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What is Aerobic Compost Tea?

Aerobic worm tea is also refereed to as aerobic compost tea, and is known mostly for its ability to boost microbiological activity in soil by adding beneficial bacteria, fungi, acinomycetes, and protozoa to the soil. It is brewed by either soaking a porous bag full of worm castings in water or simply dumping the castings into a container of clean chemical-free water. Molasses, corn syrup, or another microbial food source is then added to the water as a catalyst to stimulate growth of the microbes. And finally, an air pumping system is installed to create an aerobic (or oxygenated) environment for the multiplying microorganisms.

Aerobic worm compost tea is beneficial in many ways. The microbes delivered in worm compost tea help plants by out-competing anaerobic and other pathogenic organisms within the soil. These beneficial microorganisms can also move in to occupy infected sites on plants’ root and leaf surfaces. Brewing aerobic compost tea speeds up the growth rate of microbes such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes, and multiplies their numbers exponentially. This method populates your garden with beneficial microbes more rapidly than applying worm castings alone because the microbes have been multiplied exponentially inside the aerated tea.

When you spray or pour the tea on the soil, not only are you feeding the plant, but you increase the number of beneficial microbes in the soil, thus crowding out the bad. It has been proven that the tea, along with the castings, can significantly increase plant growth, as well as crop yields, in the short term (a season) and especially in the long term over a period of several seasons.

Along with these great benefits come a boost in the plant’s own immune system, enabling it to resist parasites like the infamous aphid, tomato cyst eelworms, and root knot nematodes. Plants produce certain hormones that insects find distasteful, so they are repelled. Aerobic compost tea also helps a plant to resist diseases such as Pythium and Rhizoctonia.

When either worm tea or the more effective aerobic compost tea is sprayed on leaves and foliage, detrimental and disease-causing microbes are again outnumbered and cannot grow their numbers to dominate any single plant. The teas also aid the plant in creating the “cuticle,” a waxy layer on top of the epidermis, or plant skin. This waxy surface protects the leaves from severe elements and reduces attacks by certain harmful microorganisms and insects.

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Replies to This Discussion

Mark, if you have a good recipe for the Aerobic Worm Tea I am sure it would be most helpful to members. Also a lot of us know the terms you have used in your blog but I don't know if everyone would. Does anyone know if there is a glossary of terms on BLF. I know Google can be consulted but I thought I would ask anyway.

There's no glossary on BLF Dianne. It could form part of the BLF Beginner's eBook which is in the planning. A FAQ on steroids, downloadable and editable. Yet to come though. But it's yet another topic which can be included. You may wish to contribute the glossary, the idea is to copy and paste topics of interest which are often posted about using the resources of BLF.

Hi Elaine & Dianne, I have noted this on the eBook list we started putting together on Sat. Havent had a chance yet, hopefully better luck next week :)

In Summary

Leachate – is the correct word for the dark liquid that comes out of the bottom of your worm bin. If your bin is maintained correctly, you should have very little leachate and what you do have can be used safely (in 1:10 diluted form) on your ornamental plants. Sometimes leachate is incorrectly referred to as “worm tea.” Some sites refer to it at as “worm wee,” but even that is technically incorrect.

Simple Worm Tea – a mix of worm castings and water. Useful if you don’t have an air pump but still want some liquid fertilizer from your worm bin.

It is brewed by either soaking a porous bag full of worm castings in water or simply dumping the castings into a container of clean chemical-free water. Molasses, corn syrup, or another microbial food source is then added to the water as a catalyst to stimulate growth of the microbes. And finally, an air pumping system is installed to create an aerobic (or oxygenated) environment for the multiplying microorganisms.

Aerobic Compost Tea – an aerated mixture of worm castings, non-chlorinated water, and molasses or another microbial food source. It contains an active culture of microorganisms and should be used immediately, otherwise the benefit of aeration is all but lost.

A few things to keep in mind:

• Foliar Spray/Wash: It’s best to spray all surfaces of your plants in the early morning or late afternoon when the suns angle is low and less intense. When possible do your foliar spraying on clear days since rain may wash away some of the microbial activity.
• Soil Inoculant/Drenching: Always apply teas out of direct intense sunlight. Use them pure or dilute them (10:1 is a suggested maximum dilution rate). Dilution ratios vary for different application techniques and equipment. An ideal time to apply is during periods mists, or fog, but not heavy rain. Alternatively, irrigate a little before your application to ensure the microbes will survive and can travel more quickly and safely to their new job locations. Always use non-chlorinated water.
• Smell: If a tea stinks, do not use it on your vegetables as it is demonstrating anaerobic (stale or stagnant) properties and may contain pathogens(BAD stuff). Some suggest you use this stinky mix on an undesirable weed bed!

 A good organic recipe.

Have a look at this link, you may have to cut and paste into your browser.

http://www.finegardening.com/brewing-compost-tea

You will need

  • An aquarium pump large enough to run three bubblers or air stones
  • Several feet of tubing
  • A gang valve
  • Three bubblers
  • A stick to stir the mixture
  • Unsulfured molasses (preferrably organic)
  • Something to strain the tea, like an old pillowcase, tea towel, or a nylon stocking
  • A bucket




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