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How To Make And Use Compost Tea – The Best All-Natural Fertilizer Around!

This week’s podcast and corresponding article are about how to make and use compost tea – the best 100% all-natural organic liquid fertilizer around!

While compost tea isn’t the traditional tea you might be used to sipping in the morning hours, it is an amazing homemade liquid fertilizer that you can use to power your plants, trees, vegetables and so much more.

The best part of all, it can be made completely for free using compost from your own compost pile. And as you will see below, it is easier than you can ever imagine to make. Listen in below to our complete podcast on compost tea, or read on for the full-length article!

Simple Ingredients, Big Power 

Compost tea is made from just two basic ingredients: compost and water. It’s hard to find a more simple recipe list than that! And once its made, its easy to store with a long shelf life. In fact, it can last all season long without worrying about it going bad. That is, of course, if you don’t use it all before then.

And even if you don’t happen to have a compost pile, you can still make a highly effective tea with purchased compost. In short, as long as you have access to compost, you can make this incredible and powerful tea for your plants!

The best part about this “miracle-growing” liquid fertilizer is that you can use it to power anything. From tiny seedlings, to hanging baskets, vegetable gardens and even shrubs and trees.

How It Works

Compost tea works really in two ways. First, the nutrients are absorbed through the foliage as the liquid hits the leaves. In addition, the roots absorb the nutrients as the liquid works down through the soil. This allows for a steady and full supply of nutrients to power your plants. 

And does compost tea ever have plenty of nutrients to give! All of the goodness in traditional compost is exactly what leaches into the water.

How To Make And Use Compost Tea

Making Compost Tea

In order to make a batch of compost tea, you really only need five things: compost, water, a 5-gallon bucket, a strainer, and a stir stick. Although you can use partially composted materials, try to use fresh, completely finished compost if possible.

A white bucket full of compost tea
A bucket full of compost tea prior to the solid materials being strained out.

Finished compost, because it is fully decomposed, will give you the most nutrients of all. Bagged compost, which is now fairly easy to find in most gardening stores, works equally well too.

Start by filling the 5-gallon bucket about ⅓ to ½ full of compost. Then, add non-treated water until you reach the top of the bucket. 

Make sure not to use water that comes from a water softener. Softened water contains salt and other chemicals, so opt instead for distilled water, hard water, or well water. Rainwater is also an excellent choice to use as well. See: How To Collect and Use Rain Water for more on that subject. 

Once filled, stir the compost and water vigorously with the stir stick to agitate the compost. This will help the water to start absorbing the nutrients from the compost. The name “compost tea”comes from this very process, as the water soaks in the compost just like making tea.

No Fancy Equipment Needed!

Contrary to what you might read on the internet or on other gardening websites, you do not need fancy bubbling or aerating pumps to make the tea. Although they will help to add oxygen into your mixture, they simply aren’t needed.

two hands holding finished compost
Compost tea comes from two ingredients: finished compost and water. Finished compost is a must-have for gardeners who want to power their plants naturally!

Just stirring the mixture once or twice a day is more than enough to add adequate oxygen. If your mixture starts to look like mud, you are on the right track. Stirring it daily will allow the compost to leach more and more nutrients into the water. 

After 5 to 7 days of mixing, the liquid is ready to strain and use. To strain, use a large colander placed over another 5-gallon bucket. Pour the mixture through the colander and into the bucket. 

The solid compost that you are left with can then be thrown back into your compost bin to get recharged again. If you don’t have a compost pile at home, just take the solid compost and use it as a natural mulch around your growing plants.

Store the tea in your garage or shed. You don’t even have to cover the bucket, but you might want to consider it if you have pets or young children around. It is not toxic in the least, but it might get them a bit dirty if they get in it!

Using Compost Tea

All of your outdoor and indoor plants can benefit from a little boost of compost tea. Most plants can use the fertilizer at full strength unless otherwise noted. Also, it might be beneficial to make a few buckets at a time so you can ensure that you always have some on hand.

Purple flowers in a hanging basket
In order to get your hanging baskets flowering strong, give them a good dose of compost tea every few weeks.

Just as with fertilizer, you want to apply in the early morning or late evening. Applying it during the heat of the day allows for too much of the tea to evaporate off of the plants. Fertilizers also have a tendency to burn foliage with the harsh heat of the sun’s rays.

Seedlings & Young Transplants

Because seedlings and young transplants are still tender and smaller than fully-grown plants, you will want to make sure to dilute the compost tea prior to using for these young plants. 

Dilute one gallon of compost tea with one gallon of water. Again, be sure to use fresh water and not water that has gone through a water softener system. 

When plants are a couple of weeks old, use this diluted mixture in replacement of your traditional watering. It is amazing what a little all-natural liquid fertilizer will do for new seedling growth!

Hanging Baskets & Containers

If you want in on a little secret on how to keep your hanging baskets and container flowers and plants thriving and looking beautiful all season long, then compost tea is your answer. It is the perfect steady dose to power container plants!

Compost tea allows your flowers and plants to keep on thriving. Even quick growers and heavy feeders like your annuals will greatly benefit from a dose of compost tea every few weeks. 

A young tomato plant growing
When using compost tea, go ahead and water over the foliage of the vegetable plants. This tomato plant will be able to absorb the nutrients not only in its roots but in its leaves as well.

Once every two weeks, use compost tea instead as a replacement for watering your plants. Aim to use around a quarter of a gallon of tea per container, depending on its size. For larger containers, use a half-gallon to provide a good source of nutrients. 

Vegetable Plants

Compost tea is the perfect, all-natural liquid fertilizer for vegetable plants as well. Wait until the transplants or your seeds have grown enough to allow for plants to become established. Then, use compost tea as a replacement to watering your plants once every two weeks. 

Aim for around ¼ of a gallon of fertilizer per plant. Be sure to soak the foliage as well as the base of the plant since the tea can be absorbed through the leaves as well as through the roots.  

Using Compost Tea In Flower Beds

In addition to vegetable plants and container plants, compost tea is a great boost for annual and perennial flower beds too. Just as with garden vegetables, apply the tea every few weeks to keep plants supplied with a steady stream of nutrients. 

Shrubs, Bushes & Newly Planted Trees

Even your larger plants can benefit from a good drink or two of compost tea throughout the year. Aim for using around 2 to 3 gallons of tea per shrub or bush. 

For newly planted trees, it is also a great way to provide the plants with an added boost of nutrients when becoming established. Use it as the initial water after you have finished planting the new tree. 

New tree being added to the ground
When you add a new tree to your property, give it a good drink of compost tea when planting. The “liquid gold” will help to get it off to a great start!
Don’t Forget The Indoor Plants!

Don’t forget about all of your indoor plants as well. Plants such as spider plants, peacock plants, Easter lily, and holiday cacti can all use the occasional boost of compost tea. 

To Conclude…

If you want a quick and easy way to power your plants throughout the growing season without spending a dime, then compost tea is the way to go! This all-natural and organic product will leave your plants looking full, well-fed, and healthy all year long!

Simple Garden Life is a website dedicated to keeping gardening fun, simple and enjoyable! We publish two new articles each week along with a new garden podcast episode every two weeks. This article may contain affiliate links.

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