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With so much information out there about compost tea - pro & con - I'm interested to know if anyone makes their own, what method is used to brew it and how it's used in the garden. Is it really worth the effort and does compost tea make your vegetable garden more productive?
I have been using the "freshly" made "WORM WINE" from Texas Worm Ranch.
The lady sells it at the Coppell's market and I must use it in the next 48 max.
Yes, it made a huge difference.
I don't use any chemical to my vegetable garden and I think the compost tea really helped to create a good soil biology and very strong plants.
Before I did use the "bottled" compost tea and I never seen a difference. So that was a waste of money.
It's certainly not scientific but I use a 2 1/2 gallon watering can and chop a hand full of leaves fairly fine and stir it in to the rainwater.
I let it sit in the hot summer sun for two or three days to let the nutrients leach into the water, stirring it daily.
It will smell fairly raunchy but I use it to water with and allow any leftover leaf matter to be added to the soil or dumped in the compost pile.
If you do this, be sure to cover the containers so pets don't drink from them. It is not recommended for consumption. Kristi
I use that sort of fresh-ish , mild comfrey tea. This year I started making 'kitchen scraps tea' too. Just had to be weird I guess. The point of that tea is to dissolve some sugars etc into the water , and feed your soil bacteria (good ones). Then the really wet junk gets dumped somewhere to rot quick under some dirt.
Older books use strong teas with a long standing time, then diluted. Current thinking is that teas should be well aerated (big pond air pump, not tiny aquarium pump) and used after just a couple days aerated brew. For more details, search 'aerated compost tea.' and disregard anything that says leave it in a bucket sitting still for days+
I'm highly impressed by a book I read, asserting that its all the good soil biology that does the work, not dissolved nutrients. So using teas and plenty of organic content gives the good soil life lots to eat.
Comfrey not invasive for me either yet. I did get one new plant where I used leaves, this year. I would rip off the flower heads after flowering, to prevent seeds, and rip up some leaves with that. I may have gotten one seed.
Good information of the scraps tea. I need to start doing that also. Do you shred the scraps into smaller pieces? Needing to do a search for info I believe.
There are two types of comfrey ~ one reproduces by roots only even though it blooms. The other will produce seed. I will say the one that seeds would be easy to uproot the plantlets and replant or share with other gardeners. Kristi
>> Current thinking is that teas should be well aerated
>> I'm highly impressed by a book I read, asserting that its all the good soil biology that does the work, not dissolved nutrients.
I read the same things, and they make sense to me. Compost feeds the microbes, then it all goes into the soil and replenishes the population mixture. Left-over compost feeds both new and old microbes and small multi-cellular soil life.
Pouring it back and forth between 5-gallon buckets several times per day might be enough oxygenating.
If not, the shallower the puddle, the more air can diffuse in.
And cold water dissolves more oxygen than warm water.
(Cold slows down metabloism, so they would need less O2 to thrive in cold weather.)
At least you can tell when your soup does anaerboic (no oxygen) or hypoxic (very little oxygen). It will really stink.
Best of all would be a little "water feature" that pumps minced compost soup up to the top of a fountain. Water from the fountian could then trickle down over a series of steps and then splash back into a shallow bowl.
Good luck with the comfrey tea! All I can think of to help is "shallow" and "cool". Pouring abck and forth several times per day ouught to help. When in doubt, use it sooner so it has less time to use up what oxygen was in the water to start with.
MAYBE save a little from each batch that smells OK, to innoculate the next batch with the "right bugs". Or spread some on the plants, and add more cold water and comfrey, each time you pour back and forth.
There's something called a "chemostat" I read about in Biology class, where water and nutrients were added continuously in small amounts, and the overflow was discarded continuously. That kept the bacteria growing at peak speed and helath, c o9ntinuously, while flushing away waste products fast enough.
Someone, probably Al (Tapla) explained to me that pine bark that had composted vs. fermented (sat damp in a sealed plastic bag) would have different smells.
"Stinky" vs. "soily" might not be the words he used, but that's how I think of it.
Aerobic composting smells like rich living soil.
Anearobic (or hypoxic) fermentation smells like nasty things dying - and not in a good way.
I've read in several places that "benficial" soil organisms tend strongly to be aerobic, and that anearobic microbes are seldom advantageous in garden soil or pots.
I don't think fungi, worms or tiny insects survive without oxygen. Bacteria that can get by without it produce alcohols, ketones, aldehydes and organic acids instead of carbon dioxide. Those tend to be somewhat toxic and create excessive acidity. Mostly not things that you or root hairs or medium -size soil organisms would want to eat or breath or bath in. Maybe vinegar and blue cheese are exceptions.
I use a tea made with alfalfa pellets just have to be very carefull with it as it is a very high Nitrogen fertlizer I used to use the Comfrey until all of the negative articles came out in the early 80s or maybe in the 70s before that it was considered the miracle plant of the garden world..Sure wish I had a start of it now ..
Interesting comments, I love it when gardeners "chime in" - thanks for taking the time to comment!
I'm using Bruce Deuley's "Little Texas Tea Brewer", a 5 gallon (BBQ pickle bucket) with aquarium pump, air stones to move air through the brew, compost (or vermicompost) with additives suspended in a paint strainer bag - all of which are used to "extract" and grow microbes (good guys hopefully) resulting in an ACT concentration. Immediately after brewing is complete, some 24-36 hours later, the resulting 4 gallons of tea is strained, diluted and applied as a soil drench or foliar spray .
Oh, one must use non-chlorinated water, rain water or clean pond water - the problem is city water suppliers are switching to chloramine which isn't eliminated by letting it set for 24 hours like you do with regular chlorinated water. I've seen recommendations for using aquarium tablets, also a chemical which may affect microbes, but haven't found recommendations yet for eliminating it when brewing compost tea. When diluting ACT you have to have non-chlorinated water ready to add to your pump-up sprayer or watering can. If you're hose end spraying you're stuck with city water no matter what's in it.
The book "Teaming with Microbes", aside from explaining the microbial life in soil, has a chapter on compost tea with interesting pointers for enhancing microbes by "priming the compost" before it's added to the bucket, a method I have yet to try.
Sounds like the bucket method could be used for herbal brews mentioned above! Perhaps more "good stuff" could be extracted or at least the tea would be "less stinky". Of course, the brewing period would be different, less time required, warmer water used for extraction, etc.
RickCorey_WA wrote:Pouring it back and forth between 5-gallon buckets several times per day might be enough oxygenating.
If not, the shallower the puddle, the more air can diffuse in.
OK, I was keeping this one for a rainy day. Go to a pet store (or big department store with a pet department), buy a small fish tank pump, an aerator block or airstone and some tubing long enough to reach from the pump to the bottom of the bucket. Put it together and plug it in. You will need to clean the airstone occasionally because "stuff" loves to grow on it. It costs pennies a week, can run continuously (the pumps are designed that way), and will aerate quite a lot of liquid. I don't get any bad odor with my setup - just a fresh "earthy" smell.
Probably someone will complain about the use of electricity...
OH! I assumed that any pump or motor would take more power than that. Good deal. And we could keep the power cord and pump indoors (or away from rain, anyway) but6 run the air5hose to the bucket.
I wonder if there is any tubing cheaper than 1/4" polyethylene drip irrigation micro-tubing? $6 / 100 feet. 0.170" ID, .250 OD.
I wonder if 1/8" irrigation tubing is too small? $4.50 / 100 feet, 0.125" ID 0.187 OD
(Disclosure: I used to breed saltwater fish, so I kept numerous buckets of cultures and stuff (not to mention the larval fish tanks) going via air manifold 24/7/365.)
Depends on the pump. Most of the pumps I've seen in big box pets stores are horribly inefficient and LOUD. And they aren't going to be able to push air that far. I have one pump that can only push air about 10" under water. Weak *and* loud.
If you are talking about buying tubing by the 100' foot -- why? -- you need a serious pump and not the Pet** special. I'd recommend a Coralife Luft Pump -- twice as much money, but these pumps last for decades instead of a year or two. It's small and has a dial for power so you only dial up the power you need and don't cause excessive backpressure on the diaphragm. 5 watts. Runs non-stop for years without a problem although you do need to change the air filter from time to time depending on how dirty your air is. If you need more air pressure than that, you are going to need a piston pump. You can also buy parts for it and DIY repair it.
No need for air stones. Instead, get a piece of rigid 1/8" tubing and cut it to the depth of your bucket plus about 5 inches. Use a lighter or another heat source to (carefully and slowly!) make a bend so it hooks over the bucket edge. Voila -- stays in place and nothing to clean or replace. If the tubing gets gunked up, soak in a vinegar solution.
Use clear 3/16" vinyl flexible tubing with an aquarium air pump, so you can see through it to troubleshoot problems. You can get 500' for about
thank Rich, it sounds like you are doing it and its working.
thanks Nicole- for the real deal on pumps. The guy I trust who used to brew teas in 5 galllon did recommend a much heftier pump than a standard small aquarium pump. It would also depend on the volume bucket and tea you want to make.
Note reading the Fine Gardening article, for a five gal bucket he uses three stones and is holding a pump about 3 or 4 times the size of the pump I used on my ten gall tank. and one filter.
I was going to say you can get 500 feet for about $35, keep it out of sunlight and expect to replace it from time too time. For longer term, get the silicone tubing. It'll last longer and it's much less likely to kink up.
Thanks Nicole...I've read Linda Chalker-Scott's pubs along with others that compare disease control testing on various agricultural plant species - all with little or no disease suppression resulting - ACT is not a pesticide. I've also read Dr. Elaine Ingham's (Chief Scientist at the Rodale Institute) pubs.
Yes, one can brew a batch of trouble if the inputs are polluted with harmful bacteria. I'm doing all I can to avoid the problems with quality inputs and sanitation. Each batch is different - that's a given.
The scientist can argue all they wish, perhaps something of value will come of it. On the other hand, if a gardener sees positive results using compost tea, as a tool, in conjunction with compost and mulch, then the proof's in the pudding, what you call "anecdotal". In my case I'm using ACT on one row of vegetables to compare the results with another row where ACT isn't used.
Nothing is a magic bullet, nothing is guaranteed; you sure need to do a lot of reading and sorting through the cautions before blithely bubbling away.
I really enjoyed reading the Garden Rant/Rodale posting, particularly the "lunge and parry" interplay!!!
I agree, Garden_Sass/ While I personally am firmly in the "science... because it works" camp I'm not against small scale experimentation by any means.
I do think when dealing with these kinds of faddish techniques that come and go, people should tread carefully because the probable actual benefits get lost in the hype about things it doesn't actually do. A lot of hype about how wonderful compost tea is is mostly coming from people who want to sell you some, so they make up an ever-longer list of "benefits." When you are dealing with the uncertainty of perceptions on output when dealing with fuzzy issues like fruit taste and leaf color, the placebo effect can be very real.
But most of us here are gardeners as a hobby, and in pursuit of hobbies we sometimes do things that are for the fun of experimentation that may or may not pay off for the amount of money and work we put into it.
Ultimately, I am also in the "because... I'm lazy" camp, so as long as the data shows that regular compost works as well or better, I'm going to go with the compost. :)
NicoleC wrote:Depends on the pump. Most of the pumps I've seen in big box pets stores are horribly inefficient and LOUD. And they aren't going to be able to push air that far. I have one pump that can only push air about 10" under water. Weak *and* loud.
you need a serious pump and not the Pet** special. I'd recommend a Coralife Luft Pump -- twice as much money, but these pumps last for decades instead of a year or two. It's small and has a dial for power so you only dial up the power you need and don't cause excessive backpressure on the diaphragm. 5 watts. Runs non-stop for years without a problem although you do need to change the air filter from time to time depending on how dirty your air is. If you need more air pressure than that, you are going to need a piston pump. You can also buy parts for it and DIY repair it.
No need for air stones.
Nicole, I'm only making one 5-gallon bucket at a time. I do it in my outside bathroom off the pool, so the pump is not audible, but really it's not loud at all - can't hear it unless you're actually in the room, and then it's just a faint hum. It does have a dial adjustment for pressure/volume. I got the smallest size that looked like it would work. It's already been running nonstop for over a year, including through power outages and storms that fried some computer equipment. And I use the airstones not to anchor the line but to make very tiny bubbles. That vastly increases the rate of O2 exchange by increasing the surface area in contact with the solution. The airstone is all the way at the bottom of the bucket and is pushing out a lot of air
Anyway, it works, it was very cheap (about 3 feet of tubing, a small airstone, and the pump, which was the most expensive piece - altogether under $25 IIRC) so I don't worry about leaving it in an "outdoor" bathroom. And I didn't have a spare Coralife pump lying around ;o).