June 24, 2010
Hello! It feels like forever since we have had a chance to connect – I appreciated the week off that Bonnie gave me…and I loved her garden post, but I missed you guys! Hope your gardens are doing well and you are all out there enjoying the labors of your hard work!
Photo: Caroline Finnegan
I am having a love affair with Swiss Chard!
Here in Connecticut things are beginning to heat up – the temperature outside right now is above 90 degrees and we have not seen good rainfall in a few days. What does this mean for us? Well cranky and hot landscapers for a start…but also cranky and hot plants that are beginning to show signs of stress. This is the time of season when I pay particular attention to watering my plants deeply and also become a regular brewer of compost tea.
Compost tea is a solution made from traditional or worm compost. It contains billions of microorganisms that help convert soil nutrients and minerals into a form more easily absorbed by plant roots. Making your own compost tea is an easy and effective addition to your plant maintenance schedule and it can make a huge difference to the health and well being of your plants.
Photo: Sandra Ivan/Jupiter Images
So how do you begin? Well the most important part of making compost tea is starting out with good compost. I usually use compost from the Ladybug compost pile, but when I’m instructing clients on how to make compost tea we buy in high quality organic compost from different local sources. If you do not already have a local source for organic compost I suggest checking in with your local cooperative extension service and asking them for a recommendation. You can also buy “Gardener’s Gold” compost from Gardens Alive - I’ve used this with wonderful success.
The second most important factor is using water without chlorine or fluoride or any other chemicals that may kill the beneficial organisms you are trying to grow. If you have well water you should be just fine to use water straight from the source. If you are on a city water supply fill a bucket with water and let it sit outside for 24 hours so all the unwanted chlorine evaporates off.
I found the best instructions for how to make your own compost tea at Fine Gardening’s website. They are posting some articles from the late, great magazine Kitchen Gardener. If you ever come across issues at a tag sale – grab them up and celebrate! Or take a leap and buy some of the few back orders they have left. Honestly – you will not regret it.
Back to compost tea!
Photos: Ruth Lively
You will need a bucket, an aquarium pump, good quality compost, unsulfured molasses, a stirring stick and another bucket to strain the finished tea into.
Fill your bucket halfway with compost
Set up your aquarium pump/aeration kit and place it in the bucket with the bottom of it covered by compost
Fill the bucket with water, leaving 6 inches or so of space from the top for the bubbles to percolate
Turn on your pump and watch the bubbles go!
Add unsulphured organic molasses to the mixture – this feeds your beneficial organisms and makes them multiply away!
Stir frequently over the next 24-48 hours, making sure to reposition aeration system after you stir.
Remove the aerating equipment from the compost tea, let the tea sit for 20 minutes and then use as soon as possible.
You can use a the tea as a foliar spray on your plants or water the roots directly with the tea
Here is a video with some more information on making your own compost tea:
I apply compost tea to my vegetable garden every two weeks. It is excellent at preventing disease (tomato blight….not this year!) I usually apply it once a month to the lawn and to the trees and shrubs. A large backpack sprayer is my BFF on these days.
I strongly recommend visiting the Fine Gardening page on making compost tea – it contains a large amount of information and very detailed instructions. Notice just how detailed the instructions are – it truly was a great magazine.
Compost tea is excellent at preventing and treating fungal diseases. Soil Foodweb has some very detailed information on just how compost tea works – go and science geek out on this site…it really is chock full of information and advice.
Next week I will be addressing garden pests and disease. Let me know what issues you may be seeing in the garden and I will be sure to include organic remedies for your woes!