– Not something you want to drink on a hot summer day, but your plants will love it.
By Johnson County Master Gardeners Sharon Bates & Karen Walker, members of the Wildbunch Writers
I had the great pleasure of recently visiting with Rozetta Tary at her Burleson home. Rosetta is a Johnson County Master Gardner, and she is a good local authority on compost tea. She was born in 1918, that makes her 87 years young and she has a lifetime of gardening knowledge to share.
Compost Tea is an ongoing process at her home, and she shared with me how easy it is to make. She uses a trash can with three small holes cut in the bottom for drainage. The trash can is mounted up approximately 12 inches to drain the tea into buckets. This comes out in a very slow drip as it runs through the compost in the trash can. She uses leaves, grass clippings, vegetable peelings, etc. and just keeps adding to the trash can as it breaks down. You could also put coffee grounds, tea leaves, or just about anything except meat or dairy products.
It’s also a good idea to have a lid of some sort to keep the critters out. Rozetta uses old fan covers that fit the trash can fairly well and also allow air and rain in. If we have a dry spell you will need to add water to keep it moist and this will also help it decompose.
I was amazed to see earthworms in her trash cans. She said she didn’t put them there; they must have come from the leaves. Some of the bins she has will produce tea for up to three years. When your bins get full and the liquid is no longer the color of tea but very light it’s time to empty the decomposed matter into your gardens and start again.
Some of the benefits of using compost tea are improvement of plant growth and nutrition, and reduction of the use of chemical based fertilizers. It can also improve the nutrient uptake in the plants, improve the water-holding capability of the soil and reduce water usage, which is something all we Texans need to do.
Some people would call this compost “extract” as opposed to tea. The compost extract contains soluble nutrients but not many organisms. Dr. Elaine Ingham has done the most scientific research on compost tea. Her company, Soil Foodweb, Inc. tests compost, soil and the quality of tea and tea brewers and her website is listed below. There are many varieties of machines being sold to make compost tea.