Anyone for Compost Tea?
What is your favorite tea? Earl Grey? Green? Chai? If you were to pose that question to the farmers at 123 Farm, their answer would be unanimous: Compost Tea!
Compost Tea is exactly what you might think. Made from just two ingredients—water and compost soil—compost tea is a powerful tool and one that we like to use on all the plants and trees growing on our land. It serves as a great alternative to chemical fertilizers (Dearborn 2011) and is also a way for the soil to become more fertile.
It is quite simple to make compost tea: just steep a bag of compost soil in water. We fill a large mesh bag with compost soil (also known as vermicompost) filtered from our worm bin. Then, we fill two 55 gallon containers with water. (If tap water is used, the water must sit for at least 24 hours before use so that the chlorine can evaporate out). We connect an air pump to each container in order to keep the water aerated. As the tea bag sits in the water for 24-48 hours, aerobic fermentation (fermentation in the presence of oxygen) takes place. Adding oxygen promotes the growth of good and diverse microbes in the tea, which produces a concentrated high-nutrient liquid that is loved by all our tomatoes, lettuces, peppers, broccoli, and citrus trees.
Many scientific studies have revealed a number of benefits from applying compost tea to soil and plants. A research conducted in the University of Arizona revealed that these benefits include “increased soil water retention, improved soil fertility, and reduced reliance on the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers” (Joe, Rock, McLain 2017). In another recent study, different types of compost tea were applied to tomatoes, and it was found that when compost tea was given weekly, the size of the tomato roots and weight increased (Morales-Corts 2018). Another controlled experiment on lettuces, soybeans, and corn, showed a positive correlation in plant growth compared to the plants that were untreated, and differences in root sizes (Kim, Shim 2015). We haven’t had a chance to hold a controlled experiment ourselves, but we have noticed a marked difference in our plants, depending on whether or not we use compost tea. Earlier this year, when we planted our broccoli and lettuces, there was a rapid increase in size after two weeks of watering with compost tea. One time, when our broccoli seemed a bit under the weather, we used compost tea excessively and all perked up in no time! Our tomatoes were also showered with compost tea regularly from the moment they were planted, and we were delighted to find that they produced abundantly. Especially when we plant a new addition to our fields, as for example our newly planted Napa Cabbage, we like to give it more compost-tea loving care during the first two weeks.
As an organic farm, we love to find natural ways to banish pests and improve the nutrient content of our produce. Compost tea not only enhances the produce, but it also helps the soil regenerate with good microorganisms. It’s amazing to see the dark rich soil filled with little critters in all the places that have been treated with compost tea. By taking little steps such as this, we hope to give back to our land, joining the pioneers in the regenerative farm movement. P.S. Compost Tea is not for human consumption. We’d rather enjoy a cup of Lavender Tea.