Despite all of the great things about compost and vermicompost, one of their shortcomings is their physical bulk. Its sheer volume makes it difficult to use in areas like golf course greens, tee boxes, and front lawns. The labor required to apply compost is also very costly.
During the latter part of the 20th Century, a process was developed to remove the beneficial living organisms from the bulky compost, and Compost Tea was born. The “brewing” of Compost Tea places high quality compost in a water bath and injects lots of air, enough air to dislodge the microbes from the surfaces of the compost/vermicompost and provide oxygen so they can multiply rapidly. When certain food sources are added to the process, multiplication is very rapid, perhaps a hundred fold in a 24-hour period. Now that the microbes are living in water instead of on the compost, application is very easy, although it must be completed quickly before the microbes begin to die.
Because compost tea is ﬁlled with living organisms, great care must be taken during application. Dead microbes are not beneﬁcial and, when left in brewing or application equipment, can actually be toxic to healthy microbes and to plants. Equipment cleaning, or at least a procedure to limit the possibility of creating an unhealthy environment in the application equipment, is critical.
The beneﬁts of quality compost and vermicompost are well known, having been the staple of successful gardening for centuries, long before commercial fertilizers were developed. Quality compost and vermicompost are the result of millions of organisms & microbes breaking down complex organic matter into more simple structures. Fundamentally, the “brewing” of compost tea is the process of transferring these microbes from the compost into a liquid. This eliminates the bulk of the compost while enabling greater ease of application, including soil drenches and injections as well as foliar applications, which would be impossible in the compost form.
This tremendous diversity and quantity of healthy microbes has many beneﬁts:
• Microbes decompose dead matter, like leaves and thatch, converting it into compost;
• Suppresses disease through competition, inhibition and consumption;
• Facilitates nutrient cycling, which in some cases cannot take place without microbes;
• Retains nutrients in the soil, reducing run-off, leaching, and volatilization;
• Helps convert nutrients into plant-available forms;
• Builds soil structure, increases water holding capacity, reduces water usage and,
• Reduces soil compaction, ultimately enabling deeper air, water and root penetration.