Saturday, August 6, 2011

Compost Tea

If you happen to be in the Battle Creek, Michigan, area, visit the Leila Arboretum. Along the east boundary is a large greenhouse where there was a working VermiChester system. The cover of my book has a photo of the system. Unfortunately, funding shortages required the closing of the greenhouse and removal of my herd in the fall of 2009. The VermiCompost was harvested with a VermiHarvester, bagged and sold as a fundraiser. The constantly dripping VermiJuice (my name for Compost Tea), was collected and incorporated into the irrigating system. Those plants that received the benefit of this liquid seemed to exhibit a lack of white flies, compared to other areas of the greenhouse.

Stacey Rocklin, the former Horticulturist, was experimenting with enhancing the growth of beneficial microorganisms by bubbling air through the liquid, and adding some blackstrap molasses and fish emulsion.

In 2010, I have met some people who are growers of "medical" marijuana and who endorse indoor soilless gardening. Unlike larger hydroponic growers of plants who use inorganic chemical ingredients for their nutrient solutions, the cannabis growers favor organic nutrients such as bat guano, etc. Many of them have encouraged me to pursue the use of VermiJuice as a source of "soluble inorganic salts" immediately available to the roots of plants in a soilless, or hydroponic, growing system. The inorganic soluble salts that plants must have in order to absorb the nutrients are converted from organic compounds by the microbes, therefore more microbes = more nutrition.

Compost Tea
is made in three ways. Merely hanging a bag of compost in a pail of water, or just dumping it in, is called "steeping" like making tea in a cup with a teabag. Adding water to a VermiChester worm bin that percolates down through the VermiCompost into a pail accomplishes the same thing in reverse.

The other two methods are by using VermiCompost (eight times more microorganisms than typical compost), either by simple steeping or by a more complex method called "brewing". Testing the values of nutrients in Compost Tea is done in a number of ways for Nitrogen-Potassium-Phosphorus (NPK). VermiCompost that has no manures in it is generally lacking in the Nitrogen category (but, the trace elements are abundant in a compost that receives a variety of organic wastes). After testing, any nutrients that are lacking can be added to the brew where oxygen is bubbling to create a really potent solution that is readily available to plant roots or foliage.

We really need to share the results of this brewing.

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