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Ask Professor Rot


How to Make  COMPOST TEA

Professor Rot says:

One of the recent raves in gardening is the use of Liquid Gold — a mild organic liquid fertilizer made right at home.

Compost tea is a great way to love your plants naturally.


Compost Tea is a Liquid Gold fertilizer for flowers, vegetables and houseplants. Compost Tea, in fact, is all the rave for gardeners who repeatedly attest to higher quality vegetables, flowers, and foliage. Very simply, it is a liquid, nutritionally rich, well-balanced, organic supplement made by steeping aged compost in water. But its value is amazing, for it acts as a very mild, organic liquid fertilizer when added at any time of the year.

What is so wonderful about Compost Tea is that it can be made right at home from your own fresh, well-finished compost. The only requirement is that the compost you use is well broken-down into minute particles. This usually means that the organic materials have decomposed over a period of time so that their appearance is very dark with the texture of course crumbly cornmeal. Oh, and the fragrance is like that of rich soil in a forest.

Don't have such compost yet? Well, dig deep down inside your bin, near the bottom. This is where organic material will be most decomposed and fresh. All you need is a good shovelful for a 5-gallon bucket of Compost Tea.

This page gives you some tips and instructions for "brewing" your Liquid Gold.


Leachate is actually a by-product of composting and worm composting. It is a liquid that forms in the bottom of most bins, most likely unseen by you (unless collected from a worm bin), but well-known by all the microbes and critters, including worms, who live at the bottom of your pile and in the soil. This stuff is like a fantastic smoothie or a good cup of espresso to them!

compost tea brewerA fairly new phenomenon to gardening is the deliberate creation of Liquid Gold: Compost Tea. Researchers have determined exacting and scientific ways to brew it. The result has been the creation and promotion of Compost Tea brewing equipment, available at fine garden centers or on the internet. Some garden centers, in fact, have begun "brewing" the tea in large batches so that customers can draw-off what they need by the gallon.

The homeowner is not obligated to use exacting methods to get some very fine tea. On this website we offer a very simple, practical, and fast way to make up a batch. All you need is a couple of buckets, a shovelful of fresh finished compost, water and a straining cloth such as cheesecloth or burlap.

6 Good Reasons to Use Compost Tea

  1. Increases plant growth
    It is chock full of nutrients and minerals that give greener leaves, bigger and brighter blooms, and increased size and yield of vegetables.compost tea brewer

  2. Provides nutrients to plants and soil
    The fast-acting nutrients are quickly absorbed by plants through their leaves or the soil. When used as a foliar spray plant surfaces are occupied by beneficial microbes, leaving no room for pathogens to infect the plant. The plant will suffer little or no blight, mold, fungus or wilt.

  3. Provides beneficial organisms
    The live microbes enhance the soil and the immune system of plants. Growth of beneficial soil bacteria results in healthier, more stress-tolerant plants. The tea's chelated micronutrients are easy for plants to absorb.compost tea brewer

  4. Helps to suppress diseases
    A healthy balance is created between soil and plant, increasing the ability to ward off pests, diseases, fungus and the like. Its microbial functions include: competes with disease causing microbes; degrades toxic pesticides and other chemicals; produces plant growth hormones; mineralizes a plant's available nutrients; fixes nitrogen in the plant for optimal use.

  5. Replaces toxic garden chemicals
    Perhaps the greatest benefit is that compost tea rids your garden of poisons that harm insects, wildlife, plants, soil and humans. It replaces chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides. And, it will never burn a plant's leaves or roots. Finally, you save money.

  6. Makes you a "Green Planetary Citizen"
    Compost tea is just another way to feel good about respecting the earth in your own yard and garden. It allows you to be less a consumer of harmful products and more a resourceful gardener.




Step 1

Fill a bucket 1/3 full of quality finished compost


compost tea bucket
Step 2

Add water to the top of the bucket (unclorinated is best, or good well water).
compost tea bucket

Step 3

Let the mixture steep for 3-4 days.

Stir it now and then.

compost tea stir

Step 4

Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or other porous fabric (burlap, old shirt) into another bucket. Add the remaining solids to your garden or compost bin.

Step 5

Dilute the remaining liquid with water so it's the color of weak tea (use a 10:1 ratio of water to tea).

compost tea strain

Step 6

Use tea immediately for optimal absorption into the soil around plants.

For Potted Plants

For young delicate or potted plants dilute the tea.

compost tea plant

Around Root Systems

For hardy shrubs, trees, or established plants in the vegetable garden, simply pour the tea from the bucket around the root system at the base of the plant.

compost tea roots

As a Foliar Spray

You can also use it as a foliar spray on plants. Add 1/8 tsp vegetable oil or mild dish-washing liquid per gallon to help it adhere to leaves.

compost tea foliar



The following factors will determine the quality of the finished tea:

  1. Use well-aged, finished compost
    Unfinished compost may contain harmful pathogens and compost that is too old may be nutritionally deficient. COMPOST TEA and MANURE TEA ARE NOT THE SAME THING! Manure teas may be made in the same way but are not generally recommended as foliar sprays and are not as nutritionally well-balanced.)
  2. Using well-made, high quality compost you can brew up a mild batch in as little as an hour or let it brew for a week or more for a super concentrate.
    A good median is to let the tea brew for 24-48 hours. When it begins to smell "yeasty" you can stop and apply it to your plants.
  3. Recent research indicates that using some kind of aeration and adding a sugar source (unsulphered molasses works well) results in an excellent product that extracts the maximum number of beneficial organisms. This aeration is crucial to the formation of benefical bacteria and the required fermentation process. For the simple bucket-brewing approach, simply stir the tea a few times during those hours or days it is brewing.
  4. You can add all kinds of supplements like fish emulsion or powdered seaweed
    This turns the tea into a balanced organic fertilizer.


woman wateringHOW TO USE COMPOST TEA

    Can be used unfiltered by applying directly to the soil area around a plant. The tea will seep down into the root system. Root feeding is not affected by rainy weather.

    compos tea sprayStrain tea thru a fine mesh cloth (cheesecloth, burlap, even an old shirt). Then dilute it with dechloronated water, if possible, or good quality well water. Use a ratio of 10 parts water to 1 part tea. The color should be that like weak tea. Add 1/8 tsp vegetable oil or mild dish-washing liquid per gallon to help it adhere to leaves.

    Method of application and weather - A pump sprayer or misting bottle works better than hose-end sprayers for large areas or for foliar feeding as they don't plug up as easily. The beneficial miroorganisms are somewhat fragile so it is important to note you should avoid very high presure sprayers for appliction. Re-application after rain is necessary and one should avoid applying to the leaves during the heat of the day.



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