What does Compost Tea Do?
Aerated Compost Tea (ACT) is a water extraction of compost using high volumes of oxygen, thus maintaining a highly aerobic environment and a more precise cultivation and extraction of the beneficial organisms present in the compost.
Aerated compost teas can be fed specific ingredients to cultivate select microbial life present in the compost. The increased oxygen levels and select foods added to aerated compost tea act as a catalyst feeding the diversity of organisms into an accelerated growth.
Compost tea and compost extracts act as a probiotic for your soil. Digestive health is essential for the proper conversion and absorption of nutrients from our diet. Much like within our digestive tract, it is a diversity of key organisms within the soil that aid in the digestion or decomposition of organic matter and the conversion of nutrients into forms readily available to plants.
The collective biology at work in soil is responsible for building humus and soil structure, assisting with water and nutrient retention, as well as the recycling and mining of nutrients and minerals. Compost extracts and actively aerated compost teas can improve the digestive health of your soils by inoculating them with billions of beneficial microbes.
Building a diverse soil ecosystem teeming with life will help to improve the health and productivity of your farm and gardens. Specific organisms (fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, etc.) present in mature biologically active compost have been identified to aid in plant health and the suppression disease. Diverse biologically active soil and plant tissue has the capacity to form a protective barrier from disease and pests throughout a plants root and leaf zones thus out competing pathogens and parasitic organisms for food resources.
There has been ongoing discussion concerning the best temperature for brewing. There are two basic schools of thought; 1/ that one should brew at the temperature of the soil where the ACT is to be applied. 2/ that the temperature range of 63 F to 70 F (17 C to 21 C) is the optimum for a maximum production and diversity of microbes. Brew at a temperature which maximizes microbial numbers and creates a functional microbial nutrient cycling consortia. A large, self supporting, population has a better chance of survival once applied to the soil. Don't sweat it if your ambient temperatures are not perfect. We often made ACT on the farm at temperatures as high as 100 degrees F or as low as 50 F. Like we always say, it is difficult to make bad ACT, just easy to make it optimal when conditions are better. Even at those temperature extremes we still had good microbial populations. In heat you may not want to run as long.
The recipe amounts given are for use with water that has a TDS/EC (total dissolved solids) of 35 PPM (parts per million) or less. This is really pure well or spring water with a relatively low mineral content. Water with a high mineral content (or that is turbid) has a lower capacity to maintain dissolved oxygen. If you know or suspect that your water has a high mineral content or high TDS then it is advisable to reduce the amounts of compost and feedstock (e.g. molasses, kelp meal, rock powders, fish hydrolysate, etc.)
We recommend compost from a source which is known to be microbially active. Please be aware that the quality of the compost or vermicompost used is directly proportional to the quality of the compost tea produced. Length of Brew: This recipe will provide an ACT with a microbial content of, bacteria/archaea and fungal hyphae (if present in compost) when brewed for 18 to 24 hours. When using our fungal inhabited vermicompost, the optimum time seems to be 18 hours for a bacteria/archaea and fungal brew. If brewed for - measurements do not need to be precise Start with 5 gallons of vigorously-aerated (60l/min minimum) dechlorinated water.
*Vermicompost (high quality & fresh) – 2% max. (3cups) – reduce as required according to brewer and water quality.
*Carbohydrate - 0.12%max. (30ml) Two of the best catalysts for ACT are Heavy 16’s Prime and Beneficial Biologicals Bene-Brix both of these products are highly refined sugar derivatives. They are extremely potent and should be used sparingly. If using unsulphured pure blackstrap molasses double the rate to (60ml) completely dissolve the molasses in a small quantity of your brew water for maximum effect.
*Fish hydrolysate (high quality) - 0.25% (1 table-sp)- Down to Earth Solution Grade Fish Powder or Elevation Organics Grow/Bloom are cold processed forms of fish hydrolysate that are suitable for brewing ACT. If using the Elevation Organics Grow/Bloom use the bottle that corresponds to the growth phase of your crop.
*Kelp meal - 0.25% max. (2 table-sp) NOTE: This is a maximum amount of kelp and you can experiment using less. This is using regular grade kelp meal. If you have soluble kelp, we recommend using smaller amounts. Sometimes kelp meal can initially delay microbial development and call for a longer brew.
*Glacial rock powder – 0.063% - (2 tea-sp) This is a good ingredient to stimulate more bacteria/archaea diversity which contributes to disease control.
Finished teas can be diluted by 50-90%. Always dilute tea with dechlorinated water. Compost teas applied to the roots will help your plants use water and nutrients more efficiently, as a result you can decrease the amount of fertilizer you apply. Soil microbes from ACT will also increase the range of ph that your roots can tolerate and assimilate nutrients.
Finished teas can be diluted by up to 50% and sprayed on your plants foliage to suppress disease and boost overall plant health. Before adding ACT to a sprayer or fogger it is best to filter the solution through a fine mesh to prevent clogging of equipment. Outdoors avoid foliar sprays on any edible vegetable leaves or fruits.
Extras (when using extras you may wish to adjust amounts of other ingredients to avoid overload)
*Buffaloam - up to 1.5%max - (1cup) - Buffaloam is composted manure from foraging Colorado bison. This additive has a high fungal content in addition to soluble calcium, iron and a range of micronutrients including silicic acid the bioavailable form of silica. Buffaloam dominant teas are great for the flowering phase.
*Alfalfa meal – up to 0.25% - (2 table-sp) - This promotes the growth of flagellates and amoebae and is also a fungal food. Alfalfa really shines in vegetative teas and early flower.
*Alaska Humisoil/ Ancient Forest - up to 1.5%max - (1.5 cups) Humisoil is a premium starter for all compost teas. Fungi spores are present in this substance.
*Canadian sphagnum peat moss – Throw in a handful or two to promote flagellates and amoebae and/or fungal hyphae. Batches are inconsistent, so unless you have a microscope you won’t be sure which set of microbes it will promote but we have never seen anything bad.
*Insect Frass - up to 0.25% - (2 table-sp) - Herbaceous insect guano can be added during the last half hour of the brew to initiate the SAR response in plants. The systemic acquired resistance (SAR) is a "whole-plant" resistance response that occurs following an earlier localized exposure to a pathogen. Plants respond to the perceived pathogen (frass) by producing more glandular and non glandular trichomes as a defense mechanism. Adding insect-frass to your brew is one of the most effective ways to increase terpenes and overall potency of flowers and herbs. Insect frass is most beneficial when applied during the mid-late bloom stages.