Compost tea is the perfect way to boost your plants growth and obtain higher yields – NATURALLY. Better yet, you can make it for free using your own compost!  We keep our garden productive year after year by following a simple and organic three prong approach.  We use compost (composting 101) and cover crops (planting cover crops) for building great soil structure and vitality – AND  we boost plants during the growing season with a simple homemade natural liquid fertilizer on our plants called compost tea.

All you need to make your own compost tea is a couple of shove fulls of compost, A 5 gallon bucket and water
All you need to make your own compost tea is a couple of shove fulls of compost, A 5 gallon bucket and water

Compost tea or “black liquid gold” is the all organic “miracle-growing” solution to fertilizing the garden – minus the chemicals and high salt content that commercial fertilizers add to your soil. It works its magic in two ways – feeding your plants through the roots (soil zones around plants) and the leaves (foliar zones). Unlike synthetic fertilizers, it won’t build up chemicals and salt levels that can slowly destroy your soil structure.  Instead, adding nutrients that build it!

If you follow along with our blog, you know how important compost is in building healthy soil. We add large amounts of compost to all of our planting beds each year, as well as a good shovel full in every single planting hole.  Well, that compost, made from our decomposed vegetable scraps, chicken manure, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and more – is teeming with all-natural, plant-boosting nutrients.  By converting those nutrients into a liquid form – we can utilize those nutrients as an organic fertilizer to naturally boost plants growth through the growing season.

How we use it:

Compost tea works through absorption via the leaves and soil
Compost tea works through absorption via the leaves and soil

Compost Tea can be applied about every two weeks to your garden plants once plants and transplants have become established. By established, we simply mean that they have been in the ground 7 to 10 days and are over the initial shock of transplant.

We apply ours with a watering can or a simple garden sprayer – soaking the area around the root base and the leaves of each plant with the solution.  The minerals and nutrients are then absorbed through the leaves (foliar absorption) as well as through the root zone – doubling the effect.  As with watering, it is best to apply early in the day before the sun is too hot and the tea can burn the leaves of plants.

We repeat the compost tea applications every two weeks until about mid July.  Why stop? Too much of a good thing can also be bad. You want plants to develop strong roots and stems – but too much and the plant will spend all of its energy creating thick foliage and not much fruit.  

Start by filling a clean bucket 1/3 full of compost
Start by filling a clean bucket 1/3 full of compost

We have found that 4 to 6 total applications seem to be the perfect mix for giving plants the boost they need for good higher yields. The best part – its 100% natural, with no fear of having to use any chemicals in your garden.

How we make it:  

There are many ways to make compost tea – but we have found this method to be easy, effective, and most importantly, simple!

BASIC COMPOST TEA RECIPE:

Let the mixture steep for 5 to 7 days, stirring a few times each day.
Let the mixture steep for 5 to 7 days, stirring a few times each day.

You will need a 5 Gallon Bucket, stir stick, water, and a few shovel fulls of finished compost.

Start by filling your bucket about 1/3 full of compost.  Use compost from the bottom of your pile, where organic matter has decayed the most and is teeming with life.

Next – fill the bucket to the within an inch or two of the top with water.  It is best to use well water (we use our rain water) because there will be no chlorine or other chemicals. Chlorine can kill off many of the helpful bacteria and organisms that are alive in compost.  If you only have access to city water, no worries – simply fill the bucket a few days in advance and let sit outside.  The sun and air will work its magic and within a few days, almost all of the chlorine will be gone.

Strain and you are ready to use!
Strain and you are ready to use!

Stir the compost good with a stick or the end of your garden shovel.  Over the course of the next 5 to 7 days, stir the bucket a few times each day.  This aeration of the water and the stirring of the compost helps to release more nutrients into the water, much like dunking a tea bag releases more tea into your drink.

At the end of 5 to 7 days, simply strain the mixture through a piece of burlap, mesh screen or a strainer, and you are left with the magical liquid gold fertilizer called compost tea!

Store in an air tight container to keep the “liquid gold” at it’s best nutrient levels.

Bonus Info:

You can get a little more fancy in your compost tea making if you desire.  It has been shown that adding a simple aquarium pump to the bucket and letting it run to percolate the mixture will increase the potency of the finished mixture, and can be completed in as little as 2 days.  Others also add molasses or sugar to the mixture to increase the absorption of the water and organisms.

Although not appetizing to drink -compost tea is great for your plants!
Although not appetizing to drink -compost tea is great for your plants!

However, for us, the simple bucket and stirring method has certainly worked wonders for our garden.  Besides, the extra few days we let ours steep in the water is worth not having to go through the trouble of setting up a pump, wires, etc. For us, keeping it simple is the key!

So how about trying your own liquid gold this year and get those plants growing big and strong!

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary

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51 thoughts on “Compost Tea – How To Make And Use The Ultimate Organic Fertilizer

  • May 18, 2016 at 2:01 pm
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    Do you dilute the concentrated tea with water when applying to plants? If so, what is the ratio?

    Reply
  • May 18, 2016 at 11:48 am
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    I love using compost tea. I use the aquarium bubbler method. I have always thought you would not want to seal it in an airtight container, as this would cut off the oxygen to all the microorganisms in the tea. When I take it off aeration, I make sure to use it all in the next 8 hours to get the biggest population of aerobic microorganisms onto my plants.

    Reply
  • November 18, 2015 at 9:35 pm
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    I have been researching this subject quite heavy, and I believe it may be a misconseption that most people believe compost tea is fertilizer. Well, it is, but it isn’t. If one researches what’s called the “soil food web”, which is just a fancy name for all the benificial microbes living in our soil, and the plants growing in it, and all of their benificial relationships, you’ll find that all soils have plenty of every nutrient needed for proper plant growth, but what soils do not always have is benificial microbes (i.e. fungi, bacteria, protazoa, etc, etc). These microbes feed on all this organic matter, and make the nutrients in a soil into a “plant avalable” form, but they need what all plants secrete from their roots to perform this job (plants secrete these “root juices” for the microbes as they need mircrobes to make them nutrients). It’s simply, the plants feeds the microbes, and the microbes feed the plant. Nature has it all worked out.
    So, what compost tea does more than anything, is to recharge a soil with all these benificial fungi and bacteria. With those added to a soil, and plants growing in this soil, the soil biololy then builds. It takes plants, and all the benificial mircrobes together within the soil to perform this soil building cycle. Keep in mind however, all inorganic fertilizers and chemicals kill many of the needed microbes. Also, in the “off season” for a garden, you’ll need to plant a cover crop to keep this cycle going strong and healthy.
    That’s my take on it. And just incase I got some of this wrong, or worded it wrong, just research the “soil food web” and learn as much as you can about it. It’s interesting stuff.
    Happy gardening everyone.

    Reply
  • July 8, 2015 at 11:57 pm
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    I found this recipe had a bad aftertaste. After drinking 5 gallons I felt a little dizzy and could no longer see the color blue. When I came to the following evening, I discovered that I had misread the article entirely.

    Color me embarrassed!

    But seriously, what would happen if you added spent coffee grounds to this mix? Too much nitrogen? Or an amazing improvement?

    Reply

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