New This Month

Compost Tea System

The Martha Stewart Show, April 2009

Feeding your plants with compost tea is a wonderful way of providing wholesome and organic nourishment for them. By steeping compost with water in a compost brewer, you can make your own batch of tea as an organic alternative to fertilizer.

Michael Alms, founder and president of Growing Solutions, recently visited Martha's Katonah home to help set up a compost tea system. His systems produce aerobic compost tea, defined as a liquid extract of quality compost containing nutrients, micro-organisms, and organic compounds.

Compost tea has many benefits: It improves soil structure; reduces water stress; can be applied as foliar spray; is an ideal organic alternative to toxic chemical pesticides and fertilizer; is safe for people, pets, and the environment; and is very cost-effective. Compost tea is being used on a wide variety of crops around the world, including fruit trees, vegetables, turf, landscapes, and indoor plants. Since almost all plants are dependent on micro-life to support plant-root development, there are many areas where compost tea applications will provide significant benefits.

Growing Solutions designed and developed a line of Compost Tea Systems. The backbone of their systems is a technology called "Fine Bubble Diffusion," which is an aeration device that provides a high volume of fine air bubbles at low pressure. Michael's goal in designing the units was to maintain a high level of oxygen and keep the solution thoroughly mixed without using mechanical devices that are energy-inefficient and potentially harmful to the micro-life. By mixing it this way, the system makes a very high concentration of micro-life because it reproduces the micro-life at a rapid rate.

Compost teas and extracts have been used for thousands of years in many ancient agricultural systems, including Mayan, Greek, Egyptian, Roman, and Polynesian. These traditional approaches were primitive in their design. However, the goal was the same -- to provide crops with a highly effective solution containing essential micro-life, organic compounds, and nutrients.

Growing Solutions' line of systems has been designed to produce high-quality, consistent compost tea in a way that's easy-to-use and cost-effective. Their System10 is ideal for homeowners and small nurseries, as it delivers the same reliable performance as larger systems, but with greater portability and convenience.

The best option is to produce compost at home if you have the space. If not, local garden centers and web-based organic fertilizer suppliers are a great resource to acquire quality compost. Growing Solutions' Systems can produce compost tea from many types of compost. To use the Compost Tea System, begin by filling the tank with water to the appropriate gallon marker. Aerate for 15 minutes to allow chlorine to escape from treated water. Add a food resource such as Growing Solutions' compost tea catalyst to the water. Fill the compost tea system basket with compost. Place the basket through the basket tray and into the system. Open the air supply to the basket diffuser stone and place it into the bottom of the basket. Then, simply place the lid on the system and allow it to run for 24 hours.

Compost tea can be applied through most traditional application equipment, such as backpack sprayers, watering cans, and fertilizer injectors. The benefit of applying compost tea as a foliar spray is to provide the plant with protection from various environmental stresses, such as too much or too little water or excessive heat and pollution. In addition, foliar disease pressure can be suppressed by applying the beneficial micro-life contained in good compost tea. Also, the nutrients contained in a high-quality compost tea are often in a perfect form to be absorbed by the plant tissue -- an excellent way to feed the plant. Compost tea is typically applied every 14 to 30 days. It can be applied more often if a plant has high disease pressure or is nutritionally deficient.

Special thanks to founder and president of Growing Solutions, Michael Alms, for sharing this information. Read more about compost tea on The Martha Blog.

For more helpful gardening information, check out our vegetable garden center. Plus, show off your prized vegetable or vegetable garden by entering a photo in our vegetable garden contest.

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