Soil & Fertilizer: Compost Tea

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

I saw a program this morning that showed some great results for plant and foliage fertilizer that used compost tea. I would like to try this, but would like to know if any of you have ever made this and what procedure did you use.

I looked up some info on making it, and they say to use a small pump to aerate the tea for 24-48 hrs. and to add some unsulfured molasses also. You can just let it steep for 5-7 days also, but the bacteria isn't as good.

Sure would like some input on doing this, especially for foliage protection from bugs. What I read was that it really helps your foliage, like a suncreen for bugs and then also all the nutrients go straight into the soil.


Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

I put 3-4 shovels of compost into a burlap bag.
Fill a 20-30 gallon garbage can with water, place the bag in the can, cover and let sit a sunny place for a week.
Remove the bag and use it to water you plants.
It works great.


Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

Thanks for the input Paul.

I am going to try the procedure in a 5 gal. bucket with an air pump. I'll let you know how it comes out. I think my plants are getting excited, they heard me talking about doing this while I was tending them today. hehe


Lafayette, NJ(Zone 6a)

Donna, how is the compost tea going?

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)


My tea is wonderful and I have been making it on a constant basis every week. It smells so organic when it's finished. Here is what I have been using:

5 gal. bucket w/declorinated water about 6' from the top.
4-5 good cups of compost
2 T. molasses
2 T. corn meal
1 cup shredded Alfalfa.

I use a fish tank pump for 20-60 gals. and have 4 lines going into the water. I let this work for at least 2-3 days. It gets a nice foamy top and starts to have a yeasty smell, then it's ready. I then mix it 2 or 3 to 1 ratio, with declorinated water, depending on where I put it in the garden. If the plants are well established I use the stronger ratio, or if the plants are still new, use the weaker ratio. I then use what little compost is left from the bottom and put it back into the compost bin or spread it around my plants. There is a lot of microherd in these dredges, so putting it back into the compost really gets the compost moving faster. You can almost see the shimmering of all the activity within hours of putting it on top of the compost heap.

I really recommend this procedure. It is easy, cheap to make and all organic. You don't get the salt build up of the synthetic fertilizers this way either.

Here is a picture I just took of my tea. It is finished and I have already used some this morning. The foam was thicker last night, so this morning it was ready to use.

If you or anyone else has any questions, feel free to ask. I am not a pro yet, but I know what is working for me.


Thumbnail by SoCal
Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

Where do you buy the alfala?


St. Petersburg, FL(Zone 10b)

Greetins all,

SoCal, excellent tea making process!

I really don't "make" compost tea as I use a rolling composter that sits on top of a foot where the tea that is created during the composting is captured. This is a very strong tea that I dilute to the color of weak tea. See Pic below. (The only problem I had with this model is the cap you would open to remove the tea leaked. I had to replace it with a metal one.)

Paulgrow, Check your nursuries, and any feed stores in your area. You should be able to find alfala without any problems.

Thumbnail by DoW_Oldman
Woodburn, OR(Zone 8a)

Thanks for letting us know how you do this! I have been buying it for $4 a gallon(!!), but now I'm going to make my own!

Sweetwater, TX(Zone 7a)

Just wanted to post a couple of compost tea links that I thought y'all would like:

And here's the International Compost Tea Council - wow - who knew there was such a thing?

"Soil Soup"

Happy Compost Tea Gardening!

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

Hi there Olds, that's a niftly looking tumbler and it makes it's own tea also. I have been making about 2 batches a week and love this fact my family now asks me if they can have some once in a while. lol

Carena, it is really simple, I promise. If you have any questions, just ask.

A NYorker, thanks for the links. I looked through the Soil Soup one and couldn't believe they are charging over $300 for the setup.


Sweetwater, TX(Zone 7a)

Donna - I know! AND I didn't look very far, but I think you have to BUY their ingredients or something!

Other links are good, though.

That is a cool tumbler!

St. Petersburg, FL(Zone 10b)

Why go with the $300.00 job when you can step up to the pump and have that 25 gallon jobie! Only $499.00! What a deal I think I will get a couple! J/K of course.

EDIT: One thing I do from time to time is make fish/compost tea! I can get fresh mullet for 99 cent per pound. I grind it up into a very fine goo. Put that into an old panty hose. Place it into 10 gal container along with a bag of compost. Now I soak them in water until the fish is more than ripe. I'm mean to tell ya my wife threatens to move to my mother's it so strong smelling!

This message was edited Monday, Sep 8th 11:18 PM

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

Peeeeee Yeeeeewwwwww!!

Some times my alpha gives off a very ripe smell too and my DH doesn't like it at all. I guess we just put up with it since it makes our gardens richer.


Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

I just put a couple shovelsful of the mulch/compost from the fair grounds or neighbors stable in a 5 gallon pail, fill with well water and let it stand for a few days. Then dilute it to the color of tea and apply to plants. After about the 3rd time I add the solids to the compost pile or put them at the base of some plant to keep soil temp and moisture even.

San Jose, CA(Zone 9b)

I make compost tea just as leaflady does and it seems to work well. I never thought of dechlorinating water first - probably a very good idea. When I have worm castings from my vermicomposting (yes, my friends call me a freak...but they don't garden, so who's the freak??) I use that too, to make a super rich drink for my garden when things are blooming heavily, like in the summertime.

(Sue) South Central, IA(Zone 5a)

After reading this, I'm convinced I need to be making compost tea for my garden next season. I've been thinking about it for a long time, it's time to quit thinking and do. I'm going to get DH to run electric out to the old chicken house so I can run the pumps from there. Thanks for all the great ideas on how to personalize this for my use.

Fayette, MO(Zone 6a)

Does anyone know if you could use compost tea for orchids?

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)


I don't know if it would have any benefits for orchids. The tea has little micronutrients that feed in soil, and since the orchids are planted in bark, I don't know what they would live on. You could try it, but I really can't answer that question for you. If you find out, let us know, ok?


Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Wonder how I missed this thread last year.

Bumping this up so people can remember, re-learn, and rejuvenate their plants and gardens. 'Tis the time of year to start using this liquid gold!

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

Hey Shoe,

I just posted a link for this on another thread. I am just now starting to make this up again this year to start all my new plants and give them something nurishing.


Efland, NC(Zone 7a)


And now that I have an active "worm farm" going I can use the castings for some delicious 'worm tea'! Reckon I best go buy me a bubbler this week!

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)


I would love to know how you are doing your worm farm. Can you give us a little info and maybe a picture of it. This is something I would like my dad to get involved in doing.


(Sue) South Central, IA(Zone 5a)

Well, I've started my tea. The weather was warming nicely and now we are going to be cold for several days again. I'm sure it is not going to brew like it would if it remained warm. Is the foam an indicator of microbiological activity?

I'm really looking forward to using this all growing season on my plants.

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

Oh boy another tea maker. Yes, the foam is a good thing and it will start to deminish when it's done. I have my tea brewing in my garage and it's not real warm in there, so I don't think warmth has anything to do with making the tea. It's all up to the little micro guys.

Keep us informed and good luck.


(Sue) South Central, IA(Zone 5a)

Here it is May 2nd and I finally have some foam on the top of my bucket, only took 10 days! Now I can use this in 2 more days right?

Do you use it as is or do you dilute it? Thanks in advance.

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)


It shouldn't have taken so long. You could have used it after 3-4 days. Having the foam is not important.

Yes, you have to dilute it or it will burn your roots. I have read several forums regarding how much to dilute it. I've been using it about a 4 to 1 ratio. 4 pts. dechlorinated water to 1 pt tea. If you have any rainwater, that is the best.


(Sue) South Central, IA(Zone 5a)

Thanks Donna,

I just figured the little microbes were on strike cause it was so cool here. I have a barrel of rainwater that I will mix with my tea and apply it to my plants yet this week if at all possible, especially my lilies and roses!

How long can you store this stuff before you use it? I don't have a lot of plants up and growing yet. Sorry to be such a pain.


Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

I wouldn't store it at all. It will start getting a little stinky...phew!!

You don't have to use this on just your growing plants. This stuff will make your soil rich with nutrients, so if your plants are still in the ground, or your going to be putting some in soon, the soil will be ready for it. That's why I try to have a batch going constantly, just keep sprinkling your soil.


(Sue) South Central, IA(Zone 5a)

Ok, I'll get it used up and another batch 'cooking'. The porch is starting to smell a little 'ripe'!

Southwestern, OH(Zone 6b)

bump bump--too much good info here to be buried!

Barrington, IL(Zone 5a)

The International Compost Tea Council link cited above, [[email protected]] asserts that compost brewed in solution doesn't contain many microorganisms and therefore misses most of the benefit of Compost Tea. Given the upbeat reports of many of you, it would seem that your home methods are plenty good. Comments?

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

I've just read this thread with great interest, and I have some questions.

One, why do you use a pump/bubbler?

Two: how does compost tea differ from alfalfa tea, that is... what additional nutrients does compost tea add?

Three: what does the corn meal do? I can get that the molasses adds sugars for the micro-organisms.

I notice a real difference in color (deeper green) in leaves within 24 hours of using alfalfa tea in my garden.

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)


I have read a lot of information, but I am still not a pro at it.

I can answer some of your questions.

Why do you use a pump/bubbler?

Recent research indicates that using some kind of aereation and adding a sugar source (unsulphered molasses works well) results in an excellent product that extrcts the maximum number of benificial organisms. This aereation is crucial to the formation of benefical bacteria and the required fermentation process.

How does compost tea differ from alfalfa tea, that is... what additional nutrients does compost tea add?

I haven't tried the alfalfa tea yet, but there are lots and lots of micro organisms in your compost that help in the soil, whereas there aren't any in the alfalfa alone.Compost Tea is a nutritionally rich, well-balanced, organic supplement.

What does the corn meal do?

The corn meal is also a feed for the miro heard to feast on as they become active.

I've read that if you sprinkle the tea on a plant and theoil is bare of any thing they can eat, you can also sprinkle some corn meal around the soil area, and this will keep the micro herd happy and feed the soil.

I hope this help a little.


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Good explanation, Donna... Thanks... and it makes sense. If I had really bothered to think about what I already knew, I'd have gotten most of it myself, except maybe the corn meal.

Edited to add: I put lengthy definition in garden terms for alfalfa and alfalfa tea. One of them has a breakdown of all the nutritional elements in alfalfa.

This message was edited Jun 6, 2004 7:41 AM

Gardena, CA

Hate to see this forum close. I have a large ComposTumbler, the kind that you crank everday. I use all of my grass clippings and dead leaves as well as kitchen scraps and chicken droppings. The extract is an excellent thick black tea when diluted 10:1 with water provides all the "excellent stuff" my garden and lawn needs. I use a garden hose sprayer and haven't had to buy any store bought fertilizer in over a year. Of course I also use alot of organic ammendments to the soil. What was once sterile, hardpan, compacted soil is now full of earthworms and will grow just about anything. Any comments ?

Bethany, OK(Zone 7b)

I did something new this year for making compost tea. I cut the legs from
a pair of pantie hose, then filled them with composted manure. This method strains the compost and makes it easier on my little pump. I tie one of the legs to the handle of my 5gl bucket and just move the leg up and down once a day. I am also going to use Donna's recipe. prcastle


Malibu, CA

Wow...I didn't think tea composting was that complex. I just took the loose tea leaves after I'm finished with them and dumped them in my flower bed without doing anything to them.

Gardena, CA

Hi Zipity,
Compost tea isn't exactly "tea." Of course, any organic material you add to the soil is beneficial. A few tea leaves certainly won't hurt. If your only using small amounts, try the coffee grounds. They are better and also toxic to snails.

Compost tea is actually the liquid runoff from decomposing organic material such as grass clippings and vegetable table scraps.

Happy gardening

-South Central-, IL(Zone 6a)

Bump! I don't want to lose this!

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

"Compost tea is actually the liquid runoff from decomposing organic material such as grass clippings and vegetable table scraps."

Actually, nadabigfarm, that is the description of "compost leach", not tea. Compost tea is usually brewed/aerated and utilizes the aerobic bacterias in the process. Compost "leach" is considered what you described above OR can also be made simply by putting a given amount in a bucket of water and allowing it to steep (minus the aeration pumps). To me, I've had great results over the years using both methods. (However, making compost tea is much more "funner" to me!) :>)

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