I first learned about making compost teas, foliar sprays and compost activators from a dear friend and garden mentor many years ago. After getting the hang of making simple recipes and experimenting with controls, using it on one bed and not using it on another bed of the same plant species, I became fascinated with the results! I was hooked on this somewhat new idea of increasing soil microbes and improving soil biology with activated aerated compost tea, (AACT).
First lets explain what compost tea is and how we can easily make it at home.
Compost tea is "liquid gold", a mild and organic fertilizer that will not burn plants.
It is made by taking aerated compost or worm castings and placing it in a sock (panty hose, paint strainer, etc..) suspended in a 5 gallon bucket of water with a air bubble pump to aerate, supply oxygen for microbial growth. You add feed to the water such as molasses, fish hydrolysate, humic acid, cane sugar, etc.. to feed and multiply the microbes that live in the compost or vermicompost (worm casting).
It is extremely important to aerate, supply oxygen to your AACT, all living organisms need oxygen to survive. If your tea does not get enough oxygen it becomes anaerobic and the BAD bacteria will multiply, which can cause, e.coli, root eating nematodes and disease boring organisms. It is also important to know which compost to use in your tea recipe. This will depend on whether you want to use the AACT on vegetables, fruit trees, conifers, etc..
Here is a short list;
Evergreen Trees- Highly Fungal
Deciduous Trees- Semi-Fungal
Most Vegetables- Bacterial
Brassicas- Very Bacterial
Fruits and Berries- Balanced fungal to Bacterial
The compost you choose will be the most important factor in determining whether you are making a bacterial-dominate tea, or a fungal-dominate tea.
Each type of compost are determined by their initial ingredients. Bacterial-dominated compost begins with materials that have a lower carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N); whereas, fungal-dominated compost begins with materials that have a higher C:N.
Basically your main ingredient for a fungal AACT would be more woody materials, and the main ingredient for a bacterial AACT would contain more nitrogen, such as composted manures.
The food you feed your microbes is very important to maximize the micro-biology. Too much food can cause your AACT to go anaerobic. Too little will not allow the microes to replicate and multiply. There are tons of recipes out there. The good news is that if you end up putting a bacterial tea on a fungal loving plant, it wont hurt it, it just wont get the benefits it would have from a fungal tea.
A couple of recipes below;
Bacterial- Dominated Tea
1.5 pounds of bacterial-dominated compost (FRESH worm castings work well too)
1 Tablespoon of Maple Syrup or Cane Sugar
1 ounce of Fish Emulsion
2 Pounds of Fungal-dominated compost
(Add 1/2 Cup of Bran Flour or Steel cut oats to improve fungi)
1 Tablespoon of Fish Hydrolysate (dilute to neutralize the acid, according to the label)
1 Ounce of liquid sea kelp
Directions; Fill a 5 Gallon bucket with un-chlorinated water. Place the compost in a paint strainer. Get a stick and suspend the strainer in the center of the bucket, so that it does not touch the sides or bottom of the bucket. (see photo above) Dilute the fish emulsion or liquid kelp in a 1/2 cup of water, then add to the water and mix thoroughly. Place your air tubing on your air pump and place the tubing in the bucket of water, plug in the air bubbling machine and check for good aeration. Let the AACT brew for a minimum of 8 hours, the tea can be brewed up to 24 hours. As a matter of fact, some will say a brew can go for 36 hours. I have had great results with 16 hour brews. When your tea is done it can be used as a soil drench, foliar spray, and even a compost activator. I use all of the AACT tea water on my soil and plants and put the compost remains back into my original compost pile.
Thank for reading!