Monday, May 22, 2017

The 411 on Compost Tea

Post courtesy of Guest Blogger Mike Lee, author of the blog.
A batch of bubbling compost tea.
Generations of gardeners have used compost teas to benefit plants and soil. Making your own compost tea can stretch the impact of your compost on your yard and garden, bringing different benefits to plants and soils.

Let’s start with the basics: what is compost tea and how does it work? Simply put, compost tea is water that has been exposed to compost. Compost teas in the past were made by letting compost soak in water. Gardeners then strained out compost debris from the water, using the liquid to water gardens or spray on plants. Today’s organic farmers, gardeners, and scientists studying plants and soils have discovered making compost tea with “active aeration” (in short, bubbling) helps release even more beneficial bacteria from compost into the liquid. Sending air bubbles into the compost tea brew increases the amount oxygen available in the water. This means the aerobic bacteria that seem to most benefit plants and soils can thrive while the compost tea is brewing.
That brings us to how compost tea works to benefit your plants and soils: “Steeping” compost in water releases microbes and water soluble nutrients into the liquid. These can benefit soil fertility (with vitamins and nutrients) and plant health (some compost teas sprayed on plants seem to help control diseases and create healthier plants). There are many possible benefits from the mix of nutrients and microbes in compost teas; in fact, farm and garden researchers continue cutting-edge scientific studies to figure out exactly why many plants seem to so greatly enjoy their compost teas.
This type of sack is perfect for brewing homemade compost tea.
Home gardeners have long brewed compost teas by letting compost steep in water, usually with the compost kept in some sort of “teabag.” Some gardeners continue this method, using materials as simple as a mesh bag to hold the compost and a five-gallon bucket to hold the brew. Small, bucket-sized aerators are available for home gardeners wanting to add more air while the compost tea is brewing; this is the most recommended brewing method by today’s garden researchers and organic farming experts. Certified organic farmers follow certain restrictions for applying compost and compost teas to edible fruits and vegetables; if you would like to use compost tea in the home garden, check with your local garden center or university extension office for compost tea application recommendations.

The gardener wanting to make her own compost tea for the first time can locate many compost tea kits with instructions for proper brewing. These kits usually include the essentials for making a good compost tea: compost tea bags, buckets, and aerators. If you decide to brew your own compost tea, remember that compost is still one of the most important ingredients; be sure to use your best, high-quality compost. Compost made from vermicomposting (worm bins) is often recommended for brewing up your own compost tea.

A lot of resources checked for this one, including:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Compost! Healthy Soil, Healthy Food

Oh happy day, fellow composters! It’s our holiday – International Compost Awareness Week.

International Compost Awareness Week is celebrated each year in the first full week of May and is the largest and most comprehensive education initiative of the compost industry. This year, the theme is Healthy Soil, Healthy Food and centers on the need for compost as a component of healthy soil.

If the saying "you are what you eat" is true, I want to grow my fruits and vegetables in soil amended with compost. Compost provides nutrients and helps plants pull minerals from the surrounding soil. Read more on how compost heals you soil here.

Here are five other reasons to love compost:
  1. Compost will cut down your watering requirements.
  2. Compost helps maintain healthy plant growth.
  3. Compost helps improve the structure of clay and sandy soils.
  4. Using sustainable soil-enriching composts helps prevent erosion of valuable topsoil without depleting wildlife habitats.
  5. Compost reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers.

So raise a glass of (compost) tea and toast with me to our favorite pastime, composting!
Visit the Composting Council site for more information on International Compost Awareness Week.