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Fertilizing & Mulching

Natural Garden Pest

Garden Landscape Plans

Compost Tea: Organic Fertilization

What is compost tea?

Setting up compost tea home brewer. Compost tea is an aerobic water solution that has extracted the microbe population from compost along with the nutrients. In simple terms, it is a concentrated liquid created by a process to increase the numbers of beneficial organisms as an organic approach to plant and soil care.

You can use any kind of compost, but those that are well aged have the most nutrients. Vermicompost, which is made from worm castings, is probably the best you can find. The worms do the work in a very short time, often cutting years off the normal schedule. Compost normally takes 3-4 years to fully break down. This is, if it’s done naturally. If you use a machine, or a roller, compost will decompose more quickly due to retained heat and moisture. Whatever kind of compost you use, be sure it has no chemicals that may harm your plants.

Setting up a home brewer.

• a five gallon bucket
• compost
• an old pillowcase or nylon stocking
• string to tie the pillowcase/nylon stocking
• a few tablespoons of molasses
• an aquarium pump
• a length of air hose long enough to go from the pump to the air stone
• an air stone for an aquarium
• water


1. Clean the bucket well with water only. Don’t use bleach or detergents.
2. Place a shovel full of compost in the pillowcase/pillow case and tie it tightly with string. Place it in the bucket.
3. Cover the compost with water. Fill the bucket most of the way to the top.
4. Add the molasses. It will feed the beneficial bacteria and provide the plants with iron.
5. Attach the air stone to the hose going to the pump.
6. Place the air stone in the water and the pump on a surface higher than the water. This will reduce the chance of back-flow if the electricity should be cut off.
7. Turn the pump on. The air stone will bubble, feeding oxygen to the bacteria

Comparison of plant roots grown with or without compost tea It will take at least 12 hours for the tea to be ready. When it is, drain the water into a bucket and water your plants right away preferably in the early morning or late in the day. There is no holding time as the bacteria will start to die when the oxygen is cut off.

Use rain water or well water whenever possible. You can use city water, but it must be free from chemicals like chlorine. If it has chlorine, you can let it sit overnight and the chlorine will dissipate.

As you might guess, there are many other alternatives in creating compost tea and the recipes vary in fostering the differential growth of bacterial and fungi.

Bacterial-Dominated Compost Tea Recipe

• 1.5 pounds of bacterial-dominated compost (vermicastings works well)
• 2 ounces of cane sugar
• 1 ounce of soluble kelp

Bacteria love simple sugars, so feel free to add in a teaspoon of maple syrup, or even white sugar.

Fungal-Dominated Compost Tea Recipe

• 2 pounds of fungal-dominated compost (see tips at bottom of page)
• 2 ounces humic acids
• 2 teaspoons of yucca extract
• 1 ounce of liquid kelp
• 2 tablespoons of ground oatmeal

Add yucca extract near the end of the brewing process, since it has a tendency to create a lot of foam. Also, you'll want to make sure your yucca doesn't have any preservatives

Common Compost Tea Recipe Ingredients

Ingredient Feeds Ingredient Feeds
White Sugar Bacteria Maple Syrup Bacteria
Corn Syrup Bacteria Cane Sugar Bacteria
Molasses Bacteria/Fungi Fish Emulsion Bacteria
Fruit Pulp Bacteria/Fungi Fish Hydrolysate Fungi
Kelp Bacteria/Fungi Ground Oatmeal Fungi
Rock Dusts Bacteria/Fungi Yucca Fungi
Humic Acids Bacteria/Fungi Soybean Meal Fungi

Tips To Improve Results

Tip 1. If you want to increase the diversity of your compost tea, we suggest adding a cup or two of garden soil. Better yet, if your compost tea recipe calls for fungal compost, include a cup or two of soil from a nearby forest.

Chart showing why you should use compost tea. By adding these additional soils, you're ensuring your tea is inoculated with a wide range of soil microbes. These soils are like a biological catalyst, or compost tea activator.

Tip 2. Don't accidentally filter out your fungi (and nematodes) when straining your tea. When filtering your tea, be sure your screen is as close to 400 micrometers as possible. Paint strainers, from your l ocal hardware store, work quite well for this function. Avoid using socks or pillowcases, since their fibers are too tight.

Tip 3. When we want to ensure we've got fungi in our tea, we will brew it, and then add spores of mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi act as a wonderful inoculum to any fungal compost tea recipe. These fungi naturally form beneficial relationships with approximately 95% of all plant species. They aid in nutrient transfer to plants, and help to create better soil conditions

Tip 4. There are commercial setups for brewing compost tea that make it easier to get started including pre-packaged compost and food for the bacteria and fungi