Worm Tea or not Worm Tea – That is the Question!

Here is a good question from Chris:

I have a rubbermaid composting bin, it is working great, I
have about 2000 worms. I blend my veggies and food up so its a mush, I
then put this mush in the bin. the problem I am having is, the tea
that is draining is not dark and rich, its light brown but not dark
brown like I would think it would be. I am thinking this is not really
tea its runoff from the veggies right? This bin is about 2 months old.
Is this light colored stuff ok to use as tea still?

Hi Chris,
In a nutshell – your suspicions are correct. This is NOT actual worm tea. It is more accurately referred to as “leachate” – basically just water that has passed down through an active worm bin, picking up various compounds on the way. Real worm tea is made by soaking finished worm castings in water – preferably being aerated at the same time. Those who are really serious about their ‘tea’ often even add other special ingredients to ‘feed’ certain types of beneficial microbes or to improve the final product in some other way.

You CAN use the leachate in the same manner as a compost tea, but it won’t be as reliable/predictable since there are plenty of intermediate (unstable) metabolites from the decomposition process and potentially even some phytotoxic (harmful for plants) compounds that might be in there. I would dilute it and if possible, aerate it with an aquarium air stone before using it.

Hope this helps!
8)

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Comments

    • Sarah
    • January 27, 2009

    Could you please explain exactly how to make worm tea? what kind of additives, water to tea ratio, etc. Thanks!

    • Bentley
    • January 27, 2009

    Hi Sarah,
    I am definitely not a worm tea expert by any means – I just make mine by putting a small cloth bag of vermicompost (maybe a pound) into a standard 5 gallon bucket of water (rain water is better than tap water) and aerating it with an aquarium air stone. I’ve added a bit of molasses before, but I don’t have any secret recipes using other ingredients.
    Hopefully someone with more worm tea brewing experience will chime in!
    8)

    • Bob Packard
    • January 28, 2009

    Hi Bentley, just google “worm tea”. There are almost as many sites and recipes as there are worms. There are even places that sell worm tea? But I don’t know how they can prolong the shelf life. The dry recipes say just add water. My advice; read on and experiment. Some people even pay big bucks for the “special” stuff. The best tea comes from the best compost. No “bull”

  1. Does the leachate get old or can it be stored for awhile until needed? I’m finding I have more than I can use.

    • Bentley
    • February 6, 2009

    Hi Katrina,
    Leachate already tends to be pretty anaerabic, but if you just leave it to sit it will more than likely get downright putrid – definitely not something you’ll want to feed to your plants. If you dilute with water it and keep it in a cold location, or aerate it with an aquarium air pump it should keep for awhile.

    • The Seed Guys
    • May 15, 2009

    If you add any of the stuff to water, any of the beneficial microbes will be killed instantly by the chlorinated water. You need to brew for 36 hrs. or more with a huge amount of aeration. Otherwise you will be producing bad instead of beneficial microbes. Dont buy anything off the shelf. Once aerator is turned off, the life of the microbes is 5 hours.

    • Ben
    • August 27, 2010

    I use a 4ft x 4ft x 4ft plastic bin. and started with 5,000 worms every two or three days I feed, water about a gal. of well H2O sofftened with Potasum and drain about a half gal. of liquid some really smelly stuff. My plants look incredable. I don’t know about shelf life. my stuff sits around and still works.

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