|Mike's Gardening Tips
Compost Tea and Disease-Fighting
Fermented Compost Tea
Basic Compost Tea:
You need some nice, finished compost (you can tell its 'done' when you can't recognize any of the original ingredients and it looks and smells like great, rich, black, crumbly super-soil; the best compost is generally at the BOTTOM of the pile).
You also need a porous cloth or cloth-like container--an old sock for small, houseplant-sized batches (which you'd make in an iced-tea pitcher sized container); an ugly old pillowcase (for a trash can half filled with water); or a gunny sack/feed sack kind of thing (for dunking in a feed troth or 50 gallon container or something similar).
Put the compost into the porous cloth container of choice, tie it closed, and then put that into your container filled with water (room temp) for @ 24 hours. You want the finished liquid to be the color of strong coffee; play with the amounts (more compost, more water...) until you get there.
Dilute the tea with water till it's the color of real tea. (Do not drink, however.) You can feed plants with this tea by pouring it right onto the ground around the plant (make a little soil dam around the plant first and pour slowly, so that all the tea goes down to the roots and doesn't feed weeds downstream). For house plants, water with really weak tea once a month or so (it shouldn't smell--but then again, neither should you...).
You can also use your compost tea to 'foliar feed' your plants through their leaves.
To foliar feed: Strain the diluted tea (so it doesn't clog up your sprayer) and then pour it into a sprayer tank and spray on the plant's leaves the very first thing in the morning (when the plants are most receptive to this kind of thing). DON'T spray in the heat of the day--the plants are closed up tight to prevent moisture loss by then and you're wasting your time.
FERMENTED COMPOST TEA:
The killer. The winner. Strongest plant disease fighter/preventative known to man and wo-man. Saves diseased trees. Defeats black spot on roses. This baby can do it all.
To create fermented compost tea (FCT):
Make compost tea as above. Pour an undiluted batch into a big bucket and let it sit in a shady spot for two weeks. Nasty scum should form on top. This is good. Skim off scum and toss it onto your compost pile. VERY carefully, pour off some of the liquid that is underneath said scum through a fine strainer and into a sprayer. There will be solids in the bottom of the bucket. Toss these back into the compost pile too.
Use this FCT as you would The Cornell Formula (details elsewhere on this site). Advantage of FCT over TCF: The compost tea is ALIVE with millions (maybe more) or tiny organisms that eat disease organisms. You're spraying Pac-Man like soldiers onto your plants that will literally eat the disease to death. Very exciting.
The gardening information contained in this site is copyright 1999 by Mike McGrath, and is for the use of WHYY-FM/Public Radio listeners only. Such listeners can print it out for their own use and such, but under no circumstances may be it sold in any manner, used in a book or periodical, on another website or for any commercial purposes of any kind without the express written consent of Mike McGrath. To obtain such permission, e-mail Mike McGrath at firstname.lastname@example.org. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.