Composting Pre Finale

This week in the Flog:

  • Why am I cutting Pat’s Composting Series short?
  • Final episode of the Composting Series – this week!
  • Background on the Compost Tea research

This composting series has gone really well. It will be a great resource to learn about all kinds of composting techniques. If you guys are interested in composting, this series is a great place to start. Some techniques may be pretty foreign, like cockroach composting, but trust me they are all awesome and well worth the effort. The compost pile is finished now, and I’m just applying it to the garden. I will post results of that later. For now, you can review the series on the website through these pages:

So why will the next article be the final of Pat’s Composting Series? Great question.

I removed the article on BSF composting since it won’t be ready for a long time. I got some BSF larva from a friend but they didn’t do well and my balcony garden is not accessible to black soldier fly adults. Until I have a good working example to document, I’m shelving that article. I really strive to only publish very well researched, well written articles so that you guys get good clear examples to learn from. At the very least I need a good working setup to document and display the technique in action! My problem with the larva I had was “setting the mood” apparently. The adults didn’t mate once matured – I guess they didn’t like my beautiful enclosure :

BSF Housing Unit

The failed BSF enclosure. The plant died after the BSF. Oh well, will try again later.

On the flipside, speaking of well researched articles, I’m really excited about the Compost Tea articles. In fact I went a little overboard with those, designing my own brewer for the aerobic compost tea, and my own methodology and recipes for the anaerobic tea. Here’s a breakdown:

Aerobic Tea
I started this venture when I bought a nice microscope several years ago, with which to study the microbes. You can’t be sure you have a great tea unless you know what microbes to look for, and whether they are actually in the tea you brew! I started making compost tea. The initial results were dismal. Almost zero microbial activity. I found out that 90% of sites discussing compost tea, give bad advice. I guess that’s the nature of the internet.

So I went back to researching. I visited friend’s operations. I read books on the brewing process. I picked up every piece of information I could find on the topic. That’s when I started looking at brewers. The cost of a commercial compost tea brewer shocked me. And most don’t come with any proof of their effectiveness.

So I started designing my own brewer and testing the results. Again, a bit dismal, but getting better – I started seeing great activity in my brews. The only issue now was, my results were so variable! Sometimes there would be tons of microbes, other times almost none. I kept redesigning the brewer, and learned more about the scientific principles underlying the process. There was a great turning point, where it all came together – after over a dozen prototypes, I had a simple, cheap, supremely effective brewer built that yielded consistent results, based on a recipe I tested and tweaked over and over to ensure consistency. I’m still not finished, but it is looking awesome now! And my “experiment” balcony is loving it.

Anaerobic Tea
I found a real lack of information on anaerobic tea brewing. Lot’s of misinformation and inaccuracies about the process float around the internet. Well, our whole site is on the anaerobic process! This applies to teas also! So using the principles of Gil’s techniques, I started brewing anaerobic compost tea. This is an amazing, super interesting topic I have spent a ton of time testing and tweaking. I’m fascinated by the stark contrasts between aerobic and anaerobic – in ingredients, brewing, application, effectiveness – they are two totally different beasts but both absolutely essential to the natural garden. I’ve been testing the process – from brewer designs, to ingredients, to application and results – to find a consistent anaerobic counterpart to the traditional aerated tea. It’s been a great adventure, which I have yet to finish.

You can see, these two articles have spun out of control and become really awesome research topics that are ongoing at this point. In an effort to wrap up the composting series in a timely fashion, I’m removing these two topics as well. I’ll keep you informed of my progress as they move along.

That’s it for this article. I’ll release the final article in the Pat’s Composting Series later this week – it’s gonna be a good one, it’s a basic composting article with a nice graph showing the temperature over time of the final stage of the compost pile – interesting to study.

And now I’m interested in hearing from YOU. It’s almost May!! Planting season is well upon us in the northern hemisphere! What are you planting? What is your biggest problem so far this season? Are you excited to use compost tea this year in your garden? How’s the compost pile from last fall? Is everyone up there in the cold northern hemi working that fresh organic matter into their gardens and preparing for crop season? Please regale us with your tales – I’m dying of heatstroke here in the Philippines – it finally got hot (summer). So I’d love to hear from you about the cool crisp spring mornings spent working the soil, steaming from all those good microbes going about their work…

Leave a comment below to share your story.

Don’t have a garden yet this year? Why not?

  • jeff

    hey ive got all the veggie seedlings looking awesome! this year i have moved into the humic and fulvic additions to my teas. also silicon powder and rock dusts. those seem to be working the best in my teas. i would love to compare notes on teas. ive been studying over 5 years on how to make my tea flourish with microbes everytime. i think ive found the answer. let me know id love to talk. its raining outside now, but its a good things i amended the garden yesterday so the rain can work everything in. weather is cool here in ct, but it should be hot come next week. hope to hear back from you soon

    • Patrick

      Hey Jeff,

      I’d love to compare notes! I’m thinking of making the tea manual an ebook for sale though, FYI.. I’d love to be able to focus more on the site, which means it needs to generate income.

      I’ve been playing with those too, the organic acids and minerals. But as much as possible I want to keep things simple. My goal is actually reducing number and complexity of inputs as much as possible, while still making a really high quality tea. This is backwards of the typical approach, for good reason. I want everyone to be able to make high quality tea, every time, for pennies on the dollar.

      Contact me through the contact form on our site! I’d love to chat for a few minutes if you’re interested. Would be fun to compare notes and ideas.

      Cheers,
      Patrick

  • David

    I have been making aerobic compost tea this Spring using worm castings (mainly) with molasses and BIM. After brewing in a 5 gallon bucket and aerating using an aquarium air pump, I dilute this 1:4 with dechlorinated water and add a little fish hydrolysate before pouring over the new seedlings and fruit trees that we have planted. It is still early Spring here in zone 6A so we have only planted the cold-hardy plants so far. This will be the first year that I have batches of your natural soil/plant amendments ready that I can use in the garden from the beginning of the season. I’m excited to see how it turns out!

    I don’t have a microscope to confirm how happy the microbes in my compost tea are doing, so I’m interested in hearing how your compost tea research has turned out. I have had to “trust my nose” and smell the tea as it was brewing. Once it got a strong earthy smell to it after several days I assumed that it was ready.

    • Patrick

      That’s excellent David, glad you hear you’re using our stuff – can’t wait to hear about the results!

      Look forward to sharing my info with you! I have more work to do on it still but it should be ready later this year.

      Cheers,
      Patrick

  • David

    This past week I joined Facebook groups for Korean Natural Farming at https://www.facebook.com/groups/241621115997376/
    and for Vermicomposting at https://www.facebook.com/groups/wormfarm/

    Both groups have been very helpful. There is lots of interesting discussions about many of the topics which you have on your site. (I have added links to a few of your recipes when questions have come up.)

    • Patrick

      Awesome! Thanks for the links! I’ll have to join the conversation there, although I’m pretty strapped for time these days.

      I’d like to set up facebook groups for this site also, based on region. Would be fun to have our users like you, be able to connect with each other. For example I had a person from australia asking how to ferment fish, since they have 30-60 tons/month of fish waste.. a few months later a different aussie inquired where they can find fish waste! Would be fun to connect people. Anyway just thoughts on our community. Happy to see it growing in any case.

      Patrick

  • Brad

    Hi Patrick,
    I love reading your posts,& am very interested in reading more about your ANAEROBIC compost tea.As I assume,it doesn’t need to be aggressively aerated.I would love to learn more about how your brewer evolved!
    I also did some research on buying an AEROBIC brewer,but was stunned by the eye-watering cost!Especially so,as they are unavailable this side of the pond,and shipping from the U.S. accounted for a large part of the out-lay.
    I have incorporated the Bokashi compost I have been preparing over the winter months in some of my raised beds,and on later inspection,I found them to be HEAVING with worms!
    I planted broad beans over some,late last year,and some of the plants are now well over four feet tall,and starting to produce.
    I also watered them in the early stages,with a Kvass solution,and have been spraying them with the bloom fermentation.I mixed 10 mils of that, along with 20 mils of lacto,to 1 litre of rain-water,then later,I used that at a rate of 100 mils to 1 litre in the sprayer.
    I think less is more,as I’m sure these concoctions are very powerful.At first application,I used the stronger solution above,but found the leaves were quite sticky-looking, with the sugar/molasses content being too strong at that rate.Anyway,everything is looking good so far,so it’s not doing any harm!
    I look forward to your future posts with great interest!Keep up the good work!

    • Patrick

      Brad,
      Glad you’re enjoying the site and interested in my compost teas! They’ll be out later this year.

      Yep, amazing how expensive compost tea brewers are. As in, incredible!! Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to make on that is equivalent to the best on the market, for a tenth the cost (and no shipping!).

      The worms LOVE bokashi – I’m not surprised they come for it in the beds. Pretty awesome huh – that’s a lot of fresh worm castings in your beds.

      The bloom fermentation should help your plant with quantity of fruit – should be great yields! Regarding concentration, good work – just play with it until you find what works for you.

      Anyway thanks for reading, glad you’re enjoying my stuff!

      Cheers,
      Patrick

  • Rodney Galarneau

    Hi Patrick you are into a lot of amazing things. I became interested in compost tea this past winter amd have spent a lot of time on the internet looking looking looking, my experience pretty much paraells yours except for one site which I think is a cut above the rest. microbeorganics.com
    I am very thinly spread out between bokashi, biochar, hugelculture, etc. and now compost tea. I just purchased a 15 gallon cone tank and following Tim Wilsons simple airlift design hope to have a working compost tea in operation this spring. Keep up the good work and as always looking forward to your results. Rod

    • Patrick

      Thanks for the feedback Rod.

      Yep, Mr. Wilson’s site was one of the good ones I uncovered in my research. It is absolutely one of the best on the subject.

      Haha I’m spread pretty thin these days too needless to say, but working to complete the compost tea guide, it’s going to be excellent!

      Cheers,
      Patrick

  • Hi guys.
    I’ve been making weed tea for years, nothing scientific I’m afraid. I fill a plastic tub with water and throw in some molasses, worm juice if I have it, seaweed extract, a handful of Organic Xtra, tear up some comfrey and/or toss in any other handfuls of unwanted leaves plus a handful of the “good stuff” at the bottom of the compost pile and let it all turn to liquid. I’ve started using an aerator since it was given to me which helps with the smell that can develop.

    Cooler weather now in Brisbane and coming up to peak time for vege growing. Everything is going great guns but I am having problems with cut worms snipping off my new seedlings. I go out at night with a torch to try to find the little sods without success. Any suggestions? They are decimating my bean seedlings only for some reason.

    • jeff

      Put a collar around the stem. Some people use tp rolls after theyre empty. If you just slide it into dirt around plant cutworm cannot eat stem.

      • Patrick

        Excellent simple solution, thanks Jeff!

  • Mick Kruckow

    G’day everyone, this is my first post as I have just joined. I have been worm farming for about 5 or 6 years & starting to get reasonably large scale. I get most of my manure from the local racetrack to feed my little mates. This in itself has problems as the local trainers use sawdust on their floors so there is more than desired in the mix as well their worming regime. To overcome these issues,I started making my own bokashi bran which I add to the bags while I store them before adding them to my composting bins with fermented leftovers which I collect & ferment from our local cafe. The microbial activity has the sawdust mostly turned at least dark brown or black & I find the cafe scraps after 2-3 weeks have totally broken down. I was having to wait about 6 weeks before & using a lot of water to get close to a similar result(no scraps of course). The worms love it & are up smashing that layer within 24hrs. The process also removes any issues with the horse wormers. I know that I could be using the composted material instead if giving it to my worms but I feel that they give a far greater end product with all the trace minerals (many extras from the fermented scraps), plant growth hormones, fulvic & humic acids as well as the extra microbial population . I am currently looking into fermenting the leachtate from the bokashi bins to see if I can make a stable product because at this stage I make far more than I can use & I basically dump it. Any suggestions one way or the other???

    • Patrick

      Hey Mick, that’s awesome stuff, neat way to pretreat your worm food, you are right to feed it all to your worms, they produce a far improved product.

      I’m looking at how to treat both worm and bokashi leachate for long term use/sale. Bokashi leachate is much easier since it’s already anaerobic, and has the good anaerobic bacteria in it. For worm leachate it is more tricky since that is a) aerobic and b) very highly biologically active. Just capping it will likely produce a nasty putrid product. To keep it long term it needs to be stable in a sealed container. I would try a few things but maybe what would work best: first, make lacto following our lacto serum recipe. Dilute the serum 1:20 with water. Then add the diluted serum to your worm leachate at 2:1. So say you have 10 gallons of worm leachate. Add 20 gallons of your diluted lacto serum. At the same time I’d add a lot of sugar. Not sure how much, maybe around 1-5 gallons of molasses or if brown sugar, 4-20kg. So basically in relation to the worm leachate, you are adding 1/2 part sugar as well as 2 parts diluted lacto serum. Seal that with an airlock and it will ferment for several weeks. When it is no longer bubbling, it can be sealed and stored. Use that sparingly, it will be strong stuff (maybe 1tbsp/gal or less). When it’s done fermenting it should not smell unpleasant, it should smell like vinegar or wine or sour or something like that but not putrid. Then you know you’ve been successful and you can start tweaking the recipe to save costs.

      Can you try this or something like it and let me know? I’d love to hear your results!

      Cheers,
      Patrick

      • Mick Kruckow

        G’day Patrick, thanks for your reply. It’s been a while but I’ve finally got around to putting thoughts into practice. I’ve just set up a trial fermentation with 1 litre of the bokashi juice using the fish hydrolysate recipe, but I think I’ll put a bubbler on it to keep the anaerobic method going. I did try to use it unfermented in a hydroponic setup with cucumbers, snake beans & new guinea bean with almost disastrous results. I think the 200ml in 1000L was ok, but the liquid in the tank continued to putrify. I added some molasses to try correct things to no avail. My decision to empty the tank was lifesaving & they have recovered nicely just with straight water. Luckily I’ve got some biofert to keep things going. I’m also going to trial your style of bokashi bin so I only have to collect the juice once instead of daily & that will result in a more usable start amount. Also thanks for the worm leachate suggestion. That’s next on the list. I have had one go at it a while ago but it didn’t turn out too well. I only used molasses at 2:1 & the end result was probably more of an acid than anything. The smell sought of indicates that. I’ve learnt how any of these products should smell & that doesn’t quite cut it. Will keep you advised as things progress.
        Mick

        • Patrick

          Hey mick, great to hear from you. Just a quick note as I’m on the road currently. When using these in hydroponic setup start out with very little! Like 1tbsp/gal maximum. Also, for fermentation make sure it doesn’t get any oxygen – no bubblers needed. And it’s ok if it becomes very acidic, should drop down to about pH 3 or so. Just use it with caution at first. You’re right you can pretty much tell by smell how they are doing.. Sounds like you’re having fun, that’s great! Lemme know how it goes, love to see it in hydro setups..

      • Mick Kruckow

        G’day again Patrick, I’ve just put down a worm leachate brew. I made up a 13.5L brew in a 15L container. The leachate & diluted lacto ratios are the same as your recommendation but I wasn’t sure whether you meant 1/2 rate of molasses for just the leachate or the total of both, so I erred on the side of caution & added 4.5L of molasses to the 9L mix. I think more food is better than less in this situation. We’ll see how it goes.
        Mick

        • Patrick

          Excellent Mick that’s good to hear. I just started the same thing with bokashi leachate last week. Watch out for some extreme bubbling. I guess since the contents are so rich it heats up really quickly. Good there is room in your container for bubbling. Tried some on my plants at about 1/2 tbsp per gallon and they looooved it, so I’m pretty happy with it.

  • David

    Patrick,

    I was think about making a new batch of compost tea and thought about you and your testing that you went through. Are you to a stage where you can share what you have learned making compost tea?

    Thanks!

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