getting ready to build another raise bed so I will be putting some ironite along with home compost and manure.

Helena, MT

Interesting thread carminator 1, hope it's not too late for a couple of questions...(1) How do you collect or remove your worm castings carminator? (2) doc, what is the device pictured sitting at a 45 degree angle in your compost tea bucket?

morgan

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

mraider, at first I started separating the castings from the worms by hand but that was a big pain in the you know what, so I decided to buy a sifter for compost, you could actually even build it yourself. practically a box that houses a small screen for sifting. Mine comes with either bigger holes or smaller size holes, I use the smaller sizes holes one. Then I place a bunch of the compost with worms on it and I start shaking it a little bit until the compost is all in the bucket, sometimes I get a few worms in the bucket that I have to separate by hand but other than that it is a prety good system.

One thing that I've had to learn the hard way is to make sure to place newspaper or shredded paper to absorb the moisture and to make sure you look at your container at least evey day to make sure the castings are not clayish like and that they are kind of loose.

Hope this helps.

Helena, MT

carminator1, you sort of lost me on the shredded newspaper technique and 'clayish' like texture. I have heard several of comments in the past from the vermiculture section on 'collecting castings', but never bother to ask how this was being done. I started a thread in that section today to see what people where doing. I store my castings or spent media in a 5-gallon pail with lid until it is full. Then I transfer them to a black 55-gallon trash bag inside a plastic barrel with lid. Typically there is still some moisture in the saved castings which I grate through a quarter inch screen before using as a germination mix.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

I placed my worms on a plastic rubermaid tub, it tends to get a lot of moisture because of all the veggie peels that I throw in so I was told that to absorb the moisture I had to place shredded newspaper on top of the container and then place the lid on top, of course I do have ventilation holes to let some air inside and I also have bottom drain holes as well to collect the compost tea.

Last year when I did not know better, I just would let my bin unatended and would just feed my worms without doing anything else, when I was ready to collect the castings the moisture was so great that my castings just looked like a mushy mess, I was able to collect as much as I could, but in the process I probably lost a buch of worms as well.

Placing shredded paper on top of the castings and worms help with the moisture problem, my castings are moist but the consistency of used cooffee grounds, definetely easier to separate the worms from the castings this way.

What I do is I tend to open the lid of my bin every day to check and see the moisture level, if I think is too wet I place more shreeded newspaper on top, if not I just leave it and close the lid.

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Morgan............that devise is the tea brewer. At the top you see a piece of 3/4" PVC. This is where the air enters and goes to the bottom of the tower where it is expelled from an end cap with very small holes in it. The big tower pipe has a bottom cap with holes drilled. The rising bubbles do two things....one cause the bubbles to go through the churning compost and two create vortex like suction pulling in water and creating circulation in the bucket. The clampped in screen is the exit for the circulating water and it keeps the big lumps in the tower. As you may surmise it is a whole lot better than a simple soaking tea bag that many use. You can see the one mine is designed after called a Bobolator pictured and explained in debth on the site of NorthCountryOrganics.com Something like mine used to be called the Biti Bobolator. Finished aerobic tea shows up in just eighteen hours because of water tempture of 76 degrees and the consistant aerobic churning within the tower. It is one of the simplest designs and more important it can be taken apart and cleaned easily in about twenty minutes. If a system can not be cleaned easily it will be useless in short order. That is the problem with most other designs I have looked at. I bought my compressor from North Country Organics maybe ten years ago. I could not find a commercial quality one anywhere else at that time. In today's market ten bucks will build this brewer not including the compressor, heater and therometer. Need pricing ask them. I can not remember. This set up will do from five to forty gallons in the same 18 hours.

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

I forgot the pix.

Thumbnail by docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Another

Thumbnail by docgipe
Helena, MT

Believe I've got it doc...years ago there was something similar used to treat various types of wastewater made by a now extinct company called Ramco. The design included three rotating impellers (2-clockwise, 1 counter clockwise) inside a plastic tube which broke up the air bubbles from a high volume air compressor. The guy that invented the system was a WWII piolot. A very efficient design for recirculating even moderately viscous materials. The aquarium size would fit nicely in 5 to 55 gallon pails or drums. If only a source were still available. I will check around and see if there are any still in existance.

carminator1, I also use the rubbermaid bin without air or drainage holes for my worm compost bins. Most people use media other than peat moss because they feel it is too difficult to maintain the proper moisture level. I have used peat moss for more than 40 years and find it very easy to work with. I collect approximately 1/4th inch of dried media or worm casings from the top of each bin twice weekly before feeding, and replace it with several handfulls of peat moss which has been soaked in warm water and the excess moisture removed with an aquarium net. Thanks to doc here I have been experimenting with several new ideas. (!) I use gravel syphoned aquarium water to blend the peelings which I feed the worms. The latest experiment is to place the initial blend into a 5-gallon pail and let it set for several days before reblending it along with egg shells and coffee grounds. This has cut down on the amount of time it takes to blend the peelings; there are vertually no chunks remaining; and the emulsion is such that the worms devour it in a fraction of the time. TYVM doc. (2) I am also using the gravel syphoned aquarium water for soaking the peat moss over night. Once the water is removed from the peat moss I toss acid water into the outdoor horse manure compost bin. In the spring I have a number of other uses for the acid water.

doc is one of my top five favorites in DG. I have had more ideas come from reading doc' threads than anyone else I can think of. Making compost tea is another recent experiment I have started thanks to this thread. I have decided to use gravel sypnoned aquarium water in a 5-gallon pail with a cup each of grated worm castings; agged grated horse manure compost; garden soil; and acid water removed from the soaked peat moss.

mobile, AL(Zone 8a)

Peat Moss you say, well I'll have to try it. I can definetely see how it would be a lot easier than newspaper.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

Hey wormiest gardeners, I was looking at a Sur La Table catalog this morning. They have trhe greatest strainers for gardening. They just do not know it. They have them listed as Stainless Steel Grill Grids. Three different sizes for 44.95. Free shipping. I paid close to $20.00 plus shipping to Gardeners supply and I have only had it one year and the handles are getting ready to break loose. The handles are attached by a tiny weld. The one in the catalog are one piece. And I just thought, you could probably get the same thing at a local BBQ store. BBQ stores have stainless steel grill baskets with small holes for stir frying vegs on the grill. Have a great day.

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