How to Brew Your Own Compost Tea (and why you should want to in the first place)

How to Brew Your Own Compost Tea (and why you should want to in the first place)

By Sara Mack                                                                                                                                                            Communications Intern at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

 

One of our compost experts, Miranda, holding the aerator we use to keep the microbes in our compost tea happy.

I’m new to compost tea. As someone that was taught amateur backyard composting from a young age, I was never really up to date on the latest composting trends. Even so, when I learned about the idea behind compost tea – that you can “brew” a nutrient-rich cocktail that can be diluted, stretching a small amount of compost to fertilize a huge amount of plants, I was hooked.

Compost tea means more bang for your composting buck, and it only requires a few things. The most hard-to-come-by item is an aerator, but these can be purchased at most pet stores (they’re used for fish tanks). Other required equipment includes a 5- gallon bucket, a small burlap bag, and some quality compost, of course! If you’re wondering where you’ll be able to track down the burlap and some black gold, then look no further. With this post, Bootstrap is officially launching our newest product – the Tea Boot! The whole kit and kaboodle comes with a compostable burlap “boot,” a jar containing a blend of our own Beantown Gold (worm castings and compost), and a compost tea recipe.

If you’re anything like me, your first instinct is to wonder, “why not just put the worm castings or compost directly on the soil? Isn’t that even better?” The short answer is: not exactly. In a perfect world, using both compost tea and compost/worm castings is the ideal method. This being said, there are a variety of situations where compost tea alone is more achievable (and therefore beneficial) than applying regular compost. These options include watering a large lawn or garden with compost tea where it may not be practical or possible to sprinkle compost over the entire growing area, or utilizing compost tea in a houseplant pot that has no additional room in the pot for traditional compost to be added. 

So, how does compost tea even work? How is watering your plants with compost tea any different than using plain water? As it turns out, it’s all about the microbes, nematodes (teeny tiny multicellular insects), and protozoa (also wicked teeny tiny single-celled organisms). In order to prevent the compost tea from becoming a form of leachate (any sludge-like liquid that contains elevated concentrations of unwanted … stuff)  constant aeration for a period of at least 24 hours allows the beneficial microbes to thrive and ensures an aerobic final product. Repeat: an unaerated leachate-like liquid is no bueno for plants. It can cause harmful bacteria to take over.

All told, the compost-filled burlap boot serves as a “tea bag” while the aerator keeps everything bubbling, oxygenated, and running smoothly. After a full day of brewing, the compost tea is ready to be used for all of your gardening needs. Although this process is slightly more involved than simply adding soil amendment to specific plants, it has the potential to stretch a lot further and take up less room – without using any more compost to get the added benefits. One slight drawback is that the tea should be applied within a day or so. It is not particularly shelf-stable.

Check out our compost tea “recipe” below, and stay tuned to get your own Tea Boot and Beantown Black Gold right from our website to get started making your own.

 

Compost Tea *not for human or animal consumption*

Ingredients

  1. One Tea Boot 
  2. One Jared blend of compost and castings 
  3. Growing medium (NOT SURE if this is necessary here????)
  4. One 5-gallon bucket 
  5. One bubbler or aquarium pump 
  6. 3.75 gallons of dechlorinated water

Instructions 

  1. Empty compost into Tea Boot
  2. Cinch the bootclosed 
  3. With a binder clip or other means, hook the cinch string onto the rim of the 5-gallon bucket 
  4. Place boot inside the bucket
  5. Fill the bucket ¾thsfull with dechlorinated water 
  6. Aerate the mixture for 24 hours using a bubbler for aquarium pump
  7. Dilute finished tea with water (1:10), apply and enjoy