Spring is here and it is time to plant in Texas. Worm castings are rich in P,N,K but the most valuable component are the beneficial microbes that will add life to soil and plants. We have a ton of worm castings at our two Texas farms. You can pick up a 10 lb bag for $20. Add a handful of castings to seedlings or brew up your own compost tea to really get the most out of just a few lbs of worm castings. You will be surprised just how far a small amount worm castings can go.
Here’s a video from a few years back where we brewed up 500 gallons with a combination of worm castings and compost.
Today Tuesday, April 16th, from 6-8pm at the Alamo Heights Community Garden Texas Red Worms will be with Green Spaces Alliance at 403 Ogden St. Join us for instruction and discussion on worms, composting, and compost tea.
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.
I started brewing a batch yesterday afternoon of actively aerated red worm compost tea (red worm castings, unsulphured molasses, and rain water).
I have collected about 15-20 gallons of rain water to use over the last month or so. Rain water, well water, or water from other natural sources are the best choices to be used in your compost tea. Tap water should be left out in the sun for a day or so to eliminate Chlorine. Next, I harvested some castings from my worms. I use a mesh laundry bag for my tea bag. Compost can be added to the water or steeped with a bag. The tea bag eliminates the need to strain before putting in your sprayer.
Aeration- I’ve got a pond aerator pumping into the brew to supply plenty of O2 supporting beneficial microbial growth.
To make is “sweet” compost tea, I’ve added some unsulphured molasses to feed the beneficial bacteria.
This batch will be ready this afternoon. I’ll put the finished product into a pump sprayer and apply to my plants. It’s that easy to add beneficial microbes and add “life” to plants and soil. Compost tea applications will reduce water consumption by plants, and add balance back to your yard and plants. Beneficial microbes (bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and nematodes) can eliminate the need to aerate your lawn, the use of pesticides, and commercial fertilizer.
I will need about 5 gallons or a third for my use, and will be glad to share the rest. I’ll be giving a gallon away with any worm purchase this weekend. First come first serve.
I had mentioned in my previous post that positive indicator for my compost tea application was to rid a section of our hay patch of ants. The spot of concern has been infested for a few years with “town ants” or Texas leaf cutter ants. Town ant hills were sprinkled throughout a 20 yard X 20 yard area. The operative word being “were” because two weeks later the ant hills are vacant.
Beneficial microbes in compost tea are parasites to ants, fire ants, fleas, ticks, and chiggers. I had had success in my lawn in getting rid of some of these pests with compost tea, but never on this scale. This alone is encouragement enough for us to continue compost tea applications, and we’re looking forward to the next batch.
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.
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.