Quick and Dirty Worm Tea

Worm Compost Tea

This is a post I meant to write quite some time ago. Back when I first reported on my gardening woes this year (see “Vermicomposting Trenches – 2009 – Update”), someone added a comment suggesting that I use ‘worm tea’ to see if I could help improve the health of the plants. Strangely enough, I had just finished reading an article about a guy up in Alaska who grows world record sized vegetables, and claimed his ‘secret’ was that he uses compost tea religiously.

Needless to say, I felt inspired to go mix up a batch for my plants! It also really made me wonder what on earth I’ve been doing all this time – for whatever reason, I’ve never become serious about worm compost tea. I have loads of high quality vermicompost on-hand, barrels full of rainwater, some molasses in the fridge, and even some old aquarium air bubblers! I guess I figured my trenches and layers of vermi-mulch would provide enough benefit on their own.

Anyway, despite the fact that it was pretty late in the season by the time I clued in, I DID at least make one batch of brew. I decided not to go too crazy with it though, and didn’t end up bothering with the molasses and aeration.

Backyard Worm Bed

I started by raking some nice vermicompost out from the lower zone in my backyard worm bin. Some of you may recall that my brother and I built a trap door on that bin last year (see “Harvesting My Vermicompost“) – something I’ve been happy about ever since!

Worm Tea Bag

Next, I filled a large ‘breathable’ worm bag with the material. You certainly don’t need a fancy bag for this – any sort of cloth bag, or even nylon stockings should work fine. If you are going to completely immerse the bag, make sure you have a tight knot some the material doesn’t just pour out in the bucket of water.

All I did was constrict the top of the bag with my hand, and dunk the bag repeatedly into one of my water barrels. The vigorous dunking not only helped to get lots of ‘good stuff’ out of the vermicompost and into the water, but it also helped to aerate the mix.

Making Worm Tea

That’s basically it! Once I was finished, I then simply put the mix into a watering can (and perhaps some smaller buckets) and distributed it around my gardens. It’s hard to say what, if any, real benefit this one time application had – but I’m sure that bare minimum, it was at least a ‘souped-up’ (literally – haha) watering for my plants.

The reason I wanted to write about it here was simply to demonstrate that making worm tea does NOT need to be complicated! Sure, the mix probably would have been a bit more beneficial had I added molasses and aerated it for a period of time, but doing so is certainly not critical.

Oh – and don’t forget about the sludgy compost in the bag. Be sure to add that to your garden as well. There will still be some good stuff (and maybe even some worms and cocoons) left in there.

One thing is for sure – next year I am finally going to get really serious about using worm compost tea (starting early in the season), and of course I’ll be writing all about it here!
8)

[tags]worm tea, compost tea, worm compost, vermicompost, worm composting, vermicomposting, compost, worm bin, worm bed[/tags]

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Comments

    • don
    • September 22, 2009

    I’ve been making simple tea like this lately. If I intend to just pour it into the soil, (not use it as a foilent spray) then I don’t even bother putting it into a bag. No harm in pouring the tea and muddy casting into the soil. If I am going to use a sprayer, or sprinkle can to put on the plant leaves themselves, I then just pour it into the sprinkler can through a sieve, and toss the extra mudd into the garden to some deserving plant 😉

    I think your garden or yard will benefit from this addition any time of year (well, maybe not dead of winter) because your adding so many beneficial organisms that will then (hopefully) thrive and multiply in the soil.

    Here’s how simple my tea is: fill a 5 gallon bucket with water and toss in a couple handfulls of castings. Keep it near the front of the house where I will walk by it a few times during the day. Leave a stick in the bucket and whenever I walk by, give it a good swirl to add oxygen. Viola!!! Wormcompost tea in a couple of days.

    Don

  1. Bentley,
    So happy you made some worm tea! I make and use mine similiar to Don, except I do add molasses. Also, I measure mine fairly accurately, for consistency, since I sell my made to order tea (2.5 -3 oz of vermicompost and 1 oz molasses per gallon. I am in Texas and the molasses not only helps feed the microbes in the tea and soil it is placed in, but also is a deterrent to nasty fire ants and nutsedge (an irritating invasive weed).

    I have worm bin envy, oh man would I like one of those with a trap door. That is an awesome bin! Unfortunately, I have the carpentry skills of the Three Stooges.

    • Jbushy
    • September 23, 2009

    Awsome! I’m definitely going to start utilizing tea as well…this will be a much easier technique for feeding my houseplants. Bentley…any idea on the approximate shelf life of worm tea??? I’ve kinda got your set-up as far as piles of casting and a couple of big rain barrels.

    • Bentley
    • September 25, 2009

    DON – You make some good points. Thanks for sharing!

    HEATHER – I did not realize molasses was an ant deterrent. I would have thought it would attract them if anything. Neato!
    Oh, and don’t assume I have good carpentry skills! As I’ve discovered, if you know how to hammer a nail, have some idea of what you want to build, and have the supplies, it is amazing what you can do (even though you thought you couldn’t)
    8)

    JBUSHY – I would honestly say that there is no real shelf life for good tea, assuming it’s not getting aerated. Especially when you add microbe ‘foods’, since this will greatly speed up the microbial consumption of oxygen. I guess you could leave the tea to sit for a couple of days and then re-oxygenate it for awhile before use, but I wouldn’t think it would be quite as good as when ‘fresh’.

    • Mike Burelle
    • July 16, 2012

    My daughter brought home some worm tea from a chemistry class back in November 2011. I still have the jug sitting here, and I was wondering what the shelf life is on using worm tea? Is it still good to use? If so, do I need to do anything?

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