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New to composting tea  RSS feed

 
Posts: 120
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama)
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I want to get started on using compost tea around my fruit trees/bushes. 

I have access to a food grade 55 gallon barrel with open top.  I hear that a vortex type brewer is more efficient and easier to clean.  Does anyone have any examples that I could  use?

I am wanting to get something into the ground now (and to use the brewer).  I have seen where people use Worm Castings, Liquid or Powdered Kelp and non-sulfured Molasses.  Is that a good recommendation or is there something better? 

I do have some wood chips that have been sitting in a large pile for 8 months.  I find worms and fungal hyphae growing inside.  I also have a hardwood log pile that I burned for charcoal.  Can I use this in my tea or should I wait and use with composting my wood chips. 

Finally, should I go with coffee grounds in place of Horse manure?

I have a lot to learn.


Thank you.
 
steward
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Howdy Dennis, Have you seen THIS THREAD ?
 
Dennis Bangham
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Thanks.  Read the link.  Looks like I will need to go shopping for more composting supplies. 

Is it correct that I need to start a real compost pile with fresh chips?  Is pine okay too?

I admit I do not understand the distinction of worm castings and worm compost.  A local guy sells both but I wonder what it really is. 

I would like to see what Travis has developed in his vortex brewer.  I would like to go that route since I do not have to spend a lot of time taking it apart and cleaning and reassembling.  Plus I like to build stuff.  It keeps me off the street.
 
Dennis Bangham
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Design of vortex brewer.  Would this design work with a 30 to 50 gallon barrel in place of the cone?  For brewing times of maybe 24 to 36 hours? 
Thanks for the help and guidance.
Filename: Simple-design-cone-airlift.pdf
File size: 345 Kbytes
 
Posts: 231
Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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I use a 15 gallon cone bottom tank, and an ap-100 air pump.  It creates a nice strong vortex.  I then dump the brew into a 65 gallon used pickle drum and top it with water and use it on the garden.  I was looking for the video of it a few days ago, but I still can't find it.  You will probably need a fairly strong air pump or a couple/few for a larger container.  I wouldn't know how big of an air pump to use for a larger container.  People use flat bottom containers as their brewer, I think some sediment may accumulate along the flat bottom edges??  It probably depends on where the pickup/pickups are and how strong the vortex is.

Brewing times will depend on what you are wanting to accomplish.  But in general those times will be good and your plants will benefit.  There is a lot of info on compost brewing.  I make fungal dominate brews for trees bushes and roughly equal fungal to bacteria for annual plants.  Elaine Ingham is a good starting point for learning this.  I don't have a microscope yet to find exactly what and how much is in the brew.  I simply use more fungal compost and foods for the brew if I want it for trees/bushes.  And if I want a very bacterial brew I'll use straight worm castings and molasses or cane sugar.  Also longer brew times for fungal brews and less time for bacteria brews.
 
Dennis Bangham
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Thanks for the advice.  Where did you get the cone tank?

I have a pump that is about half the size of yours and since I want to be able to put the top on my barrel I expect only around 20 to 25 gallons at most inside the tank. 

It is still a design in my head.  I will drain out of the center and have 4 air lift pipes.  I have not worked out if I will use air stones or just pump the air through hoses into each air lift pipe.

I appreciate any and all guidance.
 
Joshua Parke
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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I found the tank at plastic-mart.com.  It's a 15 gallon fully draining cone inductor tank with 2" MPT.  The stand is extra and should be at the bottom of the page.  It cost just as much in shipping as the tank itself.

I used 2" PVC and most of it is glued.  It's not glued past the drain valve, and I only used pipe thread on the 2" fitting onto the bottom.  The PVC goes into a 2" double slip bulkhead fitting at the top of the tank, and the PVC is glued into the bulkhead fitting on the outside.  I can't recall what size hole saw I used to drill the hole for the double slip bulkhead fitting.  I think it was either a 3" or 2-3/4" hole saw...maybe practice on cardboard or something before committing to drilling your tank.  Inside the tank I just used the 45 and 90 degree fittings with small sections of straight PVC and just push them together so I can remove them and adjust them how I want.  I used garden hose from the air pump with a threaded fitting so I can disconnect it. "always keep the air pump above the liquid." ;-)

After I run it I empty the brew into a larger barrel and then fill the brewer with fresh water and use a brush to scrub the inside, then dump that into the barrel so I can get as much of the sediment out of it as possible.  I scrub it with a brush and fresh water after I finish with it, and run hydrogen peroxide in it as well just for good measure, but I don't fill it up all the way for the final scrub/cleaning.  And I don't use the hydrogen peroxide water with the finished compost tea.  The hydrogen peroxide will break down to water and oxygen, or something like that, so I'll use it to water with later.  I keep the air pump on until all the water is drained.

The size of air pump with this design makes a strong vortex.  I dump the compost and other ingredients straight into the brewer without a filter bag.  I've even put tiny woodchips that were covered in fungus in there with it.  It works great. :-)
VB1.JPG
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Vortex Brewer
VB2.JPG
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VB inside fittings
VB3.JPG
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VB inside fittings removed
 
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Hey Dennis, I use a 55 gallon tank with a PVC pipe that goes down to the bottom and then splits. I have it set up so I can attach an airstone if I wanted but I have found that it works just fine, maybe better, and it's much easier to clean without the airstones. I use an ecoair 5 pump and it gets the tea seriously roiling. I also use mine to make as much as 45 or so gallons of tea at a time with no issues.
 
Dennis Bangham
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Joshua.  I appreciate the pictures and I guess you do not have a check valve to keep water out the pump.  I cannot find a good check valve so I will keep my pump high and dry.

Stephen.  Good input I was thinking of an air stone but may just dangle the air hose down the air lift or do like Joshua and find a way to make a fitting.
 
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Location: Napa CA
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I am a novice on the subject but have been doing my best to through threads here, and other sources to get up to speed I am particularly interested in whether one can create a compost tea business I assume local regulations are a tough barrier, and almost for sure no one is going allow you to spray near vegetable crops On the other hand I would think openly contracting individuals have the right to do what they want as long as the crops are not being sold to others It also seems to be the case that  a batch of compost tea can only be maintained for hours or maybe days with a bubblier or similar devices That would be a challenge for a business model but might be overcome with some coordination with clients I thought I would include a link to an older thread since this thread already includes some great older threads. nice to make the newer threads contain as many god links to older threads I I would think

https://permies.com/t/23602/Compost-Tea-thread-beginner

https://permies.com/t/52032/Aerated-compost-tea-plant-nursery

https://permies.com/t/2267/Compost-Tea-clip



 
stephen lowe
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Matt, there is unlikely to be any regulations about using or selling compost tea. A local garden store that used to be really heavily into promoting compost tea and organic gardening methods used to sell compost tea (they even had a 24 hr Automatic Tea Machine - ATM - that doled out gallons from the side of their building). They would brew a lot of the batches for 72 hours or so, pulling tea off throughout, and then recommend that any purchased tea be used within 24 hours. The biggest hurdle I can see is that is finding customers, people who are really into compost tea will eventually realize how easy and cheap it is to make it themselves. The only good market I can see would be as part of a non toxic landscaping business. People like to see that something is getting sprayed on their lawn by the lawn care professional and people who hire landscapers are likely the furthest away from deciding to make their own compost tea. but I think the biggest issue to a compost tea business is that there isn't a big market for it, especially at the cost you have to sell it at to make it worth your time.
 
stephen lowe
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Also wanted to add a picture of a recent batch of tea that I made.

Pouring foam out of the top of the brewer, it is about 40 gallons of tea in a 55 gallon barrel which means the foam is probably 2 feet thick. And here is a view in the top of the brewer at the end of brewing.


My understanding is that the foam is a result of the protein built up from dead microbes. As such I take it as a good sign of microbial activity.
 
Dennis Bangham
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Pictures did not show.
 
stephen lowe
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hm they show on my screen. Let me try again.
0209181414.jpg
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barrel foaming over while tea is still brewing
0209181415a.jpg
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foamy brew after I took the top off
 
Matt Grantham
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Stephen I really appreciate the input I am indeed a novice and need the advice of those who have been around more But I would like to bring Elaine Ingham's methods if I may From what I have seen there is a pretty good bottom line assumption that her processes seem like one of the best fundamental system of raising healthy soil system that is superior Maybe I am mistaken that the main amendment in her system is compost tea I have only watched one of the recent seminars so i may have this wrong There is the additional, and perhaps more critical issue, of being able to study the existing soils and then continue to monitor where the F and B ratios lie I am not sure if the nursery you spoke attempted something similar or whether they thought F and B ratios to be as fundamental as Elaine seems to suggest
 
stephen lowe
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Hey Matt, the business I was talking about was brewing pretty basic teas that I think were fairly bacterial in general. My understanding is that fungal dominance peaks in teas at around 18 hours and beyond that the hyphae just have a hard time in the tumult. Also I wasn't questioning the value of the tea, just the ease of finding customers to purchase it. Are you imagining selling the tea to commercial food producers? home gardeners? I guess I'm just curious about what sort of compost tea making business you are envisioning. I will reiterate that I believe there is no legal reason that you couldn't be paid to spray it straight onto commercial food crops but I wonder who the farmers are that will pay for that service rather than just making the tea themselves. Finding and providing high quality compost tea inputs could be a great little business though.
 
pollinator
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I would not feel well making a business out of it. First I read that the tea has to be fresh. Second how do you guarantee the quality?
 
Angelika Maier
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That is the next item on my to do list. Can anyone recommend a pump for the vortex brewer in Australia? And do you brew year round winter and summer? Can the molasses be replaced with sugar?
 
Dennis Bangham
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Angelika,  I had to buy a larger air pump to get my Vortex Brewer to work.  I found a 3566 Gallon Per Hour/6.96 psi (EcoPlus Commercial Air 7 - 200 Watts).  Maybe you can find an equivalent pump down under?
 
stephen lowe
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Angelika, Dennis' suggestion is a great pump I use an ecoair 5 and it is more than enough for my little setup. My neighbor just built a vortex brewer in a 1050 gallon tank so I will ask him what pump he ended up using and post it if people are making bigger brewers. To ensure quality you simply need to start with quality inputs and invest in a microscope for quality control. You can definitely brew year round, it might take longer in the winter but you should be able to get solid tea in 72 hours anytime of year. And you can definitely use other sugars instead of molasses. I've used agave syrup with good success but for my money molasses or any sugar source isn't necessary at all. That batch that I showed pictures of has no sugars added, just compost, vermicompost, fish, kelp, and humic acid. What I've been taught is that the benefits of molasses are greatest for flowering plants and for cultivating flowers. I think that in general though you can make a fine garden tea with nothing but compost/vermicompost and fish (some sort of mineral rich rock dust seems to have a catalytic effect, I use about a pinch of azomite for a 50 gallon batch). Everything else is icing as far as I'm concerned.
 
Angelika Maier
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Thanks, I think the normal sugar is cheaper than the molasses from the produce store, but I'll have a look. And if I ask for unsulphured they might not know. As said this is scheduled for april/may when the super buy time is over, but I can't wait.
 
Angelika Maier
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I found a description on a brewer in 'organic' Australia. Unfortunately, it is quite expensive. organic
They say that you need a pump 200l/min for a 60 l wheelie bin, that sounds a lot to me. Probably I would go for a slightly smaller brewer. Here's a pump in ebay: pump How many litres per minute to size of barrel? What would you look for in a pump (I don't want to buy anything cheap which breaks after a short while)
 
stephen lowe
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Angelika Maier wrote:I found a description on a brewer in 'organic' Australia. Unfortunately, it is quite expensive. organic
They say that you need a pump 200l/min for a 60 l wheelie bin, that sounds a lot to me. Probably I would go for a slightly smaller brewer. Here's a pump in ebay: pump How many litres per minute to size of barrel? What would you look for in a pump (I don't want to buy anything cheap which breaks after a short while)



Angelika, the pump that I use (ecoair 5) is about 22.5 gal/min and it is more than adequate for making about 50 gallons of tea. To generalize this I would say that you need about half the volume of your brewer per minute and could probably get away with less.  So for your 60 l brewer you would only need something capable of 30 l per minute. (so you can check my math; my pump is listed as 1300 gal/hour which I quick mathed to 22.5 gal/min)

As for a brand I really highly recommend the EcoPlus brand, my current ecoair 5 has been running for 4 years with zero noticeable decrease in function. You can get a small one for around 40$ and they are very power efficient. I would run the 5 (they are numbered 1,3,5,7 from smallest to largest) off of 500w of solar panels attached to 6 deep cycle batteries for up to 72 hours with no problems. I don't have much experience with other brands but I have been really happy with ecoplus.
 
Angelika Maier
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Thanks Stephen your answer is really apprechiated! I will have a look if I can get that pump in Australia otherwise I use your primitive for dummies formula (just right for me!). I found a container which might be good. The wheelie bin in the setup I attached does not seem to be so good because how can you get a vortex in a square bin?
 
Angelika Maier
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I found a nice foodgrade bucket with lid, but it's only 20ltr. would that be enough? I mean I have to get the tea out and I don't want to lift more than that. If I fit a bigger container with a tap that would be a source of contamination. Bunnings sells 75 ltr plasic bins or 55 and 75 ltr galvanised steel bins. Is galvanised OK? And the inside of all these rubbish bins is corrugated. bunnings rubbish bins The bigger bins allow that I put the watering bucket inside to fill it up.
 
stephen lowe
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Angelika this actually relates to a conversation I was just having today. I was telling a coworker about the 1150 gallon tea brewer I mentioned earlier in this thread and his response was 'when I first learned about compost tea I was told that 5 gallons of tea was enough to innoculate 300 gallons of irrigation water' and we then sort of went down this rabbit hole of discussing how ever since compost tea has become popular people have started going crazy with it and wondering whether all that extra compost tea actually does anything. After all, shouldn't one dose of tea innoculate an area and those living micro beasties should propogate the way beasties are wont to do and ouila, no more applications needed.
And that lead me to remember that a friend who works selling ag tech and ammendments told me about a trial that one of his suppliers had a beta tester run, they treated one plot with their normal weekly tea regiment and treated the other with 2 tea feedings preceding and immediately after planting and then offered only a product the supplier made that purports to be primo micro beastie food (basically fish hydrolysate, kelp, and humates). The report from that one test was allegedly that the two tea feedings followed by supposed microbe food worked better. All of that is a long winded way of saying that you should be all good with a 20l brew set up. Just water the area you want to treat with plain water and then come over the damp soil with the finished tea. The tea is alive right? Your soil is where those alivers like to alive right? Right. So no need for 1000l of tea. Some tea helps. More tea helps. But more tea might not help so much more than just some tea.
 
Angelika Maier
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This is acutally interesting. First the amount you brew in one go (and how to handle it without wrecking your spine - the 50 or 75 litre brewer might actually be better because you can dunk the watering can into it) and second the question how often - as often as you get around to it (which would not be very often). What is better galvanised metal or plasic as a container?
 
stephen lowe
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I use plastic out of convenience, I'm not sure what galvanization entails (is it nickel coated?) but if it's inert it's probably not bad. Even rusty metal wouldn't be bad unless you got into the realm of excess iron, I believe it is taken up quite efficiently by foliar feeding. As far as handling larger ammounts of tea, I invested 60$ into a sump pump last year so that I can just spread my tea with my hose. I used to be much more gung ho about hauling buckets around but these days I'm taking a longer view. With a cheaper sump you just have to hold the hose longer. The more I think about it the more it makes sense that very few applications of tea would be necessary in a given growing season (and even fewer if they were more concentrated). Really, one in the early spring to sort of jump start your biology, one to water in seedlings, and one more as things started to set fruit should be more than adequate if your soil is a happy home for the soil microbiota. After all, we are talking about living and procreating creatures who really only need carbon and living roots to thrive right?
 
Angelika Maier
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I thought compost tea would be a good addition in my nursery, since the potting mix I buy is not inocculated.
 
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Joshua Parke wrote:
After I run it I empty the brew into a larger barrel and then fill the brewer with fresh water and use a brush to scrub the inside, then dump that into the barrel so I can get as much of the sediment out of it as possible.  I scrub it with a brush and fresh water after I finish with it, and run hydrogen peroxide in it as well just for good measure, but I don't fill it up all the way for the final scrub/cleaning.  And I don't use the hydrogen peroxide water with the finished compost tea.  The hydrogen peroxide will break down to water and oxygen, or something like that, so I'll use it to water with later.  I keep the air pump on until all the water is drained.



Joshua,  I love your brewer! I made one out of a 5 gallon water cooler tank but I'd like to modify it to add some of your brewer's designs.  I have a question on cleaning. So you clean after every use? Is there an issue leaving the sediment on the walls if the brewer is completely drained and dry? Is bad stuff growing?
 
Joshua Parke
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Yeah I clean it after every batch.  It's been a while since I read about this topic, but from what I read years ago is that it's important to clean it after every batch.  Something about the sediment that sticks to the walls of the brewer will go bad over time if it's not cleaned and it will mess up the tea.  I was reading info from sources on the internet where they were using microscopes to document what they were doing, so I just trusted their advice and I make sure to scrub it down real well after every batch.

I also remember reading of some that would run a continuous brew, and they wouldn't be cleaning it between each run.  They simply removed what they were using that day, added more compost/ingredients and water and that's how it continued.  But, I also seem to recall that it was something that was attractive to people selling compost tea, so maybe they were doing this for convenience and not for the best results?  I'm not real sure, and I can't recall if there was evidence to show that there was no harm done to the finished tea.

Here's one of the sites that I remember which has quite a lot of info and research done with a miscroscope.  MicrobeOrganics
 
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I make "compost tea" the evil way:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZquKZ6EVEY

That's Dave's Fetid Swamp Water. And plants love it. I simply got tired of bothering with aeration.
 
stephen lowe
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David Good wrote:I make "compost tea" the evil way:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZquKZ6EVEY

That's Dave's Fetid Swamp Water. And plants love it. I simply got tired of bothering with aeration.



I wonder how much of a difference it makes being in the tropics, I would imagine that your soil is more often anaerobic than those of us living in a temperate climate, but I might be wrong about that. I'm hoping to try some anaerobic teas this year after being trained in aerobic, and thus straight up phoebic of anearobic conditions.
 
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