Thank you to all who came out to the San Antonio Botanical Garden this weekend. I have included some links and attachments to dig a little deeper into some of the topics we covered on Saturday.
Worm Handout pdf
• Care of worms- what to do when you get your worms.
• Harnessing the Earthworm - by Thomas J. Barrett
• Adding worms to your raised bed
• In ground bin
•Harvesting Worm Castings- My harvester
• Compost Tea
Thanks again to all who participated and to Sasha Kodet and the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Let me know if you have any questions, or if I can give you some feedback on your set up.
This afternoon I began brewing up about 70 gallons of compost tea with worm castings I recently harvested. In about 12 hours my brew will be ready to apply to my plants and yard. If you are in the San Antonio area, and can pick up, I’ll be giving a gallon of actively aerated vermicompost tea away with a TexasRedWorm.com purchase. An application of compost tea will add life to your soil with beneficial micro organisms that will fight disease and pests, as well as, boost your plants growth. Active aeration prevents harmful anaerobic bacteria and other non-beneficial microbial activity. Applying compost tea within a few hours is best, after a few hours the brew begins to go anearobic.
Here’s a link for a recipe.
Be aware of store bought compost tea products claims that are sitting on the shelf. These products will not be aerobic and will not contain many of the benefits (beneficial microbes that require Oxygen) that are associated with actively aerated compost tea.
This weekend I took a visit to East Texas to work on some of our worm beds. While loading manure from some piles to start a new worm bed, I noticed some termites in some fence posts, as well as, some fire ant mounds. I have had success with compost tea applications before in controlling ants, grubs, and fleas. So I started a small batch of tea with finished compost and some redworm castings. I also did a little research to see if anyone had had any experience with termites and found this article. Microbes like nematodes and bacteria can be amplified with a quality finished compost and brewed into actively aerated compost tea. Beneficial predators that can control and eliminate many pests. So if you have a roach, ant, flea, tick, grub, cigger, termite or other problem chances are actively aerated compost tea can come to the rescue.
We ended up with two batches. In both we used @80 lbs of finished compost (40lbs in each of 2 mesh laundry bags that we purchased for $1.87 at Wal-Mart). Both batches we used 500 gallons of well water, and aerated with our 1600 gallon rated Aquascape 4 pond aerator. Where we tinkered a little was on the food source (molasses + brown sugar) and brewing time. 1st batch we used two jars of unsulphured molasses and 1 lb of brown sugar and 24 hours of brewing time. The color was light brown and the smell was pretty much neutral with a hint of earthiness to it. Batch #2 was brewed for 36 hours and was fed 4 jars of molasses and 1 lb of brown sugar. The smell on batch #2 was the same faint earthy tone with a hint of sweetness from the molasses. The color was a shade darker brown than batch #1.
One thing we will be judging the success of the compost tea application on is in the reduction of ant hills. We don’t have a big fire ant problem, but one hay patch has several ant hills in an area. Adding beneficial microbes began for me as a way to control fire ants, grubs, and other pests in my yard, and have had some terrific results. We’ll keep you posted.
Let the Compost Tea Party begin. The holes in our mesh bags were too large, and we were concerned that our sprayer might get clogged. We grabbed some old panty hose and stuffed our bags into them.
We brewed up our first batch for about 24 hours. It had a nice weak tea color and had a hint of earthy smell. (I pulled out my old Sears microscope that I got for Christmas in ’85, but figured X600 would not be quite powerful enough to see any microbes.) The first batch went well and was applied at a rate of 15 gallons per acre.
The next batch that is brewing right now. This batch will brew for 36 hours.
Brewing a 5 gallon batch of compost tea is no trouble. In a couple of weeks I will kick it up a notch and be brewing up 500 gallons at a time.
We purchased a 500 gallon spray rig from Rozell Sprayer Manufacturing Co. in Tyler, TX this Spring. In order to add beneficial microbes to our hay fields and pasture, I’m going to replace the water soluble fertilizer with compost tea. I don’t have enough compost to spread over 100+ acres, so compost tea is the solution.
I just ordered my aquascape 4-stone pond aerator today, and this is what I will use to aerate my tea to ensure it stays aerobic. Most of the beneficial bacteria are aerobic and will need plenty of O2. To keep the ratio of finished compost to water the same as a 5 gallon brew (1 lb. -1.5 lbs. per 5 gallon) I am going to need 100 -150 lbs. of compost and some larger mesh bags. I am planning on using onion sacks for my tea bags.
Stay tuned for more information on TexasRedWorms.com “Big Time- 500 gallon Worm Compost Tea Party”
Another use for getting the most out of your worm castings or compost pile is making Tea. Compost or Vermicompost (Worm Castings) Tea. are tremendous for adding life to plants and soils. Microbes (beneficial bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and other micro-organisms) allows the soil to become “alive” restoring balance that increases disease resistance, reduces water consumption, and produce healthier plants. Eliminate the need for commercial fertilizers and pesticides. The beneficial microbes in Compost Tea will enable your soil to naturally regulate itself.
Compost or Vermicompost Leachate is often times confused as Tea. The leachate is the run off or drippings from your worm bin or compost pile. Worm or compost leachate is beneficial to plants and has fertilizing goodies like phosphates and nitrogen, but is not Tea. Tea is brewed over a period of time. The brewing process is in most recipes is where a compost and some molasses are added to non-chlorinated water and is aerated for a period of time. The Compost is placed in the water in a porous bag to steep.
Aeration is important in the brewing process to give Oxygen for microbes to grow and reproduce. Keeping your brew aerobic is important for producing a bumper crop of beneficial micro-organisms. To provide aeration to your home brew an aquarium pump, air stones, and tubing can be purchased for around $15. Know that purchasing bottled worm tea or other compost tea products is not going to be aerobic and therefore will not have near the amount of living microbes as a tea that is applied within a few hours of aeration.
Feeding the bacteria, fungi, and protozoa is also important for an optimal brew. Molasses or brown sugar are used to feed bacteria while alfalfa and grass clippings can be added to feed fungi and protozoa. There are an unlimited number of recipes for Compost Tea, and is much an art as a science.
Bruce Dueley does a good job of describing how to make your own for under $30.