To ‘Tea’ or Not to ‘Tea’? That is the Question

Local landscaping expert explains the process of making compost tea and the benefits of its application to improving the health of your lawn and garden.

Many seeking effective organic methods to improve the health of their lawns and gardens have turned to the application of compost tea, which is the method of extracting and using the beneficial living micro-organisms from a compost pile in liquid a solution, instead of using the organic solids in the compost. As more people have turned to composting as a way to keep their landscape healthy, the popularity of compost tea has also increased. Over the past few years, an entire compost tea industry has quickly sprouted, and has brewed up a bit of controversy as well.

The use of compost tea has been around since the dawn of agriculture. The recent innovation of using forced air (similar to a fish tank aerator) has been a game changer. Accelerated tea-making  has allowed commercial operators to develop cost effective teas, while home-owners can now also make their own home brews. Meanwhile, some more environmentally responsible landscaping firms started to offer the compost tea application service to their welcoming clients.

Making compost tea can be as simple as the process for making real tea. You can just put some compost in a bag, steep it in water, and wait. In about a week or two, you will have a nice blend of tea to spray on your plants, flowers and lawn. However, the introduction of aeration to the process can reduce that time to a matter of days. The semi-complicated method (temperature control, continuous aeration etc) is not necessarily for the novice gardener. It requires several additional steps, some quality control and can be messy, as well as the need to purchase specialized equipment and in some cases specialized raw material in order to create a successful brew.

The controversy surrounding the use of compost tea is mostly derived from a lack of verifiable evidence that it can be truly effective for plant vitality and managing plant pathogens. In my opinion, compost tea is an efficient direct-delivery system of nutritional elements that can boost the overall health of your garden in a way that is comparable to traditional composting and exceeds that of fertilizing. I have seen dramatic results from using compost tea and others have reported similar findings.

However, the application of compost tea is just one part of an overall gardening program to maintain healthy lawns, plants and flowers. Each lawn and garden is uniquely different and responds to care methods in varying ways. At R&S Landscaping, we believe compost tea can be one part of a plan to address those specific nutritional needs, but must be used in concert with other cultural practices such as balanced and timed organic fertilizer applications, insect and disease monitoring, aeration, soil testing and proper watering practices.

The overall program we have designed, that incorporates compost tea, boosts soil health and is effective in improving stressed lawns, plants and gardens. The application of the ancient practice of compost tea can renew the health and vitality of your soil and plants allowing you to maximize the pleasure you get from your gardening.

Rob Schucker can be reached at rob@rscape.com or 201-447-6205.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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