Healthy soil is necessary to grow healthy plants. It really is that simple. And applying a soil conditioner, such as compost tea, can make it much easier to build soil health.
This type of soil conditioner isn’t a “fertilizer.” Instead, it helps reduce the need for fertilizer applications and, therefore, reduces maintenance costs for your property.
If that sounds too good to be true, keep reading for details about what soil conditioners like compost tea are, how they work, and how that benefits your lawn, trees, and other plants.
Use Compost Tea For Healthy Lawns, Trees, Shrubs, Gardens & Crops
What Is Compost Tea?
Compost tea is a liquid extract of compost that contains plant growth compounds and beneficial microorganisms. It’s called “compost tea” because it’s created by “brewing” compost in water until it looks very much like tea. The compost is then strained out of the water and the resulting “tea” is used to water plants of all kinds to provide nutrients and support healthy growth.
Aerated compost tea (which is what we use here at Organic Plant Care LLC) is a relatively recent concept that incorporates aeration technology to create optimum levels of oxygen for growth and reproduction of beneficial aerobic microorganisms.
The key to creating a successful batch of compost tea is to start with healthy, organic compost. It shouldn’t have any pesticide or herbicide residue, petroleum-based products (such as the car oil or gas often found in composted leaves gathered from roads and parking area), or anything else that could kill beneficial organisms. Ultimately, the quality of the inputs will determine the quality of the outcome.
Why Use Compost Tea?
Compost tea provides nutrients that are missing from many urban and suburban yards here in central New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This is especially the case on properties that have used synthetic/chemical treatments because the chemicals have killed many of the organisms that are needed for healthy soil.
Compost tea helps build populations of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa in the soil. These aren’t “bad” bacteria and fungi (like the kind that can make you sick). They’re organisms that are part of a healthy, microscopic soil food chain in which the bacteria break down organic matter and nutrients, protozoa consume the bacteria (which are very high in nitrogen), and in the process, nitrogen is released into the soil for plants to consume.
This natural process is called nutrient cycling and it helps to reduce the need for fertilizers. The active, diverse soil biology, along with the proper balance of organic nutrients, water, and oxygen, provide plants with the nutrients they need for optimum health and vigor.
As a result, using a high-quality soil conditioner lowers the cost of maintaining a beautiful, healthy lawn and garden.
Types of Compost Tea
Compost tea can be brewed in different ways to produce a liquid that has a higher (or lower) concentration of bacteria vs fungi.
We recommend conducting a Soil Food Web test before applying compost tea to your property. Based on the results, you’ll know which kind of soil conditioner is best for your yard and can ensure that it will meet the specific needs of your plants.
It’s definitely not a case of “one size fits all” when it comes to using compost tea!
If you’d like to move toward an organic approach to maintaining your yard, call us today at 908-309-6611 to find out how compost tea soil conditioner can help make the transition as smooth and successful as possible.
Which Type of Compost Tea is Best?
The best choice of soil conditioner depends on what you’ll be applying it to, as well as soil conditions.
We brew our compost tea for lawns to be more bacterially dominant (versus fungally dominant compost tea for trees and shrubs) to provide the biology that’s most conducive for growing grass. For details, see our organic lawn fertilization page.
Trees & Shrubs
Trees, shrubs, and perennials prefer more fungally dominated soils. Forest floors are naturally higher in organic matter composed of decades of decaying leaves and fallen limbs.
The trick to helping trees and shrubs thrive in cultivated landscapes is to create that fungal environment.
Brewing compost tea to be fungally dominant requires a different approach than what’s done to create the compost tea that’s applied to lawns. At Organic Plant Care LLC, we increase the fungal content of our compost by pre-activating it. Several days before brewing, we mix fungal foods like oatmeal, rock powders, fish hydrolysate, humic acid and kelp into our high-quality compost.
After applying compost tea to your trees, shrubs and/or perennials, we also recommend applying mulch made with untreated, aged, brown organic materials to promote the growth of beneficial fungi. Besides looking attractive, mulch supports fungi, suppresses weed growth and minimizes soil compaction.
Gardens & Crops
Annuals and vegetables are usually heavy feeders and prefer the nitrate form of nitrogen that’s provided by more bacterially dominant soils.
When applied a minimum of 2-3 times per year, compost tea builds soil life and suppresses diseases below ground to help improve overall plant health and vigor. With the right kind of application, it also helps suppress fungal diseases on leaf surfaces, like powdery mildew and black spot.
The active, diverse soil biology that can be achieved with high-quality soil conditioner, plus a supply of the right organic nutrients, lead to the establishment of nutrient and nitrogen cycling. Once achieved, nitrogen cycling (which is the ultimate goal in our organic programs) helps reduce the need for and cost of external fertilizer inputs over time.