How to Make Compost Tea

If you garden, you know that one of the most important components to a flourishing garden is healthy soil. At Osgood, we are planning ahead for next year’s garden already! This means, looking at our soil and planning ahead of time, how much nutrients we will need to replenish. When coming up with ideas for recreating a compatible soil base for vegetable production, compost tea popped into mind!

Compost tea is a combination of several compostable items brewed together with water. It’s a super nourishing substance that you can apply either directly to plants that are already in the ground or to your soil to help enhance further production.

So, you may be wondering how to brew your own compost tea? Well, here at Osgood, we want to share the wealth of knowledge we’ve gained from working in our experimental garden. The first step to brewing great compost tea is by collecting your materials. You will need a bucket of sorts, good quality compost, water, a way to provide aeration, and a compost catalyst. For those of you who have never brewed this stinky stuff, a compost catalyst is a mixture you can buy that “wakes up” the microorganisms in the compost and helps encourage microbial growth.

You start by filling your bucket full of water and letting it sit for a day or two. If you have chlorinated water, letting your bucket sit helps release the chlorine that could otherwise kill that beneficial bacteria that loves decomposing compost!

Next is to add that compost catalyst, stir it into the water gently. The third step is to add the compost! After reading a bunch on the best way to add this chunky substance, I found an article that suggested, “floating” the compost. This entails using a mesh basket or a “sachet” to soak the compost into the water and catalyst mixture. Once you’ve accomplished getting all your materials into the bucket, the last step is aeration.

Some people use a small solar pump that pushes oxygen through the mixture from the bottom up. If you’re going for the less energy intensive alternative, a big stick does the job! Stirring and providing air to the mixture is essential for the beneficial bacteria and fungi to start decomposing. This aeration process, with a pump, can take up to 24 hours, with a stick, even longer. And once you’ve let your compost brew, you end up with a very rich and frothy finished product. The foam that you will see is a clear indicator of the nutrients that exist within the brew. Such things as bacteria, fungi, protozoans, and nematodes are all existing within your compost tea and are excellent for helping maintain soil health.  Everything in the bucket should be spread on your garden, including the solid material. And as a final note, although it’s called tea, this mixture is nothing like the earl grey from your local food market, much more pungent on the pallet! (consumption is not suggested)

Happy Gardening!