Organic tea fertilizer is a nontoxic solution for gardeners wanting an all-purpose fertilizer without harsh chemicals. This homemade fertilizer provides new and old plants alike with vital nutrients required for healthy and vigorous growth. The ingredients for organic tea are inexpensive; typically you can use materials you already have in your yard or garbage.
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The type of water used in the compost tea is important and can greatly affect the outcome of the tea. Tap water is a common choose for compost tea; however, it can contain heavy metals, chlorine, salts and bitrates that negatively affect the survival of beneficial organisms vital in the compost. That is why it is important to use pure, uncontaminated water when possible. Nonchlorinated water -- such as pond water or rainwater -- is a good choice for compost tea. If you must use tap water, fill a bucket with the correct amount of water needed and let sit for a few days. This will allow the chlorine to dissipate.
Compost is the fertilizer compound “brewed” in the water. Fill the compost bin with equal layers of brown and green ingredients. Brown ingredients include dry leaves, straw, woody plant debris, sawdust, paper products and pine needles, while green ingredients include coffee grounds, grass clippings, leafy plant debris, vegetable or fruit scrapes and manure. Keep the compost pile moist and turn the pile with a digging fork or other gardening tool every three days. A sweet smell with a dark crumbly texture is a good indication that the compost pile is ready. Alternatively, you can use dry manure -- horse, rabbit or cow -- or create a vegetable tea using stinging nettles or comfrey leaves. Manure teas are usually more potent than compost tea and can have a higher nitrogen rate, while vegetable teas are high in potassium.
Compost Bag or Brewing Container
Compost tea requires a bag or sack to hold the compost in the water-filled receptacle. The bag or sack allows the water to move through the compost to dissolve the vital nutrients. These nutrients infuse the water to create the tea. Examples of a good bag or sack to use are a pillowcase, laundry bag, nylon stocking or mesh bag. Another option is to poke several holes in a 5-gallon bucket, fill it with compost and suspend it with an S-hook from the brewing container.
Some compost teas implement an aerator -- such as an aquarium-size pump and air bubbler -- while others are merely stirred every few days. Compost teas using an aerator usually include an additive -- such as yeast extract, kelp, molasses or algal powder -- to increase the amount of microbial biomass.
Homemade Compost Tea
Making the compost tea is as simple as filling the sack or bag with about two shovelfuls of the compost and placing the tied bag inside the brewing container filled with water. The ratio of compost to water can vary, but 1 part compost to 5 parts water achieves a good compost tea. If no aeration is used, stir the tea a few times a day for about seven to 10 days. After the allotted time, remove the compost bag and dilute the liquid so it has the appearance of weak tea. A garden sprayer allows for easier application of the compost tea.