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How to Make Compost Tea

I’m a rooky when it comes to composting. I was brought up in a rural area in western Canada and I always understood that orange peels and paper towels went in the compost bin, but other than that basic knowledge, I never really understood what happened in that mountain of old food out back by the swing.

In recent years, I’ve started my own compost piles and plugged my nose in earnest as I did the bi-monthly compost container empty. A smelly compost bin? Sounds normal. But now that I’ve had the pleasure of studying under Tara, the resident soil food web expert and farm manager at Taino Farms, I understand that smelly compost means that the pile is turning ‘anaerobic’. I’m not going to over complicate my description of compost tea, because I’m not the expert. What I will do is present Tara’s expert description in the video below, and supplement the post with questions and answers that I’ve gotten from friends and family about the logistics of actually making this happen in your own back yard.

Q: What type of compost do you use in compost tea?

A: Healthy, cooked, aerobic compost. This means that it’s not just manure from cows or other animals that have been fed hormones or steroids. It is compost from a hot compost pile, which is broken down organic material that has been heated and turned according to regulations (5 times in 10-15 days).

Q: What is an anaerobic compost?

Anaerobic means that there’s non enough oxygen in the compost pile, so the beneficial air loving microbes are starting to die off. This most commonly happens if the material is cut up too fine, or there is too much high nitrogen material (food scraps, manure, and legumes) and not enough carbon material (brown and dry).

Q: So what is humic acid, and what is the difference between humic acid and compost tea?

A: basically when you pour water through compost passively, without agitating the water or compost mixture, humic acid is created. When you agitate the compost mixture and the water – that makes compost tea. Basically, the humic acid is the ‘food’ for microbes to feed on. While compost tea is the extracted microbes feeding on the humic acid and repopulating. When you agitate the bag you are pulling the microbes out of the compost, when not agitating you are pulling the humic acid out of the compost.

Not too sure how that magic works, but I believe it has something to do with a thing called science. All you need to remember, is to pour a little water passively through your compost mixture to make humic acid and to then add that to your bucket of water. Once you’ve done that, you can agitate your bags of compost into the bucket of water to make the compost tea. The humic acid is simply a preper.

Q: Can I make compost tea if I don’t have a bubbler?

A1: You can make your own bubbler out of a fish tank pump. Stay tuned on an instructional post on this topic in the future.

A2: If you don’t want to make your own bubbler, you can just massage/ agitate 3 – 6 bags of compost into your water, and immediately spray it on your garden. No need to wait. The biology of the compost tea wont be quite as primo when using this method, but it is still the most efficient way of spreading good microbes all over your garden beds.

That’s all for now, if you have any questions, please ask them below, or shoot us an email! We’ll get you connected with Tara for some awesome advice! Stay tuned for a blog from our expert titled “My Garden Bed is Better Than Yours”.