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Liquid fertilizer from weeds?? Is this true??  RSS feed

 
bill archer
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Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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Came across this video today:

The guy uses weeds from the garden in a bucket with water, he allows it to break down over a couple of weeks and uses the resulting mixture in a 2-1 ratio as fertilizer.

Wondering if anyone has tried this?
Can this also work with thistles? How about stinky chamomile? Any risk of spreading weeds?
 
Ken Peavey
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I mow the lawn, dump the bag in a wheelbarrel to add to the compost.
It's been raining heavily these past couple of weeks, I got caught in a sudden storm and put away the mower in a hurry last week. I left a wheelbarrel half full of grass clippings.
The rain was not so bad, enough to moisten the clippings but not fill the wheelbarrel more than half an inch. It was a couple of days before I could get back to it. I found dry grass on top, and a foul smelling mess on the bottom. That half inch of water in the bottom was a deep green-brown opaque soup. I'm thinking...this stuff has got to be full of nutrients and life. I dumped it on a patch of grass which I'm keeping an eye on.

I've tried some weird stuff: cooking leaf soup, putting manure in a blender, fermenting junk mail. The grass clipping thing shows a great deal of promise.

Fresh grass clippings CN ration...20:1
NPK...4 - 0.5 - 2

So I go to thinking...

-Commercial 10-10-10- is applied generally at a rate of 10 pounds per 1000 sqft, 1#/100 sqft, 2#/200 sqft. I build my beds 4'x50'=200 sqft. If I added 5 pounds (5 pints) of grass juice per bed, it would be the equivalent N of that 10-10-10. Perhaps I could add a siphon to the drip line.
-How much juice can I get from 20 pounds of clippings?
-The NPK says grass juice should be an excellent fertilizer. Full strength would be a bit strong. Diluting would be in order.
-What I think happened with my wheelbarrel of grass clippings is the development of a solution of anaerobic bacteria which produced that stank. In the video you linked, the fellow says to stir the liquid each day. This would encourage the development of aerobic bacteria.
-Letting weeds decay in water would preserve the leachate, rather than allow it to drain through a compost heap or into the soil to do it's thing at a slow rate.
-I've considered going out and picking up a juicer to squeeze the juice out of grass. There are wheatgrass juicers on the market, perhaps one of those would let me do some more experimenting.
-I could always run the stuff through the blender or food processor.
-The simplest way I've come up with in getting the juice from grass would be to fill up the wheelbarrel, add water to fill it, let the grass steep for a while-a few hours. Then pour off the water to use immediately as a liquid fertilizer. The grass clippings left would be used in my compost heap and garden beds or fed to Bull as I normally would.
-What if a batch of this grass clipping/weed tea was kept aerated as one would prepare compost tea or worm casting tea? I expect it would be full of life. I wonder how the plants would react.
-What else would be handy to try? I've got pokeweed and what I think is ragweed. Both have shown rapid decomposition.
-What would I get if I cooked the grass clippings while it steeped? I make tea in a glass jar in the sun. Does it need to cook or just heat up?
-Do I get more yield from a smaller amount of material pureed in the food processor as opposed to steeped in a bucket? I think the finer the material is chopped, the more juice which would be extracted. What would be a tool to try out-blender/food processor/juicer/weed eater/drill motor with a wire brush/some sort of grinder?
-Imma need a whole lot of control plots and experimental plots.
-Would adding flowers give it more P to produce a general purpose amendment?
-What if this liquid were used with compost or worm castings for making tea? Would the plant juices replace the need for adding molasses?
-Is there a weed that makes a better liquid fertilizer for a particular plant? Root crops would want more K, leafy greens would want more N, fruits would want more P.
-Marigolds are a nice companion for tomato plants. Would a liquid made from marigolds serve the tomato plant as a fertilizer?

This is a line of research with fantastic possibilities. What if you can come up with an effective liquid fertilizer recipe that can be produced simply, cheaply, and with equipment found in most garages and materials out of the backyard? This could open up a whole new dimension in the realm of natural growing. Much more discussion is needed here.

As for spreading weeds, if the liquid were allowed to rest, some stuff would float, some would settle to the bottom. Skim the top and leave the bottom undisturbed, and I suspect there would be few weed seeds with which to contend, even if the liquid was not filtered.
 
John Polk
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I have always appreciated the value of an outdoor utility sink.
Perhaps if you added a garbage disposal to it, you would have a good way to process non-woody yard waste.

 
bill archer
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Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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Wow this is certainly a wealth of possibilities and information, all worthy to try!
Let me know how you make out with some of these. I will certainly try out the decomposed weed tea method, I may have enough time left in the Summer season to start some more tomatoes from seed just to do a side by side comparison (visual, as I have no idea how I could get a nutrient comparison).
The last experiment I tried did not go so well. I decided to try brewing in a 5 gallon bucket some fresh horse manure and molasses for about 2 days (my air pump does not produce the greatest bubbles so I usually do 30-40hrs when brewing). When it was finished, it was a thick, dark tea and I though I would get some super growth for it. I diluted it 1:1 and poured it around an experimental alfalfa patch which was doing pretty good.
The next day the plants looked like they had been burned, they had reduced to nothing and there was a trail from the tea.
Wondering what went wrong and how I could have changed this, I tried diluting 2:1, and got the same result lol. Now my little alfalfa patch is even smaller. Any good books/sites on this subject you could recommend? I'm looking for ways to produce my own fertilizer, for now I'm using "fish and poo" which seems to work.
 
Ken Peavey
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Try using that tea on those weeds. Perhaps you have stumbled upon a natural herbicide that helps the soil.

As for your desired plants, 1:1 looks to be way too strong. Try 10:1. The guy in your video link sounds like he says 10:1 but his voice is soft, you may have heard it as 2:1.

If my numbers are right for straight grass juice, 5 pints per 200 sqft equates to .4 ounces per square foot. That's 2.4 teaspoons = .8 tablespoons = 12 ml =236 drops.
Talk about a little going a long way!

I'm looking at figures on juicing wheatgrass. I'm finding about 70% liquid is in the ballpark. That is, 1 pound of wheat grass producing 10-12 ounces of juice. If regular grass clippings in in the same range, 10 pounds of grass clippings should offer over 5 pints of juice-enough for an entire 4x50 bed. If 1 pound of grass clippings can be juiced to produce liquid fertilizer to serve 20 sqft, then this would indeed be a cheap, plentiful source of crop inputs. This begs the question: do succulent weeds such as comfrey and pokeweed yield a similar volume of juice from a similar starting weight?

Juicing takes time and effort, but would yield a rich, concentrated liquid fertilizer. It's not just the NPK value. The juice contains everything a growing boy needs: sugars, antioxidants, enzymes, proteins, trace elements, chlorophyll, organic acids...the kind of stuff you don't get from commercial 10-10-10, and its a renewable resource. Rather than spend the time and effort in juicing, simply steeping the material should produce a mild tea suitable for direct application.
 
Jim Porter
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I learned about this a few years back now, in relation to creating a comfrey tea. And I've done this once or twice in the years since, using comfrey leaves, packing them into the bucket until the bucket is full of leaves, weighing down the leaves with a brick or rock, and then covering bucket. And, as I remember, no water, no stirring. The leaves break down and create a tea, like you see in the video. Great use of comfrey, because, in the right environment, comfrey is prolific and the leaves are very large and easy to harvest without destroying the plant.
 
S Carreg
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I am experimenting with weed teas and ferments as we have HUGE amounts of easy-to-harvest leafy weeds. So far I've been focussing on dock and nettle because I know that they are both very rich in nutrients and not at all toxic. I also have a lot of ragwort, not so sure about using that. And it would be great if it worked with thistles, got plenty of them too, sigh. So far I put dock and nettles in a large trug and filled with water, I had to keep topping it up every few days, which helped to stir it, it got fairly stinky, I left it about 2 weeks in the sun, and then I used the liquid diluted to water around plants and pulled out all the slimy mess at the bottom to mulch unhappy looking young rhubarb crowns. They still look unhappy, but no worse than they were.
 
Ken Peavey
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Had a chance to do a little mowing Friday. Filled a 5 gallon bucket with grass clippings, pressing them in just a bit. Around 10 pounds of clippings went into the pail. It was filled with water and left for 24 hours. Pretty simple.
Today I set a window screen over another bucket to serve as a sieve, removed most of the grass by hand, poured the water through the screen. It had no particular odor other than grass, was a light brown color, much like tea. The screen separated the remaining grass and large seeds. I poured a quart each of this stuff on several tomatoes, squash, and some rosemary that happened to be within reach.

Turns out there is some science behind this.
From Mother Earth News I found an article by W
F Brinton, PhD, from Woods End Laboratories. In the study, grass clippings were steeped for 3 days in water, 1:10 by weight = 1 unit weight of grass clippings to 10 units of water. It was then diluted 1:1 to get the N down to around 150 PPM. So the finished product is then 1:20 by weight. 1 pound of grass clippings would produce 20 pounds of liquid fertilizer, or 2.5 gallons with an NPK of 1-.5-3.1

I did not dilute my grass clipping tea today, but I only steeped it for a day. Hopefully the tea was not strong enough to damage the plants. What I find intriguing is how simple this is to produce and use. I can fill the bag on the mower in just a few minutes. A bag of grass clippings weighs around 15 pounds. This would produce over 37 gallons of this grass clipping tea. I can mow and gather up 50 bags in just a couple hours. Usually I compost it. The beautiful part is that I can still compost it after making this tea, although some of the nutrients will have gone into the tea.

22 pounds of grass clippings would produce 55 gallons of tea. That's maybe 2 bags from the mower, around 200 sqft of lawn area. The front lawn area is 15000 sqft. The math says I can produce 75 batches of 55 gallons at each mowing, so 4000 gallons every few weeks If I don't do my neighbor's yard or out along the road. Determining the application rate is in order. What sort of growing area will a 5 gallon or 55 gallon or 4000 gallon batch service?

Today I used about a quart per plant. I had a quart ball jar handy in the garage, so that's what I used. There is a thick layer of mulch in place, leaves and grass clippings, with leaf mold under that. Plenty of material to slurp up the tea. In Bill Archer's video link, Kearney is seen at 6:40 liberally pouring his tea directly onto the soil around the base of his plants. Looks like a good 1/2 cup to a cup per plant.

Putting the numbers together, 1# grass clippings produces 2.5 gallons which serves 40 sqft of beds.
Properly filtered, this stuff could be served through drip irrigation.

Cheap, easy, plentiful, natural. This is exactly what I've been looking for.
 
Ken Peavey
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Ken Peavey
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Just ordered a Stainless Steel Wheat Grass Hand Juicer Manual Juice Wheatgrass Extractor for 55 bucks.

I'm gonna play with this.

I'm impatient. Waiting 3 days for the juice to leach out of the grass does not fit into my schedule. When I get time off, I have to make the most of it.
I think I can get more yield for the same weight of grass clippings. The 3 days of leaching gets most of the soluble nutrients out. What will a juicer do for me?

 
Levente Andras
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bill archer wrote:Came across this video today:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4hTuyAdLRM
The guy uses weeds from the garden in a bucket with water, he allows it to break down over a couple of weeks and uses the resulting mixture in a 2-1 ratio as fertilizer.

Wondering if anyone has tried this?
Can this also work with thistles? How about stinky chamomile? Any risk of spreading weeds?


Hi Bill,

I use this kind of method quite a lot especially with weeds that have gone to seed or have resilient roots (the idea is that, since I only practice cold composting, seedy weeds or persistent roots would survive in the compost heap). I let the vegetable matter rot completely in the water, and eventually the resulting slimy liquid becomes quite smelly. This is accomplished in 2-3 weeks. All the seeds and roots rot together with the rest of the plant and are no longer viable. After you use the liquid as feed, you can dump the remaining vegetable matter onto your compost heap.

Thistles should be no exception, but the bigger and woodier plants may need longer time to break down. It depends of the stage at which you harvest the thistles (are they still young and relatively juicy, have they gone to seed and become woody?)

I'm quite ignorant of the science (if there is such a thing) around nutrient composition of the sludge or the dilution ratio at application (I guess it all depends on the weeds that you obtain the liquid from). I sometimes apply it undiluted.

Best of luck
Levente
 
Ken Peavey
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So I been playing with weeds and grass clippings.

Soak Method
I dump grass clippings from the mower into a 5 gallon bucket, fill with water, let it sit.
After a day, the water has picked up a brown-green color. An interesting effect is the clippings absorb water and expand. One bucket filled with clippings expanded 4 inches above the top of the bucket. This is diluted 1-1 with fresh water and about a quart applied to whatever plants are handy. So far I've not killed anything off. Giving it a couple weeks before I reapply. I have one tomato plant that I've treated 3 times this week.
After 2 days, the liquid is darker, expansion has reduced-the clippings are mostly back in the bucket.
Day 3-the bucket has an odor, like really bad breath. Clippings are in the bucket. Water color is about the same, maybe darker.
Day 4-no observations made
Day 5-The batch stanks to high heaven. A skunk would be disturbed. It's rank, baby. Then I stirred it up. Thought it was bad before? The stench carries 30 feet. Stirring the batch is causing some bubbles to rise up. Probably got driven out be the smell. Liquid is considerably darker, more brown than green. Clippings are looking more like greens after cooking.
Day 6-Stench continues. Lots of bugs hanging around. 2 species-a fly and a 1/4" curculio looking critter.
I'll drain, filter and apply this batch in a week.
so far this seems to offer the best results for the least energy

Food Processor
The idea was to put clippings in a food processor in order to finely chop the material to allow more juices to leach into the tea. I expected a paste, with a texture akin to pesto sauce. Ended up with finely shredded grass on the order of 1/8" or smaller. Was not a paste. Left to soak overnight, the resulting tea was indeed very dark. I started with 4 ounces of clippings. Processing time is a critical flaw here. To get the grass to the size took 20 minutes. Not acceptable for only 1/4" processed. The juice was diluted to make a full gallon of tea, so there were some results.

Blender
Forget it. The clippings form a bridge and don't mix easily. I stuck a wooden spoon in there to push down the clippings. All I did was destroy the spoon.

Wheatgrass Juicer
This holds excellent promise. I ran through 4 ounces of leaves from some unidentified succulent weed. Cranked for a few minutes, ended up with about an ounce or deep green, thick, opaque juice. About the color of the paint I've been putting on the porch, best comparison I can offer: Amazon Moss, 7 down, 22 from left. To get it to the weakness used with the soak method, the ounce was diluted to fill a quart jar. Thats 1 ounce of jucie to 31 ounces of fresh water. This left the quart looking like a light green tea. The volume of dilution needed leads me to believe the juicing process is getting a high portion of extractable juice. The 4 ounce run took about 5 minutes. I still want to get more volume processed in a short amount of time, so the next step is to mechanize the rig (link above). I hit the hardware store, picked up some bolts, nuts, and lock washers in order to connect a drill to turn the machine. I have high hopes that I will increase production considerably. I'll try this tomorrow.

I have no means of measuring or quantifying the juice or the resulting diluted tea other than appearance. This is a qualitative experiment. I've prepared a bed into which I'll start growing corn. This will offer a section with no juice (control), fresh squeezed juice, 2 day tea, and 2 week tea.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Video guy gives no explanation as to why he selects only one species of weed. I guess what seemed like an hour wasn't long enough. He really enjoys turning two steps into ten.

I like to make "mixed greens tea with a nitrogen boost" in open containers. I used a couple Rubbermaid storage totes for this. Some weeds such as morning glory are best used for tea since it rots and won't root in the garden again.

I filled my tubs right up with random plants and then dropped in a brick to hold it down. The containers were filled with water. A cup of pond water was added. As the plants broke down, algae multiplied rapidly. I always tried to use up everything before mosquito larvae could mature. I don't know how much nitrogen was added by the algae, but I liked the idea of growing nitrogen and of operating the tubs as mosquito egg traps. My theory is that by leaving stagnant water around, I have caused mosquitos to waste their reproductive efforts in bodies of water that are too short lived for larvae to mature.
 
Michael Cox
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You can make a "tea" from comfrey simply by ramming it into a container and letting it break down. It has sufficient water in the leaves that you can collect a decent amount of liquid. I would guess that grasses and other weeds are not so wet though. I saw a simple system for making comfrey tea that used large diameter drainage pipes mounted vertically against the side of a shed. When the comfrey was chopped it was pushed down inside the tube. A soft drink bottle full of water was dropped in on top to provide pressure (with a string tied to it so it could be pulled back out). The bottom of the tube had an end cap with a screw thread, but also had a small hole drilled through it. Over a few weeks the liquid dropped out into bucket below ready to be diluted and used. I think the guy said he emptied a tube out once a year or so, but otherwise just kept shoving more leaves in on the top. I think the drain pipe is slower than sitting it in a load of water, but less smelly - perhaps it doesn't end up anaerobic as it isn't really sitting in the liquid?

A local organic farmer grows fields of comfrey solely to produce liquid organic comfrey fertiliser - which he then sells at a premium to organic farms. He uses 55 gallon drums and packs them totally full of comfrey he puts a lid on and comes back a few weeks later. The smell is pretty repulsive!

I wonder then if there are other "weed" species which might break down similarly without need for adding water to them, or putting them through blenders etc... If you can cut down on processing and handling then you are more likely to use the system.

Off the top of my head some "wet" plants that might have sufficient moisture to break down to a liquid feed:

Comfrey (obviously)
Borage
Chives and other allium stems- we grow far more than we can ever eat and I have been chop-n-dropping them - they seem pretty moist.
Rhubarb leaves?
Dandelion leaves
Grass might be ok, if it was pretty lush and moist - dry hay would be hopeless.
 
Tig Degner
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I just found this topic via a Google search and registered on the site to ask—Ken, any updates on how this has been working for you from a slightly more long-term perspective?
 
Dawn Hoff
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My stepfather used to make nettle-tea for the garden. I think he used water, but I imagine you could do without if you pack them close enough. It smelled horrible, but the strawberries loved it.
 
jimmy gallop
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the trick is aeration to prevent smelling bad
 
Mateo Chester
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This concept works with certainty as I have been using it for a good bit of time.

http://oregonbd.org/Class/accum.htm - These are good plants to use

http://gilcarandang.com - This fellow uses this method.

http://www.permies.com/t/23601/fermentation/Fermented-Plant-Extracts - Along the same lines. This summer I was using using dynamic accumulators and water only. The LAB and fermentation principles are very helpful if you want the material to be stored for extended periods of time.

From my experience, the smell in this case does not indicate a negative (using only plant materials and water). If you were to throw some raw manure, or even compost in there and you let it sit for a while, the possibility of breeding pathogens would certainly exist. When soaking just plant matter for 2 months and using it frequently as needed, I found nothing but positive effects. I do believe a concoction CAN be too concentrated, fyi.
 
Dawn Hoff
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To me the smell was nothing resembling disease - I mean the smell of rotten flesh or human/carnivore poop - nothing like that. It was more like the smell of that compost bin that has too few carbs in it...
 
Mateo Chester
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No doubt, Dave. My post was aimed at those just diving into this realm, in the event that they were considering using the non-plant materials you listed for extended, non-aerated soaks. I believe we smell similar good-funky-smells , and that our plants have similarly beneficial reactions to said plants based liquid fertilizers.

Here is a pic of my (non-hugel) garden bed, with completely unamended soil. The only thing I gave it was a 2 inch thick layer of thistle I chopped and dropped, and those same thistles (not dried) and alfalfa (dried) soaked in that 32 gallon for months-on-end in a bucket that I left there and never moved. Watered undiluted as needed. Worked like a charm. Free-er and easy-er.

IMG_1333.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_1333.JPG]
 
Ken Peavey
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I started 2 small plots of corn to examine the difference. Same volume of liquid was being added to each plot. The control plot was served water. The experimental plot was served grass clipping tea.
The job took me away for a while as it sometimes does. While the corn was lost as a result of drought and neglect, the experimental plot held on longer and is showing more weed growth than the experimental plot.

I still have 2 buckets of grass clippings out there that have been rotting away for the past 3 months. The smell is gone and has been gone for a couple of months. Lack of rain for the last few weeks has exposed the top couple of inches. I'm getting some kind of unidentified larva squirming around the top of one bucket. The top inch of material in each bucket is a dark brown-mud looking mess. Under that the clippings are a lighter brown and fully recognizable-looks like soaking wet hay. The very top of the bucket with the larvae is drying and appears to be forming a sort of skin (gley?). This larvae bucket did not have the liquid removed. The initial nutrients were still in there. In the other bucket, it was drained a couple of times.

It's not much data to go on, but I'm leaning towards the idea that grass clippings have a use in making a liquid fertilizer, but it is limited to the first few days. This is the time needed to leach out the water soluble nutrients. After that the grass clippings are spent for this project. They can still serve a compost or mulching function. I'm thinking they might also serve a vermicompost environment without heating it up as do fresh grass clippings.

I'm curious about why the grass has not continued to break down. In the original post, Bill Archer mentions weeds rather than grass clippings. I'm thinking the length of the cellulose chains is a key difference that allows certain plants with different chain structures to break down more completely.
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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I have been listening to Dr. Elaine Ingham keynote speech at PV1 and she strongly advices against anaerobic extraction or tea making (she is talking about compost tea but I think her points are also valid here) because it can produce noxious compounds and because nutrients such as sulphur can be lost as gases. Does any one have experience in this regard? does all sulphur become H2S? can the lactic bacteria somehow balance this?
 
jimmy gallop
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The trick is to aireate regularly during the day.
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Well yes, if you can aerate then it is ideal. However some people say that you can just cover it and let it seat for some weeks while it ferments, and in this way the material will most likely become anaerobic.
 
Pia Jensen
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Juan Sebastian Estrada wrote:Well yes, if you can aerate then it is ideal. However some people say that you can just cover it and let it seat for some weeks while it ferments, and in this way the material will most likely become anaerobic.


toss in some guanao, chicken poo, or other raw nitrogen and some mycorrizha from from somebody's roots.... what is myco capable of in fermenting process?
 
Thekla McDaniels
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As Juan says, anaerobic fermentations, whether teas or piles, create substances toxic to plants. The decomposition of your weeds or grass clippings is where this thread starts, but there are micro-organisms participating in the decomposition process. Which micro organisms is determined by the conditions in the broth/pile. The anaerobic organisms make some lethal things, and gasses are lost to the atmosphere as well. Since we all breathe it, my bias is to keep it clean.

Things that contribute to anaerobic conditions: LOTS of microbes in the same soup, so maybe keep the mixture lean. Ingham recommends a light covering of alfalfa leaves in the bottom of a bucket, which you add some water to, then let it sit 48 hours. This will grow plenty of protozoans. I tried it. If I had started with a LOT of alfalfa in the same amount of water, there would have been a different set of organisms, because so many of them would deplete the oxygen stores and the anaerobes would multiply.

If you add a sugar it is also going to increase the population, which rapidly uses all the oxygen........

Warmer (but not lethal) conditions of fermentation also lend themselves to anaerobic conditions. I think less O2 dissolves as the temperature rises, and metabolism of micro organisms increases, using the lesser amount of O2 that much more quickly.

If you are trying to make a "tea" as in the tea we all drink by soaking dried leaves, then you are extracting what's in the plant, the complete NPK etc mentioned above, not growing microbes. In that case, you could dry the clippings if you weren't going to use them right away, then add them to your bucket, and add hot water. When the water cooled you would have a non microbial nutrient broth for the plants. Kind of like when I soak the chicken manure enough to wet it, then dilute it, then pour it onto the pasture. It is not necessarily steril, but I gave it no incubation time.

If you let the grass clippings ferment, and it is anaerobic, my guess is that a lot of the nitrogen you are counting on will be lost to the atmosphere as a gas. That's to bad on two counts. You wanted it to go to your plants. None of us wanted it in our over burdened atmosphere.

Thekla
 
Pia Jensen
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:As Juan says, anaerobic fermentations, whether teas or piles, create substances toxic to plants. The decomposition of your weeds or grass clippings is where this thread starts, but there are micro-organisms participating in the decomposition process. Which micro organisms is determined by the conditions in the broth/pile. The anaerobic organisms make some lethal things, and gasses are lost to the atmosphere as well. Since we all breathe it, my bias is to keep it clean.

Things that contribute to anaerobic conditions: LOTS of microbes in the same soup, so maybe keep the mixture lean. Ingham recommends a light covering of alfalfa leaves in the bottom of a bucket, which you add some water to, then let it sit 48 hours. This will grow plenty of protozoans. I tried it. If I had started with a LOT of alfalfa in the same amount of water, there would have been a different set of organisms, because so many of them would deplete the oxygen stores and the anaerobes would multiply.

Thekla


awesomely imformed instruction, thank you
 
Hans Quistorff
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I did make grass tea in a 50 gallon barrel to feed my container gardens and it worked fairly well but as some have commented life gets in the way and it gets neglected and anaerobic smelly and mosquito larva in it. Finally I wanted to use the barrel for another wicking bed so I stopped doing it.

After reading through this thread I may incorporate some ideas and do it again. I think I would put a long black hose out in the sun to heat the water, pack the grass in a small garbage can and spray the hot water on it until covered. The next morning I would start ladling the brew out by pressing a bucket into the mash and letting the tea flow in to the the bucket. The barrel was to large and heavy to handle to empty the bottom portion which has to be poured off. The spent grass mats down very closely to make a weed proof mulch. I am using tall grass that I cut with a scythe so short clippings from a lawn mower probbably would mush down more and not last as long as mulch as the tall grass.
 
Pangas Ponkai
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We have never done the tea bit, but a few years ago we started piling weeds and twigs around our coconut trees, which within a year or so almost tripled the production. We then started using weeds around our bananas, with big successes. Last October (7 months ago) we cut some weeds in one of the fields and piled various piles around to compost, watering and turning a couple times a week. We have 3 mangos in that field, none of which has fruited in 5 years. They are reputed to be the chemically sprayed type mango trees. We forgot one pile, as the weeds grew quickly around it, it being a rather small pile. Early this week we noticed that above the pile was 5 groups of mangos! 2 groups of 3, 1 with only 1, 1 group of 6 and another group of 7. The pile was situated directly under the drip line of the tree, in the northern edge. The rest of the tree had no weed piles, and have not produced any mangos. We have a total of 8 mango trees, I guess you know what we did this week.
We have been using weeds as mulch for the past year in our garden, we have minimal weeds now.
 
Dennis Barrow
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This thread brought back memories of a neighbor from when I was young. This was in Whitefish MT. He would toss his grass clippings into the alley and water them a little and with traffic driving over them, they would create a, (at least to me at the time), foul mixture. He would take a bucket and scoup it all up and put it around his garden. I do remember him having a very lush garden.
 
charlotte anthony
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thanks a lot you all for a lot of good stuff re liquid fertilizers and mulching. i am still over here in hyderabad, india and visiting nepal some where my friend Judith has her Everything Organic Nursery. In India they have many kinds of liquid teas.

one they make from 9 leaves, 3 of which are yellow in color, 3 of which have a strong smell and 3 of which, hm will check on this have momentarily forgotten. anyway they say they use this for insecticide. however, what they do is make a hole in the ground where it will not leak, put the dry ingredients in and then fill with water. weeks later they draw it out and put it on the plants usually soon after planting. it seems more like insect prevention to me.

another is called givamitra (sp?) or panchacavium (sp ?). these are mainly made from cow dung and cow urine with molasses. a person in his books about Zero Budget Spiritual Farming says that you can grow 30 acres with only one desi (local Indian breed) cow, treating all the acres with these liquids. The desi cows makes only 1 gallon of milk per day and he seems to believe that with less milk more of the good cow stuff goes into the urine and milk. the main purpose of the liquids according to many and it resonates with me is that they help re-establish the microbes.

another liquid tea from my friend in nepal is called gitimal. this is made from 27 herbs and has cow dung added. i would also add cow urine. there are a lot of specific herbs, but you can use whatever you have and the more the merrier. the dilusion is about 1:10, just like with human urine.

all of these have been made for thousands of years by just letting the pot sit for the prescribed amount of time, mostly 2 weeks, the givamitra is only 3 days.

my friend on learning that some of her plants had a phosphorus deficiency made a compost from plants known to accumulate phosphorus. it worked beautifully. i believe that by using the 27 herbs that you can find locally you will fill in every deficiency you may have.

my goal here in india is to find a way to do broad acre permaculture.

1) planting trees to restore the ground water and the rain cycle
2) get a yield that allows them to thrive.

it looks like liquid fertilizer is the best way to get microbes innoculated into the soil.

judith and i did an experiment on her land. she normally incorporates 8 inches of compost, 8 inches of green plant material and 8 inches of brpwn plant material covering it all up with 4 inches of soil in every bed she plants. on the beds that i did i put on about 30 alfalfa leaves and 2 inches of brown material on the top and sprayed it all with gitimal. she will continue with the gitimal every 3 weeks.
 
charlotte anthony
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i spoke of these liquid teas they use in india.

practical applications.

on the first farm i worked on in india there was about 5 acres of trenches that we dug between the coconuts which when the earth was spread left 5 - 6 feet width of mostly subsoil next to the trench. i planted all nonhybrid vegetables such as squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, a lot of nitrogen fixers including sesbania grandiflora, and pigeon peas except for corn which was a hybrid. i figured the nonhybrid plants would do better, given that the hybrids are bred for chemicals. there was no nonhybrid corn available so we used what we had. the farmer really wanted corn for his animals. it barely rained. maybe 3 days a week of 1/2 hour of mist. about 3 weeks along there was a good 1 inch of rain. the soil was pure sand. i spread the givamitra and one time panchacavia over the whole 5 acres, (well i mean there were 5 acres where the trenches were, the total amount of plants might have been 1/2 acre. i was very pleasantly surprised to see gorgeous vegetables emerging with no other fertilizing and like i said mainly subsoil. Because of no water from the sky i did put on givamitra every week and one course of panchacavia which is fermented for a month and has some added goodies in it like yogurt. there was about a 30 foot long bed where i brought in some decomposed cow dung and coire that i found lying around. for about a week that area did better than the rest but soon everything caught up with it. no insect problems at all. quite impressive what these liquid fertilizers can do.

also everyone tells me and i read that innoculating microbes cannot possibly do anything without the organic matter for the microbes to eat. well this sand seemed totally devoid of organic matter so go figure.
 
charlotte anthony
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one more thing, i see people referencing elaine ingram talking about anerobic concoctions, made by allowing plants to decompose without stirring,etc, saying they can hurt the plants. all my life i have used such things as comfrey and stinging nettle tea learned from my biodynamic years. we just cut the plants, fill with water and let sit. when it gets good and stinky, about 2 weeks we dilute and use it. i used it on anything that looked sick and the plants almost always perked up quickly. here in india they have used these concoctions for thousands of years. maybe putting them in ceramic pots or holes in the ground somehow purifies them.j we were making the givumitra in plastic barrels for my project described above.

i also wanted to say that when we stuck our hands in what had been hard red sand, 3 months into the vegetable growing, we got almost black soft soil so we definitely had microbes aplenty.
 
Don Dufresne
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I will try this out with my compost tea brewer this year, to circumvent the anaerobic bacteria issues.
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Compost tea aquarium pump
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Base aerator stone
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Bag stones
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hey that looks like a good set up. Pumps are rated for so many liters per minute. Somewhere, and I can't say where or quote with accuracy, but and there are data about how many liters per minute per so many gallons of water.

Other important variables are the temperature, and how much molasses or other food you put in for the organisms you want to encourage. With the same pump and volume of air, I was able to make a successful brew, no anaerobes, in a 17 gallon bucket in the shade in the spring. Same pump, ~40 gallons in a 55 gallon drum in the summer, exposed to sunlight, with a generous amount of "feed grade" molasses was a disaster. All yeast.......

Maybe someone can give us some temp volume and food proportions and guidelines.

Thekla
 
Andras Hajdu
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Hi all,
anyone familiar with some literature or relevant experience/experiments on comparing what are the best ways of extracting the goodies in plants to create liquid fertilizer? What I read here was -as usual in gardening subjects- in many cases quite controversial.

What gives best results in terms of extracted fertility:

Steeping for 24 hrs in water
Steeping for days/weeks/months in water anaerobically
Brewing aerobicaly
Steeping in hot water
other?

 
Zach Muller
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From what i have gathered in this thread and in my own experience leads me to separate tea making into categories. The biggest two categories would be
1.tea that is designed for nutrients like npk, etc. and
2. Teas that are designed to deliver microbial content

If you are steeping plant material at any concentration for a short amount of time, like thekla said, it is like you are not giving microbial life an incubation period so you are hopefully aiming for type 1 tea, since that will be the result.

If you are steeping plant material in high concentration and its getting smelly than you are probably delivering a mix of type 1 and some blend of anaerobic microbes that are feeding and multiplying in the conditions you have set up.

Steeping plants in hot water will result in type 1.

Within type 2 tea there would be aerobic and anaerobic categories.

Brewing aerobically is not what i would choose to make a type 1 tea, since o2 will have either no effect on npk nutrients, or will cause things to off-gas. If you are brewing aerobically it is imperative to pay attention to food vs. o2 level or the desired microbe groups will die, and that results in an anaerobic brew. Primary ingredient with this type is o2!

If you are aiming for an anaerobic brew then your primary ingredients will be the plant material or other food source you add because the microbes that you are breeding do not want o2.

I have a query as to weather some of the success with plant teas is being attributed to nutrients when it is just as likely the anaerobic microbes that grew in the tea were what caused the good effects people have observed. If you have a mix of nutrient from plant matter and anaerobes how can you tell? Thats why its important to have type 1 tea being tested where microbes aren't given the time to grow.
 
Andras Hajdu
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"I have a query as to weather some of the success with plant teas is being attributed to nutrients when it is just as likely the anaerobic microbes that grew in the tea were what caused the good effects people have observed. If you have a mix of nutrient from plant matter and anaerobes how can you tell? Thats why its important to have type 1 tea being tested where microbes aren't given the time to grow."

Yes that is basically my question too... I have yet to make a proper comparison btwn simple tea and brew too, though I´m sure someone has already done it hence my asking here. What I saw with my own eyes is that chopped nettle steeped in cold water for 24-48 hours worked very quickly and positively on N deficient onion seedlings. To rephrase your/our question;
it would be good to know whether the hastle of waiting weeks/months and handling unimaginably stinky and disgusting anaerobic stuff is worth it if simple 24hr teas could do the trick equally well. Do anaerobic bacteria and their residues have any additional beneficial effect over simple tea extracts - if not, then why bother...
The emphasis should be also strongly on their residues as that can be downright detrimental stuff too. Especially since anaerobes wouldn´t be active (would die or go dormant) on plant surfaces and only be limited in activity in a good healthy aerated soil... so again, are their residues useful or is it only that their dead bacterial bodies give a nutrient boost? Anyone?
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Another method for creating fermented plant extracts:

http://permaculturenews.org/2015/10/14/alika-atay-teaches-how-to-make-fermented-plant-juice/

To me this seems less likely to become highly anaerobic, but won't that amount of sugar generate more alcoholic compounds?
 
Hans Quistorff
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but won't that amount of sugar generate more alcoholic compounds?

I think it is more likely to produce lactic acid compounds like sauerkraut.
It is extracting the fluid from the vegetation making a leachate. You could do it with salt but the salt would be damaging to most plants and soils.
I have found lactic acid very effective in combating powdery mildew on the leaves so it is worth a try.
 
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