“To be happy for an hour get drunk. To be happy for a lifetime plant a garden.” ~ Unknown
A few years ago, Husband was a keen home brewer. He experimented with all kinds of beers, admittedly, some more tasty than others. He even transformed a part of the garden shed into a micro micro-brewery. Around the same time, he decided to start taking better care of himself and invested in a home gym. It seems beer brewing and working out are not exactly complimentary hobbies.
Until this week.
Frankly, I’ve had my eye on his brew bucket for a while. It holds almost 3 times the volume of my usual garden bucket and has a handy tap at the base. I have repurposed it in my greenhouse, for an altogether different kind of brewing.
I’m brewing compost tea.
First, I had to empty the remnants of Husband’s last brew. I secured the chickens in their coop lest they sampled any spillage, and tipped most of it into my compost bins.
Phwor. I’m certain the neighbours questioned my sobriety as 23 litres of over-fermented brew seeped out of the compost bins and into the soil. The entire backyard wafted with a boozy bouquet, about as appealing as the smell of a pub after last call on a hot day.
But a quick rinse out of the brew bucket and I was ready get brewing the really good stuff…
You will need…
1 brew kit (mine is 23 litres)
Stocking or mesh bag.
A few handfuls of sifted compost
One big handful/bunch of Comfrey/Borage/Tansy (or even unsprayed weeds if you are in a pinch)
Liquid fish emulsion fertiliser
Ideally, an air pump with long tube. (I recycled mine from an old fish tank)
Firstly, I filled the cleaned kit with tap water and left it overnight for the chlorine to evaporate. If you use rainwater, you can add the other ingredients straight away.
Then I added a good squeeze of molasses and stirred to dissolve. The molasses feeds the bacterial growth in the brew and also contributes trace elements of iron, manganese, copper and potassium, all good stuff for plants. Add 30mls of fish emulsion. This also acts as nutrient for micro-organisms and offers a swag of other nutrients.
I quickly pounded up my bunch of comfrey in a mortar & pestle. The leaves are covered with irritating, bristly hairs and a good mashing makes it easier to stuff into the stocking and hastens its decomposition. Comfrey is wonderful stuff, drawing minerals deep from the soil. It is high in nitrogen, phosphorous and potash. Mine self seeds, and one plant has happily multiplied into many. I stuffed the mashed comfrey loosely into the stocking, but not too firmly, you want the water to circulate around it.
Then I topped the comfrey mash with sifted, homemade compost. My compost is comprised of chicken poop, household waste and garden trimmings. I have a thriving colony of compost worms in my compost tumblers so my compost is packed with beneficial bacteria from worm castings. It’s just gold! Sifting the compost makes it easier to stuff into the stocking, and the worms are returned to the compost bin.
Finally, I knotted the compost-sausage-stocking and submerged it into the water, and fixed the lid, ensuring the tube is deep in the bucket so oxygen can circulate through the mix.
And voila! Done. I usually leave it 24 hours before using, and it doesn’t last long. I use it on my seedlings once they emerge, and then when transplanting into their final growing spot. It is a great all-round plant tonic and will not burn your plants. The beneficial bacteria boost the soil, making nutrients more readily available for your growing plants.
I love the brew bucket’s tap, I just dispense straight into my watering can. I’m thrilled I’m no longer juggling sloshy buckets of compost tea, this is really a much more civilized way to do it!
Also, it’s important to note that this mix should never be really stinky. Like good compost, it should smell earthy, but not anaerobically gag-worthy. I check that the oxygen tube is at the bottom of the bucket (a peg keeps it in place) and ensure it is always bubbling, should it wiggle free of the solution, the compost tea will stagnate and foul. Ew.
When your plants have inebriated all your compost brew, simply empty the contents of the stocking into the compost bin and start over again.
So what about you? Have you ever tried making your own compost tea? I would love to hear from you.