Compost, Castings and Garden Teas

compost tea just grow it organic gardening

What is Compost/Garden Tea?

The easiest way to define this is the liquid that is extracted when you soak compost or garden materials in water.  The tea is the liquid.  Now I keep saying compost, but it doesn’t solely have to be that.  That is why I use the term garden tea.  See garden tea can be made from many different ingredients;  compost, worm castings, chicken manure, comfrey, and other plant materials.

Everyone knows the benefits of compost, worm castings, and other garden products.  Less is known about the benefits of these garden teas

Purpose of Garden Tea

The concept behind garden teas is straightforward;  All of these garden products that can be used have their own unique benefits when added to the growing space. Some introduce bacteria, yeast, fungi to the growing area, while others help improve disease resistance.  Some add nutrients that aid in growth, fruit, and flowering.   We want to extract these benefits in the liquid form and be able to apply them to whatever we are growing. 

The idea is that while brewing or making the tea, we should be able to grow and multiply these microorganisms.  Maybe even isolate specific types of these organisms. 

How to Brew Teas

There are 2 basic ways of making tea.  One is aerated, and the other is nonaerated/anaerobic.  There are different ways of aerating the compost, but we can discuss that at a different time.  You suspend a bag filled with garden material in the liquid and allow it to soak.  Truthfully, you do not have to put the materials in a bag, they can just soak in the water. 

Aerated Teas

This involves supply oxygen with an air pump to the solution.  The theory behind this is the extra air aids the bacteria and microorganisms to reproduce more rapidly.  Also, the aeration process is supposed to halt the growth of harmful microbes.  Suspend a permeable bag of garden materials in the liquid. Turn on the aeration system and allow the contents to steep and work their magic.  Adding aeration speeds up the entire process, allowing microbial rich tea to be created faster.

Non-Aerated Teas

This is the process that involves no supplemental oxygen.  If you think about it, this is probably the way the concept of compost teas came about. To make nonaerated tea follow the same procedure of suspending a permeable bag of garden materials in a liquid or allow them to float.

Now just wait.  Really that’s all.  If you allowed the garden materials to float freely, you would need to strain before using it.

I was always under the impression that aerated teas were superior to their nonaerated counterparts.  Recently I have been learning about natural farming and realize that the nonaerated version may actually be better at suppressing diseases and pest control.

Applying Garden Tea

There are many different ways to use your brewed teas.  After diluting, you can apply it foliarly, with a pump sprayer or a hose-end sprayer.  Applying the teas this way is said to help with disease and pest resistance.  The concept is we are spraying a multitude of beneficial microbes to the leaves surface, in turn leaving no space for diseases or pests on the foliage.

You can pour the teas directly on to the soil as a soil drench.  There is no need to dilute the compost tea before applying it in this manner. Using the liquid this way is said to supercharge the microbial life.  This should help the soil food web from the smallest organism to earthworms. 

What's interesting about these teas is that you can brew them from a wide variety of materials.  No 2 batches are exactly alike. This same fact also makes it incredibly hard to say that garden teas actually work.  I have had amazing results while using them; less powdery mildew problems, fewer issues with aphids, and more fruit production.  What is important is the quality of materials you use to make these teas.  Start with the highest quality materials you can find.

Also, the best water to use for garden teas is rainwater.  If you do not have access to rainwater, I’m sorry.  If you must use city water, fill up your brewing vessel and allow it to off-gas and sit for 24 hours or more.  This will help get rid of the chlorine, and this is vital because chlorine can kill the beneficial organisms we are trying to brew.

Do you use garden teas?  If so, what are your favorite recipes?  If you have never tried it, give it a try and let me know your thoughts.  Hopefully, this article inspires you to JUST GROW IT!



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