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Is Compost Tea Just a Fad?

One of our readers recently pointed me in the direction of a rather interesting article on the Fine Gardening (magazine) website entitled, “The Jury is Still Out on Compost Tea“.

I have little doubt that the article has touched a nerve with many serious compost tea proponents, since it essentially questions the value of using teas for various gardening applications (strangely they don’t have a comments section after the article – would certainly be a great opportunity for an interesting discussion).

I must admit to feeling a wee bit defensive myself when I first read it, even though I’m not really a compost tea advocate (simply haven’t used it enough myself). While I certainly don’t doubt that the “jury is still out” as far as more research being needed etc, and while I have little doubt that there are some people making exaggerated or even completely false claims – I just can’t help but feel that the author is potentially tossing out the baby with the bath water.

Here is an interesting blurb from the article:

Before you start using compost tea by the gallon, be aware that most of the claims made concerning this liquid have been anecdotal and, even then, inconsistent. The positive results from scientific studies have been few and, again, lacking in results meaningful to backyard gardeners. A documented benefit created under sterile conditions, for example, does not translate to a benefit in your backyard, with its slew of natural microorganisms.

Again, I certainly agree that there are lots of wild (and often unsubstantiated) claims out there re: the value of various types of compost teas (including vermicompost teas, of course), but the inner science-guy in me doesn’t mind keeping an open mind about some of the “anecdotal” positive feedback I’ve received from a lot of people. Take my good friend, Mike “Strawberry Guy” Wellik, for instance (certainly looking forward to seeing what you have to say about all this, Mike!) – he is a very science-minded, rational individual (with academic training in entomology, if I’m not mistaken), and has determined via testing in his strawberry business that vermicompost tea applications can be very beneficial! His results aren’t published in the academic literature, but you know what – I’m inclined to take his word for it!
😆

BTW – be sure to check out Mike’s recent YouTube video: Brewing and Using Vermicompost Tea

Dr. Clive Edwards, who was originally rather skeptical of compost teas (as stated in a “Castings Call” interview with Peter Bogdanov – will track down the specifics on that one), has even changed his tune in recent years, based on the promising findings of various research projects conducted by his team at The Ohio State University Soil Ecology Lab. He went so far as to refer to vermicompost teas as “almost magic” in an email he sent me, referring specifically to the success he had growing a prolific crop of cherry tomatoes in his own garden (uh-oh! Anecdotal results alert!! haha). This is an incredibly-accomplished (hundreds of academic publications to his name), “old school” scientist we’re talking about here!

I guess my main point here is that, even if we ignore all the promising (if nothing else) academic research results, I just don’t think we can say that ALL non-scientifically-proven claims should be ignored. Based on all that I have read – academic or otherwise – my gut feeling is that there is DEFINITELY some value in using compost teas!

Obviously, as is the case with “castings”, “compost”, “vermicompost” – we need some sort of firm definition of what exactly “compost tea” is. Not all teas are created equal, that’s for sure! Just because a certain type of tea produces a given set of results in a scientific study does not necessarily mean that another type of tea (or even the exact same tea) will produce the same results in the “real world” – so I guess, on that level, the author and I can agree. I simply feel that there is enough evidence (academic and anecdotal) to warrant a more optimistic view!

But hey – to each his/her own, right?

Anyway – I would LOVE to see what people have to say about this! MY comments section is open for business!
😆

Written by Bentley on January 13th, 2011 with 93 comments.
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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Don Smith
#1. January 29th, 2011, at 1:22 AM.

From Linda Chalker-Scott – “I have a home landscape with many trees, shrubs, and groundcovers. I don’t use pesticides except for an occasional shot of Roundup; I don’t use fertilizers, unless I can determine a deficiency (most commonly nitrogen, which I add as fish meal only to plants that need it); I don’t add anything else to the landscape except wood chips as an organic mulch. I don’t have disease problems, I don’t have insect pests, I have a healthy, organic landscape. This tells me that compost tea is not crucial for landscape health. If a landscape has serious soil or plant health problems, it is not likely that compost tea is going to solve the problem.”

I find someone who uses an occasional shot of Round-up saying they have a healthy organic landscape a little disturbing coming from someone that bills themselves as the “informed gardener”.

Her problem with compost tea is that their isn’t enough “scientific” evidence to bother with it – and goes on to say it is better to just use the compost. For a home gardener maybe this is possible, but try and scale up the amount of compost needed for 1,000 acres and compost extract is much more economical. It won’t be as long lasting or as beneficial, but it is a start in the right direction – much better than going with genetically engineered seeds, chemical fertilizers, and Roundup – a deadly spiral.

By the way – did you hear that the USDA just approved genetically engineered alfalfa – Roundup Ready – our 4th largest crop in the US, 93% of which is grown with no herbicide. Now how fast until Monsanto’s genetically engineered crop pollinates eveyone elses alfalfa crops and Monsanto owns everyone again – they already did it with Canola.

Sorry – this is about Red Worm Composting – go worms, microbes, and fungi. They can’t make campaign contributions, so we have to help them!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Larry D.
#2. January 29th, 2011, at 2:06 AM.

Thanks Don! You covered more than i could research in a month.
I will say that Monsanto is a dirty word in more than one discussion on the net! Someone lost a bottle of roundup out front of my property.I cringe thinking about walking in the dead patch of ground.I feed my worms weeds.Dandelions are a delicacy at my house!
Also about the statement on the spray nozzle pressure.It is also the pressure you pump up in some of those sprayers.It actually explodes microbes.Even certain pump systems used to make the tea are too strong.Or too much agitation.But it is fun learning all you can about this stuff.You can better your own brew.Who wants to buy a sack of fertilizer and kill all the microbes? Not me! I still want that doh meter and microscope for Christmas.Is it December yet?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Frank
#3. January 29th, 2011, at 3:47 PM.

Don Smith wrote”
“Anyone that is interested in learning more from Dr. Ingham should take one of her 5 Day seminars. If you want to go even further, take a Permaculture Design Course, and realize that is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Wow, Don exceptional post! Thank you. I commented earlier in this post that it is easy to make compost tea but much more difficult to make good compost tea. You wonderfully layed out for us the many variables that go into compost, vermicompost, and compost tea, elaborating on what I said. There is no surprise that results vary! I am a huge fan of the Soil Food Web teaching and Dr.Ingham, and a goal for 2011 is to attend the 5-day you mentioned above.

http://www.oregonfoodweb.com/services/education.html

I also liked your reference to Permaculture. So much to consider, but all fascinating.

+Frank in Simpsonville

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Frank
#4. January 29th, 2011, at 3:52 PM.

Don,

May I copy your 29 Jan post “The beauty of this discussion..” post on another site? People need to see and read this info.

+Frank

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Don Smith
#5. January 29th, 2011, at 4:38 PM.

Frank – copy away – but I think you should link back to this website to give Bentley credit for hosting a great discussion, and it would be fair to mention my name, too. And you should provide the links to what Allison Jack is doing – did you read her paper? I personally think there are so many variables that it is almost impossible to figure out how the microbes are able to stop certain diseases – we always seem to try and find what is the one key element that makes something work, when it is often an extremely complex combination of interactions happening at a microscopic level – and how much does observing with a microscope disturb the activity? It is truly fascinating to realize how little we know. I certainly won’t let that stop me from using compost and vermicompost!

Larry, you are absolutely correct about pumps destroying biology, my brief diatribe did not come close to covering all the variables!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Frank
#6. January 30th, 2011, at 10:30 PM.

Hi Don,

Thank you. I posted your post just now, giving Bentley the much deserved credit for starting such a great thread, as well as calling attention to Allison’s posts, too.

Have you visited Bentley’s Worm Farming Alliance site (that is where I copied your post)?

http://www.wormfarmingalliance.com

It’s focus is more on the business side of vermicomposting, and if you or anyone has sights on any kind of business endeavor it is shaping up to be a good group, and with Bentley’s content, it will be an excellent site.

+Frank in Simpsonville

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com George Graham
#7. February 8th, 2011, at 9:41 AM.

Having read David Murphy’s book “organic growing with worms” he does an experiment with tomato plants, with two sets of plants. One set was sprayed twice a week with enhanced vermicast solution the other was not sprayed. After 5 weeks the results were amazing. The tomatoes sprayed were almost double the size of the non sprayed. Photographs in book.

For any doubting Thomas get the book. The bacteria increase was also carried out by Collex Laboratories in South Australia in 2002. The jury must have been out a long time.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cody Witt
#8. March 13th, 2011, at 7:37 PM.

We use, make, and analyze the results of compost tea and worm tea from our composting facility on a daily basis. Right now, in the middle of the cold March, we begin growing starter plants on racks through out our facility. All of these plants are watered with a diluted worm tea mixture and regular water and the results are amazing. We just collect the liquid run off from our 100 yard flow-through worm bin at our site. This “Worm Wine” is added to all our water of our plants and to our compost tea. Compost tea and worm tea is not a fad. However, the highest quality compost tea that is aerobically made in industrial compost tea brewers only has a shelf life of a couple hours. You have to use is quickly to get the full microbial burst to your plants. We are able to do this at our facility. For the backyard gardner, ANY TEA IS BETTER THEN NO TEA!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com nick
#9. June 27th, 2011, at 5:53 AM.

there are many ways to skin a cat. we are not forced the choose between either chemicals, compost tea or nothing. we can choose a one or another or a combination or a multitude of other ways of improving soil. I wonder if anyone has tried a trial with a compost tea group, compost group, no fertilizer group? in some ways it seems more logical to just add the compost and get the nutrient and the organic matter and a slow release. plain old compost has tons of microbes to start with. all claims for compost tea that seem reasonable are the same claims you could reasonably make for pain old compost as far as I see it.
I plan of doing a trial of my own with a control group, its the only way to be reasonably sure that the results are not due to some other factor. while it may not hurt your soil but it may just be a huge waste of your time. but in some cases garden lore can hurt your results, just look at the actual results of pre soaking bean seeds before planting.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com tyler
#10. June 28th, 2011, at 8:13 PM.

@Nick: Funny you mentioned it… I just did an experiment growing basil in several different types of compost vs. no compost at all… and my next step is definitely to try using compost tea/worm tea vs. none.

Be sure to link your compost trial up here, I’d like to see what you come up with.

Is making compost tea a waste of time? It definitely takes longer to make it than to dump it out in the dirt…but it still is fun.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Larry D.
#11. June 29th, 2011, at 11:04 AM.

Nick,just remember synthetic fertilizers kill microbes.If you mix the two,in my opinion,you would likely be better off to just forget about the organic.We,ve already seen several root growth experiments,in which there was amazing results.Always good to experiment though!
And as far as soaking beans.Don’t forget you get better results by using an innoculant on the bean seed.Sort of like what they say about using worm castings/vermicompost.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Don Smith
#12. June 29th, 2011, at 2:40 PM.

Nick –

You are almost correct that the benefits of compost tea don’t seem to be any better than using plain old compost. See my post #50 – the main reason a farmer would use compost extract or compost tea has to do with the quantity of compost needed. It is generally much harder and more expensive for a farmer to acquire the tons of compost required to apply it directly to their fields, but it would be the preferred method. Compost will last much longer and provide more organic matter than an extract or tea ever could. According to research done by Dr. Elaine Ingham, teas should be reserved for foliar applications, since research showed no benefit when using teas directly on the soil versus using an extract. Why spend all the time and energy brewing if you can just use an extract? However it does make a difference in foliar applications. A well made tea is full of microbes and fungi, of which some will actually stick and survive on the leaf surface, providing a protective shield against bad guys. If your soil is very healthy and has everything that your particular crop requires, a foliar application would not be necessary, because insects are looking for stressed plants and pathogenic microbes would not be able to get a foothold – very similar to healthy people and germs. Some research shows that plants can take up nutrition through their foliage as well, which could mean that you might get even better results by applying tea and compost both.

In summary, if you can afford compost – that should be your number one choice. If you can’t acquire that much compost for your soil, then make an extract. If you would like the “potential” benefits of compost tea on your foliage, then go for it.

As for mixing fertilizers and compost – fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides can be used, but applications of compost, extract, and teas should follow later otherwise you are wasting money. Just remember that healthy ecosystems were abundant the world over without any pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. All the man-made chemicals we have been and are applying have and are causing a huge loss of extremely valuable topsoil, polluting river, lakes, streams, groundwater and oceans. The current popular method of farming destroys the nutrient AND water holding capacity of soils, because it kills the biology that is responsible for those functions.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Larry D.
#13. June 29th, 2011, at 3:50 PM.

Not sure how much it matters?But a master gardener had me start using additives in there for a soil drench.Plain tea shows little growth on the ground.But add things to it,and you get a mold and fungi growth.He has been experimenting with tailored blends.Who knows how good it works? But i know as a soil drench it feeds the worms in the ground.And mold and fungi is an important part of plant growing.Surely a benefit to the plant also.Synthetics will just kill worms.He also said it is important to spray the underside of the leaves the compost tea.From the looks of his garden,he is doing something right!Just wish i was born a green thumb!Some of us need a lot of help.My results are just based on i grow stuff better than i used to! LOL!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Frank D
#14. July 2nd, 2011, at 8:26 PM.

For Don-

“If you can’t acquire that much compost for your soil, then make an extract.”

I think I missed something! What do you mean by an extract? Or is that another name for compost tea?

Thanks.

+Frank

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com John in Huntington Beach
#15. July 4th, 2011, at 11:15 PM.

@ Frank

In some circles, “tea” and “extract” are interchangeable. In others, “tea” has the added dimension of aeration and nourishment to enhance the multiplication of microbes present in the “extract.”

John

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Don Smith
#16. July 5th, 2011, at 5:50 AM.

Frank D.

In my circle, tea and extract are very different. The main difference is that tea is “brewed” to get the microbial population really high before applying it to the foliage. An extract is just putting your compost in a mesh bag, dropping it in the water and working it around to squeeze out as much biology and nutrients as possible in a short amount of time compared to many hours of brewing. You don’t need a fancy brewer, and can process many more gallons of extract in a day than you could if you had to brew each batch for 18-48 hours or more before applying it.

To add one more term to your vocabulary, try leachate. This is different than an extract or a tea, although some people think they are all the same. Leachate would be the runoff from a compost pile that is too wet, or a worm bin that is lacking enough bedding. Many of the worm bins have a little spigot at the bottom and they call the liquid that comes out “worm tea”, but is really not a “tea” or an “extract” – it is “leachate”. This liquid could be aerobic or anaerobic, and can be wonderful or not so wonderful. If your worm bin or the leachate smells bad, generally you are dealing with anaerobic conditions which are more likely to harbor microbes that you don’t necessarily want to be feeding to your soil. Or another way to think of this – if it smells, nutrients are leaving your compost that could be going into your soil.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cody
#17. July 9th, 2011, at 9:45 PM.

Here is a new compost tea information video from Craig Witt a soil scientist in Northern Nevada.

http://codywitt.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/compost-tea-informational-video-and-how-to/

Good info on why compost tea is not a fad.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Don Smith
#18. July 11th, 2011, at 6:46 AM.

Cody-

Not to rain on your parade, but I believe that the term scientist is used somewhat loosely in your post. That video is filled with questionable claims and adulterated compost. Where is the science? I know of a well known lab that tested the compost mentioned in the video for an actual research project – and it was not considered high quality compost. What is he using to make his claim that the compost is “high quality”? I can show a plant that looks just as amazing using Miracle Gro (I don’t support that) – does that mean we shouldn’t use compost? I can also show plants that look just as healthy using high quality compost and vermicompost that has not been adulterated. I’m all for using high quality compost and brewing compost tea for foliar applications, but not for adding additional chemicals to the mix. His particular method of making “tea” for a foliar application is questionable as well. I didn’t see much science involved in that process.

Science would involve a control group with no compost, one with unadulterated compost, and one with adulterated compost from the same batch as the unadulterated one. Then showing that one consistently produced higher yields with more nutrition(an expensive test), and that your soil was actually improved, both biologically and chemically(more expensive testing). I have no idea what type of medium the tomato plant that he is showing is actually growing in – what would it look like without the treatment?

People get different results with teas for many reasons as I elaborated many posts ago. How does the average person know that they are getting a high quality compost? What metrics are you measuring to consider it “high quality”? Well made actively aerated compost tea has been shown to work in scientific literature. Compost tea has also been shown to produce E. coli in scientific literature. It was not well made compost or tea, yet they “proved” that tea was dangerous!

I encourage people to get more information about the benefits of vermicomposting, learn about Permaculture, etc. And question someone that is saying use compost that has been adulterated with additional chemicals because you will get better results without showing proof that you are increasing the water holding and nutrient cycling capacity of your soil and not just leading to more chemicals running off biologically depleted soils. Just look to nature – did it need chemicals to make productive grasslands that fed millions and millions of buffaloes or to create an old growth forest? Somehow nature was doing a pretty good job without adding additional chemicals.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cody
#19. July 11th, 2011, at 7:41 AM.

By the way Don. I would love for you to call up Dr. Elaine Ingham and ask her about Craig Witt because they have worked together in the past. Compost tea is an additional application that can be used as a root drench and as a foliar. if you have properly amended your soil with a high quality compost that contains vermicompost, such as in the video I posted, you make compost tea every time you water!

Using extra compost tea is just to boost your plants even more but only if you are making your tea from a compost as shown in the video. I insist you review this website on the product you questioned in the video: http://www.fullcirclecompost.com/SoilEssenceElite.php

Please email me directly or comment again.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Paula from Illinois
#20. July 11th, 2011, at 12:16 PM.

I was using the pump bubble stones molassas it worked but now I just add a stocking filled with a cup or two of vc set it in a bucket for 24 hours and pour it on the base of the plants. I don’t know if I needed to dilute it more because when I sprayed it on the leaves they started drooping. So like I said now I pour it into the soil around the plant. Even if some one said it does not work I still have pounds of food wste not going into the land fill. I have plenty VC to add to my garden beds and containers.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Don Smith
#21. July 11th, 2011, at 5:27 PM.

Cody –

Let’s be clear – I am a fan of well made compost tea for foliar applications, direct application of compost, compost extracts and any process that improves the soil food web in the soil. It has been shown “scientifically” that some of the benefits of a healthy soil food web are improved nutrient cycling, improved soil structure, and more pathways for air and water. And one of the best ways to insure a healthy food web is to add organic matter to your soil. The organic matter provides food for the biology in the soil. Compost and vermicompost provide organic matter as well as biology when added to the soil.

Back to your points – I see many claims and fancy words, like “humified” compost on the website you listed and they talk about lots of testing and experiments done in order to produce their compost – what I don’t see are test results. Just because someone worked with Dr. Elaine Ingham in the past does not guarantee that they make great compost. For example, they are adding mycorrhizal fungi to their compost, what species of fungi, and can they prove that the fungi is actually colonizing the roots when it is used. From research I’ve read – the spores need to make contact with roots within 24-48 hours max of getting wet – when are they adding the spores to their compost? Mycorrhizal fungi are fantastic, but you need to prove that the ones you purchased are actually colonizing the roots of the plants that you applied them to. Just because they are added to a compost doesn’t mean they will actually make it to a plant root. It is more effective to apply them to the seed right before it germinates or dip the roots directly in the mycorrhizae mix.

You state “you make compost tea every time you water” – that depends on your definition of tea – I wouldn’t call that tea, but I understand the point you are making. You state “only if you are making your tea from a compost as shown in the video” – there are lots of ways to make tea, that is not the only way, and that method is certainly not AACT(actively aerated compost tea), which he clearly says he will do in a separate video.

I’m sorry if the science or technicalities bother you, just trying to keep it real. Again, vermicompost is great stuff, well made tea has been shown to produce positive results, this website is extremely informative about vermicomposting, reporting observations is great, the scientific method is great, making claims by using fancy words without the science to prove your claims is just marketing fluff – similar to vitamin manufacturer claims.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cody
#22. July 11th, 2011, at 5:30 PM.

Here are photos of starter plants and the difference using compost tea made from vermicompost. The difference is quite astonishing.

http://codywitt.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/the-worm-compost-difference/

Vermicompost is the key for enhanced microbiology that other organisms do not produce. Making vermicompost into tea is the key.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cody
#23. July 12th, 2011, at 5:15 PM.

Dear Don,

I think you may be now misreading my responses to you. The only reason I kept making references to the compost tea in the video is because I can only make claims about our own compost tea! Of course there are other ways to make compost tea and if you would of read my response we mainly make aerated compost tea using an earth tea brewer but I do not go into that because 99.99% of people do not understand the topics I would be talking about.

This point is obvious if you do not know what humified compost is. The results of our compost are all available if you contact our office. we have done thousands of soil tests throughout Northern Nevada to prove our compost. I do not put our soil tests up online because once again 99.99% of people would not even understand the soil tests that we use.

Yes, our my mycorrhizal applications in our compost work because why would we spend the extra money on adding something to a product if it didn’t! The marginal revenue on compost is so small that messing around trying to do “marketing fluff” like you say is not possible and would put us out of business.

As for results just check out the garden that we use only our products in to prove how well our compost and teas work. We live in Northern Nevada and only have a 3 to for month growing cycle inbetween frosts. Here are some pictures:
http://codywitt.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/proof-is-in-the-pictures/

I have been documenting exactly what we are doing this year every month so you are more the welcome to keep up and see how we do. That is the true proof, not fancy words, just pictures showing us growing amazing plants in a climate that does not promote sustained growth.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cody
#24. July 12th, 2011, at 5:19 PM.

And we do not make compost tea every time we water. Once again if you would have watched the video that is for a once a week application. The video talks all about dilution and you can make any strength of tea. We make weaker tea so we can use it once a week instead of a watering time. Don, I would be more than happy to chat with you in person also rather than have internet blog battles. Please send me an email at wecycleconsulting@gmail.com. Thanks.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Don Smith
#25. July 12th, 2011, at 9:27 PM.

Cody –

Obviously I read your responses, watched the video, and visited the Full Circle website, and your blog. Perhaps you should read what I say more closely in response to what you say. I quoted you and then you misinterpreted my direct quote of you. “if you have properly amended your soil with a high quality compost that contains vermicompost, such as in the video I posted, you make compost tea every time you water!” My mistake, I only quoted the part that said “you make compost tea every time you water”, I thought you might know what I was referring to – obviously you are stating that if you have compost in your soil and add water, it is like making tea in the soil. I understand what you mean as I said in my prior post – but I still would not call that process making tea. That was my point of the quote – not how frequently you make tea. Does that help?

“Yes, our my mycorrhizal applications in our compost work because why would we spend the extra money on adding something to a product if it didn’t! The marginal revenue on compost is so small that messing around trying to do “marketing fluff” like you say is not possible and would put us out of business.” Perhaps you add it so that you can say that you have it in your product to make more sales? I asked some specific questions about what species of mycorrhizal fungi you add, and when you add them in the composting process, and if you have proof that they are actually colonizing the roots where your compost has been used, and you reply with that? Is that a scientific reply?

So do you work for Full Circle Compost? Is Craig your father, and does he own Full Circle Compost? Perhaps you should have said something about the relationship in your original post? I don’t mind if you want to market your product, but reread my first post in response to you to see my issues with the video.

“Humified” compost – please explain – yes, the composting process does produce humic and fulvic acids, but I have not heard of compost as being “humified” before. It does sound good though. Could you tell me the difference between humified and non-humified compost? I saw several definitions on the internet – all by people trying to differentiate their compost as “better” than ordinary compost? One required worms, one required microbes, but compost is “humified” by the composting process. Not all composts are created equal, but “humified” seems like a made-up marketing term to me, not a scientific term – I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

I’m not trying to be impolite, but you keep persisting with questionable statements. I’m glad that your garden is lush, and that you are promoting vermicompost, composting, and sustainable practices. Claims without good science are just claims.

You’ll hear no more from me in regards to this, unless you choose to continue trying to answer my questions with non-scientific generalities. Let’s get back to the wonder of worms and good tea brewing.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cody
#26. July 12th, 2011, at 10:57 PM.

Don,

We pride ourselves on the science we have done to prove our product and proving this on this blog is not necessary. I would really appreciate if you would write me an email so I can answer your questions personally. The email once again is, wecycleconsulting@gmail.com.

Our statements are far from questionable and I would love to show you that they are not. I will delve into a little here but of you but please email me so we could have a chat.

Our mycorrhizal application is proven by an increase in root colonization percentages from 2% to 56% at Red Hawk Golf Course in Nevada and Incline Village Improvement District. Pre and post application root colonization assays were performed in both situations.

Please do the research on controlled microbial composting by Sigfred Lubeke. This is the process we follow in making our humus. Humus is the end result of composting after being through the stomach of a microbe. Humus can be understood as the bank account in which your plants withdrawl nutrients from. The key difference between non-humified and humified composts is monitoring the oxygen and moisture levels in you aerated windrow composting system to create optimal environment for microbial break down and including a colloidal clay in the beginning of the compost recipe to act as a catalyst to initiate humus crumb formation in the build up phase, or last portion of the compost process. The clay having a high cation exchange capacity creates a positive electromagnetic field to collect the spilled cell contents from the decomposition process. All of this information is in the above scientific works by Lubeke and can be substantiated by the soil tests we have done.

The stage for creating humus is established by recipe and process. this method of composting to create humus can be substantiated by and please research:

~Dr Arden Anderson
~Pike Labratories
~Midwest Biosystems
~Steve Diver article in the ATTRA database

Back to the worms…why is vermicompost so important to humus and compost tea? Calcium. If you follow the procedures of high brix gardening you will see that calcium is the key to all plant productivity and growth. It is the truck that drives the nutrients from the humus bank to the plant. If you do not have calcium in you compost or in your tea you have no truck and the nutrients go no where. (Please refer to Dr Cary Reams and International Ag Labs to understand how plants really work. Also Dr Bill Jackson and his book Organic Soil Conditioning for proof on these items). Red worms have calciferous glands which produce natural calcium. We add extra calcium following the outline from International Ag Labs who view the necesities of plants from the eyes of the plant. Trace minerals not found in regular compost also must be added to sure deficiencies. We could go all into all the trace minerals and why we put those in but…Remember that all satisfied plants start with satisfied soils and thats what we aim to do.

As for making compost tea, once again the video and what I was saying is just for backyard gardners to pick quality composts and make the easiest tea possible at home. Real compost tea should be aerated and what we use are earth tea brewers with a specific microbial boosting recipe where we have documented microbial activity that I can also provide you. We have cured harmful fungi on trees by over staturated that malicious bacteria with beneficial bacteria in our aerated compost tea from an earth tea brewer.

Yes I do work with Full Circle compost but we are not here to just support are product but to give valuable information to people such as yourself on other ways of composting and looking at other people’s methods. That is my own personal blog where I share my ideologies about composting which happen to be what we have based a composting company from.

There are many more article on my blog if you have more questions or please contact me directly.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tom Bergstrand
#27. April 26th, 2012, at 1:02 AM.

This has been quite an experience just trying to absorb all the different views expressed here. I first saw this procedure in a video by a guy in (I believe Texas) and it was a rather unscientific “gosh by golly” kind of approach. It seems to work for him. Now I see that there are many people trying to refine the process. I am sure that by refining it their goal is to work out some of the problems that many folks didn’t even know existed. The commercial folks want to serve a market while the academics are following the old adage “Publish or perish”. Since the life span of AAVCT is relatively short it seems to me that it must be refined on a personal basis. What works for YOU. It looks like the procedure rather than the product makes the trip to the plants. The finest AAVCT created in Miami has little or no “fizz” when it reaches Chicago. As for the ingredients I have some thoughts. Here in Kingman AZ the overwhelming majority of hay for goats and horses comes from Fort Mohave AZ. Pretty much the “same stuff” so trying to factor in any differences (real or percieved) amounts to “much ado over nothing”. I can see that any shortcomings in batches of AAVCT can be identified and corrected. One post mentioned a shortage of N. Well perhaps a small amount of chicken manure could be added. HOWEVER, I do not know if the N would make the trip through the process and make it’s presence felt at the time of application. Another thought about commercial applications. Having hauled produce much of my trucking career I have seen many a drop of “whatever” applied to veggies. I think it would add another process in an already competitive process. The airating of perhaps 1,000 gallons, diluting and then administering it in the most productive manner while the minutes tick away. I will try the process outlined in “Deuleys own little Texas tea brewer” and see what it does. He claims you can dilute it at whatever ratio you want and administer it as often as you want. Like I said “gosh by golly” approach. If you search the title I just gave you Deuleys process will appear. It might not be perfect but it’l do.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bruce Magnuson
#28. June 12th, 2012, at 7:59 AM.

After raising worms in rabbit manure. I make my tea as needed. I grow over 2 acres for road side sales. Unfortunately I have hi dollar chlorinated water. I wanted an affordable carbon base water filter to brew my tea. After thinking about it. I wanted de chlorinated water for the whole garden. Rather than treat the whole property I wanted a filter that fit on my garden hose so I could just treat what I needed. I ended up having my own filter made. Check me out at http:gardenfreshfilter.com

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ernest Kinzie
#29. December 27th, 2012, at 7:51 AM.

I feel Worm and Compost Tea should not be considered a magic bullet or a Snake Oil that can cure all problems and improve poor soil without the addition of compost and other organic compounds. It should be consider one of the many tools to successful growing. As it is fairly easy to make and if done properly it may provide beneficial organisms to the soil and plants. I am not a scientist, but pure logic should tell you if you take a very clean container, add pure rain water to it, provide a means to provide life sustaining oxygen (air), provide the Worm Castings or Compost by a 400 micron leaching bag or directly, add food for the organisms that are leached out of the casting or compost and brew for a period of time. Something should happen. Use a microscope or have a test done for the results. Do do this scientificly many test have to be done the design and material the tank is made of, purity of the water and casting and compost,
areation method and oxygen saturation of the water, leaching method, organisms food and brew time. Then comes the controlled testing that can take years. Makes you tired doesn’t it. Fads come and go and people use fads to make lots of money. See how many miricle Compost and Worm Tea making machines on the market promoting all kinds of success. Have they been tested scientifically? Moral of the story is make your soil healthy by use of good compost and organic compounds then use Worm and Compost to build up the amount of benifical organisms.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com James
#30. April 10th, 2013, at 8:36 PM.

Get a microscope and look at the microbes you will understand. You can’t trust any experiment that does not show the document the quality of the compost as well as the tea. Compost tea only works when you have the right organisms in the tea.

Plants grown with good microbes grow just as nature intended. Plants without good microbes are deficient in nutrients and the pests come and eat the weak plants. And you can’t judge your results based on plant height. How about a tissue sample. How many nutrients are in the plant. That’s why food grown with compost tea taste so good.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Deb
#31. June 5th, 2013, at 12:38 PM.

Here’s an article I read just today (although it’s dated 2009) from the USDA that touts the benefits of worm tea. http://www.csrees.usda.gov/newsroom/impact/2009/sbir/08101_earthworm_tea.html

I’m new to the whole worm thing so this is my first year using it on my garden. So far, anecdotally of course, I was doing well with no bug damage on my plants, but then we had a couple of weeks where it rained often and I didn’t use any worm tea spray on them. The bugs have feasted on my plants. I’m back to spraying them now that the sun has returned and I’m seeing less new bug damage. Half of my garden is in containers and the other half in a raised bed. Both seem to be doing well. I’m starting a worm tea experiment today with 4 pots, two with my potting soil mix and two with regular soil, one of each will have worm tea and worm castings used and the other will be plain water and regular compost. I’ll post the results on YouTube in a few weeks.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Phil H Skinner
#32. June 20th, 2013, at 7:15 PM.

Sir I have started only this year using compost tea and worm tea and mixing both and I have found it incredible for all types of vegetables.Now I am sure I have probably never made the same precise mix each time but it seems to be growing my veg at a much faster rate and in a lot more abundance. I live in Dublin Ireland and we suffer with a lot of slugs and snails of all descriptions and other flying veg eating bugs also and since I started using the compost tea on the foliage of my plants none of these bugs attack them which is great but that leaves me wondering if a bug won’t eat it is it safe for me to eat ? Do the bugs know something I don’t ? or is there a natural insecticide in compost tea ? I would love to know the answer to this question if anyone has one
Regards Phil

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jim
#33. July 24th, 2013, at 7:25 PM.

Phil, bugs and slugs perform an important role in nature and nutrient recycling helping to break down vegetation in the process of creating humus. Healthy vegetation with high Brix readings is of little interest to bugs and slugs. Unhealthy, decaying vegetation is their preferred target food source. I’ve seen the results in my home vegetable garden and in my pasture where clover was once heavily targeted by Red Legged Earth Mite. As Brix levels rose the mites disappeared.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Michael Settles
#34. January 24th, 2014, at 5:50 PM.

First of all, a huge thanks to Bentley on starting this great dialog! I am a Vermiculturalist & have been for many years. They’re are so many good comments I don’t know where to begin. One thing I think is relevant to the novice as well as the experienced Vermiculturalist that wasn’t mentioned is the deleterious impact Chlorine has on all things organic. I have always used rain water in my thermophyllic and mesophyllic bins. Living 25 mi southeast of Seattle affords me a lot of rain water. During the dryer months I use city water but I actively aerate each 55g barrel ( have 7 all linked together ) for a minimum of 48 hrs. I have always had excellent results with my vegetables & flowers. For those who use Chlorine, avoid it at all cost. The anecdotal v scientific dilemma is problematic but not insurmountable. I have attended 3 of the 14 vermicomposting conferences at NCSU, spearheaded by Dr.Rhonda Sherman. I will continue at least every other year because I enjoy the ” science ” behind the process. If you can afford it, I highly recommend attending when you can. It is beyond worthwhile.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kim
#35. May 2nd, 2014, at 11:35 AM.

I am new to vermicomposting but not new to the world of publishing, having been a journalist for 20 years. Could be the article was a direct attempt to boost chemical fertilizer sales. It only makes sense that the compost tea is going to be beneficial. To what degree is dependent on a number of variables but of course so are manufactured fertilizers. It’s the natural process that is the point. Thanks so much for your site. It’s my go to for information in my worm wrangling (as my husband calls it)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com kellie
#36. June 3rd, 2014, at 11:31 PM.

There have been heaps of interest in leachate in the past couple of years with more and more people taking on worm farming and just recently huge interest in the brewed worm tea. Type it up in Google and you will find heaps and heaps of pages on people advocating vc and worm tea compared to negativity about it. That’s gotta tell us something! !! I also want to say that not everyone’s vc or tea is the same- you could be the type to put cow manure in yours, lawn clippings or alfalfa pellets or you put none if those! ! But if you find that it works for you, don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. Just keep using it! ! Works for me wanting to be an organic gardener, I save heaps and there’s never a day when I actually run out! There will always be some vc in my bin do just do what works for you and omit or change what doesn’t.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#37. August 6th, 2014, at 1:07 PM.

For all you compost tea keeners (especially those with an interest in aquanponics) still tuning in, I’d love to get your input on some questions I posted here:
https://www.redwormcomposting.com/worm-tea/using-aquaponics-water-for-wormcompost-tea/
😎

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com lawrence cox
#38. April 3rd, 2015, at 11:11 AM.

i gotta start with saying i love your site its my go to for anything worm related. sorry for the long one but this will be worth reading. now, i started brewing compost tea about 5 years ago. just from good compost alone at first. i had a few foul smelling batches years ago but i used them either way and didnt notice as much death from a bad batch of compost tea/ too much compost tea compared to chemical fertilizer so i would say it isnt very “harmful” as far as burning foliage even in a sour batch. i have since got my recipe down to what i feel a perfect fool proof way to make perfect worm tea every time havnt made a sour smelling batch for 2 years! just nice earthy sweet forest/pondy smells. i have gotten the tea down to a science and i now use it once a week in the growing season! i use compost tea when i water, yes once a week and for tucson, az in the middle of the desert with 115 temps and dry as a bone in the summer my friends dont understand how i can still get away with watering once a week i cant explain it either but that how it works. THIS BREWED TEA IS THE ONLY THING I USE! at all. seriously. i mean i do use lots of E.W.C., and compost in the yard but thats once or twice a year and i only use about 2 or 3 cubic yards compost on my 100 by 40 foot garden that about one or two inches across the top i would guess. the biggest thing tho is i apply liberal amounts of straw ALWAYS even once a month in the heat of the summer as a food source for the micro organisms because a few years back i noticed some problems when using compost tea on a regular basis. the organisms would consume all my organic matter in one month! and the balance would be thrown off the plants would naturally loose their leaves to make up for the loss of nitrogen and my garden wouldnt grow properly again for 3 months to a year for some plants. the TRICK is to always have 2 to 4 inches of STRAW (or leaves or other fast breaking down material but not so much wood chips). with the huge jump in organism numbers and without this food source your organisms will run out of food and eat each other just like we would! ok not exactly but you see my point. the last year i started not thinking about when to fertilize my trees and thought more on what/when to feed my organisms and native worms. i wish i could show you the results, the smells in my roses the green in my trees from NOT using conventional fertilizer at all anymore. who would have thought?

i also heard people saying “ohh never ever spray that tea on your leaves” and guess what i have the complete opposite of bad. ive been combating powdery mildew in my yard and black spots on the leave of my rose and orange trees for about 3 years or more. at least that when i noticed the problem. well i went to the store and bought a few different things like neem, copper fungicide etc a few different times and the spots always came back from using these, but when i sprayed a heavy dose of worm casting tea on my orange trees leaves i couldnt believe it. they shoot out new growth they havnt in years and they just dropped every single leaf with black spots! i raked them all up and havnt seen a black spot in 6 months! i dont understand what happened here but i asume the tree got a healthy enough drink (from the leaves) to eat, that it had the energy to shed its leaves properly. out with the old in with the new. and removing the bad leaves out was important. again no conventional products. all natural earthly material all made by yours truly.

want to talk about my special worm tea recipe email me.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Steve
#39. May 10th, 2015, at 9:17 AM.

When Harvard (The Ivy, world famous, second best university in the world ) is using compost tea for its beneficial effect on its lawn, you can believe that “some” serious research had been done. (Link below)

The lawn treated with this compost tea has root 10 inches deep
The lawn treated chemically has root 3.5 inches deep

There is an episode of the WGBH Ask This Old House series dedicated to the “Harvard Brew”
Watch the episode on Youtube, you’ll see for yourself. You’ll also hear one of the best genuine Bawston accent ever from the Roger the landscapah. 🙂

As an FYI, MIT (Best university in the world) is now also using this technique.

Enjoy,
Best regards to all
Steve.

Youtube video
https://youtu.be/Wufx9UnY9do?t=1m32s

Organic Tea recipe
http://energyandfacilities.harvard.edu/sites/energyandfacilities.harvard.edu/files/Tea%20Recipes%20Spreadsheet.pdf

Build your own
http://energyandfacilities.harvard.edu/sites/energyandfacilities.harvard.edu/files/How%20To%20Build%20A%20Brewer.pdf

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Barb
#40. June 13th, 2015, at 10:35 PM.

I am always willing to experiment to prove for myself if something works or not. I will not just take someone’s advice or opinion as true or factual. If an experiment is not dangerous and doesn’t require hard-to-find or expensive stuff, then I will try it. I have used worm compost tea, and well, coincidentally, had great results. So to heck with the articles and the naysayers and the critics, the skeptics and the statisticians. Get your feet wet and try something new. Even if it fails you will have the satisfaction of knowing the truth, and probably learned a little extra something along the way 🙂

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cody
#41. June 30th, 2015, at 8:42 AM.

Well, I love that this blog post has continued to have comments since 2011. This shows that compost tea is not just a fad and is still a main topic point for gardeners and growers. Thank you Red Worm Composting for the post (I originally commented back in 2011 and still here as well!).

To complement this post and prove that compost tea does really work (I know this is a link to my blog but I have some awesome pictures of the results using a vermicompost tea in Nevada) you all should take a look at a recent post I did. We make a specialty vermicompost tea that is kicking plants into growing gear: Does Compost Tea Really Work? (http://fullcirclecompost.com/does-compost-tea-really-work/)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tom Bergstrand
#42. May 31st, 2016, at 12:41 AM.

I think one of the best things about compost tea is the fact that you don’t have to have multiple bins or even a huge one. Just grab some castings, prepare the tea and return the castings into the bin to refresh the microbe population and get ready for the next batch. It would seem that the regularity of brewing is the largest concern for discussion. Some say every week, some say every month or even a different schedule relative to the time of the season. It shouldn’t take long to figure out what works for YOU and go with it. Anything is better than nothing.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Barb M.
#43. March 30th, 2018, at 7:15 PM.

Well, here it is yet another 2 years since the last comment on this post–but
wanted to put my 2 or 4 cents in. I just got led to it by a Flashback Friday post on a vermicompost harvester. I don’t think compost tea is a miracle worker or that it can provide every nutrient a plant needs, but I have proven enough to myself in outdoor and indoor use that it’s a valuable commodity! I’ve been making it since the 1980’s using everything from a 55 gal. barrel with a burlap bag of any kind of manure suspended in it, to 5 gal. buckets with or without aeration, to smaller pails with some castings in them, all just dipped out with a watering can, etc. and poured around the base of the plants. I don’t put mine on the leaves because I don’t know how “hot” it is at any given time as I continually add water to larger containers of it, and most manures can possibly burn leaves if not well rotted.

I’ve never failed to see plants respond to the stuff, all and any of it, in a favorable way. Whether it smells relatively fresh, stinks to high heaven, or was aerated or not–plants respond to it. I even use my indoor worm leachate mixed about 1/4 to 1/3 leachate to the rest of water (first left to set a couple days in an open bucket to lose the city chlorine) or rainwater, on my houseplants and orchids in the house very often when I water. There’s no odor. In some cases, no other fertilizer is applied to the plants I’ve brought into the house for the winter because they are “resting” and they still bloom all winter. I do try to give a little organic fertilizer to the orchids though and also apply castings around the base of any/all the plants occasionally.

After almost 60 years of gardening, probably 50 of them organically (the person who first taught me was a Rapid Gro blue water fan but I soon got away from that after some reading on it), I don’t need Fine Gardening or any scientific studies to tell me that compost tea of any sort is a treasure and well worth the little effort. It only takes a few minutes to set up, then it just works on it’s own. How hard is that? Thanks!

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