Compost tea seems to be a new fad in gardening. But actually it been used for many years by our forefathers. Before we get into making compost tea and applying it, we should know more about it. You should know why your going to use lawn tea in the first place.
What is compost tea?
It’s the biology (microbes), stripped off humus through agitation. It produces a liquid that can be applied directly to foliage and or soil. Compost tea can be manipulated to fit your needs with different resources and additives. Application is irrelevant, as long as it gets there.
There are several different types of teas but on our lawn we will be using:
AACT – Actively Aerated Compost Tea
Do you have to use AACT for a successful organic lawn?
Not if you’re topdressing your grass with healthy tested humus. If you’re sure that organic matter your using is supplying your lawn with enough microbes. Compost also adds diverse colonies of biology the soil food web demands.
If you’ve used chemicals or pesticides in the past then I would recommend the use of compost tea for at least the first couple of years of transitioning to an organic lawn program.
Then have a soil bioassay done. That will determine if you need to continue or concentrate on a specific population of microbes. Bioassays define and measure microbial populations. They can be costly but there are certain stages in your project that they can be useful.
Adding tea along with organic matter just adds to the amount and diversity of biology in the soil.
For in-depth details, pictures and video on compost tea please visit:
Do you have lots of earthworms in your lawn soil?
Rich soil should have 10 to 50 earthworms per square foot. If you have that many, you can bet the rest of the microbial population is thriving.
What was the organic matter percentage on your soil test results?
Was it over 5%? If it was under 5% you should be concentrating on using good humus to get it up to that level. Can you use both? Absolutely, if it’s made properly lawn tea is very safe for both you and the grass.
In the case of transitioning a lawn from chemical to organic, spray it on liberally every 2 – 4 weeks for a few months. Then once I sense the microbes are coming back I’ll cut back to once a month and then every other month.
How do you know if the biology is sufficient?
How’s that earthworm population doing? Have you decreased your inputs but yet it’s obvious the nutrient cycling is continuing based on how well your lawn is thriving?
There is a certain aura about your lawn when it’s healthy.
As I’ve mentioned many times throughout this website it’s important to diversify populations of microbes or colonies. This way they sort of keep each other in check. Not one particular species is going to dominate. If one species dictates it can result in various problems.
I’m always trying different organic matter to use for teas. I’ll use it if I know it’s from a healthy source or sometimes I’ll use vermicastings, which is earthworm poop.
Vermicastings are incredibly rich in organic matter and microbial life. It tends to be bacterial which is good for turf use. Sometimes it’s the only ingredient people will use in a brew.
Vermicompost is available online. They can be in your back yard if you want to raise earthworms, something very simple to do. Vermicompost is relatively inexpensive whether you buy it or produce your own.
Lawn tea can be absorbed through the leaf and also get to the rhizoshere quick when used with aerating.
Humus will certainly last longer, as it will benefit the soil for years when teas can for only months.
Microbes need to have a continuous food source
Healthy, living, mature humus (biology + their food) is more critical than teas but compost teas (biology only) certainly have many uses.
Turf grass likes its soil slightly bacterial and acidic so the teas we’re adding should be consistent to that.
One little side note to remember is that annuals, vegetables and grasses like bacterial soil while woody plants, perennials and trees like fungi dominated soil.
There are so many variations of lawn tea additives to manipulate the desires of your target. It’s amazing what some people add to compost tea. Brewing AACT can be an interesting and challenging hobby.
- Corn gluten
- Alfalfa meal
- Blood meal
- Fish emulsion
- Fish hydrolysate
- Humic acid
- Rock dusts
- Wood chips
Fungi will grow but has a tough time multiplying especially in the allotted 24-hour brew time so your compost tea should end up being on the bacterial side.
I know it sounds like there is a great deal of work involved when making compost tea but it is actually very easy to do and inexpensive.