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What Types of Compost Teas Exist? Any Favorite Recipes?

 
gardener
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So, I am currently reading Compost Teas by Eric Fisher, and I was inspired to look into what types of compost tea exist. I still have a lot more reading to do, but the current big categories I have learned of are aerobic compost teas and anaerobic compost teas. What other types of compost teas exist?

Aerobic Compost Teas

Within aerobic compost teas, I have learned that there are actively aerated compost teas, which might use a pumps, bubblers, agitators. I also learned there are manual aerated composting methods, like blow and stir, which just look super funny! Since, I have seen the phrase "actively aerated" tossed around on the Internet about compost teas, I am wondering, are there any "passively aerated" compost teas out there?

How to Brew Compost Tea in a 5 Gallon Bucket to Enrich Your Garden (uses a pump)



From the video description:
"John from Growing Your Greens shares with you how he brews compost tea with a 5 gallon bucket, air pump, air stone, and purified water. "

Compost Tea - Very Simple Bubbler Setup



From the video description:
"Go to your local family owned pet shop or hardware store and ask them for their selection of 'aquarium air pumps' or 'aeration pumps'.  You'll be looking for something that can aerate ideally 100 gallons or so, has 2 or more ports to cover more space in your bubbler, and hopefully less than 10W of consumption, and you'll need the associated tubing. "

Compost Tea Blow and Stir



My description for the video:
It is a bunch of people with pvc pipes around in a circle, and they are laughing and giggling as they stir the pipes around in their compost tea buckets and then blowing air into the buckets.

Anaerobic Compost Teas

How to Make Anaerobic Plant Fertilizer Tea



From the video description:
"Thanks to our local Natural Gardening group, I learned this method of creating your own liquid fertilizer by fermenting plants without the use of aeration."

Other Styles
Since I have been listening to Paul's podcasts and Helen Atthowe was mentioned, I thought to look up veganic compost teas, and I found something! And then, there's also people out there making something they call worm teas. I also came across an article on compost, worm, and weed teas, which mentioned manure teas and weed teas.

Making Easy Compost Tea for Veganic Gardening



From the video description:
"Madeleine demonstrates how to make a nutritious compost tea for all the veggies, berries, herbs, flowers, fruit trees, and other plants in your garden. It's tea time!"

How To Make a Supercharged Worm Compost Tea



From the video description:
"In this episode we go over how to make a supercharged compost tea using worm castings as a base, and other items to really make one of the best compost teas for your garden. "

Episode 12 - Manure Tea: Making Poo-Poo Work For You-You



From the video description:
"In today’s episode, I share how to make manure tea. While I use a combination of rabbit, goat and chicken manure, it the process can be used to make cow or pig manure tea."

How to Make Weed Tea Liquid Fertiliser



From the video description:
"Learn the simplest method of making your own organic liquid fertiliser for FREE"

What other types of compost teas do you know of? What are some of your favorite compost tea recipes?
 
pollinator
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Thanks for these videos! My current method could probably use some improvement: it seems to work well, but aesthetically, it leaves much to be desired.

I have a rubbermaid tub that I weed and thin into as I do garden chores. I half fill it with rain water and just toss the weeds/plants in as I go.

Every week or so I half empty it out the resulting anaerobic tea infusion into buckets and top them up with water to make an aprox 1/10 tea/water ratio.

It stinks like poo. Like the funk lines off this stuff puts Herbie Hanckock to shame. No one like to do this chore.

But the plants love it! Especially the potatoes and tomatoes. I make sure to not splash the leaves, ground water only.
 
pioneer & author
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Thanks for your interest Dave !

Integrated Pest Management (IPM - protection and control)
Indigenous Microorganism Tea (IMO -fungal emphasis)
Steeped (Semi anaerobic/ semi aerobic)
Activity Aerated Compost Tea (AACT - Aerated)
Biodynamic (BD Preps – care very controversial !)
Fully Anaerobic (Bokashi/ Effective Microorganisms)

In a way I am comparing apples and oranges with the above. Also I dare say it is not exhaustive and somewhat overgeneralized, but for grower these are significant approaches associated with compost teas.
 
Dave Burton
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I found that chapter 6 of Compost Teas gave some good recipes of compost teas, and it made logical suggestions on what teas to make to help with specific plant deficiencies or to boost certain plant parts, like roots and shoots, or specific plants, like legumes.

For example, it suggests the following to address each nutrient imbalance or deficiency in plants:
-Nitrogen: Stinging Nettle Tea
-Phosporus: Comfrey Tea
-Nitrogen and Phosphorus: Clover Tea
-Potassium: Kelp tea

In particular, I found the chart in the back fo Chapter 6 most helpful, because it suggests what teas to prepare for each phase of the life cycles of various plants,
 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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One of the things I try to accomplish when I am making a compost tea is to focus on the microorganisms living in the compost.
Nitrogen seems to be over emphasized by so many people, well meaning but their line of thinking seems to follow that of the Conglomerates, where they want you to buy more of their fertilizer products.
I've grown corn, fairly much the same as Gabe Brown, with a measured N level of around 10%, far less than the normal "thinking" of most people in the agricultural field.

Eric, do you feel that creating a compost with as many different plant inputs as possible and adding some manure component will give a fairly well balanced compost for tea making?

I like to brew an aerated tea for no longer than 72 hours before use, which is thought by other microbiologist to be right on the cusp of the maximum brewing time for aerobic teas.
I have done anaerobic manure teas for up to a month long but it really shouldn't be called a brewing tea since it steeps for up to 31 days, being stirred once a day (sometimes less often).
This manure tea I then use as a starter for small compost heaps that will be maturing in around 6 months.
I also make a bokashi in which I use just about any plant cuttings I can gather at the time I want to start a bucket of the stuff.
What are your thoughts on these methods? I'm always looking to others for their input since there is no way one person can possibly know all there is to know about a subject we are still learning about how it works.

Redhawk
 
eric fisher
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Hi Bryant,

Apologies for my delay in response I am only just catching up with backlog of questions I received last week and one or two needed some extra time for me to give my best answer.

I like to concentrate on living things in the compost also, although my primary motive is that I seem to have a hardwired desire to want these small organisms to flourish. I’d like to think they help the plants I am growing too, intuitively I feel it’s the right direction.  There are plenty of studies out there which support this view, but my starting point is more intuitive than rational.

10% nitrogen seems like a generous figure to me although it does vary with the plant and it can get washed away very easily unless you work out some kind of slow release. Too much can be bad because it encourages soft growth and it is an easy target for critters. I’m pretty sure you’ll be aware of all this, I’m just making sure for the sake of completeness and context.

When I was looking into the best length of time for brewing AACT tea around 3 days seemed best to me also. My reasoning was that larger and significant organisms need more time to develop their population. Protozoa in particular are factored in improved plant growth, but the mechanisms are unclear. In a recent interview (available in the free download) I conducted with Dr Gavin Lishman (Martin Lishman Ltd) he suggested much shorter times (18 hours) but his proprietary brewers were tweaked towards maximum efficiency and I did observe a lack of protozoa in the industrial product studies I had available, although that was not conclusive.

Eric, do you feel that creating a compost with as many different plant inputs as possible and adding some manure component will give a fairly well balanced compost for tea making?



Regarding your above question I support using varied inputs and varied techniques, combined and/or separate. This could include plant or animal or substances from the less well publicised taxonomies in the tree of life. What you are asking is very broad, do you have a specific example Bryant ?

My one caveat to this is that if something is working well reflect on if you have reached the best point you can get already; rather in the way someone cooks a great meal but misses the sweet spot and just keeps adding stuff until it ends up getting spoiled.  I wouldn’t be suggesting just randomly adding things, although it would be interesting. I would suggest finding out about what you are putting in and try and make it complimentary. The most basic example would be making comfrey tea  but employing nettles too because they have a  high (N) which the comfrey lacks.  One study I came across was mixing up amendments of chicken manure tea and a plant based amendment which seemed to accidentally work better.

After reading 100’s of journals and studies 'diversity of products and processes' kept emerging in side notes but were almost never focussed upon. I think it is something in the nature of university studies that it can be channelled narrowly down a certain avenue, it can miss things that fall out of the selective gaze.

Regarding your descriptions of the other techniques you describe I think we have got to the same point by different paths.
Your manure tea sounds like a great compost starter. I am just curious now. Can you define the smell ? Do you leave the top off ? Is it seething with life ? What do you put in your small heaps and what size would ‘small’ be ?

I know the Bokashi method works marvellously as a soil amendment, soil builder and a stimulant to soil life. It is one those things that work so well I’d be inclined not to tinker with it much.  One of these days I would like to set up an infra red camera and do some time lapse photography to illustrate the worm action.

I may get back to you on one or two of your points because I invariably find that after I have put some effort into something, like now,  really useful points inconveniently  come to the surface later on.

Best E
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Eric, I'm sure we are on the same page or at least in the same book of end goals for soil and plants.

Indeed a flourishing microbiome is (or should be for some folks) the primary desire for anyone wanting to grow good, healthy plants.
On the 10% N, that is actually (according to the "conventional" soil science) quite low for growing heavy feeders like maize but it also happens to be the level that using clovers, hairy vetch, field peas and other N fixers, can be achieved quite easily through chop and drop.
Most of my land has now had a mix of these cover crops grown on them for three years, after the second chop and drop I have turned the cuttings into part of my compost heaps.

I think that anyone interested in growing needs to have a healthy dose of intuition working for them, from that ideas spring forth, the trick for me is to gather those fresh ideas, do some reading on what is already being trialed and then I am prepared to start new experiments so I can develop a method others can use with success.

I've had nice numbers of protozoa in most of the compost I've made specifically for tea brewing and I have found that not adding any sugars (molasses) works quite well when growing the larger organisms, the bacteria love the sugars but apparently not the amoeba, protozoa and  most of the flagellates.
Having started brewing teas back in the early 1970's, I've tried lots of different combinations of items and ended up concluding that it is best for my location to build heaps specifically to grow the organisms I've found in need of boosting in the soil area I'm working on.
I still haven't built a highly efficient tea brewer, mostly because my 55 gal barrel setup with two 12 inch air stones and drill equipped with a mortar stirring rod works well enough to give me good organism numbers under the microscope.

I promote having as much microorganism life in the soil as you can get, it is my belief from my observations and experiments that it is impossible to have too much microbiome life in the soil.
I tend to not try and use teas to raise the N level unless I am also working to up the P, K, Mg, Mn and Si, I am more looking for balance of minerals and other nutrients than boosting any particular nutrient.

My manure tea starts off with a strong smell of manure that changes towards a more swamp water smell before it mellows to a deep earthy smell. When it gets to the earthy smell it is time to use it on the soil or as an addition to a compost heap.
One of my current experiments is focused on increasing the arbuscular fungi in a manure/compost tea where the manure is in one tea bag and the compost in another, the growing medium is not augmented with sugars in one trial and it is augmented in another trial.
Soon I plan to work on growing some of the higher organisms such as springtails, nematodes and benefical mites but currently I have all the irons in the fire I can comfortably handle.

Redhawk



About the smell
 
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Dr. Redhawk and Eric, With such a variety of inputs and methods available, would you both share some of the pitfalls, and mistakes etc. that you have experienced in tea making, if any? It would be helpful to have a list of inputs, techniques, or methods to avoid for some neophytes as myself to make the the first few attempts. Or, am I over complicating a simple process?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Ken, good question.

I have ruined three batches of bokashi (fermented organic matter), these were my first three attempts and each one went down hill because I was, um, impatient. Bokashi has to be left alone, I tended to open the bucket and poke around so I could record changes of the ferment, it was as huge a mistake as possible to make.
The air I was inadvertently adding slowed the natural process that bokashi depends on to do as it is supposed to do and I ended up with slimy, stink to high heaven glops of goo, which I incinerated and gathered the ash for analysis.
My fourth try with bokashi, I did much better because I had found a gentleman who gave me the full explanation of what the process was and how it worked. Following his advice allowed me to succeed and still get my data along the way (we built a special "bucket" that had probes and windows for observation and taking pH as well as micro samples of the liquid as the bokashi fermented.

My first compost tea was almost a bust but that was, again, my own lack of patience, I have since taken to not turning compost heaps unless they have cooled internally, that allows for the compounds in the materials to be broken down enough that when you do turn it the bacteria want to get right back to eating and create a secondary heat up, I also found that adding a small amount of molasses was better than adding the (at the time) recommended half gallon of the stuff, I found that not adding any at heap start up and instead waiting for that initial heating to cool off then turning of the heap and use the molasses during the turning worked best. Adding only a half cup of watered down molasses (thinned with water to the consistency of water) worked far better for both bacteria and fungi growth rates and it even allowed for more spring tails, amoeba, flagellates and other protozoa, higher organism counts are what we want in our compost so they increase even more as we use that compost to brew a tea.
I've always added lots of air to my compost teas, the critters I want to grow are air breathers so I want to give them all they could want.

manure teas can be either aerated or anaerobic, but you need to decide which way you want to brew so that you don't start a batch then change the method halfway through the steeping or brewing. (steeping = anaerobic, brewing = aerobic)

Redhawk
 
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