Compost-ology Compost Tea
Using Compost in Compost Tea

The juices of compost can be the best part. Often, some of the valuable nutrients in compost are dissolved in water quite readily and in solution these nutrients can be quickly distributed to needy plant roots.

Since plants take up nutrients along with water, the use of compost tea makes quite a bit of sense, particularly during dry periods when plants are starved for both food and water.

Many problem plants and trees can be nursed back to health by treating them with compost tea. You can use it on bare spots on your lawn, on trees that have just been transplanted, and on indoor plants that need perking up. You can even use it on vegetables in the spring to try to make them mature earlier. Compost tea is especially effective in greenhouses, where finest soil conditions are needed for best results.

It is really no trouble to make compost tea on a small scale. For treating houseplants or small outdoor areas, all you have to do is place a burlap or cloth bag filled with finished compost in your watering can and add water. Agitate it for a couple of minutes, or let it sit for a while, then pour. Nothing is easier than that. The compost can be used several times, as one watering will not wash out all its soluble nutrients. The remaining compost is actually almost as good as new and should be dug into the soil or used as mulch. It takes the action of soil bacteria and plant roots to extract the major value from compost.

Developing a continuous system for making compost tea for the home grounds requires a little more ingenuity and mechanical skill. One method is to attach a hose connection and an outlet pipe to a plastic bucket with a lid that will stand up under normal water pressure. The type of 5-gallon plastic pail in which primer paint, drywall compound and a variety of commercial food products are sold can be used for this project.

Create a water intake near the bottom of the bucket by drilling a hole just large enough to insert a garden hose replacement coupling. Use epoxy to attach the coupling to the bucket and to seal the edges of the hole. Make an exit for your compost tea near the top of the bucket, opposite the water intake. The water has to circulate up and through the compost before it can get out of the bucket.

Epoxy a piece of PVC pipe into the exit hole to create a spout to which a sprinkler head may be attached. A second hose connection can also be used in the exit hole, allowing the bucket to remain stationary while compost tea is sprayed through a hose coming from the exit.

The operation of this compost watering can is simple. You attach a water supply to the intake connection, and the hose or sprinkling device to the exit connection. The bucket may be carried to different parts of your garden, and one charging of compost lasts for about 15 minutes of watering. A screen placed over the exit hole on the inside of the can prevents solids from escaping and clogging the sprinkling heads.