Compost tea

wordwizDecember 6, 2010

I seem to be, inadvertently, brewing compost tea, though it's more likely ice tea! This summer, I picked up some rain barrels and I cut the tops off two of them to use as compost bins. Well, in the last week or so, we received more rain than we did from August to November and as I forgot to drill holes in the bottom of the barrels, the compost is sitting in water.

Come warmer weather (in about four months!), do you reckon this tea will be worth using?


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I think your microbes will be dead and stinking as soon as temps warm up...
I'm thinking drain and salvage myself.
I thought good tea was a fresh product also, as in the fresher the better.
I may though have my brain confused about a story of Humic Acid I was reading..
You are in the right place to ask such a question... Other than myself who is not, lots of smart folks in here.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 6:57PM
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Without any movement the contents will become anaerobic (without oxygen) this will kill beneficial microbes and bacteria, will damage plants it's fed/watered to. Unless you can add some form of aeration all you get is stinky water.
Best to drain it.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 8:08PM
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Anything wrong with letting it go until spring? I don't see it getting smelly or doing much of anything as long as the temps stay well below freezing.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 10:44PM
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I'm far from an expert when it comes to compost tea. However, a word of caution.

Last year I left a rubbermaid bin outside with some leftover organic material in it, from when I finished with my garden. The rain filled up the bin, and I forgot to drain it. I thought to myself, hey, compost tea. So, I let it freeze over the winter, and when it thawed in spring, I thought it would be good to give my compost tea to one of my newer cedars. Unless something else strange happened to the tree, my "compost tea" killed the poor thing. The sister to that tree, 5 feet over, is still alive. I don't know if it was too much of a good thing, but I doubt it. Oh, and yes, it was rather stinky.

Based on my experience, but no scientific knowledge, I'm going to agree with what Beeman Gardener said, and suggest you dump it somewhere it won't harm your plants.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 12:27AM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

Well below freezing temperatures may crack the barrel or even destroy it depending how much liquid is in it.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 5:55AM
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If the water in those barrels had no place to expand, the tops have been removed, then as that water froze and expanded it might cause the barrels to crack. That is one reason to try to drain the water. Anaerobic compost tea is another reason, because anaerobic compost tea is not good for the garden.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 6:40AM
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Is this the same thing as leachate or leachate the aerobic version of "tea?"

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 11:19AM
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I don't know about others but for me, compost tea is made by steeping very mature compost or worm castings in water. The stuff leaking out of tumblers or pooling at the bottom of a compost pile/bin is leachate.

If the stuff in the barrel is not very mature compost, I'd consider it a leachate and use/not use accordingly.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 8:09PM
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What I did last year was put all my compost from upstairs and the green house into buckets with holes in the bottom. Once it started decaying, I would add some water, usually left over nuits to it and let it drain, as well let the decomposing stuff drain. Once I collected enough, I would transfer it to another bucket and stick an air hose in it and let it aerate for a few days, then bottle it, keeping the lid loose

When I was ready to use it this spring, I would again aerate it for 2-4 days, then pour it on the ground around the plants. It worked, but I don't know if it worked as good as perfectly brewed tea would have. I know the green beans, tomatoes and carrots I used it on were greener the next day.

No use in drilling holes just yet - it isn't suppose to get close to freezing until Friday. At the same time, I'm tempted to let it go until spring. If it isn't any good, I can always pour it into my fire pit (wood ash soaked in compost tea or leachate!).


    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 9:01PM
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I might have made a big boo-bo. I had several buckets of chicken stuff and saved one back. I covered it trying to keep rain off of it but the other day I decided to put it on my compost pile I think I had goop,chickenpoo tea I just poured it all on the compost pile. Was that Ok or big mistake.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 9:26PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

I always thought of leachate as from a more aerobic source. By spring the stuff in the barrels will be what I'd call swill. If drilling holes isn't an option, I'd turn the barrels upside down, either now or after they froze(so as they thawed they would drain).

finchlover- by spring your goop will be but a memory. You should be fine.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 10:24PM
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I'm a 145 pound weakling! No way could I turn a 55-gallon drum full of water logged (ice logged) compost. Once it warms up, drilling holes is not a problem - just no reason to do it now - I would be drilling into ice once I get through the plastic.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 10:40PM
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How long do you steep the compost for your tea?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 1:31AM
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kikifoow(9: Bay Area)

If the top 3-6" of water freezes over hard, what do you think will happen as winter gets colder and the water BELOW that starts to freeze?..... Quite likely you will have a blowout at some weak point in the barrrelll!!!!

Break thru the frozen top (I think that is what you are saying) and DRAIN a good amount of the water out.... Use a garden hose same you would to get gas out of a car tank!

Let it drain as much as you can then PUT A COVER ON IT for winter!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 2:20AM
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How long do you steep the compost for your tea?"

I don't do tea but I make the compost and my compost is usully 1.5 to 2 years old.


    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 7:09AM
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True compost tea needs air & should not set up over night with out a air flowing through it.
As for killing a tree or weeds for that matter, I need more information.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 11:50PM
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The demand for air used when making compost tea is considerable, to the point that some of the experts on the Yahoo Compost Forum use a Dissolved Oxygen meter.
This involves taking a series of readings, noting when the oxygen levels start to drop determines when the tea has brewed enough.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 8:19AM
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sandhill_farms(10 NV)

Here's my little setup for compost tea: A 55 gallon plastic drum - and aquarium pump - tubing and a couple of airstones that pump continuous air in the mix.

Southern Nevada

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 1:20PM
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