Shan Wheeler, Master Gardener
The rains we had this summer were so much better for plants than our West Texas hard water! After one of our big rains, I was dutifully making the rounds emptying everything that could hold water to help deter mosquitoes, pouring each into flowerbeds or collecting it in a five gallon bucket to use later. But the compost container is a large wash tub which was heavy so I just lifted up one end and drained it. Then I thought, that was dumb – that could have become compost tea!
In Master Gardeners’ Trainee Class we had discussions regarding the effectiveness of the tea; some said great and others said so-so. There are numerous compost tea recipes on the internet. One indicated that since you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, start small. These recipes require items like buckets, tubes, valves, catalysts, acids, kelp/fish fertilizer, an aquarium pump and strainer – but unfortunately I’m too lazy to do and too cheap to buy all that stuff.
The latest gully washer again filled up the wash tub that was still half full of compost. However, this time I stirred it all up and let it settle. Repeating whenever I thought about it. Having attended the Master Gardeners’ public compost class this spring, I wore rubber gloves as they suggested. I, however, did not use gloves while spreading it at home and learned a memorable lesson when a cut became infected! So, I repeat…wear protective gloves. I skimmed off the darkened water into other containers to be used later. I thought with what little effort I did expend toward compost tea, the result has to be better than just draining it on the ground when the plants love it. It is even good for house plants, but it sometimes can be a little smelly, so you might not want to use with your houseplants . You can also put some compost in a bucket , add some water, and let it “steep”. You then have good fertilizer, and the price is certainly right!