How to make compost tea


ith the summer heat squarely upon us, this is the time to give a tall glass of iced tea to gardeners . . . and generous amounts of compost tea to our plants.

This tea contains millions of beneficial organisms, and plants love it. All you have to do is fill an old pillowcase with some compost and a few other ingredients, use some simple aquarium pumps to keep everything moving… and let it steep overnight.

Compost tea is truly amazing. It is highly nutritious, adding beneficial bacteria and micorrhizal fungi to the soils. It has fungicidal properties as well. These beneficial bacteria and micorrhizal fungi increase the surface absorbing area of roots. This, in turn, increases a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.

The recipe we used at the nursery (see below) is on a fairly large scale. It yields 55 gallons of tea, which has to be used almost immediately. If this seems like it is too much, you can halve the ingredients, or get your neighbors and community garden friends involved.


1. A barrel to hold water. We used a 55 gallon rain barrel.

2. Water. Rainwater would be the best. If you have chlorinated water, let it sit a day or two before starting your project.

3. A giant tea bag, such as an old pillowcase, a tea towel, or a stocking.

4. Two small pumps, available in aquarium shops. One will re-circulate the water, the other will run an air stone.

5. Compost: we use 2 or 3 pounds of store-bought earth worm castings.

6. A cup of Bio-Start by Espoma (beneficial bacteria and micorrhizal fungus).

7. Half a cup of either dry or liquid molasses to feed the beneficial bacteria.

Place the earthworm castings, molasses, Bio-Start, and the air stone into the tea bag and secure open end with string or rubber bands.

Place the tea bag into the barrel with water and plug in the re-circulating pump and air stone.

Allow the system to run overnight. By next morning it will be ready to use. Compost tea should be used within a day. Its shelf life can be extended for a day or two with the addition of more molasses and continued aeration.

You now have 55 gallons of compost tea that can be sprayed on plant foliage and drenched at the root zone and added to the garden soil.

I can’t think of anything better for the enrichment of your garden and stress relief during the hot summer days.

Now where’s my glass of iced tea?

Happy gardening everyone!

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