Compost Tea Anyone?
“The soil is the most important thing!“ I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that! As in raising a vibrant family, the foundations of character and virtue are vital, so in the health of your plants, the nutrients present and the microorganisms surrounding the roots are imperative for their vigor.
The secret to intensive gardening is rich, rich soil. Always add good compost and encourage worms in the earth by using organic practices, and never let a weed get beyond the seedling state so as to compete for space and nutrients!
Building your soil is not as hard as you think. Making compost tea is easy, and if you can realize the value and do it, you can get ‘black gold’ in your garden!
There are several ways to do this. One is to buy compost, but it isn’t good stewardship. We all have pounds of waste from vegetable and fruit trimming especially in the summer and fall. We can turn that into a compost heap, but many of the minerals and ‘goodies’ was out in the rain never to be seen again. You want it on your garden soil!
I want to share the best idea I know other than having red wiggles in a worm farm (I will get to that another day). Start with 4 or 5 white gallon pails with lid, food grade preferably. I asked a restaurant owner to please save the empty 4 gallon mayo and pickle pails for me, and he was glad to.
Get a drill with a 1/3 ” bit and drill holes in the lid and bottom for drainage, and also some in the sides to allow airflow. Once it is over 1/4 full, it won’t blow around; you may use a rock, too.
Next, you save several day’s worth of scraps (excluding meat, eggs, dairy products, bones, or citrus peel and seeds) and toss it into the bucket and replace the lid tightly. Then a beautiful thing happens…
The holes allow for flies and wasps to enter and lay eggs. This may sound gross, but it is part of God’s design to decompose waste. Otherwise, our world would be afloat with rotting grossness. Shannon, the gardener who shared this idea studied black soldier flies as a source of larvae for chicken food. If your raise your own chickens, they will do their best when they can get bugs, wild seeds, and larvae from the cow droppings. Sounds yucky, but ours never got sick and sat huge broods of chicks without help from incubators! The yolks were so golden that they blinded us when we cracked open the eggs :) But, I digress…
The female enters through the holes and lays her eggs, then leaves. The scraps create a controlled nursery for these larvae which are the champions of decomposing waste. As the weather turns hot the grubs will decompose a half bucket of waste in a day or two, creating compost tea that will not burn your growing seedlings and plants. If it gets too hot the grubs will exit through the holes at the bottom and return when cooler. You will not have to stir this like a compost bin which needs turned.
Make sure there is enough moisture by adding wet scraps of cantaloupe rind or rotten tomatoes. Keep the lid on tight so it doesn’t flood in a rain.
It is important to keep it moist and hot so the good organisms are encouraged. The air holes allow air so the anaerobic microorganisms can’t survive.
When you have several buckets working, set them where they are needed most. A dark fluid will drain from the lowest holes. This is a mixture of compost and manure tea just like red worms produce, but you won’t have to store this over the winter as you do worms. It is similar in consistency, although a lot less stinky, than fish emulsion. Move the buckets often as room allows since the soil under each bucket will quickly turn black with the new nutrients.
Shannon said that she moves her buckets every 3-4 days when it is hot and the composting most active. Once the plants grow and fill in available area, she leaves them in place the rest of the season.
I love the idea of not having to go to the nearest farm and shovel up manure for my beds. And I don’t like keeping scraps in my kitchen for long to draw fruit flies. If you have a kitchen garden like the French and Italians, it isn’t even a long walk. You may find yourself eating fresh green beans or a tomato right off the plants when you visit! For more pictures of it being used go here.
Jacqueline is the author of Deep Roots at Home, a site designed to grow your roots deeper in healthy living, gardening and God’s reflection in creativity.