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fermented weed soup/compost tea  RSS feed

 
ellen kardl
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Okay,here's my idea. I've been pulling weeds all spring. I have put them in a 35 gal trash can and there is water about half way up. When I remember, I put the lid on it. My theory is that all the dandelion and sheep sorrel, etc. seeds will sprout underwater and die, then I can pour this gunk out on the compost pile.

What do you think?
 
Jeff Hodgins
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Once I raked a whole hectar of dead weeds with ripe seeds and I put them all in a big pile.
I didn't get 1 weed for two years. All that came up were beans from the chaff I dumped and squash that I hacked open and tosed ontop. You may not need to worry about it too much. Weeds seem to love poor soil and yumy stuff seems to like yumy soil. imo
 
Ken Peavey
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I think we are on the same chapter, although we are on different pages.  Soaking to sprout weeds an interesting twist.  I came up with soaking to soften, then cooking the stuff.

COMPOST STEW
This is not the same thing as compost tea, let me explain...

It is a well documented fact that immediately after the invention/discovery of fire, man invented the BBQ.  If you boil up some beans, they get soft.  Pasta will expand and absorb water.  Broiled meats become more tender and digestible.  Early chefs discovered that heating of foods not only enhanced flavor, but made the foods easier to eat.  Nuts in their shells cracked with great ease and the meat of the nut did not break their teeth-an important property when dentistry was several thousand years in the future. 

The process of cooking foods breaks down complex carbohydrates into less complex compounds and simple sugars.  It has the added advantage, when conditions are right, of destroying bacteria, making the food safe to eat.  Volatile compounds are driven off in some cases, wood gas is an example.  Preserving these compounds can be done if the food is cooked in a water solution (read: boiled).

I saw a video on youtube.com where the fellow put his kitchen scraps in a blender, turned it into a slurry, then sidedressed his plants with the slurry.  Went looking, cant find it right now.  I got to thinking: "what if the stuff was cooked?" and "what if you did it with stuff from the yard?"

An idea was hatched.

It seems to me that if compost materials were cooked, they would soften up and be considerably easier to mash up into small bits.  Composting is faster when the ingredients are mixed and the particle size of the material is small.  Cooking the stuff would help break it down and provide a more or less sterile environment for the microbes already in a heap to spread into the freshly added material.  A cooked slurry would also tend to drip into the heap as well as add moisture.

I mowed a section of ground to gather some grass and leaves, and to get them chopped into smaller pieces.  I added the stuff to a pot, covered the material with water, and plugged in an electric cooker in the garage.  I cooked the stuff all day.  At the end of the project I ladled some into a blender and pressed the fastest button, repeating until most of the batch was shredded into as fine a slurry as I could make.  I turned off the stove when the sun went down, went to bed for an early shift the next day.

RESULTS
Grass and green leaves softened up as expected.  Just like spinach, the stuff wilted quickly from the heat.  Brown leaves seemed to maintain much of their stiffness, but also chopped into considerably smaller bits as a result of the blender.  It was 2 days before I was able to get back to it, during which time the liquid took on a brown appearance.  To test the visibility of the liquid I dipped in a pencil.  Beyond 1/4 inch, visibility dropped to zero, kinda like the broth in a good pot roast.  The slurry had also taken on a frothy appearance, no doubt a result of oxygen being added during the blending process.

After another busy work week I was able to get back to the stuff.  It had a light layer of growth forming on the top surface.  I'm thinking it was some sort of bacteria which came in from exposure-there was no lid at any time.  A sniff test at this point presented a very slight sour odor.  It was time to get rid of the stuff.

I dumped the whole batch on a leaf heap, tossed it with a pitchfork, called it good enough.

The next phase of the experiment needs more control.  I have a trash barrel out back into which I add my kitchen waste.  This should give me the opportunity to examine the effect of the slurry on a batch of compost without losing it to a heap the size of what I got (12'x16'x5'.

The little blender is great for making hummus, but inadequate for making humus.  A trip to the hardware store produced a drywall compound mixer with 8 blades.  I put this on the grinding wheel to give each blade a sharp edge.  As yet it is untested, but I hope to use it with a drill motor to slurrify the stew as a single batch.  I'm also looking for a way to use this paddle with a hand crank to replace the drill motor.

Using the grid as a heating source is fine for an experiment, but for general production, I think a solar cooker would be a better method.  It can't be any slower than that electric cooker, and the price is right.

The scale of this experiment leads me to think it is feasible on a household scale.  The energy inputs of blending and cooking don't seem to support the method on a commercial scale. 

Unanswered questions:
Is it worth the effort?
Does the process destroy weed seeds and plant pathogens?
What advantages does this process offer?
The broth might offer some interesting uses, what do I do with the stuff?
Am I barking mad?


 
ellen kardl
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Interesting as an experiment, but way too much labor/electricity in my thinking. I like the way you think though! Expanding ones knowledge base is never a waste of time.
 
Jordan Lowery
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What do you think?


i think youll be fine as far as using it on the compost pile goes.
 
              
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ellen kardl wrote:Okay,here's my idea. I've been pulling weeds all spring. I have put them in a 35 gal trash can and there is water about half way up. When I remember, I put the lid on it. My theory is that all the dandelion and sheep sorrel, etc. seeds will sprout underwater and die, then I can pour this gunk out on the compost pile.

What do you think?


I think this method is called a non-aerated compost tea.

I've been doing some research into this but most of the literature prefers the aerobic method which utilizes air pumps (+ hessian bags as sieves) to oxygenate the compost - this apparently creates more healthier bacteria, accelerates the composting process, and is suppose to be safer. But it also seems like a lot of fiddly work - plus I can't use air pumps in my back garden because there is no power outlet nearby.

The non-aerated compost teas are extremely smelly. Its so stinky that if you can any of the gunk on your hands or hair - it will take weeks to wash our the foul odor. All that smelly odor is the smell of toxic waste which probably contains nasty stuff like e-coli.

Anyhow I'm also doing what you are doing - using a 35 gallon trash bin with wheels attached to it for mobility.

After keeping the gunk in for 12 months, most of the weeds have liquified. There was still plenty of dead weeds floating on top and I could see that there were very healthy compost red worms in that floating refuse.

How is your setup going by the way?

 
Jordan Lowery
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Just so you know it will not kill the weed seeds. At least it depends on the plant species. I've made a tea in the same manner with yarrow only after emptying the water out and leaving the flower heads which I assumed turned seed into fertilizer. Boy was I wrong once above the surface almost every seed sprouted.

It did help grow some crazy good tomatoes though.
 
              
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Jordan Lowery wrote:Just so you know it will not kill the weed seeds. At least it depends on the plant species. I've made a tea in the same manner with yarrow only after emptying the water out and leaving the flower heads which I assumed turned seed into fertilizer. Boy was I wrong once above the surface almost every seed sprouted.

It did help grow some crazy good tomatoes though.


Hey there. Thanks for the advice. But what I really want to know is how long did you keep that brew going for?

I think if you keep the oxalis clover bulbs and noxious weeds drowning in a watery solution for 6 months (without introducing more weeds) to 12 months - eventually they must all die.

How long did you keep them in the compost tea for?
 
Jordan Lowery
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First it's not compost tea.

And I've has barrels " fermenting" for over 12 months that particular yarrow tea was well over 6 months old. Like I said it depends on plant species. If you want it to happen faster simply cut up/mash the weeds first.

You can also empty the nutrient rich liquid. Leave the plant material and fill it up again.
 
              
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Jordan Lowery wrote:First it's not compost tea.

And I've has barrels " fermenting" for over 12 months that particular yarrow tea was well over 6 months old. Like I said it depends on plant species. If you want it to happen faster simply cut up/mash the weeds first.

You can also empty the nutrient rich liquid. Leave the plant material and fill it up again.


hello jordan

Apparently this method is also called compost tea or more accurately non-aerated compost tea.

i agree that if you do mesh it up, it will accelerate the decomposing/ liquidifying process.

But what i'm concerned is also the destruction of the oxalis clover bulbs and other weed seeds - and i'm a bit concerned that despite drowning the weeds in the container, they still possessed the ability to regenerate.

Did you cover the weeds totally in water? And was any added more extra weeds in during the 12 month period?

 
Jordan Lowery
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Like I said before it depends on the plant species I have never done oxalis before because it's not a problem plant for me. It could die off in a week maybe two years. I have a feeling seeds can be even hardier given you add a species that can lie dormant under lake beds until drying out surfaces them and they sprout for example. Which could have been underwater for years before the drought.

To answer your question no I did not add more plant material.

Are you afraid that they will sprout underwater and move into tour garden? Just don't dump the leftovers on top of fresh soil.

And again this is not a compost tea, compost teas use compost not raw plant matter.
 
Alison Thomas
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I have two of these barrels going and they've been doing their stuff for more than 2 years now. I call them The Stinky Pots because indeed they do stink. I'm led to believe that this smell is caused by proteins breaking down and the stronger the smell the greater the amount of protein in your liquid. Yau Ymc, I'm curious to know where the link to e-coli comes in.

They're 300 litres in size and do have a lid but they're being used elsewhere so in fact they don't have lids. 20 months ago we loaded up all the canadian thistles and their seeds heads into one of these barrels, covered it with water and left it. Two months ago we strained out any solids that were left and put them on the compost heap. Last month I added the compost to the polytunnel beds and weyhey, have I got a smashing crop of canadian thistles germinating - grrr. So I agree, it doesn't necessarily destroy seeds. However, the seedlings are nicely grouped (imagine a whole head of a thistle germinating in one spot) and easily pulled out making super mulch on the surface of the beds as they die off in a day or two.
 
              
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Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:I have two of these barrels going and they've been doing their stuff for more than 2 years now. I call them The Stinky Pots because indeed they do stink. I'm led to believe that this smell is caused by proteins breaking down and the stronger the smell the greater the amount of protein in your liquid. Yau Ymc, I'm curious to know where the link to e-coli comes in.

They're 300 litres in size and do have a lid but they're being used elsewhere so in fact they don't have lids. 20 months ago we loaded up all the canadian thistles and their seeds heads into one of these barrels, covered it with water and left it. Two months ago we strained out any solids that were left and put them on the compost heap. Last month I added the compost to the polytunnel beds and weyhey, have I got a smashing crop of canadian thistles germinating - grrr. So I agree, it doesn't necessarily destroy seeds. However, the seedlings are nicely grouped (imagine a whole head of a thistle germinating in one spot) and easily pulled out making super mulch on the surface of the beds as they die off in a day or two.


Hi there,

Yeah well, I'm kind of experimenting so I don't know whether it will work or not.

From other composting sites - the idea is that all the stinky smell is a sign of bad bacteria and there were references in the literature that e-coli was present.

But on the bright side - the hated weeds are drowning in that muck. Obviously something has to kill the monsters. Soaking the weeds in 35gallon barrels for 3 months- 6 months -2 years may not work for some species. But I'm really keen to find out whether it works with the oxalis- I'll let you know the results.

The weeds are kept in a 35gallon (140 liter) wheelie bin for 12 months submerged in water - with no additional weeds added in during the brewing period. Our summers here get very hot - 100F (40C) and if that doesn't kill them, I think that eventually the time spent soaking in that acidic nutrient rich solution for 12 months would terminate them. By the looks of things, virtually all the weeds have been liquidified. Unfortunately my new gardener added new material into the mix (while I was away) and we have to wait another Summer to use them.

Meanwhile I don't even use the "tea" to water my plants. And yeah it stinks really bad. But I'm happy that the much hated weeds are in that witches brew.

I would suggest that you keep the thistles in for longer than 2 months?

As for my plan, once the "tea" has brewed - I will be depositing the mix into my open compost bin together with all the dead leaves and lawn clippings - after that they go into another anerobic bin for another year.

I might choose to shortcut the effort by using the brew on my nature strip lawn which gets regularly mowed.


 
              
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Jordan Lowery wrote:Like I said before it depends on the plant species I have never done oxalis before because it's not a problem plant for me. It could die off in a week maybe two years. I have a feeling seeds can be even hardier given you add a species that can lie dormant under lake beds until drying out surfaces them and they sprout for example. Which could have been underwater for years before the drought.

To answer your question no I did not add more plant material.

Are you afraid that they will sprout underwater and move into tour garden? Just don't dump the leftovers on top of fresh soil.

And again this is not a compost tea, compost teas use compost not raw plant matter.


Hi. I'm not afraid that it will sprout underwater. In fact, I'm hoping that they do - because I'd simply stir them deeper in the bin.

So far, after 1 year - all the weeds in the bins have turned to liquid or compost and sunk to the bottom. I'm only concerned that some of the bulbs/ seeds are lying dormant underneath that watery grave, waiting for the right conditions to germinate again.
 
Alison Thomas
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Yau Ymc wrote:

I would suggest that you keep the thistles in for longer than 2 months?



They were in for TWENTY months not 2 - still didn't terminate the burgers. Ain't nature wonderful
 
Jordan Lowery
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How come you don't use the liquid? It's a real nutrient rich soup. It needs to be diluted of course. Try it on a few plants you can experiment on first if you have doubts.
 
Leila Rich
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I've wrapped/tied cheap muslin around one of those big round garden sifters, so the knot's on the bottom, immersed it in the 'stinky barrel' and used the weed-free liquid that collects in it.
Be warned: if it's me, the likelyhood of getting drenched by really smelly liquid is pretty high though! The smell is amazngly pervasive and I think it gets lodged in various nasal cavities, to be experienced again when eating dinner, trying to sleep...
 
              
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Jordan Lowery wrote:How come you don't use the liquid? It's a real nutrient rich soup. It needs to be diluted of course. Try it on a few plants you can experiment on first if you have doubts.


Actually I do use it - as you mentioned - diluted. But as I read more, the literature suggests that the anaerobic will cause damage to the plants. So I'm stepping back a bit from that.

Anyway, eventually, the soup (I prefer to call it compost tea) is used - but only added to the open compost area which is regularly turned over. I do this to make sure that no weed seeds get thru. If some do somehow manage to survive and germinate, they are easily to kill inside that composting area (as opposed to my flower beds).
 
              
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Leila Rich wrote:I've wrapped/tied cheap muslin around one of those big round garden sifters, so the knot's on the bottom, immersed it in the 'stinky barrel' and used the weed-free liquid that collects in it.
Be warned: if it's me, the likelyhood of getting drenched by really smelly liquid is pretty high though! The smell is amazngly pervasive and I think it gets lodged in various nasal cavities, to be experienced again when eating dinner, trying to sleep...


That's a good idea.

Another idea would be to place the solution into another barrel with an internal sieve to strain out the seeds, bulbs - and a tap at the end to extract the tea out easily. If you add in an air pump to it you might turn it aerobic and reduce the odor.

But yeah, it really does stink doesn't it? When i first started weed/water/barrel concoction - some of it got onto my hands and it took nearly a week and plenty of soap washing to get the odor off. I try and wear industrial gloves now and a headgear.
 
              
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Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:
Yau Ymc wrote:

I would suggest that you keep the thistles in for longer than 2 months?



They were in for TWENTY months not 2 - still didn't terminate the burgers. Ain't nature wonderful


Nature is indeed amazing. Life is resilient just as death is determined.

Hmmm... if there was some way where you could boil the barrel - that would probably terminate the organisms (and some of the nutrients as well I suspect). I've an image now in my head of a 40 gallon metal drum filled with weeds and water on top of a makeshift brick stove over an open fire.
 
              
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Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:I have two of these barrels going and they've been doing their stuff for more than 2 years now. I call them The Stinky Pots because indeed they do stink. I'm led to believe that this smell is caused by proteins breaking down and the stronger the smell the greater the amount of protein in your liquid. Yau Ymc, I'm curious to know where the link to e-coli comes in.

They're 300 litres in size and do have a lid but they're being used elsewhere so in fact they don't have lids. 20 months ago we loaded up all the canadian thistles and their seeds heads into one of these barrels, covered it with water and left it. Two months ago we strained out any solids that were left and put them on the compost heap. Last month I added the compost to the polytunnel beds and weyhey, have I got a smashing crop of canadian thistles germinating - grrr. So I agree, it doesn't necessarily destroy seeds. However, the seedlings are nicely grouped (imagine a whole head of a thistle germinating in one spot) and easily pulled out making super mulch on the surface of the beds as they die off in a day or two.


Did you try stirring the mix occasionally or topping up the water levels?

My knowledge on thistles is scant - but if I remember correctly - they can grow in bog and swampy conditions - so mayhaps placing the conditions in your barrels + the fact that you didn't use the lids - would mimic the bog/swamp conditions?

I found that some of the weeds in the 140liter (35gallon) containers did seem to survive in the first 6+ months (but only in the top layer) - but what I did was to use a pitchfork and occasionally turn the mixture over so that all the green stuff was down and the brown stuff up on the surface, eventually there was no more green only brown and decaying material, and then nothing., as it all settled down
 
Eddie Postert
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Okay this touching right into my current gardening experiments. SO I had to sign up.
As of right no I do not have anything to add.
But you folks are running some of the same projects I am working. And asking the same questions that come across my mind.
The weeds I am working with are chickweed and rag weed. Got use what is handy..
 
Tim Wells
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I pull my weeds and stuff them into a dustbin with a tight lid for 2 weeks minimum, then skim off some liquid from the top and water my crops.

I keep adding weeds as I pull them and keep taking a little liquid every time I need a liquid feed.

I dilute the liquid if it looks very dark. A light brown is ideal.

Fast rotting flesh weeds produce the greatest stink, and comfrey is the stinkiest in my experience.

However I dont consider the stink of the brew in anyway damaging to my crops.
I would certainly consider not irrigating leaves that would be eaten uncooked due to the bacterial content. A solution would be to irrigate the soil before planting to boost soil vitality.

Further considerations would be that some crops prefer more fungal dominated soil and other crops a more bacterial dominated soil. This brew would encourage bacteria in the soil. I would consider mulching with a dry/ woody material to balance this or burying some woody material in a berm / hugel.

Referencing Gaia theory; I propose that the weeds that grow on the plot would be the ideal soil tonic in the form of a compost tea, Speeding up the decomposition process.

I have had great anecdotal experience irrigating with comfrey/ random weed tea and 1 potato weighed over a kilo with a good water every week. The year after I decided to not irrigate at all and test the crop with no intervention just to see how the plot would yield if left to nature's whim. The results were a very poor yield.

I conclude that regular weeding and compost tea tonics are a double whammy in crop management.
 
Eddie Postert
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For me the " weed tea " is just the first stage. First as liquid fertilizer, fast action. The next stage is a fine compost material for longer acting soil building proposes. ( My soil here is not very good, except for wild type weeds and shrubs.) And now I have only the use of one hand so scaled down to small gardening areas.Working only with Oppenheimer pollinated and heirloom plants
 
Daniel Kern
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Tim Wells
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Daniel, the ingredients on that list look unusual to me. They also look expensive and processed. Is there any way to replicate these concoctions using resources sources from ones own land?
 
Daniel Kern
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For sure. You don't need those ingredients. But some kind of sugary thing is good for stimulating the microorganisms, but it is not necessary. I would say you can make compost tea out of just about anything.

I have seen this done by composting the ingredients, and then making the tea. The other ingredients are just for particular issues which people may want to remedy.
 
Leila Rich
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When I've made 'weed soup', it's an entirely different beast to what people call compost teas.
It's literally plants and water, sometimes with manure and/or seaweed.
It sits and stews for a long time and is anaerobic and hideous smelling.
I don't make it here in town as I don't want to stink out my neighbours

I was taught that using anaerobic 'liquids on the garden is not a good idea as the anaerobic bacteria kill off the desirable aerobic bacteria.
Typical!
These days I'd go right ahead and use it (diluted) straight on the garden, except...
I avoid contact with the stinky barrel, so regular waterings would be very unappealing!
I'd rather have a few big sessions a year.
Anyone add anaerobic weed soup to the mix when making aerobic compost tea, or turn the soup itself aerobic?
I'd be interested to hear stories of transformation-there are three barrels waiting for me
 
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