How to Make and Use Compost Tea
TOH landscape contractor Roger Cook shows how to get a beautiful, maintenance-free lawn using a natural liquid fertilizer
Q: Can you give me the recipe for making compost tea?
—John Stumpo, Detroit
Roger Cook replies: Compost tea is a natural liquid fertilizer loaded with beneficial bacteria and nutrients that reach the roots faster than traditional compost. A lawn treated with the tea grows slower, needs less mowing, and uses less water because of its deep roots.
My compost recipe is 2 parts carbon-rich "browns," such as dead leaves, to 1 part nitrogen-rich "greens," like rotted grass clippings. I put 7 pounds of it in a mesh sack and suspend the sack inside a rain barrel filled with water and fitted with an aerator. Then I add 12 ounces each of molasses, liquid kelp, and fish hydrolysate. These last two are sold by Neptune's Harvest. It takes about 24 hours to brew 55 gallons of tea, enough for more than an acre of lawn. Once it's used up, discard the compost and start a fresh batch.
Add the Tubing
Cut a length of ⅜-inch-diameter irrigation tubing and bend it into a ring that fits the bottom of the barrel. Join the ends with a T-fitting, and attach the remaining tubing to the T's third leg. Using a 3/16-inch bit, drill a series of holes into the top of the ring about 1 inch apart; they let air bubble up, encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria and reducing odors.