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Aerated Compost Tea

Iris GW
15 years ago

I recently read some articles about the concept of feeding your soil to help your plants (versus fertilizing your plants). I suppose this is part of what you'd call organic gardening, although that didn't occur to me right away.

What struck me was how RIGHT the concept sounded. Promote healthy soil, full of micro-organisms that can help nature do what it's supposed to do. Rather than explain it myself, here's a quote from the SoilFoodWeb website:

Compost tea is used to add bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes to the soil or onto foliage. Compost tea also contains soluble nutrients that feed the organisms in the tea and may feed plants. Use compost tea any time organisms in the soil or on the plants are lower than optimum levels. Chemical-based pesticides, fumigants, herbicides and some synthetic fertilizers kill the beneficial microorganisms that encourage plant growth, either in the soil or on foliage. Compost teas improve the life in the soil and on plant surfaces and help plants take-up the nutrients they require, and suppress diseases at the same time as building soil structure, and reduce erosion and loss of nutrients into drinking water.

So, I wondered which of you might already be creating Aerated Compost Tea for your garden? What benefits have you seen?

Here is a link that might be useful: Aerated Compost Tea in the Organic FAQ

Comments (21)

  • rosie
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi, Esh. I've been watching for answers here but don't have any myself. I did recently listen to a talk by the gardener in charge of the roses at Mottisfont Abbey in England, and he described his enlightenment and moving from feeding the roses, which led to rock-hard impoverished soil, to feeding the soil, as in the compost tea method. He doesn't do tea, though, but relies strongly on the addition of compost itself. I'm guessing tea would provide a more immediate boost, but that compost would be much easier to use, and thus more likely to keep being used, over the long haul. Have you started trying a tea yet?

  • Iris GW
    Original Author
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Although there is a great plan on the web on how to make a compost tea brewer, I decided to order one (because it was a pretty good price). So now I am waiting for it to arrive!

    I think I might take some "before" pictures so that I can evaluate any improvements that I see from using the tea.

    Some people feel that using the tea to spray the foliage of plants (like roses) provides some benefit in reducing the amount of problems with the foliage (disease, fungus, pests, etc).

    I will definitely post back (in several months, I guess) on if I've seen improvements. Not sure if I am a good test subject, however, as I don't fertilize much now so this is bound to be an improvement!

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  • eddie1
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Ellen,
    I am so glad you brought this topic up. By now you have probably read my book review in Native Notes of Teaming With Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels. I have already started two compost piles: one at home and one at the Cobb County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at McEachern high school. I plan to make AACT: actively aerated compost tea. First I create my own supply of compost. Then compost is placed in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Molasses is added as a food source for the bacteria. Next an aquarium bubbler is added and the mixture is aerated for several days. The food and oxygen cause the bacteria count to rise from millions to billions. Used as a soil drench these bacteria consume organic matter in the soil converting it to humus which plant roots and micorrhizal fungi can absorb. This feeds the plants and improves the soil. Yes, this is organic gardening but the term is used only once toward the end of the book so they are not being fanatical about the term as some are. They have convinced me in this book that this is the way I should be gardening so I am going to try it.

  • Iris GW
    Original Author
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    As a matter of fact, Eddie, I did read your book review. It was indeed more fuel for the thought processes already churning through my head.

    For anyone considering this, here is a link to the homemade brewer.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Plans for homemade brewer

  • eddie1
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sorry I forgot to include it earlier - here is a link to my book review of "Teaming With Microbes"
    below.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Book Review

  • rosie
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    That sounds like a very worthwhile book. I'm looking forward to hearing the results of your trials, esh, especially any benefits you might perceive for foliar problems.

    Regarding feeding the soil, I read once briefly an unexplained statement that, as poor soil is built into good soil over a few years' time, it doesn't consume organic matter as quickly as it does in the beginning. Do either of you know if that could be true? I'm wondering because my amendments are disappearing from my decomposed-rock soil a lot faster than I'd hoped.

  • eddie1
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I do know that in the deep south, heat and humidity play a big part in breaking down organic matter. Expounding on this, I imagine the heat and humidity provide an environment that contributes to the spread of bacteria which is what is doing the work of breaking down the organic matter into a usable form by the plants. Amendments do need to be replenished from time to time usually by topdressing with compost or mulch. As far as improved soil consuming less organic matter than poor soil, I haven't heard. Good question though. I would come across as more of an expert If y'all would stick to asking questions that I know the answers to.

  • rosie
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Okay then, how about, "What happens when this spray's applied to humans?" I actually do need to know, because in my case increased uptake of nutrients probably would not be a good thing. Seriously, my Southern California garden, which was in a hot climate with a 12-month gardening season, consumed about 2 inches of organics a year, so I sort of imagined I'd need less here. BTW, did you know there's an International Compost Tea Council? Really.

  • chezron
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    You might want to look into "Soil Soup". This is a method developed to make compost tea with the MAXIMUM beneficial organisms. The thought is that a soil full of many different kinds of organisms, good & bad, will be in balance, and bad fungus and bacteria will not predominate and cause harm.Also, there is professor named Elaine Ingraham who has done incredible research into this topic. She now has a company called Soil Food Web, and a book about compost tea. You might want to google her for more information. I have read that just by spraying with an active compost tea, and no additional organic matter, that a compacted soil will change into a more desirable soil structure.

  • ponderinstuff
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I hope all of you who have posted above will come back to this page to post updates and new information as I have enjoyed following your posts on this subject and I am thinking of trying this myself.

  • Iris GW
    Original Author
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I don't really have any updates except to say that I haven't killed anything! I have made quite a few batches, but I have a big area to use them on so it's hard to say that it's made a noticeable difference. I'm sure I could've taken a more scientific approach if I really wanted to see if I could tell the difference.

    Once you make the tea, it's best to apply it on an area that is already moist and unfortunately I don't always have that (thanks to this drought).

  • trock
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    So is chicken litter too hot for compost tea? I got a 5 gal bucket of chicken manure from a 8ftx40ftx20ft pile that was being spead over a hay pasture. It's dried and has been sitting out for a while. I dumped a few clods in a 5 gal bucket of water and let it sit for a week. I didnt aerate it or put molasses in it. My 'maters arent doing anything. Almost like they are stunted. Should I try again with aeration and molasses?

    t

  • scenter
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Actually if you google "Aerated Compost Tea" you will find that the evidence appears to be coming in that it is worthless, espescially when compared to the compost itself and the non-aerated version of the tea.

    Caveat Emptor

  • Iris GW
    Original Author
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Actually I did google it and research it prior to buying into the concept and I felt that, nay-sayers aside, the research looked strong enough to give it a try.

    Compost and non-aerated compost tea are wonderful effective products. Aeration amplifies their benefits by creating a higher amount of microbes to improve your soil. I wasn't using it to suppress diseases, which I think are the claims being disputed.

    This is what I believe in:

    Compost tea is used to add bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes to the soil or onto foliage. Compost tea also contains soluble nutrients that feed the organisms in the tea and may feed plants. Use compost tea any time organisms in the soil or on the plants are lower than optimum levels. Chemical-based pesticides, fumigants, herbicides and some synthetic fertilizers kill the beneficial microorganisms that encourage plant growth, either in the soil or on foliage. Compost teas improve the life in the soil and on plant surfaces and help plants take-up the nutrients they require, and suppress diseases at the same time as building soil structure, and reduce erosion and loss of nutrients into drinking water. High quality compost tea of will inoculate the leaf surface and soil with beneficial microorganisms, instead of destroying them.

  • kelleyville
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I started making and using compost tea about two months ago after a wonderful Texas lady named Janet told me about it. She has a lot more space than I do and brews without aeration and has a bucke for each row of her garden. I have only two buckets worth of space so I did more research. Searching on Compost Tea will give you many links and everyone of them are different. I stuck with the ones not trying to sell me anything. My compost tea made my plants grow faster, transplant better, and now I hope also to produce better!

    I do not have a compost pile ready to use so I buy a bag of compost instead. I put a small coffee can of compost into cheese cloth and tie or rubberband it together to make a tea bag. I fill a five gallon bucket with water (not all the way to the top or it will spill over) then I drop a fish pond pump with a one inch hose connected to it in the bottom and let it bubble for 24 hours. This is supposed to help remove chlorine and other chemicals from the tap water-same principal you use to refill an aquarium! At the end of the 24 hours I dump my compost tea bag into the water, add about 1/4 cup of molasses ( all I can find here is liquid at grocery store, make sure it is unsulphered) If you have dry molasses ad a handful or so. Let it bubble for another 24 hours. Find something to drain the tea bag with, I use a flat from Lowes that plants came in sitting across the top of the bucket and I let it drip as much as it will. When done, I turn off the pump and use one of those battery operated sprayers made to replace the caps on things like bug spray, and I spray away until it is gone. Note I did have to tie cloth around the sprayer end that sits in the water because it gets clogged even when using the teabag. You can add other things as your plants need before spraying such as fish emulsion, kelp, seaweed, corn meal (whatever your plant needs)or add them at the beginning of the brew, you can even add miricle grow.

    I spray both the foliage and water the soil with it. The addition of molasses seems to have chased off a nasty colony of huge black ants I had building a city in my back yard and making my weeping willow into a nursery! Oh and after you untie your compost tea bag, use whats in there to mulch with or throw it in your compost pile. There is also a company that makes reuseable mesh bags for this that I think were about $5 each. I may buy some later but for now with drought and no work, I will stick with an old tshirt or cheesecloth!

    If you would like to see how my garden grows here in Villa Rica GA, it is out of control, and I have never had this kind of growth in any kind of garden, check out my myspace page...look for pics, albumns, garden albumn and then the tomato plants, you can also see my friends garden and we started seed at the same time and put plants into the garden at same time. His are disturbingly samll and need some attention while mine are overgrown and lush and beautiful!

    I definitely recomend compost tea!

    http://www.myspace.com/kelleyville

    Here is a link that might be useful: Kelleyvilles's myspace page for garden pics!

  • woody_ga
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Any updates on this subject?

    I'm going to try it, and I'm curious of your experiences.

  • eddie1
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Just like lightning and lightning bug are two completely different things, so are compost tea and Aerobically activated compost tea. It is very important to differentate between the two and not call them both compost tea. The basic receipe above was very close to right: dechlorinated water , unsulphured molasses (which can be substituted for syrup or molasses), compost, a 5 gallon bucket or two, I use a powerful aquarium pump that has two bubblers plus the compost is not bagged, it floats loose. This is bubbled 24 hours then poured in the root zone or further out because you're not watering your plants with it, you're encouraging them to search for nutrients. The best advice I can give is read the book review at the link above or better yet, buy the book Teaming With Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels

  • Iris GW
    Original Author
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I can't say how it worked out given the drought - I didn't use it once we didn't get any rain because it works better in moist soil. I'll keep doing it though as rain permits and hope to see improvements over time.

  • beeman_gardener
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    This thread seems to have died, so I thought I would resurrect it, as it's a very important subject.
    I am in Canada, but find ACT to be the biggest breakthrough in gardening for many years here in the Great White North.
    Prior to using ACT my garden lacked lustre, plants wouldn't get the look of lush growth no matter what I did. Now 2 years later I have the best looking yard in the neighborhood, even the lawn looks tea.rrific.
    As an aside, I find less damage from frost, both early season on my blossoms, and later on during fall.
    If you haven't tried ACT, then you're really missing a fabulous oppurtunity for improvement.

  • woody_ga
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm still interested! And I'd be interested in an update from Ellen and Eddie.

  • xcel
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I currently brew about 100 gallons of compost tea on my back patio. I use a small air compressor from my fish tank to aerate the tea & I must say my plants are doing well. I also use rain water that I collect from my roof because city water has chlorine in it.