How to make Compost Tea|Space Gardening

 

Compost tea is an excellent fertilizer that helps increase the ecological diversity and vigor of soil. The tea provides nutrients directly to the plants because it is absorbed through their roots. It’s even been suggested that the flavor and nutrition of the food grown using tea is improved. The tea is also effective at preventing and treating disease.

The ideal compost to use comprises 25 percent high-nitrogen waste (fresh lawn clippings, alfalfa, peas), 45 percent green materials (kitchen scraps, old lawn clippings), and 30 percent woody matter (sawdust, newspaper, wood chips, old leaves).

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Once you’ve got the right material in your compost pile, here’s what you need to start brewing:

  • 2 5-gallon buckets
  • 1 gallon of mature compost
  • 1 aquarium pump and gang valve
  • 4 gallons of chlorine-free water
  • Aquarium hose, about 4 feet
  • 2 aquarium bubblers
  • 1 oz. unsulfured molasses (organic is best)
  • 1 pillow case, pair of stockings, or cheesecloth—something you’re okay with throwing out afterward, as it’ll be used for straining

The key ingredient in this entire process is oxygen, and that’s where the aeration equipment such as the pump comes in. Without a constant supply of oxygen, the microorganisms will die and produce a bad odor. Anaerobic (without oxygen) tea also contains alcohol, which is harmful to plants.

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How to Make Compost Tea

1. Attach one end of hose to the aquarium pump, and connect the other end to the gang valve.

2. Secure the gang valve to the side of the bucket, and attach a smaller section of hose to each port on the valve. The hose must be long enough to reach the bottom of the bucket. Attach the aeration bubblers to the end of the hoses.

3. Place the mature compost inside the bucket, making sure to cover up the ends of the hoses. Do not pack the compost; it must remain loose to help the aeration process.

4. Add water. If you are using water from a well or rain barrel you can simply add it to the bucket, but if it’s city water you need to get the chlorine out first, because it will kill the microorganisms. Evaporate the chlorine by pouring the water into the bucket before the compost and running the pump for about an hour.

5. Mix in the molasses. The sugar is a source of food and energy for the organisms living in the compost.

6. Turn on the pump and allow the mixture to brew for a maximum of three days. Stir it vigorously a few times per day, but make sure the hoses remain firmly attached to the valve and submerged. Brewing for longer than three days will exhaust the energy supplied by the molasses. (Add more molasses if you want to continue brewing.)

7. Use the pillowcase or old pair of stockings to strain the liquid into the second bucket. The leftover solids can be added to the soil or dumped back into your composting bin. This process should create about 2 gallons of compost tea. You can also place the compost inside the pillow case or stockings and hang it from the side of the bucket like a tea bag inside a mug—that way, when the tea is complete, you have less compost to strain out of the liquid.

8. Use the mixture within a day or two, because once the pump is off, the organisms inside the tea will consume the oxygen and begin to die. If it smells foul right away, don’t use it—something may have gone wrong during the process. It should smell sweet and earthy.

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How to Use Your Tea

Compost tea can be applied to the soil surrounding plants (about a quart per plant) using a spray bottle or watering can. Spray the tea as soon as you plant to control disease and reapply every two weeks throughout the growing season, ideally before 10 am and after 3 pm, because the intense sunshine of noontime hours will kill the microorganisms. Rain will also wash away the tea, so spray on clear days.

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Composting For Plant|Space Gardening

Composting is a simple way to add nutrient-rich humus which fuels plant growth and restores vitality to depleted soil. It’s also free, easy to make and good for the environment. It is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming.

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Composting Benefits:

Soil conditioner: With compost, you are creating rich humus for lawn and garden. This adds nutrients to your plants and helps retain moisture in the soil.

Recycles kitchen and yard waste: Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the garbage can.

Introduces beneficial organisms to the soil:
Microscopic organisms in compost help aerate the soil, break down organic material for plant use and ward off plant disease.

Good for the environment: Composting offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.

Reduces landfill waste: Most landfills in North America are quickly filling up; many have already closed down. One-third of landfill waste is made up of compostable materials.

How to compost:

1. Start your compost pile on bare earth. This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and be transported to your garden beds.

2. Lay twigs or straw first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile.

3. Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, sawdust pellets and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down.

4. Add manure, green manure ( clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass, grass clippings) or any nitrogen source. This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.
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5. Keep compost moist. Water occasionally, or let rain do the job.

6. Cover with anything you have – wood, plastic sheeting, carpet scraps. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. Covering also prevents the compost from being over-watered by rain. The compost should be moist, but not soaked and sodden.

7. Turn. Every few weeks give the pile a quick turn with a pitchfork or shovel. This aerates the pile. Oxygen is required for the process to work, and turning “adds” oxygen. You can skip this step if you have a ready supply of coarse material, like straw.

Once your compost pile is established, add new materials by mixing them in, rather than by adding them in layers. Mixing, or turning, the compost pile is key to aerating the composting materials and speeding the process to completion.