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compost tea dilution?

 
                                
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I made my first attempt at bacterial compost tea for my lawn this weekend. I mixed - 2 pounds worm compost, 2 ounces molasses and 1 ounce kelp in a 5 gal bucket of water. Added three air pumps..1 air stone, 1 air only and 1 bubble wand. Let cook for 36 hrs with occasional hand mixing to breakup and compost that settled on the bottom.

After 36 hrs, I combined the 5 gal of really nice finished black tea to 10 gal of water to make a total of 15 gallons. I put this in my backpack sprayer and sprayed it on the lawn covering about 7,000 sf of lawn. (about 1,400 sf per gal of tea)

As I sprayed, I realized I had no idea if this rate of application would actually do anything at all.

What do you think…was this a waste of time? I’m sure doing something is better then nothing but is there a rate of application I should be shooting for?
Thanks
 
Jordan Lowery
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you would have done more damage depending on the type of sprayer than diluting it the way you did. you diluted fine, some people dilute 1:10 for lawns and such, some even more.
 
                                
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I picked up the roundup-4-gallon-backpack-sprayer from Lowes ( http://milo.com/roundup-4-gallon-backpack-sprayer ) and used the widest sprayer tip it offered.

I have about 14,000 sf of lawn area and obviously did not get the whole yard coated with this 5 gal batch.

I now know it will take about 6 or 7 fillings of my 4 gal backpack sprayer (7x 4 gal = 28 gal) to coat the lawn.

What I don't know is do I need 28 gal of actual tea or 5 gal of tea diluted with water to make 28 gal. 

*My lawn has been treated with chemical fertilizers for the past few years and the lawn is green but the soil is dead in many places. Using tea and top dressing with compost in the fall is my attempt to bring the soil back to life.

 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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are you using a mulching mower? anything will help
 
                                
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Yes, I've always used a mulching mower.

A little background - When planting a new herb garden this year I found the soil under the sod was packed solid and void of any life. At that point I did some research and found my chemical fert's were hiding the problem under nice green grass while killing the life in my soil. 

Switched to org fert but still need to bring my soil back to life.....that's the main driver of applying compost tea. 

 
Jordan Lowery
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28 gallons of tea would be great, but 5 diluted to about that will work. maybe you can do a section of the lawn at a time? make a few batches of ACT in a week. since you only need to apply maybe once a month that shouldn't be too much of a problem. i brew about 200 gallons of ACT a week. 4 batches in a 50 gallon brewer.

on the other hand if you really are dedicated and have some spare cash a bigger brewer would be better. but you would need a better air pump, no puny fish air stones.
 
                                
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Soil, just to make sure I'm following you correctly - you think it would be ok and actually better for my lawn to do my entire lawn with tea that was not diluted?

I'm certainly OK with the extra work, just want to make sure what I do is right.

I've considered brewing 55 gal at a time but the equipment costs are pretty high (large air pump and will need a sump pump) and I want to make sure I know what I'm doing first.
 
Jordan Lowery
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yes i think you will be much better if you brew a proper tea, and apply it undiluted to the lawn. that is if you are willing to make some tea 3 times in a week once a month. OR if you eventually built a new brewer to handle your entire lawn( which imo would be best)

and if you think about, depending on how often you used to fertilized your lawn with chemicals, used weed killers, etc... and given you make your own compost. the initial investment in a good air pump and tank to brew it is well worth the price for more than a few years of compost tea. say 100$ now, and you make your own compost ( which is better and free). spread that out over lets say 2 years. that comes out to about 4$ a month give or take some change.  spread that over 3 years and it goes down to 2$ a month. by then your lawn will have enough biology that you will only need to apply compost tea to your lawn maybe 3-4 times a year if that. reducing the overall cost even more.

just something to think about. i used to be in the same situation as you a few years back, making 5 gallon batches almost daily. now my garden is 5x the size and i am in almost the same situation with 50 gallons haha. time for a 200 gallon brewer lol. but i sell compost tea and that helps make up for the cost and why i need so much.
 
                                
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Soil - I comply agree but, I looked into going directly to the 55 gal brew but found it was far more then $100 bucks. The external air pump for mixing/aeration and the pump to get the water out of the tank and onto the lawn were far more than $100. I had not event figured out how to move the 55 gal drum around the lawn other than some type of tractor tank attachment with a sprayer...more $$$. That's why I wanted to see the benefits myself first on a smaller scale.

However, I didn't do much investigating and maybe my 55 gal setup idea was to extreme or high tech. How are you getting your tea spread around the lawn?

Joel, I was thinking the same thing. My 14,000 sf lawn is mostly shaded and different areas have very different growing conditions. About 1/3 of the yard is doing fine so I don't have to treat those araas as often if I choose....that was another idea.

Thanks for the ideas!
 
Jordan Lowery
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yea it really depends on the materials used to make your brewer. i made mine for the price of the pump 103$. the tank i got for free off of craigslist( actually 3 of them). to spread it around i have the whole brewer on big wheels( 2$ at a yard sale) so i can move it where i want. then i use a cheap pond submersible pump( 5$ at walmart). these are ok for one pass applications as i have checked with my microscope. they are not good for brewers, the bacteria and fungi get tore up. but for transferring tea its ok. it works well for me but i make a ton of tea.

its really up to you, doing small batches and covering smaller areas at a time will work. even diluting it some will work.

if you only need 28 gallons of tea though you can make a brewer for much cheaper than 100$.

hope that helps
 
Al Loria
Posts: 395
Location: New York
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Here's an inexpensive one, outside of the cost of the air pump, that Harvard built.   Full plans included.

http://www.uos.harvard.edu/fmo/landscape/organiclandscaping/build_tea_brewer.pdf
 
                                
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Thanks Al. I have this design and the air pump to brew is one cost. The other cost is the (sump) pump to get the tea out and spread around you lawn.

I had considered making two of these..one at each end of the yard so I did not have to figure out how to move it.

I guess the other option is to scoop out the tea into my backpack sprayer but I'm still back to the same question....what's the right amount of tea to apply to my lawn.

I might be able to accomplish the same thing by dumping my 5 gal of concentrated tea into a larger bucket. 
 
Al Loria
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Location: New York
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Dave, sounds like you have this under control.  I've read using the tea as a foliar application, which is what I did.  I think you would use much less that way instead of trying to soak the lawn with the tea.

Also, getting whatever solid compost you do manage to make on the lawn to provide some organic material for the worms and such to munch on and bring down into the soil would be a great thing.

I have a new batch I made over the weekend and it is heating up nicely.  Ground up most of the browns and greens with my leaf vacuum/mulcher.  Found a worthwhile use for the thing.  It was never the greatest at sucking up leaves without picking up twigs that clogged the front nozzle or the hose.  Now it turns out fine ground material which should breakdown quickly.  I can't believe i didn't think of it sooner.  The mower made a mess chopping up food for the composter.  The only thing I have left to do is get a new carburetor for it.  It stalls out too much.  Common problem on these things.

Let us know how it all turns out.


Al
 
Brenda Groth
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try taking a pitchfork around and stab it in the ground and rock it back and forth..every few inches..you might not get the entire lawn done in one year..but work at it..it will provide holes through the hard pan and help a great deal with water penetration..

i just spread a bunch of dairy doo over my son's thin soil lawn over his drainfield..it wasn't growing well either..

we just threw it out and about and watered it in..

dairydoo is a purchased composted cow manure that has no chemicals and from hormone free cows..it has been processed with air (tumbled) and is weed free pretty much..it has no smell and is very very fine..easy to spread.
 
rose macaskie
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  Don't you have to talk about whether you put iit on a dry lawn or wet one i suppose i am th eonly person with a dry lawn still i would have thought that it would be better not to apply this stuff when there was likely to be plenty of dry earth around.
   THere is Darrel Doherty's comment to be considered if you are thinking of giving your lawn so much feed. He talks about one disadvantage to a lot of feed, among other topics in a lecture of his. He talks about a man who after several years of organic farming has only small layer of good earth on his land and so Darrel dougherty asked him if he put cow muck on his pastures, and the answer was yes, and Darrel Doherty said that if you have a lot of nutrients on top of the soil, the roots of your pastures don't grow down into the soil looking for nourishment and so you only get a thin layer of top soil. That is somtihng to think of if you are going to give your lawn a lot of feed.

   It is not just chemical fertilisers that kill the life in the soil, manure would to if you applied too much of it if i remember right.  Is not the problem with chemical fertilisers that people get carried away with them as they are easy to apply and put too much on, rather than the fertiliser in itself is bad. Maybe they get lazy and want to put it all on in one go when it would be better to apply a little at a time.
  It is interesting the idea of making a lot of tea then you can selll some off to neighbors. agri  rose macaskie.
 
Jordan Lowery
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compost tea is for biology not nutrients.
 
rose macaskie
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I have looked up compost tea. and read  that you hope to breed so many microbes in your tea and so many types of them as to cover the foliage of your plants in fungi algae bacteria etc of many brands.
  the reasons given are variouse-:
    so that beneficial microbes can take the place of desease leaving no room for deseased ones.
    so that beneficial microbes should eat the leaf ischarges that other wise might attract desease.
    So that the leaves get used to dealing with enormouse quantities of desease and so get good at attacking desease.
I shal have to go back over it to see if their are more reasons for using it. i will write them if i find more.
 
  I read in another bit of writing that they do contain nutrients as well as masses of microbes and nutrients are also bio in a way, nitrogen for example and nutrients in liquid form that are easier for plants to absorb so Darel Doherty's concern that to many nutrients in the first few inches of the soil will stop plants from putting down long roots and so lead to there only being a few inches of good soil on your land may still be a factor to take into consideration when you use teas on your lawn or other plants. agri rose macaskie.
 
Travis Philp
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Davidb6 wrote:
A little background - I found the soil under the sod was packed solid and void of any life. 


What about aerating your soil to help loosen it and create airways for aerobic life to flourish? Not sure if you can rent proper aerator machines though....If your lawn is small enough or you have enough helpers you could run a pitchfork or hay fork through the lawn, stabbing straight down and then rocking the tool back and forth, then moving the pitch fork a few inches and repeating. Or if you could source earth worms, what about spreading those on your lawn?
 
Brice Moss
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for aeration wait until the soil is as deeply moist as its gonna get then use a plug aerator you should be able to rent one from most of the big rental companies what the machine does is punch hundred of holes per square yard into the lawn and it brings the soil or clay in the case of my yard from those holes up to lay on the surface, the result is that now the grass roots have some growing room I got some up close experince with how quckly one of these machines can renovate dense heavy soil as a teen watching them put in a golf course
 
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