Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Compost tea, anyone?

Sometimes vegetables need a boost. Particularly those that live in soil that is deficient in nutrients.

There is an old custom of "steeping" tea that can be applied to your plants. By adding compost to water and allowing it to steep for a few days, you can create an organic liquid fertilizer that is nutritionally rich, well-balanced and easy to apply to your plants after they're in the ground. It also helps make your limited compost supply stretch a little further because you can keep adding water to the tea and use it so long as it still maintains some brown color and nutrients.

There are several commercial compost teas you can purchase and too many websites out there teaching you how to make a homemade version. We were inspired by Josephine, our farmer mentor in Argentina. Josephine filled a 55 gallon steel drum with sheep manure, egg shells, wood ash and some aged compost, filled it with water, and used a watering can to apply the tea to her crops. It was amazing to see them bounce back to life or add a few centimeters of growth in just a day.

And, of course, there are do's and don'ts to compost tea-making. A few that we're paying attention to: use well-aged compost (our "young" compost still has organic scraps in it and would not break down properly if we soaked it in water) and stir our tea daily (this adds oxygen to the tea that is needed to keep the aerobic microorganisms in there happy and alive).

And now we're inspired to home-brew other organic concoctions. I've got an aged horse manure tea in the works (even more important to stir this one often to prevent any anaerobic - i.e., smelly - activity) and just picked up 20 pounds of fish scraps from our local fish market. I'll bury the fish scraps for a few days, then collect the compost and make a fish emulsion tea. Best of all, we've got a fall trip to the ocean planned to haul as much seaweed as we can for, you guessed it, seaweed tea... supposedly the richest in nutrients of them all.

No comments:

Post a Comment