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For Worm Composters who brew Aerated Compost Tea "Teaming w/Microbes"

I believe this topic deserves it's own forum, but since there isn't one, I'd like to start a discussion among those of us who are keeping our own compost bins AND brewing aerated compost tea (ACT) in order to inoculate and restore our Soil's own Food Web. (Soil Food Web).

The practice replaces the need for traditional feeding and most pest control measures. In fact, inorganic food actually disrupts the soil food web, causing much of the lowest part of the essential food chain to die.

If you aren't sure what I'm talking about, please read these pages:

Gardening with Microbes - Putting Nature back in Control - Compost Tea Article 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

If you do know what I'm talking about and haven't yet seen Tim Wilson's site, then you should bookmark it -- the site is a bit dense but he has excellent compost tea recipes and research, as well as tea brewers.

Microbe Organics (Tim Wilson's ACT Tea recipes)

He and most experts believe simple is best. If you are brewing with a 5 gallon bucket and a sufficient air pump & stone, and bubbling off the chlorine for an hour, then worm compost, dechlorinated water, molasses and fish hydrolysate is enough. Kelp meal and Alfalfa meal are optional. Other organic gardening additives have proven unhelpful even inhibitive to the brew.

If you love the idea of compost tea brewing and want to really UNDERSTAND soil and tea's benefit, read the EXCELLENT book "Teaming with Microbes" (Lowenfels/Lewison). For me it was one of those precious life-changing books. It details the microbes in soils (and the concept of the Soil Food Web that Dr Elaine Ingram pioneered) as well as the nitty gritty of Aerated Compost Tea. You can get it at the library or amazon, but this website has some good quotes from it.

Review with lots of quotes (older edition, and reviewed by someone who hasn't brewed compost tea, so keep that in mind.)

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition, by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewison, (I use the first link because it has many quotes or paraphrases from the book you can read right now. But make sure you get the second edition. You can read the first chapter or so for free on Amazon by looking at the pages inside.)

The basic tea recipe:

In a 5 gal bucket of water....Bubble off the chlorine for an hour, then add:

  • Worm castings (<2 cups);
  • Molasses (<3Tbsp to none);
  • Fish Hydrolysate not emulsion (2 tsp to 2 tbsp);
  • Kelp meal (<1.6 oz)
  • Alfalfa meal (5 oz to a pinch).

Your brew will favor bacterial, balanced or fungal contents depending on the ratios of the additives above and the time you brew it. Bacterial is favored by an 18-36 hour brew and the first numbers in the range above, fungal is favored by a 10-16 hour brew and the latter numbers in the range above. Once you stop bubbling, you must use within 4 hours. Either strain it and use it as foliar spray or don't strain it and use as soil drench. I use an EcoPlus5 air pump (700+GPH) and a 6" or 8" diameter air stone. Pet store air pumps are not powerful enough to do the job.

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All the stuff above can be hard to find easily on the internet in one place, which is why I've put it here, to answer questions folks might have as they are just starting out and to provide some informative resources.

Now that that's out of the way, I want to talk to you who have been brewing ACTea from your own vermicompost:

Since it's often said that your brew is only as good as your worm compost, are you doing anything to improve the quality and microbial diversity of your worm bin?

Would you or have you added an organic food + inoculant such as E.B.Stone's Right Start to the worm bin?

Would you or have you added a glacial/volcanic rock dust like Azomite to the worm bin?

What kind of "browns" do you prefer for your bin to offset the kitchen scraps, which are mainly "greens" and why that particular "brown" or bedding? (I use shredded phone books because they are free and worms love newsprint, but I'm considering hay, manure, and other media.)

I'd love to hear from someone who experiments with and analyzes the microbes in their worm bin as much as Tim Wilson and Dr Elaine Ingram have analyzed compost tea. (or learn of particularly enlightening websites.) I'd love to hear how many of my fellow garden-webbers are into this practice in general (vermicomposting + aerated tea brewing instead of feeding/spraying for pests).

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