First, what is compost tea, and why is everyone raving about it? Compost tea is the controlled extraction of microorganisms and nutrients from a small amount of high-quality compost (and additional nutrient sources) into water.
The water is aerated to vastly increase the extraction of microbes, and to provide an environment which will breed many more microbes, favouring mostly those that thrive in an aerobic environment.
The tea is then sprayed on the soil and plants in order to inoculate the landscape with these beneficial aerobic microorganisms. It's not a fertilizer, but provides many of the same benefits and more.
Compost tea is especially important when there isn't enough good quality compost around for your lawn and organic garden. Also, compost cannot be applied to plant leaves, but compost tea can. The benefits are immense.
Compost Tea Brewers
I am selling three excellent 5 gallon brewers:
I started using the KIS compost tea brewer in 2005, since it was (and still is) highly regarded in the world of compost tea and endorsed by Elaine Ingham of the Soil Food Web. Details on the extended life brewer can be found on the KIS website at www.simplici-tea.com. Note that my price is a bit higher because of currency exchange rates and the cost of transport and customs. This set consists of the air pump, plastic tubing and air bubbling component, one KIS compost tea brew kit, and instructions in a green plastic 5-gal bucket. The pump is guaranteed for 10,000 hours which translates into over 400 brews, so the price is worth it for those who know they will be brewing fairly often over many years.Info/Buy
Recently I have added Overton's Eco-Tea brewer for a medium cost option. This brewer is made in Canada, therefore the price is independent of currency fluctuation. I am excited to begin offering it through the Pantry. The set contains the air pump, clear tubing, air diffuser apparatus, mesh bag, one Eco-Tea compost tea brew kit, and the instruction manual in a white plastic 5-gal bucket. The air pump comes with a 5-year guarantee.Info/Buy
A basic compost tea brewer, the Mini-Microbulator is a low cost alternative to the two machines above. Designed by Tim Wilson at Microbe Organics and made under license by Keep It Simple (KIS), it is "ugly but cheap" (their words!) yet produces good quality tea. Instead of bubbling air through the water from the bottom of the pail, its unique design circulates and cascades the aerated liquid, much like a small fountain. The whole assembly is extremely easy to set up, take apart, and clean. It can be shipped with or without a pail. The powerful pump will last for many seasons of home garden use.Info/Buy
All three 5 gallon compost tea makers come with one brew kit to get you started. Additional kits are available.
Each KIS brew kit contains one mesh bag of compost and one plastic bag of microbe foods.
The high-quality compost (about half-and-half worm compost and garden compost) in this kit is produced locally in Victoria. Tip: The mesh bag can be washed and reused!Info/Buy
The Overton brew kit is optimized for the Overton Eco-Tea brewer.
It contains the microbial foods, compost, and a microbial catalyst in separate pouches. This kit represents a more refined version of the basic brew materials.Info/Buy
Compost Tea Application
This video on making compost tea comes from Phil's Smiling Gardener Academy where he has an additional 10 videos on compost tea and 30 or so other videos on effective microorganisms, mycorrhizal fungi and other microbial inoculants.
Brewing compost tea is easy. The brewer comes with instructions. Compost tea can be applied from a watering can, sprayer, or irrigation system. It is applied as a both foliar and a soil drench. It is important to use water that has no chlorine.
Like most liquid products, it is best applied in the morning, while evening would be the second choice (this is particularly beneficial for living inoculants, since some of the microorganisms are not interested in basking in the hot sun, so it's nice to give them some time to acclimate to their new surroundings and find a place where they are happy).
Compost tea works best when combined with liquid organic fertilizer products (click on the 'Organic Fertilizers' link at right to learn more). Preferably, it would be applied in smaller, regular doses, such as monthly or even weekly during periods of stress/disease. At minimum, it should be done once in the spring and once in the fall.
When pouring the finished tea into the sprayer, be sure to put a clean cloth (such as nylon, silk, cotton) over your sprayer to filter out particulate that may cause clogging.
As a foliar, it is applied undiluted, generally at 5 gallons (US) per acre (1/2 Litre per 1000 sq ft) for each 6 feet of average plant height. So if you have an orchard of 18 foot tall trees, you would apply more like 15 gallons per acre.
It is important to spray both the top and underside of the leaves and obtain at least 70% coverage. A mist (not too fine) from a sprayer works best for this. The whole plant can be sprayed.
For a soil drench, as much as 20 gallons (US) per acre (2 Litres per 1000 sq ft) is often applied once or twice a year. This can be mixed with any amount of dechlorinated water as is necessary to provide adequate coverage.
- Foliar - undiluted - 1/2 Litre per 1000 sq ft on all leaf surfaces to at least 70% coverage, monthly if possible
- Soil - diluted as necessary - 2 Litres per 1000 sq ft, in the spring and perhaps fall
Here are some videos through a microscope of vermicompost I have used in the past in my compost tea brew kits. They were made by Tim Wilson, who has more longer, narrated videos on his website, www.microbeorganics.com.