Q: What is compost tea?
A:Compost tea is a concentration of the microbes found in nature. The concentrated bacteria and microbes in compost tea increases the plants ability to use compost beyond what nature can ever muster. It allows you to grow your soil rather than just your plants. Brewing compost tea is absolutely the best thing you can do to enhance the results of any garden, farm, or landscape – organic, hydroponic, aquaponic, conventional, biodynamic, you name it.
A: NO! soil microbes are different from gut microbes, just stick with probiotics like natural yogurt.
Q: What do microbes do, exactly?
A: Simply put, Microbes turn soil into plant food, but the reality is more complicated. Microbes perform countless beneficial jobs in the garden such as suppressing pests & diseases, helping plants eat, and generally working to mature soil and operating symbiotically to aid and protect plants by increasing the health and nutrient cycling capacity of soil and the overall ecosystem. The end result of their activity is the creation of humus, Also known as “finished” compost. Humus is the part of the soil that plants “eat”. Microbes also aid in suppressing pests & diseases, helping plants eat, and generally working to mature soil and operating symbiotically to aid and protect plants by increasing the health and nutrient cycling capacity of soil and the overall ecosystem. They are a catalyst for turning nutrients in the soil into a form usable by plants. they are the digestive system of the plant world.
Here is a listing of some of the benefits found from growing with microbes and compost tea:
Q: What is the Soil Food Web?
A: The soil food web is the food chain of microbes that live in soil. This is the network of life that works to sustain soil processes and all of the organisms found there. Think of soil microbes like all of the organisms in the ocean.
In the ocean the plankton is eaten by the shrimp, who is eaten by the tuna, who is eaten by the shark. The balance of organisms in the food web sustains all of life. Imagine what would happen if you took all of the plankton out of the ocean?
Soil trophic levels, or life levels, consist of, from smallest to largest – bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. The bacteria are the plankton of the soil, and nematodes are the sharks.
Apex predators like sharks or lions on the plain are only present when the ecosystem is healthy and the lower organisms are present in proper balance and diversity. As it is in natural living systems, the smallest organisms support the health of the higher organisms.
Due to the soil-destructive methods undertaken to develop property and the over-use of artificial growing products the higher organisms of the soil food web are typically missing, which allows the parasitic organisms that we spend so much time and money trying to kill to thrive in the void.
In other words, when using conventional approaches to agriculture we are actually creating more of the problems we are trying to fix. We are treating our symptoms rather than the root of the problem. In human terms, we are taking the pharmaceutical drug rather than changing our diet and taking a probiotic.
Q: What is BioEnergetic Agriculture?
A: We call what we do BioEnergetic Agriculture, and define it as a method of agriculture that maximizes potential of the natural growing cycle, as opposed to modern methods that circumvent and disrupt the process by directly adding chemicals and nutrients that have short term goals and long term consequences.
BioEnergetic Agriculture operates off of the principle that a wholistic living system can only thrive when all required components are present, and they all work together in synergy, or resonance. There are four platforms that anyone undertaking agronomic activity must recognize in order to maximize the results of the holistic living system –physical, mineral, biological and energetic.
BioEnergetics is the only growing method on Earth that approaches the entirety of life through agriculture. Conventional growing is physical and mineral, the farmer plows and fertilizes. “Organic” growing addresses the biological realm, but both conventional and organic growing fail to address life force.
Q: Why is Earth Compound superior to other biological inoculants?
A:Earth Compound is BioEnergetic humus. It is created from a consortium of microbial sources including several sources of animal and vegetable organic farm compost, Worm Castings, the BioDynamic preparations (BD500-508), and RNA-based microbes called Archaea. Needless to say, the “farm organism” is extremely strong and diverse.
Earth Compound is not heated or pasteurized in any way and literally comes directly from Earth processes straight to your garden. Many biological products are comprised of microbes grown in a lab, which makes them lazy,immature, and weak. Unlike lab grown cultures, all the microbes in Earth Compound are grown by Mother Nature.
There are trillions of them, but we can’t tell you all the beneficial microbes in Earth Compound because we can’t count or identify them all! For instance, it is estimated that only 5% of bacteria and 10% of fungal species are known based on the rate of discovery.
Earth Compound is certified by the Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI) and BioDynamic certified by Demeter USA.
Use as a biological inoculant for compost tea or as a field spray. Can be used in any commercial or custom compost tea brewing system on the market.
Q: What does Earth Tonic do for compost tea?
A:Earth Tonic is a BioEnergetically enhanced mineral catalyst. It contains every Earth-bound element available, over 90 elements in a natural ionic colloidal plant available form.
Derived from 100% Organic Materials – Live Ocean Water, Himalayan Crystal Salt, the Biodynamic Preparations (BD500-508) and enhanced using proprietary energetic techniques.
Earth Tonic is SEVEN TIMES more concentrated than seawater alone, there cannot be a more concentrated solution. 1 ml / gal = 100ppm. But due to its natural balance it can be used at higher concentrations than conventional fertilizers without burning the plant.
Not only does the diversity of elements in Earth Tonic provide the plant everything it wants, but microbes use them too. Microbes don’t have mouths to chew organic matter, they make enzymes to break things down chemically. Each element is used as a tool to manufacture the enzymes and other metabolic compounds that allow them to work their magic.
Every element on the periodic table has an enzyme potential, it’s called a co-factor. This means that if all mineral elements are not present all enzymes cannot be created. If you are brewing compost tea (or growing a garden) and not using Earth Tonic it’s like hiring plants and microbes to build a neighborhood and giving them half the tools.
Earth Tonic makes fertilizers work better. We tend to think only about how elements affect the plant directly, but elements also work together in balance to make themselves more available. In other words, without ALL elements present, the plant and garden are working harder than necessary and cannot grow to its full genetic potential.
Earth Tonic also makes soil amendment and other biocatalysts work better. Products that contain vitamins, enzymes, carbohydrates, amino acids, humates, or any other natural product – cannot work properly without ALL of the elements produced by Mother Nature present.
Earth Tonic is inspired by the work of Dr. Maynard Murray, who documented his work with sea minerals in the landmark book Sea Energy Agriculture, and the great Charles Walters who authored the pioneering book Fertility From the Ocean Deep.
Pests are attracted to unhealthy plants by infrared vibrations according to the work of Dr. Phil Callahan. Earth Tonic allows the plant to grow within itself and not attract target pests, but also works to repel them. Pests are Natures recyclers, and cannot digest complete proteins. When plants have everything they want they can protect themselves.
After all, why would Mother Nature make an element not needed in the garden?
Q: What is Earth Syrup?
A: Earth Syrup is a molasses-based product diversified with a consortium of beneficial organic ingredients. It contains molasses, kelp, fish, humates, soft rock phosphate, whey, feather meal, worm castings, yucca, greensand and VAM myccorhizal fungi.
All ingredients are micronized below 500 micron for maximum solubility and availability to plant and microbe. Many gardening ingredients are created using harsh chemicals in order to ensure availability in the garden. Earth Syrup does this physically rather than chemically by increasing the surface area over a millions times.
Earth Syrup is the perfect balance between growth stimulator, microbe food, sweetener, and micronutrient delivery system. Earth Syrup can be used as a stand-alone product equivalent to the many “sweetener” and “carbohydrate” products on the market. And because of all the different ingredients, you get real plant food from every angle.
Q: Why is Earth Kelp the best liquid kelp on the market?
A: Earth Kelp is the king of liquid kelps. The kelp concentration is THREE TIMES competitors and with the addition of the living minerals and humic materials from Earth Tonic, the result is liquid ascophyllum nodosum kelp that cannot be beat.
All liquid kelps are a result of an extraction. The cheap way to do this is with caustic chemicals and heat. There is no heat or harsh chemicals used to extract the liquid kelp in Earth Kelp. We use a proprietary cellular infusion extraction that physically breaks down the cell wall.
The cytoplasm inside is chock full of minerals, micronutrients, and varied phytohormones such as cytokinins, auxins, and gibberillins. Kelp is one of the only sources of these dynamic compounds in Nature and they result in amazing results with plants.
Q: Can your compost tea ingredients be used in all tea brewers?
A: Yes! Earth Compound, Earth Tonic, Earth Syrup, and Earth Kelp can all be used as individual products and also as a complete recipe in ANY custom-built or commercial compost tea brewer on the market.
Q: Do your ingredients have a shelf life before they are brewed?
A: There is no shelf life on our products. The microbes contained in Earth Compound and Earth Recharge are dormant and stable. When compost is dormant the microbes form cysts that can stay dormant almost indefinitely. For most cysts moisture triggers them to execyst (or hatch), so they are not activated until brewed.
Earth Kelp is shelf stable no different than other liquid kelps on the market in regards to shelf life. Earth Tonic is a colloidal product and stable on the shelf. Nothing biological can grow in a supersaturated salt brine anyway, so it is indefinitely shelf stable. And Earth Syrup is stable as long as it is kept dry in a temperature controlled environment.
Q: What are Batch Brewing and Perpetual Brewing?
A: Batch Brewing is the traditional approach to brewing compost tea. It means that you are brewing up the ingredients with the intention of using all of the solution at one time, then brewing another batch next week.
Perpetual Brewing involves continuing the original compost tea brew by replacing what you have distributed. Let’s say you distribute or use 20 gallons of a 55 gallon compos tea brew. At the end of the day you would add 20 gallons of water then (4) units of our 5 gallon recipe.
This may be against conventional wisdom, but we have done this in our Perpetual Microbe Makers for many years with amazing results. Nature doesn’t start over, why should we!?
Q: How do I brew compost tea?
A: Many of us may recall our grandparents soaking compost in a sock in a barrel for days before using on the fields. Some maybe stirring it back and forth and singing a tune. This, and the compost bins and worm farms that collect moisture that comes out of the compost, are the origin of the modern concept of compost tea, but it has come a long way.
Rather than steeping manure or compost in water to gain its benefits, now it is possible to actually grow the microbes that make compost so unique and valuable by applying aeration and using proper organic microbial food sources.
There’s an acronym for this AACT that means Actively Aerated Compost Tea. This form of actively aerating the ingredients used to make compost tea is used to distinguish between the passive practice of steeping compost, or creating an anaerobic (without air) solution.
Think of brewing compost tea as keeping an aquarium. One aerates the water for the fish to breathe, same for the microbes. One feeds the fish organic food, so it is with the microbes using organic fertilizers.
Here is a simple explanation of the brewing process:
1) Gather materials and ingredients, typical materials include – bucket, air pump, tubing, airstone
2) Aerate water for at least 1 hour before adding ingredients for chlorinated water
3) Add ingredients and stir to ensure solubility of all ingredients
4) When Batch Brewing brew for at least 12 hours, and no more than 48 hours without adding more ingredients
Q: How is “compost tea” different from “compost extraction”?
A: Many commercial compost tea “extractors” are purchased on their ability to create large amounts of compost solution in a short amount of time. In other words, with extraction, because you are simply running water through compost in an attempt to “extract” the microbes, there is no need to brew for at least 12 hours because you are not growing microbes.
This provides convenience for the grower, but begs the question what are we missing?
There is no doubt that an extraction results in the release of microbes from compost, but consider this, when we brush our teeth, we are brushing microbes off, and we don’t get all of them. Microbes hold on really tight!
What’s to say that some microbes can’t hang on better than others? Besides, at some point the extraction becomes diluted once the compost has been exhausted, and it is not clear how this point is determined on a routine basis. There is a lack of consistency.
All methods are beneficial, but whenever possible, we recommend using AACT methods for growing microbes.
Q: How long is compost tea good for after it is brewed?
A: It is ideal to use the compost tea the same day as it is removed from the brewer. If that is not possible, use it as soon as possible within 3 days.
After 3 days of no food and no aeration the microbes are no longer active. We have experienced customers using the tea weeks later with no negative results, but some people may be turned off by this recommendation, having read about anaerobic conditions.
But never waste compost tea. I’m sure there are some desperate and neglected bushes in your landscape that would love a shot of perfect plant food, even if the microbes are no longer alive.
If the compost tea brew is kept in the aeration, we have documented significant microbial activity up to 5 days after the beginning of the brew without adding more recipe ingredients.
Q: Do environmental conditions affect my brew?
A: Temperature, humidity, and evaporation all can affect the brewing of compost tea. If water is too cold, biological reproduction slows; if it is too warm, microorganisms are encouraged to grow but may be inhibited by depleted oxygen or excessive evaporation.
The higher the temperature, the less oxygen can be dissolved in water. In extremely low temperatures, it is prudent and cost effective to use a heating element. It is much more expensive to use a chiller on water and hard to change the ambient weather, but temperatures between 60-90F are ideal.
Q: Can I customize the ingredients in my compost tea brew?
A: Absolutely, but we highly recommend starting with our recipe so you can have a baseline for results. Our stuff really works!!
There is no “correct” way to brew compost tea. The recipes that we recommend as a starting point and are based on years of research and are designed to keep the concentration below a range that could negatively affect your garden.
In other words, our recipe allows you to use the brew concentrated straight out of the brewer with no possibility of harming your garden.
Q: Can I encourage different organisms in my brew?
A: Yes. Sugar sources such as Earth Syrup encourage bacterial dominant tea. Earth Kelp encourages more fungal dominance. Short cycle/vegetative/annual plants desire more bacterial dominance. Hard woods/perennials desire more fungal dominance.
It is a good idea to use both categories of food sources in every brew, simply use more of the food source that will encourage the types of organisms you want to grow.
To be clear, sugar sources like Earth Syrup do not discourage fungal growth. Vice versa for Earth Kelp. We are conducting research to determine how to grow specific trophic levels of microbes for specific applications and stages of growth.
However, do not get too carried away with this. The most important thing is to make sure you have a balanced brew and are using it consistently in the garden.
Q: Is compost tea a fertilizer?
A: Our compost tea contains ALL microbes and ALL elements. Everything that Nature has to offer. It is both a fertilizer (food sources and catalysts = Earth Tonic, Earth Syrup, Earth Kelp) and a living solution (reproductive microbes from biological inoculant = Earth Compound).
When the compost tea is diluted it is less of a fertilizer, but when diluted the microbes are still alive and become active and replicate when used in gardening situations.
Typically when people reference fertilizer they mean the macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (or NPK). Our recipe has a relatively low NPK making it impossible to burn plants, but it provides ALL elements in a natural balance.
Q: Can I mix my fertilizers & nutrients with compost tea?
A: Absolutely. Compost tea will increase the absorption of your current organic or hydroponic fertilizer & nutrient solutions. In fact, you may even be able to reduce the amount of primary fertilizer upon implementation of compost tea to your garden. There are no compatibility issues with compost tea in any application…period.
You can even use artificial base hydroponic nutrients to complete your nutrient program for a complete system. Either add it to your brewer towards the end of brewing, or add the finished brew directly to your reservoir.
Q: How do I use compost tea?
A: General Use: A gallon of our compost tea concentrate can be applied on 250 – 500 square feet as a soil conditioner and plant tonic, regardless of the dilution.
A gallon of our compost tea concentrate should be diluted no more than 1:16 (or 1 cup per gallon) for all applications.
One of the main reasons compost tea is so important is that microbes are not mobile, they do not jump over the fence 😉 For this reason it is very important to apply compost tea to the entire soil area. You may apply fertilizer products as a top dress to the plant, but make sure to “paint the soil” with compost tea. Microbes move as little as a micrometer in their lifetime!
Use compost tea weekly for maximum results, or at least monthly.
Poor soils, or soils that have been treated chemically (artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc.) should be treated more intensively to start than land not treated synthetically.
Here are some further ideas for using compost tea in different applications:
• Compost Pile Inoculant: Dilute 1 gallon of concentrate into enough water to saturate the pile completely, repeat monthly.
• Hose End Sprayers: Fill with concentrate and set sprayer to the highest dilution and apply weekly.
• Foliar Feeding: Mix 1 gallon concentrate to 4 gallons of water and apply weekly
• Seed Soak: Soak seeds in compost tea concentrate for at least 1 hour, but no longer than 12 hours. For smaller seeds a paper towel moistened with compost tea concentrate can be used.
• Plant Cuttings: Dip cuttings into full strength compost tea.
• Diseased Plants: Spray plant with undiluted compost tea until healed.
• Tree Root Soak: Mix 1 gallon of concentrate to 2 gallons of water and apply weekly.
• Transplanting: Mix 1 gallon concentrate to 2 gallons of water and spray planting hole. Water the rest into the soil after planting. Dip roots directly into solution if possible.
• Houseplants: Mix 1 gallon concentrate to 8 gallons of water and apply monthly.
• Raised Beds: Mix 1 gallon concentrate to 8 gallons of water and apply weekly. For overwintering, apply full strength concentration to recycle dead roots into fertilizer for next season.
Q: How often should I use compost tea?
A: Compost tea can be used every day on every watering if wanted. If using our system it cannot be overused unless you are over watering your plant.
Generally, compost tea can be used weekly for optimal results. In hydroponic systems, recommend that they re-inoculate on every water change, or at least bi-weekly.
Q: Can I use compost tea in hydroponics?
A: Yes, absolutely. In fact, it can be argued that in some cases hydroponic systems receive a greater benefit from compost tea than biological soil gardens. This is due to the fact that conventional hydroponic solutions do not contain any micronutrients or beneficial microbes to begin with.
This creates an arena where bad microbes can come out and express themselves (pythium, fusarium, etc) and they will damage your crop. Using compost tea will prevent root disease, as well as create greater nutrient absorption and yields in your garden.
Our recipe is NOT a complete hydroponic nutrient. Depending on your water source, our recipe will end up between 400-700ppm on the PPM700 scale. This is from around 0.6 – 1 EC (electrical conductivity), far below normal hydroponic fertilizer concentrations.
Plus, the majority of hydroponic fertilizers are synthetic, or man-made. They provide high amounts of soluble nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (N-P-K) in order to act as a crutch for plant growth in the absence of soil.
Our recipe contains ALL elements, but it lacks the amount of macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, or NPK) needed to drive production in water alone.
Q: Do I need to adjust the pH of the compost tea?
A: No, the pH of compost tea does not need to be adjusted. Hydroponic growers are familiar with correcting the pH balance of the nutrient solution to around 6.5 for optimal results. This is only needed with artificial fertilizers.
Natural solutions are available at a wide range of pH values. It would not be a bad idea to monitor the pH over time as you brew and apply your solutions, but there is no need to use pH buffers to control it.
If you are using compost tea in hydroponics, continue to adjust your pH after you have added compost tea to your system as usual.
Q: Is it safe to eat plants that have been sprayed with compost tea?
A: The leaf surface is a far different environment than the soil. While certain bacteria do live on the leaf surface, most die off when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Keep in mind there are more bacteria in and on a healthy human body than there are human cells, so microbes, on balance, are more important than we give them credit.
As with anything that has no baseline definition, you can find references to brewing compost tea promoting pathogens. The USDA NOP is notorious for putting strict guidelines on the use of compost tea in agriculture but there is no consistent research pointing to this danger. In fact, far more dangerous conditions are created on conventional factory farms.
We do not recommend drinking compost tea, and would also recommend washing your plants before eating them. However, as long as you are not using compost tea as salad dressing, you should have nothing to worry about 😉
Q: What considerations should I make with water?
A: Clean water is essential for quality compost tea. Try capturing rain water. You can generate over 600 gallons of water in an inch of rain on a 1000’ roof. It’s free, it’s clean and it’s alive.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) is the most effective means of cleaning water on a large scale, but it can be costly relative to carbon filtration.
If you are not able to collect rain water or filter your brew water, at least, run the unit for an hour before brewing to ensure any chlorine has dissipated out of the system. Not only will it remove the chlorine quicker, but it will create living water.