How to Brew and Use Compost Tea

Updated on April 23, 2019
Joe Macho profile image

Zach's writing ranges from matters of gardening, cooking, aquariums, and fish to more niche topics like coin collecting.

Quality compost by CompTea. Rich, dark, and fully alive!
Quality compost by CompTea. Rich, dark, and fully alive!

No more excuses, it's time to give compost tea a try! Contrary to popular belief, compost tea is much more than just dirt steeped in water. It's complete garden nutrition! Teeming with beneficial soil microbes and plant essential nutrients, compost tea effectively feeds hungry roots while simultaneously boosting soil quality.

Lush growth, bountiful blooms, and absolutely delicious produce can be achieved with a compost tea regimen. Plus, since compost tea is derived from natural compost, you'll rest easy knowing that synthetic or potentially toxic fertilizers are not invading your prized garden. If you agree that it's time, stick tight and learn the basics of how to use compost tea!

What Kind of Compost Should You Use?

To have a tea worthy of feeding your garden with, you must start with a quality compost. Now, for those of you who maintain a home composter, you're already halfway there! Homemade composts composed of various leaves, yard trimmings, and kitchen scraps often contain a bounty of beneficial microbes and nutrients. These composts are perfect for brewing into compost tea!

Okay, that's great, but what if homemade compost is unavailable? Not to worry, there are plenty of compost producers out there that create some really exquisite blends! Personally, I've had great success with the premium composts produced by CompTea.

A five-gallon bucket and aquarium air pump is all you need for an easy, aerated compost tea brew!
A five-gallon bucket and aquarium air pump is all you need for an easy, aerated compost tea brew!

How to Brew Compost Tea

With a quality compost secured, break out a five-gallon bucket and start the brewing process! Here are the two most common techniques for creating homemade compost tea:

  • The Passive Brew—The simplest of the brewing techniques, a passive brew is basically allowing a portion of compost to steep in water for 24 hours. For maximum effectiveness, allow five gallons of tap water to sit out overnight. This step allows for any microbe-harming chlorine to dissipate. Once the water has sat, add one pound of compost and steep. Stir several times throughout steeping, and within a day's time, you'll have compost tea ready for use!
  • The Active Brew—Also known as the aerated brew, the active brewing process is one step up from the passive brew. While the preparation, compost weight, and steeping time remains the same, the brew differs in the sense that an air pump is allowed to provide constant oxygenation to the tea during steeping. It is thought that this extra oxygenation boosts microbial populations beyond that of a passive brew. A small aquarium air pump and diffuser is an inexpensive and effective way to achieve an active brew.

How to Use Compost Tea

After the short steeping period, your compost tea is now ready to use. So, just exactly how do you apply compost tea? Well, as with the brewing process, applying compost tea can also be done in a couple different ways:

  • Soil Drench—The easiest way to utilize the powers of your compost tea is the soil drench. Basically, you'll water your plants as normal with the unfiltered tea. As you water, the tea and bits of compost inoculate garden soils with diverse microbial populations and plant available nutrients. Garden plants immediately begin consuming available nutrients, while the soil microbes increase nutrient cycling for slow-release feeding. Since compost teas offer gentle nutrition that will never cause root burn, they can be fed at full strength at a frequency up to every other watering.
  • Foliage Spray—While you typically won't need to utilize this technique as often as the soil drench, foliar feeding garden plants with compost tea is also very beneficial. Since plants are generally able to absorb nutrients through their leaves much quicker than through their roots, compost tea can offer a quick pick me up. With available micro-nutrients and trace minerals, a filtered compost tea will help plants fight off deficiencies and remain insanely lush! To foliar feed with compost tea, strain the tea of large particles, dilute with one part water, and add to a spray bottle or sprayer. For best results, thoroughly mist foliage (tops and undersides) during the cooler hours of the morning or evening.

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    • Etherealenigma profile image

      Sandra M Urquhart 

      7 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      This is great! I had previously read an article on composting in which the writer suggested throwing out the tea. I'm glad to see that there is a vital use for it. I can't wait until I can start my own composting! Thanks for a really informative article. GB

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 

      7 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      Well this is great. I voted up, pinned tweeted. Very useful.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Congratulations on the well deserved accolade Joe!

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota

      Congrats on Hub of the Day! Already loved it and commented, now I think I'll facebook it :)

    • livingpah2004 profile image

      Milli 

      7 years ago from USA

      Thank you for giving an idea to boost soil quality. We will try this. Useful and Voted up!

      Congrats on HOTD!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      7 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      What a great idea! I will definitely try this one.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      7 years ago from USA

      Congratulations on Hub of the Day! I have a compost bin, but hadn't thought of making compost tea. It sounds like a great way to use the compost. Thanks for the information!

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 

      7 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      My vote for compost tea. anytime. Great hub. Voted up, and congrats on being the HOTD!

    • Randall Pruitt profile image

      Randall Pruitt 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Awesome hub! Will try this on my lawn and plants.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      7 years ago from sunny Florida

      Oh yes . My Momma taught me about composting. And composting tea was one of her tricks. She could make sticks grow. I don't really use tea much as I don't have it on hand but I know it works nicely. Your plants look like they are happy happy.

      thank you for sharing this...and

      congratulations on hub of the day.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Your plants look very happy. Maybe you should warn people not to drink this-- just kidding, but when I saw 'tea' , I was thinking something different.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 

      7 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Hi Joe-- excellent clearly-written hub on how to make and use compost teas-- I'm heading right out to do this! Congrats on HOTD! Voted Up and Useful.

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      7 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Congratulations on becoming Hub of the Day! This is great information for gardeners. I've never ventured into the mysterious world of composting but it sounds well worth the effort! Voted up and useful!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      7 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Congrats on the hub of the day! This is an informative hub for us who have gardens. Voted up and useful.

    • amord profile image

      amord 

      7 years ago from nigeria

      Can you do it at my home, thanks

    • newusedcarssacram profile image

      newusedcarssacram 

      7 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      helpful tips for gardening...nice..

    • geetbhim profile image

      sangeeta verma 

      7 years ago from Ludhiana India

      Thanks for sharing your hub, I always make these compost tea for my terrace garden and it is great for the plants.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Really interesting. We have 3 large bins of compost but are reducing the number of beds as we get older so not using as much. Compost tea sounds like a good way to use the benefits of compost. Voted up and useful and interesting. Thanks

    • Joe Macho profile imageAUTHOR

      Zach 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      The Dirt Farmer - One more person inspired to use compost tea makes it all worth it! I'm glad you're going to start again. Thanks for the compliment, the garden is actually one that I help my folks set up! It's limited space, but turned out very nice.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

      I really enjoy your hubs & this one was no exception. I'm not sure why I stopped making compost tea, but you've inspired me to start using it again. Btw, if that's your garden pictured, it looks fantastic.

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota

      Thanks Joe, and good point about the weed seeds!

    • Joe Macho profile imageAUTHOR

      Zach 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      tobusiness - Ah, well now is the time! Just be sure to find a quality compost and you'll be in business. Good luck to you.

      Farmer Rachel - Yes, drought has been pretty bad this year! I'm not sure what it's like in PA, but it's roasting in Colorado. As for manure tea, the process is pretty much the same as compost tea. I would only use aged or composted manure as it will contain less weed seeds. Though some use fresh manure, it could contain pathogens. Better safe than sorry. Take it easy and thanks for reading.

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota

      Hi Joe, this is a very useful article, and comes at a good time considering the widespread drought conditions in the US. I'm wondering if you know how to use manure tea? I've been meaning to try it, but I'm not sure if I should only use rotted manure, or if the fresh stuff would be alright considering I'm going to make a "tea" of it. Any thoughts? Thanks!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      7 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      I tried this with nettles some time ago, minus the technical bits, but I'd very much like to try your compost tea brew, it sounds a bit more professional than my nettles and snakeslane's grass cuttings, I must admit mine did pong a bit.

    • Joe Macho profile imageAUTHOR

      Zach 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      Ah, sounds good then! I was pretty interested, so I did some research on the topic. It sounds like a lot of people use these teas throughout the garden with no problems. Just another way to get some natural nutrients! I'd agree that you should dilute, just to be safe. Try it out, I'm interested!

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Hi Joe, the grass clippings are fully decomposed, all that's left is a liquid tea, it doesn't smell bad. It's actually been sitting like that for a couple of years lol. I would just use it for the flowert baskets, not veggies anyway. Just not sure if I should dilute. Probably a good idea just in case. Thanks.

    • Joe Macho profile imageAUTHOR

      Zach 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      Snakeslane - If you're feeding the compost tea as a soil drench, there's no need to dilute. I really wish I could give you a little more information regarding your inadvertent grass clipping tea, but I've never done anything of the sort. It probably won't burn plant roots, but I'd be a little more worried about potential pathogens or diseases lurking. Since the grass clipping haven't been composted, it might be more likely for diseases to thrive, especially in a garbage can! Again, I've never tried a "grass clipping tonic", so it's all just speculation. Try it out in a small area and see what happens! Oh, and be sure to let me know. Thanks for you feedback!

      Bob Ewing - Thanks for your feedback, it's all about spreading the knowledge!

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      7 years ago from New Brunswick

      Well done, this information will help gardeners grow healthier plants.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Joe, thank you for this timely article on compost tea. I was wondering if the final product would need to be diluted. I've inadvertantly made a 'tea' with grass clippings left out in a garbage can in the rain. Wondering if it would burn the plants if used full strength. Also wondering if I should let it steep awhile?

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