Wow – what a summer we all had with that big, blazing ball of fire out just about every day, which made it pretty hot to be putzing around in the garden.
It was a crazy busy one for us and my cuppa was pretty full, leaving little time to finish the follow-up to my column on teas for the garden. But here it is at last.
There are lots of brews to concoct and create and most are simple and easy to prepare, taking anywhere from 24 hours to 14 days to brew depending on your methods and money. Most are totally safe to make, bu you could be getting into some murky water when it comes to compost and manure teas and here’s why. There are three basic kinds of microbes: the aerobics which need oxygen, the fermentative, putrefactive anaerobics that need no oxygen and the facultative anaerobics that can survive in both environments. A pathogen is a plant or animal-feeding predator microbe, such as E.coli and salmonella in humans, and camplyobacter, listeria, and crytosporidium in animals and it’s these nasties that survive in the zero-to-low oxygen environments. With these two teas, you need to be able to extract and multiply the beneficial or aerobic microbes from the organic matter, and avoid the production and introduction of the putrefying, disease-causing anaerobic microbes as well as the plant and human pathogens. So please do your research to avoid a possible toxic soup if you use them!
So here are a few tea-rrific teas to try, and cost nothing to make unless you buy an expensive brewer:
Soil teas: Soil tea is a little different than compost tea in that one can select and trap a mix of beneficial microorganisms from the best performing soil from a local ecosystem, such as using humus and litter from a healthy garden or forest.
Plant tea: Many plant and herb extracts contain powerful organic or chemical substances, which have been used in the preparation of food, medicines, pest control, etc. for centuries, as well as benefiting plant growth and contributing to overall soil health. Extracts are made by soaking healthy plants such as clover, comfrey, horsetail, stinging nettle, yarrow, seaweed, parsley, dandelion, plantain, etc. for three to 10 days, then strained and diluted. (Note: Alfalfa pellets are not recommended, as they are high in salts, which accumulate in your soil.)
Manure tea: Again, not all excrement is created equal, and poop is a processed end product so a lot of the nutrients have already been absorbed. So fresh is always best. If you want to use manures, make sure the critters are not from factory farms or feedlots and that it’s well aerated when you brew so you don’t breed the bad guys.
Compost tea: Compost tea should not be confused with other organic extracts, which are used as fertilizers, bio-stimulants or for pest and disease control. A properly-aerated compost tea is one of the most effective ways to promote health, prevent disease and revitalize dead soils in our gardens. One of the most important functions of our compost is to breed beneficial microbes, but the nutrient value and type of microbes in your compost depends on what you put in it and whether it’s aerobic or anaerobic. You can either create a fermented compost tea, which is made from immersing compost into a bucket of water for seven to 14 days and stirring occasionally, or use a store-bought or homemade compost tea brewer, using a strong aquarium bubbler that takes about 24 hours to make. They say not to apply compost tea to any veggie garden within three weeks of its planned harvest date.
Tinkle tea: His or her tinkle tea typically contains an NPK ratio similar to a commercial fertilizer, so sprinkle it into the compost or dilute it and use it.
Worm tea: Worm castings are loaded with nutrients and minerals, so if you breed’em, use’em!
Again, there’s never enough space to get into the recipe details, so you’ll have to take it from here. Just remember to avoid microbe-killing chlorine by using rain or pond water or an off-gassed bucketful. These are wonderfully beneficial teas from nature’s pantry and toolbox, so go ahead and sprinkle and spray away!