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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Green Space: A tea party will protect summer worn plants

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  • Gardening has “miracle-amazing” items that wind up costing true believers a lot of money. Hence the $45 gallon of “compost tea concentrate.” Just leave that puppy right there on the store shelf.
    This is a complex, brewed tea of compost plus added nitrogen and sugars (usually molasses). It does work, but you pay for it.
    You can make your own for free by a steeping method if you have a compost heap or buy a $3.50 bag of compost or composted manure at your garden center. It makes many gallons of soil-improving steeped tea for pennies on the gallon.
    An added feature is the tea extends to your compost heap. Even a small amount of compost will make gallons.
    The easy recipe
    First, decide how you will use your homemade tea. It is effective foliar feeding, sprayed on leaves, but you must filter out the solids or clog your sprayer. Get a five-gallon bucket. Fill it with tap water and allow it to stand for a day to burn off the chlorine (skip if using well water). Load a big handful of compost into an old sock or pantyhose. Tie it up and throw it into the water.
    Place the bucket into the sun. Stir daily with a paint paddle. Your tea will be ready for spraying in three to five days.
    Skip the filtering step if you plan to pour directly on plants. Note that the compost on the bottom is reusable until it no longer produces a dark liquid (like a tea bag).
    What you’ll get is a true “plant food,” a direct shot of beneficial bacteria and micronutrients. This stuff has been rated at a perfectly balanced 1-1-1 on the fertilizer scale.
    Convinced yet?
    Plant scientists have discovered compost tea has a pesticide effect when it is sprayed or dumped on leaves. It offers a remedial effect, restoring ailing plants to full growth.
    And it protects leaves from common fungus problems.
    Best of all, it is a gentle, natural fertilizer that can be used on the hottest days without burning plant tissue, the big problem with nitrogen-salts fertilizers.
    The science involves stimulating bacteria to grow. Don’t cover your steeping bucket or barrel. It needs oxygen to create beneficial aerobic bacteria. Aerobic is odorless.
    Compost sealed from the air creates anaerobic bacteria, that smelly stuff of rotting garbage. It eventually makes tea but will spoil your patio cookout.
    Great for containers
    This year, the plant trend is all about containers as folks expand their decks and patios into portable vegetable and flower gardens. Compost tea is the perfect addition to rejuvenate tired potting soil. Tightly-packed hanging baskets will enjoy a weekly tea party.
    Page 2 of 2 - A key is using high-quality compost for the strongest tea. In your heap, this is the fully rotted stuff towards the bottom.
    Some folks use 35-gallon trash containers and spray the results on their lawns, negating the need for fertilizer. The return on the time invested can be truly amazing.
    Contact Jim at jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com.

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