When I first heard of compost tea brewing, I thought it meant I could enjoy a nice cup of chamomile and use the spent leaves in the compost bin. I’ve learned a lot since then, and have come to view the compost tea brewer as an organic gardening essential.
Tea is Good for Plants
Compost tea is exactly what it sounds like: Compost steeped in water. Through a specific process, the compost tea brewer extracts the beneficial organisms from the compost, leaving behind a nutrient rich water solution that plants really thrive on.
While it sounds as simple as soaking a tea bag, the process is actually quite scientific- and complicated. Let’s see if we can condense it just to give you the basics.
You probably already know that compost is full of beneficial microorganisms. To make tea, you bag up some compost and put it in the compost tea brewer with water. Then, you “feed” the microorganisms so they multiply quickly. Inside the brewer, air is circulated so the beneficial bacteria thrive.
This aeration is really important. Without it, pathogens like e coli will take over. That kind of tea will do your plants more harm than good. But with the help of a good brewer, you can end up with a pure liquid “energy” drink for your garden.
You spray this tea directly on the leaves of your plants. In traditional compost, the nutrients have to start at the roots. When you spray the tea on the leaves, it goes directly to where it can most effectively fight off parasites and toxins. You’ll end up with healthy, delicious fruits and vegetables!
Let’s Get Brewing!
If you are a long-time gardener, you will probably have a compost bin or pile full of delicious bacteria waiting to be bagged and brewed. If not, you can buy organic compost at your local garden store or online.
On to the brewer.There are several great home-brewers for sale, with a wide price range. If you just have a small garden, I would recommend the Dirt Simple 5 Gallon Compost Tea Brewer.
This little power-house is less than $200, and includes all the hardware required to get you up and running. You can even check out this video for simple first-time brewing directions!
For a fraction of the cost and a little more manual labor, you can build a bucket brewer using items purchased at your local hardware store and pet shop.
5 gallon bucket
¼ inch tubing (about 20 feet)
2 one-inch airstones
2 four-inch airstones
A sock, paint strainer, or similar item to hold the compost
1. Cut the tubing into two equal pieces.
2. Cut two six-inch pieces from each of the longer pieces.
3. Attach one T-joint to each of the longer pieces of tubing.
4. Attach a short piece of tubing to each side of the T. Now you have two long pieces of tubing, each with two “arms.”
5. Attach the one-inch airstones to the ends of the “arms” on one piece.
6. Attach the four-inch airstones to the ends of the “arms” on the second piece.
7. Secure the empty ends of the tubing into the airpump.
To Begin Brewing
1. Place the four-inch airstones into the bottom of the bucket.
2. Fill bucket with rain water, well water, or dechlorinated city water.
3. Fill sock with compost and tie it off. Place it in the water with two tablespoons unsulfured, organic molasses. (This is your mocrobial “feeder.”)
4. Put the one-inch airstones into the water.
5. Turn on the airpump.
6. Allow the tea to steep, bubbling, for a couple of hours.
7. Fill sprayer or watering can with fresh compost tea!
Watch the Garden Frugal video below for step-by-step instructions. There are two parts to the video, but you only need to watch this first one to learn how to build your brewer!