Compost tea as a nutrient and microbial rich liquid fertilizer that you can use on your plants. The nutrients are in liquid form compost tea can easily be absorbed by your plants and your soil having an almost immediate effect in improving soil fertility. While you can make compost tea from almost any type of composting system, this article is about how to make compost tea from worm castings, specifically.
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Compost tea vs leachate
Before we delve too much into how to make compost tea it is important to address the difference between compost tea and leachate. Leachate is the liquid drained off from your bins. This can be either the water that is being lost as your food waste breaks down.
The value of the leachate to your plants can vary widely depending on the age of the material in your bin and how much water is being added. If the bin isn’t draining properly, leachate can sit at the bottom of the worm bin for long periods. When this happens it loses both the good aerobic bacteria as well as oxygen. As the oxygen levels go down the good bacteria will die off.
Worm compost tea is produced by extracting the nutrients and beneficial microorganisms (microbes such as aerobic bacteria fungi nematodes etc.) from the finished vermicompost (worm compost/ worm poop). When making our compost tea our goal is to multiply or beneficial microbes. The finished tea should have a high population of beneficial microbiology along with soluble nutrients from the vermicompost.
How to make Worm Compost tea
You will need
- A container or bucket
- An air Pump
- Worm Castings
To make your compost tea with worm castings follow the steps below:
- Mix your castings with (preferably) non chlorinated water.
- Use an air pump to aerate the liquid for about 24 hours. This will increase the population of aerobic bacteria. Adding a high energy food for your bacteria such as molasses to feed you bacteria will greatly increase the population
- Siphon off the liquid and add it to your soil
Worm compost tea benefits
Worm compost tea is loaded with trace micronutrients and trace elements that are important to overall plant health. This simple worm compost tea recipe with worm castings also multiplies the good bacteria and microorganisms necessary for healthy plant growth.
How to use your worm compost tea
You can use your compost tea in a few different ways
Adding it to the soil
The bacteria in the worm’s gut which is passed out in the castings can fix nitrogen to your soil. If it is a new area loosen the soil before adding the compost tea. This will ensure the liquid flows downward, penetrating into the soil instead of just running off along the soil surface. The castings left at the bottom of the container are useful also. You can simply mix it into your soil as you would normally
As a Foliar spray
Compost tea can be applied as a foliar spray. However, how well it works really depends on the plant. Some plants do absorb nutrients through their leaves, but others do not. Be sure to check that the plant you are using it on will absorb the trace minerals through their leaves, otherwise you would just be wasting valuable tea. Always test a small area first before applying it to the entire plant.
How often to use worm compost tea
You can apply your compost tea to your soil once every 7 to 14 days for about 3 applications. By the third application, once you are managing your soil properly (i.e. protecting it by mulching, keeping it hydrated and using enough compost) the microbial population should be high enough where any additional application would make little difference.
Utilizing compost tea will be most beneficial when trying to rehabilitate damaged and depleted soils. If your soil is full of nutrients and good soil biology the difference would not be as significant. If you are already composting with earthworms, making compost tea from your worm castings is a relatively easy next step. Compost tea should always be made fresh. Aerobic microbes can die off quickly if the oxygen levels become depleted.
You can make compost tea using traditional aerated compost or animal manures. And, If you really want to give your compost a boost there are things you can add to your compost pile to improve the final product and steps you can take to ensure you get a good result every time.