How do I use compost tea in my indoor garden?
March 28, 2012 8:28 AM   Subscribe

How can I best use "compost tea" on my potted herbs (and what should I avoid)?

Our family upgraded composters this winter to this beauty, and I already have a half gallon of "compost tea" ready for use. I want to use the juice on my indoor herb garden and some okra I am growing in a pot.

There is much discussion in compost forums about compost tea and how to apply it to gardens and lawns, but not much clarity that I could find about indoor use or direct application to plants. I want to make good use of the tea but not overwhelm my plants. For those who have used compost tea, what have you found success (or hardship) with? Can I use it undiluted to fully replace watering? How often can/should I apply it?
posted by AgentRocket to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would dilute it about 2-to-1 and water with that every second or third time. Herbs really don't require very rich soil or much water, compared to tomatoes, roses, or other flowering/fruiting plants. More than anything, they need lots of light. Maybe use a bit more on the okra. Once the plants get bigger, try spraying the diluted tea on the leaves.

If you're getting tall, spindly plants or lots of leaves and few blossoms, then you've got either too much nitrogen, not enough sun, or both.
posted by dogrose at 8:40 AM on March 28, 2012

may i suggest:
master gardeners is a great source on the internet. they have a series of classes, "the m g bible" is worth the cost of tuition. to be a "master gardener" you have to do "community service" (so many hours per year) they have real people scheduled at the county extension office where you can go in, ask questions, bring samples and in general get tons of info.
posted by goutytophus at 10:17 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One thing I've learned from reading up on compost tea is that the degree of variability is so inconceivably vast that sharing tips becomes rather pointless. Everyone has their own unique recipe and brewing procedure, and their own experiences with the random microbial concoctions they've ended up with, and how they believe it benefits their particular plants. It's all terribly unscientific to the degree of mysticism (not saying it doesn't work; but that unless you have a lab testing your soil every few days, you have no way of knowing what effect, if any, the microbial population is having).

That said, I enjoy the thrills of mysticism as much as the next guy, and brew up an aerated mix of worm castings and other goodies (sugars, chicken poop, powdered fish, the magic ingredient of my own wee) usually once a month. My house plants and garden veg seem to explode in size and colour in the days after application. Or that could be the mysticism at work. One thing I'm absolutely sure of is that I've never harmed a plant with it: just keep it away from those that prefer poor soils, dilute somewhat to avoid nitrogen burn, and otherwise follow whatever you imagine to be the will of the Earth Mother.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 10:35 AM on March 28, 2012

Here's what I do:

Put compost in a nylon stocking. Put it in a five-gallon bucket filled with water and weight it so that it doesn't float. Buy the cheapest aquarium pump you can find, and submerge the hose so that the water is aerated. Add a tablespoon of molasses. Let sit for three days.

At the end of three days, use the compost tea as a foliar spray and as a direct application of fertilizer. It will not burn the plants or their roots, and I swear to god it's like steroids.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:32 AM on March 28, 2012

P.S.: Okra has a really long taproot and doesn't take to pots very well. Best of luck.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:33 AM on March 28, 2012

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