Making Compost for Compost Tea

“Take care of the waste on the farm and turn it into useful channels’ should be the slogan of every farmer.” ~ George Washington Carver

  Quality compost and clean water are the primary ingredients for making compost tea. The key to success with compost tea is harnessing the microbial life within compost. Much like yeast or sourdough is a biological starter for breads, compost serves as a biological starter for compost tea. The compost provides an inoculum of the microbiology responsible for the composting process. The brewing of compost tea allows us to cultivate and extract the beneficial composting microbes into a solution that is easily applied to plants and soils. If you’re interested in producing high-quality compost teas make sure you start with good quality compost.

Without access to a microscope or the financial means to contract biological assessments how can I ensure that my compost is biologically active and ready to use in compost tea?

  Use your nose!  High quality mature compost should smell sweet, earthy, or possess a slight fungi/ mushroom smell.  If it smells strong or foul in any way do not use it or allow to mature longer.  Vermicomposting (composting with worms) is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you have a high quality compost possessing a diversity of biology.  See our page with Advice for Vermicomposting for more information on composting with worms.

Technique For Building A Superior Compost Heap

Use 35% brown materials, 35% fresh green materials, and 30% fresh manure.  If possible, use locally available hardwood chips, herbs/ weeds and manure.

  • Build in layers 3 – 4” thick with organic materials gathered from your local area.
    • 3 - 4" of brown, 3 - 4" of green, 3 - 4" of manure
  • Apply a thin layer of organic steel cut oats to each layer.  This will help to feed fungi and aid in producing great compost.
    • You can substitute rolled oats or oat flour but it is not as effective.
    • If you have a local brewery or home brew enthusiast in you local area see if you can gather a bucket or two of fresh grain mash to replace the oats.
      • Collect this and use fresh before alcohol fermentation begins.
  • Lightly dust each layer with an available rock powder such as; AZOMITE for micro nutrients and Rock Phosphate or Bone Meal as a source of calcium and phosphorus
  • Water each layer with a good balanced compost tea or compost extract
  • Build in layers until your heap is roughly 4’ x 4’ x 4’
  • Cover your heap with a large sheet of wet cardboard to shed excessive water and prevent the loss of valuable nutrients.
    • You may need to weigh-down the cardboard to keep it in place.
  • Turn compost heaps 2 – 3 times over a 3 month period.
    • Allow your compost heap to mature for 3 weeks after its last turning.
    • If you do not wish to turn your compost heap then allow it to age for 6 – 9 months.