Compost tea does it do any good?

wireman54302(4)August 24, 2013

I have herd so many good things about compost tea's I felt like I would be crazy not to do it. Just go to you tube and check it out, you will find all kinds of people telling about how to make it, and all the success stories they have. You can have the biggest vegetables at the fair, keep diseases away, keep pests away, I watched a video about a guy in Alaska who has numerous records for the worlds largest vegetables. So what does he credit this miraculous achievement to, you guessed it compost tee. Very convincing stuff.

Then I googled "compost tea scientific studies" hoping to find the perfect recipe, what I found was that all the data suggests little to no evidence of any beneficial reason to use any kind of compost tea. There does however seem to be a risk for getting e-coli poisoning. From what I have read it seems to me that it's kind of foolish to try something with such "possible" catastrophic consequences when the rewards at best are minimal.

I don't question the sincerity of the people who made the you tube videos, most aren't selling me anything. On the same token the institutions doing the studies have no motivation either way either.

So unless someone here knows of a study to the contrary I certainly am not going to try this. I am also very curious if anyone here has done side by side comparisons with compost tea that showed any benefit.

For what it's worth what does seem to work for me and is backed up with scientific studied, is organic and 100% free is human urine with ash. Sounds gross I know but it's great for plants that like nitrogen like tomatoes, and corn, suppose to increase yield by up to 40%

Have a great day


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I generally agree with you on the assessment of the benefits of compost tea. We had a good bit of discussion on this recently - see the thread linked below. In that thread is a link to a University of KY review that is insightful.

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost tea discussion

This post was edited by TXEB on Sat, Aug 24, 13 at 11:56

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 11:55AM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

Harvard University uses it. I don't know how scientific their studies are but they claim it works.


Here is a link that might be useful: Harvard Compost Tea

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 12:08PM
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We discussed the Harvard use in the thread cited above, and when and where a compost extract makes sense. Harvard is basically using the Soil Foodweb folks approach to compost tea.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 12:27PM
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I've never used it. Logic would say it has to do some good but is it worth the effort? I'm not convinced.

Plants generally get most of the nutrients through their roots so I'd be more inclined to work in the soil area to improve plant performance. Using the compost tea for watering might have more benefits but just relying on leaf uptake seems a little far fetched in my mind.

Once again I've never used the stuff so what do I know.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 1:09PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

I used it. Didn't result in any change I could determine.

My thought is that good growing practices, combined with good soil and weather, as well sa cultivars that thrive in your region, provides good results.

Basically, move to Alaska and you, too, can grow giant stuff. And that's without compost tea.

Try it to determine what it can do for you. Then, depending upon your results, continue, or not.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 3:05PM
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I have read some of the compost tea info that has come out recently. I only noticed it the last month or so.

My compost tea the first few years was a very basic product; rain water and compost that was stirred a few times a day. In the last few years I used a fish bait aerator and added blackstrap molasses.

Based on some recent info, I would be inclined to skip the blackstrap molasses in the future. Not all the experts agree on the best and safest way to make compost tea.

It is rather difficult for me to say with 100% confidence that compost tea is a definite benefit to my tomato plants. I produce tomatoes later in the year than other nearby backyard tomato growers -- but I also do other things they do not do. Such as applying compost as mulch often; trimming the lower branches off; ruthlessly cutting off any blights; etc.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 4:54PM
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If you have a soil that does not have adequate amounts of organic matter and, therefore, a not very active Soil Food Web Compost Teas may be of some benefit, for a time. One reason for spraying Compost Teas around is to increase the microbial life but if there is not enough other food around they will not be active and beneficial for long.
If you have adequate levels of organic matter in your soil and a good healthy Soil Food Web at work spraying Compost Tea around will do little to that ecosystem.
Dr. Inghams research showed that where the Soil Food Web was lacking spraying compost Tea did increase those wee buggers. Some other research seems to indicate that if an adequate Soil Food Web exists Compost Tea does little to increase that population or benefit the plants.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 6:31AM
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david52 Zone 6

I grow peppers in 30-odd containers. Every season, I mix up a batch of 'tea' by filling a large, 3/4 cubic meter tank with a mixture of 1/3 mostly finished compost, 2/3 raw irrigation water. Stir that up a bit, leave it sit overnight, then the next morning I thoroughly water all the containers with the black tea. Then tip out the sodden compost residue into a flower bed or something.

I think its worth it. No scientific proof, but my pepper plants sure perk right up - deeper green, stronger plants, and so on. Lots of theoretical benefits of adding microbes and nutrients in soluble form.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 1:55PM
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"Then I googled "compost tea scientific studies" hoping to find the perfect recipe, what I found was that all the data suggests little to no evidence of any beneficial reason to use any kind of compost tea."

Keep in mind that a lot of this research is for large field plantings, not the home garden.

To the commercial grower...every time you prepare something, buy something, run a piece of equipment through a field, labor, etc...that's a money input into a crop. If an additional input doesn't produce a profit output, it's useless to them...especially if it's not crop crucial.

Compost teas don't add to or organic matter...most farmers don't need the benefit of extra microbial populations...and overall if you're going to bother to spread anything on a large field you're better off with compost alone or other organic matter additions which add to the soil structure as well provide the other compost benefits.

To the home gardener...a compost tea can supply concentrated additional nutrients, boost microbial activity, and there's very little cost/labor loss for managing a small plot. The home gardener can do just fine without using a compost tea...but there's very little disadvantage to making/using one except over-doing it.

Btw, if you're even going to bother with a compost might as well make one that's more that just compost for best effect. Seaweed, or another nutrient dense addition, makes the whole thing worthwhile over simply trying to make a concentrate out of pure compost.

Also, apply to soil...not the's such a waste to go through the trouble of making up a batch of tea only to apply it to leaves.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Sun, Aug 25, 13 at 18:18

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 6:15PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I use compost tea all the time. Here's how I make it. I first spread compost over the bed. Then I water it. Viola! Compost tea.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 7:22PM
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It's not compost tea that I make, but another cocktail of sorts. I used to water everything with water hauled in buckets or something like that. I've got a 500 gallon tank on a wagon now.

2011, I hauled water alone. Average tomatoes, loaded. Everything did well except peppers. They were OK, not stellar. Sweetpotatoes were just OK considering I had a really good year in 2010.

2012, I added a small bottle (pint or quart?) of fish emulsion, a bottle of chelated iron (and other micronutrients because I needed either manganese or magnesium), a small bottle of NOG (Natural Organic Growth, really, that's what it's called), and a handful of 20 Mule Team Borax (because I needed boron). I made either 200 or 300 gallons. It was weak compared to package directions, so I used it every time I watered. Then it got hot, 100+, and I quit tending to anything. Later in the summer, I noticed that there was red out where the cayenne pepper plants were, and when I looked, they were loaded, waist high plants. never had any that tall before, let alone loaded like that. Tomatoes were terrible, but so were everybody else's. In the fall, my sweetpotatoes were huge! And plentiful. Never had a crop of sweets like that before. Not sure if the cocktail was to blame or if it was just a good year for cayennes and sweets.

2013, it has rained 52" so far, so everything has suffered. Next year, I'll try again and use the rest of the cocktail I made this year. Almost makes me favor a little drought so I can control the water flow.

I also add copious amounts of horse manure in the off season. And leaves from town. But those are every year.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 12:17PM
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