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Compost tea benefits

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Fancy a nice cup of compost tea? Two spoons of molasses sugar, but no milk! When I began working within the hydroponic industry, I never imagined that I’d be brewing compost teas for plants; personally the only thing I thought I would be brewing is either a PG tips or a Tetley

Compost tea is an effective, low-strength; natural fertiliser for seedlings and garden plants, and it can suppress fungal plant diseases. The tea-brewing process extracts, and in some cases grows and multiplies nutrients and beneficial bacteria and fungi from compost and worm castings etc simply suspend ingredients in water and eventually they will brew you a liquid which is readily available to your plants.

I certainly did not expect to be brewing worm castings! I was told worm castings alongside good compost would be needed to help begin on this tea expedition. So when my pal bought a sack of the stuff called worm humus, I thought we’d be eating pitas and humus for the next 6 months. Unfortunately it was worm castings, to my bellies disappointment.

My point is that when I began delving into the world of compost teas, I never imagined for a second that I would be bubbling and actually growing and breeding microbes and bacteria. In fact there were times my kitchen resembled a hammer horror movie set. What with the tubes bottles and buckets everywhere, all bubbling and churning.

Personally I had always seemed to believe that ready-made bought nutrients were the way that gardeners achieved great success with quality and yield etc. How wrong was I? Don’t misunderstand me as yes there are some fantastic nutrient programs and feeds out there on offer. But I began thinking, how do certain plants thrive so well and grow so big, outside with just Mother Nature to help it.

The more I read on the subject the more recipes I found. There were fast feeding teas, foliar teas, and teas for vegetative stages, teas for blossoming or flowering stages, even teas to give it boosts and to even give fledglings a helpful hand. You name it and literally there will be a brew for it. In fact Plant Magic plus have released a compost tea of sorts, for powdery mildew and other fungal pathogens named Essence.

Then I began making my own teas and found that there were two main ways to brew, one using an air pump and aerating your tea, or the other called steeping, this is without a pump and literally the same concept as a tea bag slowly brewing but over a few days whilst stirring at least a few times a day. I prefer using the air pump as it only takes 12-24 hours for some basic brews to be produced.

If you’re wondering what made me believe so strongly in this magical golden liquid? Eureka moment came really just by chance. I had been testing various recipes as you do when testing certain brews. Subsequently I used to throw away any leftover compost tea into a dying rose bush. Well in a matter of weeks, literally from a stump and very little sick vegetation, this was also riddled with various diseases and insect attacks. Suddenly that rose stump had grown and now a rose bud was forming. Within a fortnight the rose bush was a rose bush again but now that one rose bud was accompanied by five or six other buds and an abundance of healthy foliage and the proof is there for all to see...

Think about it, why gardeners would even use compost or go out of their way to make compost, let alone brew a compost tea. Well compost provides the raw material that feeds the microbial life in a soil and the microbes in turn convert organic matter into nutrients plants use. Good quality compost will help sustain a wide variety of organisms in the soil. A healthy soil should have many types of bacteria, fungi and beneficial nematodes. Regular additions of organic matter to soil can also improve the soil structure, aeration and porosity of the soil, not forgetting the mycorrhizae population around the roots of your plants. (Please read my previous article). These fungi help your plants root system absorb water and nutrients more efficiently. So baring all this in mind you may understand that compost tea can provide further benefits to the health of your soil and plants.

How you may ask; high quality compost is aerated in a solution for a few days with molasses. The increased oxygen will literally explode the microbial population of the compost. Since most good microbes like an aerobic environment the great majority of the exploding microbe populations are beneficial to your plants. So when compost tea is poured on the soil around the base of your plants or on the leaves of plants the good microbes out-compete the disease causing microbes. Many of the good microbes are also predators of bad microbes devouring large numbers of them reducing the risk of disease. In fact there are compost tea recipes that are kept secret due to the gardener’s success. Some compost teas are world breaking formulas, hence why they are not shared.

So if you like organic produce and organic farming, then simply help nature by adding natural compost teas to your garden soils, and it will help restore a healthy vibrant population of microbes much more quickly, and simply healthy roots equals plenty of fruits.