Compost Tea New Pioneer Winter 2015
Photo by Gerard Attoun
Paul makes compost tea in a 600-gallon tank, and lets potted plants soak up its nutrients. He also feeds it to in-ground plants.

Gardeners have many recipes for making compost tea: Steeping good-quality compost in 5-gallon buckets, diluting a commercial organic liquid fertilizer in water, and even buying compost tea kits, aeration pump included.

Paul Spangenberg uses a 600-gallon galvanized steel stock tank to make his compost tea. Two goldfish introduce ammonia into the water, which then gets broken down into nitrites and then the less toxic nitrates. This cycle is promoted by oxygen-loving bacteria that grow in a filtration medium through which the water passes. Paul uses a fountain pump to draw the tank water through a gravel filter. Floating water hyacinths also help filter the water.

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“We like them, they grow fast and make great compost,” Paul said about the water hyacinths. “They are great at filtering the water. We just let them float by themselves.”

Every two days or so, Paul adds the liquid or leachate that collects in the bottom tray of his worm farm to the water, not the worm castings. He uses the worm castings in potted plants and in the garden.  

Because the hard-working worms digest the food scraps completely and he uses ground-up egg shells as grit for the worms,  adding the  leachate “makes the compost tea high in calcium, which many plants truly do like.”

This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Winter 2015 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here.

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