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Compost Tea – Making the Brewer & Brewing Tea

Compost Tea – Making The Brewer & Tea 

Compost tea has become a part of growing Giant Pumpkins, more growers are brewing Compost Tea and noticing healthier plants and soil, this isn’t just by chance, it is well known that Compost Tea will help to create a balanced soil food web.

A balanced Soil Food web will:

1. Suppress disease-causing and pest organisms

2. Improve the nutritional quality of the plant.

3. Produce good soil structure, improving water infiltration, oxygen diffusion, and water holding capacity.

4. Retain nitrogen and other nutrients such as calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, etc.

5. Make nutrients available for plant growth at the times plants require at the rates plants require.

6. Decompose plant residues rapidly

7. Reduce worker exposure to potentially harmful chemicals

8. Produce hormones that help plants grow.

Understanding Tea:

Before you start brewing let’s take a moment to understand Compost Tea.

Essentially, brewing Compost Tea is a brewing process that extracts microorganisms from compost followed by microbial growth and multiplication. This includes beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes.

Compost teas contain both a massive total number and a vast mixture of beneficial microorganisms which perform different functions.

Compost teas are applied either to the soil or to the plant foliage.

When compost teas are sprayed onto the leaf surface, the beneficial organisms suppress the pathogens by consuming leaf exudates that pathogens would survive on. Pathogens that land on the leaf surface simply cannot compete with the beneficial organisms and therefore have a greatly reduced chance to initiate disease in the first place.

Nutrients carried in the tea will be used by the plant as well as the microorganisms in the soil.

Tea applied to the soil will move into the root zone and affect the rhizosphere of the plant. The microbes in the compost tea digest organic matter and pass a steady stream of mineral nutrients to the plant roots. Healthy soils, containing high numbers of diverse microbes have the capability of passing a full spectrum of mineral nutrients, hormones, amino acids and vitamins to plants. By enhancing soil biology, compost tea builds the capacity of the soil to pass nutrients to the plants.

The Brew:

A basic tea recipe would consist of water, a sugar like Molasses and various food sources such as, Kelp, Humic Acid, Fish, Alfalfa Pellets and an air pump or aerator.

You can adjust your recipes to put an emphasis on bacteria growth or fungi growth.

If we want to feed bacteria we emphasize sugars, a protein source, and provide extra minerals.

If we want to create an environment suitable for fungi we add more complex foods which include fish emulsion, soluble kelp, and protein meals. I recommend brewing for both beneficial bacteria and fungi.

I add the liquids directly into the brewer, and the solids, like the worm castings, we put in cheese cloth or paint strainer bags. I try to fill my barrel with water and leave it to heat up and allow the chlorine to dissipate before brewing. Depending on the air and water temps, the brew could take anywhere from 24 to 48 or more hrs. The big question is usually “how do you know it’s done”? At first it will be tricky; a good indication is after you see the foam form on top you know the microbes are alive and growing, you will see what has been described as “bio-slime” on the inside of the brewer, as well as on the strainer bags, this is usually when I stop my brew and apply to my whole patch via my overheads in order for the entire patch to get covered, as long as it’s brewed at least 24-48 hrs. The foam it will drop off a bit, as you brew, but remember, as the microbial numbers increase, the dissolved oxygen levels decrease. It is crucial that air is continually bubbled through the system to keep the extract aerobic, if you lose power, or maybe someone trips over the air hose knocking it out, the brew should not be kept….REMEMBER…when in doubt, throw it out! The Tea should have a sweet smell to it.

If I notice that the plants need Kelp or Fish, I’ll add it to the brew instead of applying a separate nutrient application. Another question is usually: “How much tea do you give to your plants”? The simple answer is: You cannot give your plants too much, when we brew Compost Tea, we are not brewing a batch of fertilizer, you are applying water with a ton of beneficial organisms, I’ve applied 100 or more gallons to my patch per week and have had very happy plants.

The only true way to see if you have a good brew is to put it under a microscope and see the organisms swimming. I have had my brew tested for Dissolved oxygen, it came through with flying colors, part of the reason I am a big fan of the brewer I am using, I’ve used the Soil Soup brewer and other homemade brewers, the current brew and brewer have produced the best response from my plants, and my soil is filled with earthworms every season!

The Brewer:

I decided to try out the brewer that Thad Starr was using; Dale Fisher was kind enough to post the step by step tutorial on his website. Here it is copied from Dale’s site

There has been a lot of discussion about compost tea and making brewers, so I thought I would document how I made mine. Much of the information and ideas about how to make this came from Thad Starr.

Supplies used: 42 gallon poly barrel, Active Aqua 110lpm air pump , 25ft soaker hose, poly barrel drain assembly kit, hose bib, 12ft pvc pipe (I used 3/4″), pvc fittings (4-”T’s” and 4-elbows), 10ft poly vinyl tubing, hose adapter to connect tubing to soaker hose, some hose clamps (optional) and paint strainer bags. That’s about it.

Please click on the link below to pen the full PDF file with detailed , step by step instructions with pictures.

Compost Tea

AG/Hort Citrus Program

The Citrus Program is designed for GRAPEFRUIT • KUMQUAT • LEMON • LIME • MANDARIN • ORANGE •PUMMELLO • and AVOCADO, it is essential for the health of Citrus trees and maximum yields.

Please Click on the following link to access the AG/Hort Citrus Program: AG/Hort Citrus Program

AG/Hort Soft Berry Growing Program

The Soft Berries Growing program was designed for  Strawberries • Cranberries• Blueberries • Boysenberries.

It walks your through from transplant to harvest, adding the necessary nutrients as the plants need them through the various stages of growth.

If you love berries but hate the prices at the grocery store, grow your own farm fresh berries that will taste as good if not better than the local farm stand!

Please click on the following link to access the AG/Hort Soft Berry Growing Program: AG/Hort Soft Berry Program

Grape Program

The grape Program covers everything from Shoot growth, Disease Control to Harvest.

Anyone that has grown Grapes knows how difficult it can be to control disease, this program takes a proactive approach on its control.

Whether you’re growing grapes to make Jams, Jellys or Wine, this program can help you produce farm quality grapes.


Please Click on the following link to access the Grape Growing program: AG/Hort Grape Program

AG/Hort Watermelon Program

The Watermelon Program is a  Liquid Foliar nutritional Program for Fruit Set & Production of Consistent, Marketable & High Quality Watermelons.

Following the Watermelon Program, you can succesfully grow Farm Fresh, High Quality Watermelon for resale and competition, or just to enjoy with friends and family!

Please click on the following link to access the Watermelon Program: AG/Hort Watermelon Program

Seed Germination Program

The seed germination program was designed to aid in germination of Annuals• Perennials • Vegetables • Fruits• Herbs, providing the essential nutrients and biological disease control to give plants the foundation they need to get started.

Click on the following link to access the Seed Germination Program: AG/Hort Seed Germination Program

Tomato Ag/Hort Growing Program

The Tomato Ag/Hort Program is an essential program that provides Tomato Plants with everything they need from transplant to harvest.

Following this program, you can grow amazing farm fresh tomatoes that will taste as good if not better than your local farm stand and grocery store!

Please click on the following link to open the Tomato Program  Tomato AG/Hort Growing Program.

Cucurbit Ag/Hort Growing Program

The Cucurbit Growing program is a liquid program for the production of large and consistent melons and cucurbits all season designed for Cucumbers, Cantaloupe, Squash, Pumpkins, & Melons. 

Please Click on the following link to access the Cucurbit AG/Hort Growing Program

Advanced Fertilizing Program

We’ve developed an Advanced Fertilizing Program designed to supply the proper nutrients needed based upon the various stages of growth, by applying nutrients in this manner, we can optimize plant health, growth rates, yields and overall quality of fruit and produce grown.

We’ve given an overview of how we prepare the soil prior to planting, application rates and frequency of application as well.

Please click on the link below to open the Advanced Fertilizing Program.

Advanced Fertilizing Program