Actively Aerated Compost Tea making

Dave Barnett
By Dave Barnett on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 - 2:20pm

I ran across Actively Aerated Compost Tea while studying Soil Food Webs, and was intrigued with the idea. Here's a video on it:

Unfortunately, the process seems too industrialized, even for the DIY-er. I found a cheaper version at http://www.earthfort.com/products/brewers/dirt-simple-5-gal.html but the problem is that all versions require an air pump. Of course we could rig a bicycle powered pump, but even in the smallest version, the pump has to aerate the tea for 24 hours continuously. Lance Armstrong jokes aside, does anyone have any clever solutions to areation?

7 Comments

jasonw's picture
jasonw
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 17 2011
Posts: 1019
Swing by Peaceful Valley

Hey Dave,

You might want to swing by peaceful valley farm supply to check out their compost tea systems.  They have small bucket systems and bigger medium sized commercial systems. 

http://www.groworganic.com/fertilizers/composting/compost-tea-brewer.html

We have not ever used a tea brewer before but we will occasionally heavily water our worm composter and then collect a strong nutrient rich runoff from than.  Then dilute and apply from there. 

Do you and Pamela have a Worm Composter yet?  If interested - I can divide my worms again and we can get you setup with a DIY Tub Worm Composter.  Keep me posted. 

 

Dave Barnett's picture
Dave Barnett
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Joined: Dec 7 2012
Posts: 18
AACT compost tea

Jason -

Thanks for the offer!

We have a worm farm, and can make compost tea with that. But there's a huge difference (according to Elaine Ingham) between regular compost tea and aerated compost tea. Normal compost leachate or tea, is mostly anerobic with a little aerobic activity on the surface. The aerated compost tea is closer to a healthy soil web, and includes tons of aerobic bacteria, fungi, good-guy nematodes, amoebas, ciliates and flagellates. I got this information from Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web.

The Peaceful Valley Compost Tea Brewer Item#: E140 is the type we're looking for, but of course it has an electric air pump is is what we're trying to work around.

 

Doug's picture
Doug
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 1 2008
Posts: 3159
slightly OT

I have an old stock tank that I sink a burlap bag filled with horse manure in, and then run a hose into the garden so I can individually feed each plant a couple times during the summer.  Seems to act as pretty good fertilizer.

Doug

Dave Barnett's picture
Dave Barnett
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Joined: Dec 7 2012
Posts: 18
sure

Doug -

They weren't saying that regular ol' compost tea wouldn't work, just that aerobic tea is much, much better.

Dave Barnett's picture
Dave Barnett
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Joined: Dec 7 2012
Posts: 18
Peaceful Valley AACT brewer video

Here's the instructional video offered by Peaceful Valley http://groworganic.com/organic-gardening/videos/how-to-make-compost-tea

The brewer used is way more than we need for home use!  The baby version #E140 works the same way in a 5 gallon bucket -- it's the right size, but I trying to envision a way of aerating for 24 hours if we had no electricity. I could always use bio-diesel from sun flower seeds to power the pump smiley but that doesn't seem like a good return on energy.

maceves's picture
maceves
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Joined: Aug 23 2010
Posts: 281
aerated worm compost?

My plants just love the worms....so do weeds, you should see the dandelions that found an off-season growing place!  I have at times diluted the compost to make what the worm guys call a compost tea, but now I have two ideas----

first of all, maybe I should not use city water at all on my veggies without letting the chlorine dissapate---maybe letting the water sit out in the sun would do that trick....

second---a simple aerator, like one from a fish tank, could run water in a bucket for a day to make the small amount of tea I would need using worm compost as my base.  This would be sprayed onto the leaves of the plants--I don't need it at the roots.

I stopped drying out my worm castings and now set them aside covered and let the eggs I miss hatch out. When I go back a month later, there they are, full grown worms.

I also put some worms from the bin into almost finished compost and let them finish it out.  They do a wonderful job!  I had not given much thought to the fact that I had not added city water, but had partially covered them to protect them from predators and flooding from rain.  When I went to check on one, a great big very green frog jumped out!  I suppose they get the worms that wander to the top and are not covered.

My daughter says I should not talk about the worms ...."Mother, that is just strange"...

Dave Barnett's picture
Dave Barnett
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 7 2012
Posts: 18
okay, we're strange... and we talk about worms A LOT!

In Teaming with Microbes by Lowenfels and Lewis, they devote an entire chapter to Actively Aerated Compost Teas, including how to build your own. For a small batch, this is what they say:

" All you need is one of those ubiquitous five-gallon plastic buckets; add this to an aquarium air pump (the biggest you can afford), an air stone, and about 4 feet (1.2 meters) of plastic tubing to use with it. The better pumps have two air outlets; if you cannot get a double-outlet pump, use at least two single outlet pumps. Sufficient aeration is critical. Once your system is operating, you will know if you have enough air. If the tea smells good, things are fine. If it starts to smell bad, the tea is going anaerobic.

We learned in physics that the smaller the bubbles, the higher the surface to air ratio and thus more air exchange with the water, but when bubbles get too small, under 1 millimeter, they can cut up microbes. Aquarium air stones work well as long as you remember to keep them (and the plastic tubing that attaches them to the pump) clean.  Another system can be made replacing the air stone with a two-foot link of 1/4 inch soaker hose designed for drip irrigation systems. This hose can be coiled and taped onto the bottom of the bucket, giving better bubble "coverage" than an air stone."

They give recipes for making the AACT, but the basics are: dechlorinated water (run the air pump an hour or two with just tap water to get the chlorine out), good compost or vericompost; food for microbes (e.g., nonsulfered molasses or fruit juice); and fungi food (e.g., fish hydrolysate).

 

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