Last night Nina, the new urban farm intern, and I started to make up a batch of compost tea for the garden. We have a very simple kit which makes a five gallon batch at a time. Just before the end of the day yesterday, we put together the pump that forces air up through the bucket of water and keeps everything thoroughly mixed and moving. Then we added a tea bag of dormant microbes and hummus to act as a food source for them. Looking a lot like a cauldron of boiling water, it roiled away all night long and this morning we had a rich, earthy-smelling batch of compost tea. Because it’s filled with living microbes, we needed to act quickly to get the tea out onto the vegetables before they started to die off. The foliage of our tomatoes, eggplants, gourds, and cucumbers got sprayed first. The rest we poured onto the roots.
The idea of compost tea is not to use it as a fertilizer substitute but instead to foster a strong microbe ecosystem which will help the plants fight off diseases and fungi. Because so many of the microbes in healthy compost will eat the harmful bacteria, a well-balanced and strong ecosystem will help keep the harmful bacteria at a manageable level. In the true spirit of organic growing, we act to prevent a problem before it begins by creating a full, rich ecosystem.