How to Compost for Compost Tea Production

When we make a compost tea, we are using either worm castings, thermal compost, or both as the starter to culture the tea from.

When we refer to compost as “thermal” it means that the materials in the compost pile have been broken down and digested by microbes that created heat in the process. This is natural and particularly dramatic with compost that is turned and aerated frequently. It is very important that we use well aerated compost for our compost tea brews because the type of bacteria we want in our teas are aerobic–oxygen loving bacteria. Thermal compost piles also may have high populations of fungi, which is good for most types of compost teas.

How to compost?
There are many good books on the subject. In Compost Tea Making by Marc Remillard we outline the basics of how to make compost specifically for compost teas. It may not be  rocket science, but it is soil microbiology, focusing on compost tea production. We do down-play the use of manures but that is honestly a very conservative approach. If you use manure from a known source that is free of antibiotics your compost will certainly benefit.

The standard ingredients like grass clippings, leaves, sawdust, manure, and kitchen scraps will make great compost as long as it is turned and aerated often. Just make sure it contains enough “brown” carbon source materials like leaves, sawdust, and clean cardboard. If you add a little forest soil to the blend it will introduce beneficial fungi as well.

How to compost?

Worm castings make great compost teas that are bacterial dominated. Worm castings have a lot of good benefits for the soil. In Compost Tea Making by Marc Remillard we have a fairly long chapter discussing the latest, most current techniques involving the growing of composting worms. Depending on the climate where you live, specific species of worms are used for composting. Eisenia fetida, or Red Wigglers, are the best composting worms for temperate climates. Red wigglers are heavy feeders, shallow dwellers, and reproduce rapidly.

The common earthworm may be beneficial for soils in our environment but unfortunately they do not behave well in shallow worm growing systems. They are deep burrowers, and like to travel the world (escape from enclosed systems).

In warm climates where soil temperatures never drop below 50 degrees F. many worm growers swear by Indian Blue worms, which have many common names and may be of least two species; Perionyx spenceriella, and Perionyx excavitus. various worm species can be purchased from online sources. Use the species names to ensure you get the exact worms you need. Common names are confusing.

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EM1 and Compost Tea Vineyard Applications

Thanks Eric

You are talking about adding EM1 to aerobic thermal compost piles. That is, compost that is turned regularly to add oxygen. We are aware that EM1 can quickly digest many divers types of composting materials, and much quicker than typical composting microbes.

I heard that you were working with the St. Clair vineyard, using EM1 and Bokashi.

I have been managing a much smaller 2 acre Pinot Noir vineyard in experimental western Washington state.
When I first stepped on site a year ago July their was a serious Botrytis cinerea infection and observable powdery mildew as well. Nothing had ever been sprayed on the vineyard to combat fungus and diseases. Pinot Noir is fussy.

We first applied Lime-sulfur.  Then we sprayed compost tea and EM1 several times, sometimes mixed together. That year we made wine out of the grapes, but they had already been affected by the Botrytis.

After dormant pruning, we sprayed the typical copper-sulfate. Copper sulfate and lime-sulfur are considered “organic”, but since they are fungicides, are certainly hard on any fungal population. We continued with compost tea [fungal dominated] and EM1 applications spring through summer right up until harvest. I must confess that we also did one application of Rubicon [son of an evil galactic emperor] and two of Rally [his younger, nicer brother with a cute name]. We did not want to loose the vineyard. Now we are talking about one gorgeous, hand weeded, immaculately pruned  and trellised vineyard.

During the growing season, we began to notice an improvement in the quality of the soil. More earthworms arrived. By the time we harvested, we did observe a few grape clusters with bits of Botrytis mold, but it was minimal. The greenish-black mold that had covered the shoots and stems the year before was gone. We considered it a real triumph, especially since this year was unusually cool and wet.
Our intent is to cut back on the non organic sprays and use more EM1 and compost teas
I must admit to being concerned about vigorous vines and over cropping, because, as you know, better wine is made out of low-vigor, lower yielding vines. By all agricultural standards the healthier the vines the more vigorous they would tend to be. In dry climates, the vigor can be controlled by deficit irrigation techniques, but here we rarely irrigate mature vines because there is plenty of rainfall.
Using that same caveat though, the healthier the vines the better tasting the fruit should be–so one would think the wine would be better as well.
Keep me posted

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What is the difference between compost teas made from worm castings compared to compost teas made from compost?

Worm castings make great compost tea, but it will be bacterial dominated. That kind of tea is good for annuals, vegetables, and grasses.
Thermal compost has a more complex set of organisms in it. If you want a fungal dominated tea you use compost to make it out of. Fungal dominated teas are good for perennials, trees,  and grapevines. Forest soils contain high populations of fungi. One can observe what kinds of plants thrive there.

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EM•1® Effective Microorganisms for Organic Gardening, Organic Farming, and Personal Health

EM•1® is a specific set of powerful microorganisms isolated 30 years ago by Dr. Teruo Higa in Japan. These particular species of organisms are very human-friendly, as they have the ability to consume environmental toxins, human pathogens, and plant pathogens, while remaining non-toxic to humans.

The agricultural uses for EM•1® are many, as it has proven very effective against plant diseases and destructive fungi.


How does EM•1® differ from compost tea?

The kind of compost tea we are promoting is termed aerated aerobic compost tea, which contains billions of beneficial aerobic bacteria, fungi, and protozoa per liter.

EM•1® is a different coalition of allied microbes; lactic acid bacteria, phototropic bacteria, yeasts, fermentative fungi, and actimomycetes. Some of the bacteria are actually faculative anerobes–that means that they may prefer a low oxygen environment but can function in the presence of it.

We hope this is not confusing to the readers, because in the book Compost Tea Making by Marc Remillard we repeatedly stress the importance of incouraging aerobic [oxygen loving] organisms and discouraging anaerobic [oxygen avoiding] organisms in your compost piles and compost tea brews.

EM•1® is a different animal [or it contains different animals!]

While compost teas need to be brewed and used fresh, EM•1® can be purchased and used [diluted] right out of the bottle. You can also culture EM•1® yourself easily and make more.

As stated above–if you really want to play hardball–you can make a batch of compost tea out of good compost or worm castings, then mix in some EM•1® before diluting and applying it to your plants.

EM•1® is marketed by TeraGanix. Click on the banner add on top of the page to visit their site

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What is compost tea and why is it good for my plants?

Compost tea is a brewed water extract of compost containing billions of beneficial     microbes per liter. Compost is placed into a bucket of water and air is pumped into the bottom of the bucket for about 24 hours. In that environment, aerobic [oxygen loving] bacteria,  protozoa, and fungi multiply and flourish. The reason ordinary compost is good for your garden is because of the presence and activity of those microbes. The benefits of compost tea are the same as regular compost, but multiplied by at least 1000.

Without the additions of any fertilizers, your plants will develop deeper root systems, healthier foliage, tastier fruit, and more beautiful flowers. The beneficial microbes present in the both the root and leaf zones will help ward off diseases and insects as well. Therefore, the need to apply products for disease and insect control is either reduced or eliminated in gardens, vineyards, farms, and on lawns. It is a win/win/win situation.

We are promoting the aerated aerobic style of compost tea. The reason for that is because —in general—aerobic microorganisms tend to be beneficial while many anaerobic [oxygen avoiding] microbes can be considered human and plant pathogens. The aerobic style is by far the most popular because it is the most powerful, safest, and easiest to make.

We are not promoting the use of compost leachate, manure tea, or steeped tea without aeration [stick method] . The fact that the common term “compost tea” has been, and is used to describe all of these methods has created some confusion.

However, we are also promoting the use of EM®1, which is a very powerful set of    microbes discovered in Japan 30 years ago. EM®1 is not compost tea, but may be used with it. Mixed together, or used in alternating applications, the use of both compost teas and EM®1 may be the best thing you can do for your plants.

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