FERMENTED COMPOST/MANURE TEA
Keeping soil fertile with vital nutrients and charged up with beneficial micro-organisms is key to having good yield. Using commercial fertilizer gives you pretty veggies with very little of the minerals and other nutrients our bodies need, and tends to kill off the micro-organisms which are what convert the unavailable nutrients in the soil into ones the roots can uptake. So having a non-stop source of DIY fertilizer in a form that is easily taken in by the plant is vital to the sustainable garden, which also provides added beneficial microbes and the trace minerals as well as the macro building blocks of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Making a fermented liquid ‘tea’ is that solution. Start with either rain water, good well water, or city water that has been left to off-gas chlorine and other troublesome chemicals. You don’t want to kill off the valuable microbes. Needed: 5 gal. bucket, tank bubbler from the pet store fish section (about $13 Petsmart), 5 gal. mesh paint straining bags from Sinclair Paint (or other paint store), fresh or composted manure, compost or composted soil or freshly dug soil from under trees in a healthy forest or bamboo grove or worm castings compost (or a combination of them, whatever you have available), un-sulphured molasses or organic sugar; optional: kelp meal (B&G Feed), Activia yogurt (small container), Alfalfa meal (non-GMO), granite meal or green sand, used coffee grounds, egg shells crushed, worm castings; Add after brewing is done – Epsom salts, Fish emulsion, collected human pee. Place water in bucket, weigh plastic tubes of bubbler and place at bottom of bucket (if city water, let run for several hours before adding other ingredients), add a ½ to 1 cup of unsulphured molasses or sugar, fit 5 gal mesh bag over rim of bucket and secure with twine. (Can pour stuff directly into water but it will need to be strained later if you use in a sprayer). Add in 2 or 3 cups of each: manure, compost, worm castings, forest soil, a cup of any of the optional material you have, fill water up to 2” from rim, then turn on bubbler. Cover with plastic sheeting – tying with twine loosely – or screening or row cover material. Leave to bubble for 4 days to 2 weeks, stirring every 2 days or so. Remove bag of compost etc., strain if no original bags, mix in optional items such as a cup of Epsom salts, small cup of Activia yogurt (unflavored) which increases breakdown of organic matter in the soil, 2 cups human pee, and/or ½ cup undiluted fish emulsion. Use what you have. Once completed, dilute this original tea with good water and apply either directly to garden beds or put excess into sealed buckets or plastic detergent bottles etc. in the shade. If use as foliar spray strain well 1:10, for soil 1:5 – tea to water. Use within a few weeks to retain potency of microbe population.
FERMENTED WEED TEA Using the same technique as above – with or without the sugars – save all your weeds from the garden (or lawn if not sprayed) and place in bucket with non-chlorinated water. Chop them up for better breakdown of organic nutrients. Cover with water leaving 2 or 3” from rim of 5 gal. bucket. Place in shade away from house as this gets stinky. Cover to keep out mosquitoes. If using bubbler, must have cord access. Weed tea provides great diversity of soil nutrients – use as large a variety of them as are available. Some of the top ones are: Azolla – water weed, watercress or anything in mustard or brassicus family, stinging nettle, chard, alfalfa, comfrey, equisetum, lambs quarters, willow branches, chickweed, dandelions, cleavers, chamomile, lawn clippings (unsprayed), chicory, perilla (aka shiso, Korean sesame), rabbit pellets, parsley, burdock, sorrel or dock, plantain, pigweed, horsetail, and optional bone meal, kelp meal, granite meal, green sand, rock phosphate. Ferment 4 days to 2 weeks, put used plant matter into compost. Use only on soil, not as foliar spray. Can store in plastic buckets or bottles in cool location. Dilute 1 part weed tea to 5 to 10 parts non-chlorinated water. Use throughout the growing season. Provides potassium, phosphorous, nitrogen, many trace minerals, vitamins, enzymes, microbes. Helps to detox the soil. Notes: with both kinds of tea, as a last addition before diluting, you can add bean inoculants (nitrogen fixing bacteria for beans – Cofers Nursery), or mycorrhizae (https://bio-organics.com/mycorrhizae/) which increases beneficial fungi connections for better nutrient accessibility. For larger gardens I use a 15 gal. or larger kitchen plastic waste bin and increase the values of the noted ingredients. Some vegetables are heavy feeders so applying this kind of fertilizer every couple of weeks keeps the plants happy and productive. Esp: tomatoes, night shade family, corn. Compost/Manure Tea can also be used to infuse activated charcoal for bio-char. Never use unfermented charcoal in a garden as it will absorb nutrients and keep them away from the roots. Hillside Gardens, Auburn, Ga.