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JJ the Gardener

Composting, Compost Extract & Compost Tea

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Compost Extract and Compost Tea

Compost extract and compost tea is a method of inputting nutrients and microbiology to your soils or growing media of choice.

Compost extract and compost tea is a tool that enables the gardener to assist the plants development with more accuracy and support as the grow season and plant further develops.  

  • Compost extract works to maintain your soils and is dependent on the quality and condition of your living soil.  
  • Compost tea is best used for foliar applications and in the soil. 

Things to consider are the environment, the period of plant growth, soil condition and your plants condition.  By understanding this and how to tailor your compost extracts and teas to address and support these aspects you can take a leading role in working towards a great harvest!  In order to do that, we need to understand the soil food web and how that applies to compost tea and extract usage.

The following video is excellent on explaining the soil food web, compost making, making humic acid (than can be used immediately and how it helps to lock up chlorine and chloramine), making compost extract and compost tea.  

  • This information is vital in understanding how to make effective high quality compost extracts and teas.

 

Elaine Ingham Soil Food Web Compost and Compost Tea

photo.jpg Lonnie Gamble - Elaine Ingham Soil Food Web Compost and Compost Tea

 

Their are many ways to create a compost tea with some being aerobic and some being anaerobic but they both can lead to the same end.  What is more important than the method (as long as the method is effective) of making extracts or tea is the quality and type of the compost and ingredients.   Additionally with using the right compost and ingredients for the time period and the state of your garden plants.  

The quality and effectiveness largely dependent upon the microbiology and catalyst ingredients combining to create a garden tea that optimizes and/or supports your plants life cycle and to help maintain vigor during times of stress by strengthening your living soil with inputs of beneficial bacteria and fungus.

For some, compost extracts and teas work and for others it does not.  This is a factor more so when the type of extract or tea is made with ineffective methods and/or the soil does not work effectively together.  

  • Just making a tea and applying it to the plants does not equate to effectiveness.  We need to ensure the biology in the tea is correct for your situation such as plant stage and that the soil biology needs are infused with the right biology that will strengthen your soil.  

Compost extract and tea is a management tool and not something that should be used only in emergency situations and/or only during times of stress.   

  • I view managing compost teas very similar to natural farming inputs.  It should be regularly used as a maintenance to reinforce the soil biology matching the life cycle of the plant and in this way I have seen great success with compost extracts and teas.

Their are many types of compost teas one can purchase commercially and the options are almost unlimited in what a gardener can craft at home.  Determining if it is better to select a ready to use compost tea or to make your own can be a difficult endeavor depending on ones knowledge and skill as a gardener and in understanding the applicable microbiology.  This question can be complicated with that perspective.  

While making the tea is simplistic, making effective teas is potentially an entire different thing.  The following video will help address some aspects of commercial compost tea products compared to making your own.  The answer on what is the best option for you depends on you.  

This is not about making your own garden teas or buying ready to make garden teas.  It is about working to instill enough information and knowledge to help you determine what is best for your situation.  We advocate what is effective for you and thus we are fans of quality commercially ready to make compost teas and fans of making your own.  

  • Our concern is the living soils and the plants and helping gardeners gain knowledge and not be reactive to marketing information.

Their are fantastic and effective compost teas you can purchase and you can also make fantastic effective gardening teas with your own ingredients but in reality many gardeners do not have the quality ingredients to brew an effective tea.  Think quality in and quality out kind of thing.  

  • The following video is not placed as an advertisement as it is for the information and knowledge that is discussed.  It just happens to be from Josh Cunnings from boogie brew - http://www.boogiebrew.net/open-source-compost-tea/   We are appreciative for his videos.  ~JJ the Gardener.

 

Why Compost Tea is NOT Created Equal & How to Make the Best Compost Tea

photo.jpgLearn Organic Gardening at GrowingYourGreens  - Why Compost Tea is NOT Created Equal & How to Make the Best Compost Tea

 

Determining what kind of compost tea you need is the first step such as more bacterial, fungal or a blend.  This is will largely be determined by the type of plants you are growing and the current state of the plants and soil.  

  • In later compilations we will discuss making composts to enhance various microbiology that will help you better make your own quality compost varieties as to enable you to construct your garden teas to better meet your specific needs.
    • Green compost component - leaves and green parts of the plants while still green.
    • Brown compost component - plants after seed production and nutrition is located more in the roots.
    • Woody compost component.

 

Elaine Ingham on Compost Ingredients Elaine Ingham on Compost Ingredients

AAuE7mDK7B6ejhfzca1es49x4plb1wD4sxUG_RgH  Farming Secrets

 

To make your own compost teas we recommend that you have access to quality ingredients such as rich compost (forest, sea/ocean-for chitin and mushroom compost combined are best practice), rich worm castings, rich soils, fish hydrolysate (unheated or its useless), kelp, humic acids (best made from your own compost) and utilizing a bit of sea water 1:30 dilution/mineralized-fermented water, a bit of rock dust, a pinch of biochar a pinch of yeast and protein powder can also be added.     

 

Elaine Ingham on Mollases in your Compost Tea? How to make Fungal Composts

photo.jpg ThePermacultureStudent - Elaine Ingham on Mollases in your Compost Tea? How to make Fungal Composts

 

We will discuss various garden teas recipes further below and explain the reasoning.   While it is common for people to obtain these ingredients they often do not have them all in an effective quality.  Then their is the method of brewing the tea.  

 
 
About brewing compost teas
Many gardeners who make their own compost teas often make errors in the brewing.  This is largely due to improper to negligent cleaning of the brewing equipment that leads to pathogens and thus problems.  Using sugars and molasses are not generally recommended as they work towards bacterial growth.  
 
The common air-stone and 5 gallon containers method is often a culprit.  We have no problem with the 5 gallon and air stone method but in its maintenance specifically in cleaning aspects that can lead to problems.
  • Sometimes when people get sick from eating produce from organic farms this is a potential factor.
  • We have seen many garden teas made by a variety of methods work well but these have a higher margin of error for the ordinary gardener when not maintained correctly.

 

Dangers of making compost tea

photo.jpg Back 2 Organics - Why Brewing Compost Tea is Dangerous

 

The following video is the follow video from above and illustrates a recipe that is considered more safe in regards to e-coli and similar pathogens.  Any method can be utilized similarly by not adding sugar/molasses.

 

The Simplest and Easiest compost tea

photo.jpg Back 2 Organics - The Simplest and Easiest compost tea

 

Garden tea can be made by steeping compost/ingredients and daily stirring in clock wise direction making a vortex and making teas with aeration from air pumps with constant mixing.   Both methods are viable but both require proper management and care to ensure proper quality.

 

Stirred Compost Tea vs Pump Bubbled Compost Tea! With Results!

photo.jpg Work With Nature - Stirred Compost Tea vs Pump Bubbled Compost Tea! With Results!

 

While many utilize the air stone in a bucket method safely we advocate a more effective process of instilling higher oxygen and mixing which intern leads to higher populations of microbiology by making a higher populated AACT or activated aerated compost tea.  

  • We are not saying the air-stone in a bucket or even just manually stirring each day will not make a good garden tea but we are  speaking on aspects regarding them in regards to the common gardener so that they may be accounted for.
  • We are for whatever brewer or method you use as it is the knowledge we hope to instill as to assist you making effective garden teas.

The following videos illustrates tea brewers people can make themselves with great amounts of information on the subject of Compost extracts and teas.

 

Dr. Elaine Ingham discusses and illustrates making compost tea with various compost brewer sizes.

 

 

AAuE7mAQphTD50epPJczKdAyGapOf5bCPoS3y9ud  Paul Taylor

 

 

Larger Homemade Brewer
 
photo.jpgLearn Organic Gardening at GrowingYourGreens - Best DIY Compost Tea Brewer made with a Garbage Can & PVC Pipe
 
 
 

Compost recipe and process

Compost tea for 5 gallon bucket with store bought or your own made ingredients with lots of even aeration from bottom. 

  • Humic acid - 1 drop per gallon, 1 tsp is ok. (breaks down chloramine), 
  • Liquid kelp (fungus and some bacterial growth), 2 tsp
  • Humic acid again to feed fungi, 1/4 cup
  • Unsulphured Molasses.  (use little 1/4 to 1/2 tsp) :58db4612147f1_mushroom1:
    • This is to help start the bacteria growth but not overwhelm it.
    • Too fast bacterial growth will utilize the food source for fungal growth that comes a bit later in the process.
    • Film on the sides of the brewer indicate dead biology.
      • Next time reduce sugar input
      • Check your brewing times and adjust accordingly.
  • Compost in a tea bag/panty hose, 1/2 pound.
    • Hang compost in the middle of the container.
    • the color of the water should change quickly.
      • This is humic acids and biology going into the tea.
  • 8 hours later
    • Remove tea bag from brewer.
    • A majority of the microbes will have been released into the water.
    • Remove compost from the bag and place it back into the compost pile you took it from.
    • Resume brewing for 12 to 16 hours 
      • Total of 24 hours since starting the brew.
      • Brewing for 24 hours favors more bacterial and longer such as 36 to 48 hours brewing favors more fungal life.  Adjust per your needs.
    • Turn off aerator and rinse and clean.
      • Very important to rinse and clean to prevent future negative issues in following brews.
    • collect the compost tea.
    • Apply immediately.
      • Soil and leaf surfaces.
    • Immediately thoroughly clean everything.

 

Compost Extract

Compost extract for 5 gallon bucket, no food is added.  The biology is not active and thus not viable for foliar uses but is good for soil use.

  • 4 gallons of water.
  • 4 drops of homemade humic acid per gallon of water to manage chlorine and chloramine.  (1 drop per gallon, a little extra is ok)
    • Do not use humic acids from leanardite or coal based as these are not usable to the microbiology or your plants due to its form being not usable for about 6 plus months. 
  • Place compost in tea bag, panty hose, paint strainer.
  • Then massage the compost tea bag in the water for 1 minute.  The water will turn brown in color.  After one minute you are done.
  • Return the compost back to the compost bin.
    • The used compost will again be colonized by microbiology and its humic and fulvic acids will be replenished in time.
  • use the compost extract immediately for in soil use only.
    • The microbiology is not active so it is not sticky and is not beneficial as a foliar input. 

 

Advanced Information

 

AGF-l79cAffJQFnyz17pQkiit6oRs8V1NEVfH9tMLiving Web Farms

 

AGF-l79cAffJQFnyz17pQkiit6oRs8V1NEVfH9tMLiving Web Farms

 

photo.jpg Innovative Farmers - Dr. Elaine Ingham Compost Tea Audio

 

Chris Trump - FAA and Fermented Compost

#Christrump #soilsmith #naturalfarming  Korean Natural Farming How to: FAA

 

Summary

You should now have an understanding about compost qualities and the differences of the types of composting materials.  An understanding of how to make and the uses of compost extract and compost teas and how to make and safely utilize them.  In this you should have an effective base in which to better manage your garden utilizing compost extracts and compost teas.

In following compilations we will discuss how to better shape your compost teas as to better address the life cycle of the plants such as vegetative, transition and flowering phases of plant growth.

 

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For you!

 

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Links:

 

 

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~A proud Cultural Healing and Life Compilation

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This is in part why I recommend making your own compost.  You know what goes in it, the quality of it and the wholesome product it is.  While most people cannot make their own compost for those that can.  I implore you to do so for the potential health of your soils.

 

State’s ‘forever chemical’ restrictions not applied to compost

Environmental protection overseers still allow sales of the nutrient-rich product used by landscapers and gardeners, even though it’s made with PFAS-laced municipal sludge.

 

UNITY — State environmental regulators have allowed companies to sell compost made with treated municipal sludge to the public this summer, even as they restrict the use of sludge on many farm fields because of concerns about chemical contamination.

Maine has about a dozen operations that use treated sludge, referred to in the industry as a “biosolid,” to make compost, and they continue to distribute products containing PFAS as environmental regulators and a task force formed by Gov. Janet Mills try to figure out how to deal with the pervasive “forever chemicals.”

Direct application of treated sludge on Maine farm fields has slowed dramatically this year amid new concerns at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection over levels of PFAS in the would-be fertilizer. But the DEP has granted a dozen facilities that mix sludge with other materials to make compost an extension, of sorts, to continue selling their nutrient-rich product to landscapers, nurseries, contractors and home gardeners.

DEP officials and composting facility representatives said they are confident that the compost is safe for use because gardens and lawns likely have much lower background levels of PFAS – a common industrial chemical under increasing scrutiny – than larger farms where more sludge was spread repeatedly.

“We have to make sure that this is safe for our customers,” said Andre Brousseau, superintendent of the Sanford Sewerage District, which recently invested $2 million in a composting facility. “I use this at my house. And we are not going to be giving out a product that is going to be detrimental to health or the environment.”

Some environmental groups involved in the debate remain concerned, however, and are urging the DEP to conduct more testing before allowing PFAS-laced sludge or compost to be spread anywhere.

“I would challenge the assumption that gardens and other places where compost will be used have average or below-average PFAS levels,” said Patrick MacRoy, deputy director of the Portland-based Environmental Health Strategy Center. “And the reason I challenge that is it’s only logical that gardeners are going to use compost year after year.”

Maine’s investigation of PFAS in treatment plant sludge and compost puts the state in the vanguard of research in this field, as concern mounts nationally about potential threats to soil, drinking water, food supplies and human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun to investigate PFAS and may establish protective standards, but that work is far from completion.

CONSUMER DEMAND

DEP permission for compost sales extends only until June 30, 2020, as the state gathers more information and conducts more testing.

“Between now and then, we will be back in communication with those facilities because we recognize they need answers beyond that date,” said David Burns, director of the DEP’s Bureau of Waste Management and Remediation. “But we didn’t feel like we had adequate information (to go beyond a year).”

In many ways, Maine’s sewage treatment plants and biosolid composting facilities are grappling with a problem brought on by consumers’ hunger for high-tech but low-maintenance products.

The large class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances collectively known as PFAS have been used for decades to create the nonstick surfaces in cookware and to help make jackets, carpets and other fabrics waterproof or stain-repellent. The hundreds of chemical variants of PFAS are commonly used in dental floss, grease-resistant food packaging, compostable paper dinnerware and in the foam that military bases and airports are required to keep on hand to battle jet fuel fires.

“These compounds have been in use for 30 to 40 years,” said Jeff McBurnie, director of permitting and regulatory affairs at Casella Organics, which operates one of New England’s largest biosolids-based composting programs in Unity. While McBurnie understands the concerns over PFAS, he said, “What we do is such a small component of where the potential impact would be.”

Yet the chemicals’ complex structure means they do not biodegrade in the environment and linger in the human body for years before breaking down. That means PFAS now routinely show up in drinking water and in the human waste that treatment plants must process.

With PFAS nearly ubiquitous in the blood of people and animals around the world, there is mounting concern about the health impacts.

A growing body of scientific studies suggest the chemicals — and in particular two phased-out versions in this country, PFOS and PFOA — can affect liver and thyroid function, raise cholesterol levels, disrupt the immune system and potentially lower birth weights at high dosages. Some studies also suggest a link to cancer.

Most of the high-profile and most severe PFAS contamination cases nationwide have occurred near military bases or industrial facilities that produced or used the chemicals. There is growing interest in Congress to allow PFAS contamination sites to qualify for federal Superfund status to facilitate cleanup.

Maine has several known PFAS hot spots, such as on areas of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station where the chemicals were used in firefighting foam. But PFAS in sludge emerged as an issue in Maine after contamination was found on an Arundel dairy farm that utilized and stockpiled biosolids for fertilizer.

Earlier this year, the Maine DEP began requiring testing of PFAS in treated municipal sludge at facilities that turn those materials into fertilizer or compost. The first round of tests showed elevated levels of PFOS and PFOA in the vast majority of samples.

The agency also collected test results from farm fields where sludge had previously been applied. As of last month, 33 of 43 fields tested had background PFAS levels that were too high to allow additional spreading. Unless treatment plants can find alternative sites, they will be required to landfill the sludge at an additional cost to ratepayers.

The review process for facilities that convert the sludge into compost is different, however.

The DEP cannot test PFAS soil levels on every landscaped lawn, building site or home garden where compost would be spread, so the state is relying on background soil levels gathered from studies in Vermont to determine likely levels of contamination. So far, 12 of 15 composting facilities in Maine have been given the green light to continue selling because – if the compost is applied correctly – the additional PFAS would not tip a hypothetical plot of land above the DEP’s contamination threshold.

“For general distribution (of compost), it is not anticipated the product would be applied to soils year after year like they do with (agricultural) biosolids,” said Burns, who heads the DEP division that oversees reuse of biosolids.

DEP staff also sampled soils from a vegetable garden owned by a person who raised concerns with the agency about repeated use of compost, and they are analyzing potential PFAS uptake in vegetables. Although Burns said he was not prepared to release the results before notifying the homeowner, he said, “It shows that we’re OK.”

Plant uptake of PFAS is an area of ongoing research. In Arundel, however, Stoneridge Farm has been effectively shut down because high levels of PFAS showed up in the milk of cows fed silage grown on farm fields that were fertilized for years with municipal sludge and paper mill waste.

Last week, the attorneys for Stoneridge Farm’s owners, Fred and Laura Stone, reported that blood samples showed the couple had PFAS levels up to 20 times higher than the national average.

The PFAS levels in compost made with biosolids in Maine were magnitudes lower than those found in the soils of Stoneridge Farm.

McBurnie, with Casella Organics, said the compost application rate his company recommends to clients has a safety margin built in. The company also lowered its maximum recommended loading rate slightly – from 4.5 to 4.3 tons per acre – in response to the PFAS tests but is not yet explicitly mentioning PFAS in those recommendations.

“We understand and we take all of the precautions, not only by law but because we want to make sure we are giving customers a good product for their gardens and for their lawns,” said McBurnie, who is a member of Maine’s PFAS task force.

‘SCIENCE’ AND ‘ART’

Located on roughly 15 acres a few miles from downtown Unity, Casella’s Hawk Ridge facility is a massive operation that produces roughly 80,000 cubic yards of compost annually. While the company sells to individuals, most customers of Casella’s various compost blends are contractors, landscapers or others buying in bulk.

Tractor-trailers deliver an estimated 4,800 cubic yards of treated sludge monthly to the Unity facility. After unloading the truck, workers combine the piles of waste with wood shavings, sawdust, wood chips and “starter” compost that adds a carbon base and bulk to the nitrogen-rich waste and begins the composting process.

“There is a science to it but there is also a little bit of an art, too,” said George Belmont, manager at Hawk Ridge, while standing beside small mountains of wood shavings and treated sludge.

After mixing, the piles are loaded into 128-foot-long, enclosed tunnels or “vessels” where – with the help of oxygen pumped in by huge aeration systems – the microbes that help create compost get to work. By law, the internal temperature of the pile must reach at least 131 degrees Fahrenheit to cook off any pathogens.

After roughly a week in the tunnels, the compost is moved outside to “cure” and continue to cook for several more weeks. Eventually, the materials are piled into massive rows or blocks where sensors monitor temperature, moisture, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the final aging and curing process.

All told, the biosolids-based compost could be on-site at Hawk Ridge for six months to nearly a year before it is sold as “Class A” compost that is more than 99.9 percent free of the pathogens found in human waste.

McBurnie said Casella lost a sizable chunk of business as well as a few customers in the spring when the DEP imposed a monthlong moratorium on compost sales while PFAS testing was done. Although sales have been brisk since then, the uncertainty over what happens after June 30 of next year is still “in the back of our minds,” he said.

Even though Casella owns or operates several landfills in Maine, the company does not want to landfill the sludge now being accepted at Hawk Ridge because it recognizes the additional value of the finished product. Landfilling sludge also increases municipalities’ costs and consumes limited landfill space.

“I’m all for doing the right thing, but let’s not act rashly,” McBurnie said. “We understand there are clusters of issues, such as where there are large (PFAS) releases near industries. Let’s focus on them.”

SANFORD’S SITUATION

More than 120 miles to the south, the Sanford Sewerage District distributed 122 cubic yards of compost last month that was made from biosolids. While diminutive compared to Casella’s operation, Sanford’s composting facility allows the district to reduce input into its landfill, which is nearing capacity, while avoiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual costs to ship the waste to Hawk Ridge or elsewhere.

“We recently spent close to $2 million on this composting system,” said Brousseau, the superintendent of the Sanford Sewerage District. “The ratepayers are paying for that, so what do we do if we can no longer compost? And that’s still a concern because the deadline is July (2020).”

Like other treatment plant operators, Brousseau stressed that they have no control over the PFAS that flows into their facilities from human waste or industrial sources. Although federal scrutiny is increasing, PFAS chemicals are still not on the long list of substances that companies must report discharging.

Even so, Brousseau estimated that a home gardener would have to spread 7 yards of Sanford’s compost year after year for decades in order to exceed the DEP’s cutoff.

The task force created by the governor this spring is expected to make recommendations on future reuse of biosolids by the end of the year. Several groups involved with the task force or monitoring its work are urging the DEP to err on the side of caution by limiting or prohibiting land application of sludge with elevated PFAS levels.

MacRoy, whose organization the Environmental Health Strategy Center also has a representative on the state’s task force, said it is wrong to automatically assume that gardens or lawns are “virgin land” without elevated PFAS levels, especially if they’ve received compost before. MacRoy also expressed concern that some home gardeners may not follow application guidelines and, in their zeal for a well-nourished garden, may overapply compost.

“I question many of the assumptions that DEP is using,” MacRoy said.

 

 

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