Compost Tea NPK Values

Compost tea is reported to be great for growing plants and some companies even call it a compost tea fertilizer. What is the NPK value of this magic potion?

I started this post about a year ago and at that time there were many products on the market but I could not find one that provided the Compost Tea NPK value. I checked again today and was surprised that the number of compost tea products available is down significantly. Maybe it was too expensive to ship all that water around the country? Maybe it did not work and people stopped buying the product?

Interestingly, the number of commercial DIY kits for making your own tea is up significantly. When you click on Google images for ‘bottles of tea’ you are taken to pages selling kits. Even with kits the same question needs to be asked. What is the NPK value of the tea these kits produce. Very few of the manufacturers I looked at provided such information, but many did say their compost ingredients were the best. Easy to say if you don’t give any data.

Even if you are not interested in compost tea – the following discussion will show you how companies are misleading consumers.

What is the NPK value of compost tea?
What is the NPK value of compost tea?

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Compost Tea – Does it Work?

Compost tea is all the rage but does it really work? Research studies so far have produced mixed results. The science to support the use of aerated tea on crop plants, lawns, shrubs, or trees is very weak, at best.

There seems to be a lot of work done in this area but much of it is not published in peer reviewed journals and most of it has been done in labs and greenhouses, not in the field. Until the work is repeated in the field we can’t conclude it works in gardens.

The other problem is that controls have been poorly selected. For example, in one study (ref 3) they compared ACT compost tea to water, using lettuce that had been under-fertilized. Guess what, compost tea improved growth. This only proves that adding nutrients, when they are deficient, will improve growth. The study never compared compost tea to adding nutrients in other ways.

In this post I will review one study that compared the use of compost to compost tea, in field conditions.

Effects of compost tea on the growth of trees, by Garden Myths (data from reference 2)
Effects of compost tea on the growth of trees, by Garden Myths (data from reference 2)

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Teaming with Microbes – In-depth Book Review

Teaming with Microbes, a Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, is a fairly popular book in the gardening community and I thought it was time to do a review. This book is written by Jeff Lowenfels, a garden writer and attorney, and Wyne Lewis a lifelong gardener. Both gardeners clearly follow the teachings of Dr. Ingham and her soil food web. They have adopted her methodologies and present the ideas in this book.

Teaming with Microbes, A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web
Teaming with Microbes, A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web

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Bokashi Composting Myths

Bokashi composting, also spelled bocashi composting, is a new way to deal with kitchen scraps. The proponents of the system claim that it has a number of benefits not found in more traditional composting methods. In this blog post I will have a close look at Bokashi composting and separate myth from reality.

Bokashi composting
Bokashi composting

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Soil Microbes – Do You Need To Add Them To The Garden?

People are starting to understand that microbes (ie microorganisms) are very important to a healthy soil. This knowledge has led to a disturbing trend where people feel the need to add microbes to soil, and manufacturers are responding with an increasing number of products. In this post I will look at the misconceptions behind this trend.

Soil Microbes - do you need to add them to soil?
Soil Microbes – do you need to add them to soil?

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Something Stinks About Manure Tea

In may last couple of posts on manure tea and compost tea I explained why there is little or no reason to brew the tea. I am sure that I have not convinced all of you since the web is full of stories promoting manure tea as a good thing for your plants. If you want to brew some tea it  probably will not harm you or your plants, but it could; see the bottom section of Compost Tea.

If you must brew some tea, please do it intelligently. Don’t use commercial products!

Manure Tea bags ready for brewing your own.
Manure Tea bags ready for brewing your own.

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Is Compost Tea Organic?

You are probably sitting there thinking – is this guy crazy? Compost is organic and so the brewed tea from compost or manure must also be organic. Read on and I just might convince you that compost tea is NOT very organic!

compost tea brewing
compost tea brewing

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Compost Tea

Compost Tea has become a very popular topic. The following is a quote from Fine Gardening (ref 2):

Gardeners all know compost is terrific stuff. But there’s something even better than plain old compost, and that’s compost tea. As the name implies, compost tea is made by steeping compost in water. It’s used as either a foliar spray or a soil drench, depending on where your plant has problems.

Why go to the extra trouble of brewing, straining, and spraying a tea rather than just working compost into the soil? There are several reasons. First, compost tea makes the benefits of compost go farther. What’s more, when sprayed on the leaves, compost tea helps suppress foliar diseases, increases the amount of nutrients available to the plant, and speeds the breakdown of toxins. Using compost tea has even been shown to increase the nutritional quality and improve the flavor of vegetables. If you’ve been applying compost to your soil only in the traditional way, you’re missing out on a whole host of benefits.

Let’s look at the facts.

Compost Tea
Aerated Compost Tea

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