COMPOST TEA AND MORE – Teresa Colby
The friends visiting my vegetable garden seemed extremely anxious to leave. No longer listening, they were
casting furtive glances at the exit. Moments before, our tour had been going so well. The culprit: a stinking, rank
batch of my own compost tea. When my garden seemed to need a boost, I made up my version of compost tea.
Into a garbage can went several shovelfuls of regular compost, a bucketful of seaweed off the beach, water to fill,
and a long stirring stick. The result after a week was a foul brown liquid. After straining the liquid from the solids,
I diluted it 1:5 with water in the watering can, and gave my veggies their boost. I didn’t dare get this mix on leaves
soon to be eaten, definitely not a safe ‘salad dressing’. All got poured into the soil around plants and the garden
Soon after, Peggy Carswell’s Compost Tea workshop was offered at Lake Trail school. I attended, now motivated to do better brewing. The secret to a safer, non-offensive brew is AIR. Oxygen provided with an aquarium bubbler keeps the brew from descending into a anaerobic sludge giving off rotten egg gas. A smaller amount of carefully selected materials are put into a sieve like container and this is lowered into a bucket of water. A much more refined tea! The aquarium bubbler is set up with two emitters: one in the suspended sieve with the solids, and another in the water. After steeping for 24 hours, Peggy explained that the tea is at its best, with the peak amount of beneficial bacteria along with lots of nutrients. So, there is no excuse for prolonged periods of terrorizing family, visitors, neighbours and strangers on the road with bad brews.
Here is one of Peggy’s compost tea recipes:
Balanced Compost Tea Recipe (5-gallon brewer)
- 1.5 lbs balanced compost
- 1.6 oz. humic acids ( from dark, peaty soil or well rotted black peat moss)
- 1 oz. liquid kelp
- 1 tbsp. kelp meal to provide surfaces for the fungi to attach to
- 1 oz. unsulphured black-strap molasses
Steep and bubble for 24 hour, dilute 1:10 up to 1:20 with water.
I added some more ingredients she listed as optional: oatmeal and alfalfa meal and I used seaweed off the beach versus purchased products. See Peggy’s website www.fertile-ground.org to see her fine work in Assam, India where such compost teas are making a difference. The aquarium bubbler was purchased from a pet shop on south Cliff Ave., Courtenay. I made a sieve basket out of hardware mesh curled into a cylinder, edges fastened, then stuffed into a bag made of strong sheer polyester curtain fabric. Peggy recommends pantyhose works too. Another possible basket for solids mentioned was a large paint strainer available at Central Builders.
Wishing you good brewing in 2013! Teresa Colby