By Emmy Ulmschneider and Debbie Roland, Master Gardeners
Four thousand years ago the Egyptians were making compost tea which simply extracts nutrients from compost and puts it in a liquid form. This method is easier to apply to the soil and the plants. A big benefit is that you won’t be lugging those bags of compost from your car to your garden or yard.
Compost tea can be made by making and filling a burlap or open weave fabric bag with compost. Next suspend the sack over a container of water (barrel or bucket) and stir it occasionally. The larger the bag and the more full it is, the more concentrated the liquid will be.
Adding a food source such as molasses (about one ounce) will help grow more soil microbes. When you add this mixture to your soil it provides an increase in the nutrients to your plant.
To make a compost tea extract put one gallon of compost into a five gallon bucket. Add water up to a few inches from the rim of the bucket. Stir frequently. After five days (a few days more or less won’t make a difference) strain the liquid and use it to water your plants.
You can use a pitcher, watering can or even a sprayer to apply the liquid to your plants. If using a sprayer be sure to filter the tea well so that you don’t clog it up. If you are trying to give poor soil a boost the tea can be used straight without any dilution and reapplied every few weeks.
If you are using it as a fertilizer, it can be diluted before applying.
The smell should be earthy and sweet whether you make compost tea or compost extract.
Another method is Bokashi composting. Bokashi composting is anerobic fermentation resulting in a product that can be added to compost bins to further decay or dug directly into the soil. It requires a special airtight Bokashi bin, which you can make or purchase. It has a spigot at the bottom to drain the nutrient rich tea. In the Bokashi bin the food waste including dairy and meat scraps, is layered with a microorganism infused inoculant which you can make or buy commercially. To use the bin, layer chopped food waste and inoculant, covered tightly; it is after all an anerobic process! Wait about ten days until the scraps are fermented, drain off the accumulated liquid, add the fermented food scraps to a compost bin and start all over. You can add the Bokashi liquid straight into gardens or dilute in with water for house plants.
So whether you are a do it yourselfer or limited by time, there are alternatives for you to increase the production capacity of your garden or field and the health of your houseplants.
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700.
Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.