Please welcome guest blogger for the day and author of the book The Mini Farming Guide to Composting: Self-Sufficiency from Your Kitchen to Your Backyard, Brett L. Markham. Brett is the author of multiple popular Mini Farming books, including Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre, Maximizing Your Mini Farm, and the handbooks The Mini Farming Guide to Vegetable Gardening and The Mini Farming Guide to Fermenting.
Before writing The Mini Farming Guide to Composting, Brett asked his readers which topic he should focus on next, and composting topped their wish list. Using the same straightforward, easy-to-follow instructions and photos of his own plot that gained him the following for his earlier books, he now turns his green thumbs to this important, yet overlooked, aspect of growing plants. Today he shares with us instructions on how to make a compost tea brewer at home!
There are a number of commercial compost tea systems on the market, but on the scale of a home garden or mini farm, especially given the current state of science regarding compost tea, I don’t see buying such a system as justified. It is easy and inexpensive to make compost tea with parts from the hardware and pet store. The system demonstrated costs less than $20.
- 1 x 5-gallon bucket
- 1 x old pillowcase, the more threadbare the better
- 1 x aquarium aerator (any size from 5–20 gallons)
- 1 or 2 x check valves (included with aerator)
- 1 or 2 x aeration stones
- 8′ aquarium air hose, standard size
1. Cut the hose to the lengths required for your set-up and attach the hose from the aeration stones to the check valves, ensuring the arrows on the check valves are pointing in the direction of air flow.
2. Cut additional lengths of hose needed to attach the check valves to the aeration pump.
3. Place the aeration stones in the bottom of your bucket.
4. Arrange your pillowcase in the bucket as though it were a trash bag in a trash can.
5. Place one shovel full of compost in the pillow case.
6. Use string to tie the pillow case shut.
7. Fill the bucket most of the way with water.
8. Turn on the pump and allow to bubble for the requisite length of time.
9. Turn off the pump, remove the pillowcase filled with compost and empty the compost.
10. Use immediately. Once aeration is removed, the aerobic bacteria and fungi die quickly.
The nose knows. When your compost tea is done brewing, give it the sniff test. If it smells like fresh dirt, it is properly brewed. But if it smells putrid, rotten or otherwise yucky, don’t put it on your plants. Your nose is imperfect, but it was designed by nature to help keep you safe. If what you brewed smells unsafe, it probably is—so discard it. The odds of this happening if you have followed the directions and recommendations in this chapter are very low, but it never hurts to give things a final check just in case.
Check out great projects like this and more in Brett’s new book, The Mini Farming Guide to Composting: Self-Sufficiency from Your Kitchen to Your Backyard.
Whether it’s your mini farm or flower garden that needs nourishment, Brett explains how to compost just about anything you can grow. In this handy guide you’ll find instructions that make composting simple with checklists, extensive tables, measurements, and diagrams. Topics include:
- The importance of soil microbiology
- The nutrient cycle
- Compost and sustainable nutrient cycles
- Sustainability and a positive bottom line
- Theory: the science of compost
- Practice: the technique of compost
- Other sustainability practices: biochar and more
- Indoor composting: vermicomposting
- Limits of composting, appropriate amendments
- Easy composting bins you can make yourself