Home » Compost Tea: now the thatch in your green works for you!

How to Generate Natural (and free) Fertiliser for your Bowling Green using your own home brewed Compost Tea

Compost Tea is a natural and inexpensive turf treatment, that you make yourself, turns thatch into free fertiliser and improves the health of your soil.

Improve your Green and save your money

Greenkeepers everywhere are brewing and applying their own compost tea to help boost microbial activity in their greens. By joining them, you will be reconnecting with long forgotten skills and knowledge which was common place before the world got hooked on artificial fertilisers and pesticides.

The Ultimate Starter Kit for Bowling Greens

Your Compost Tea brewing kit comes ready loaded with everything you need to make up to a year’s worth of microbe boosting Compost Tea and sets you up with all of the equipment you’ll need to continue making your own, natural, green health boosting compost tea for years to come.

Compost tea isn’t a fertiliser or a pesticide but it will help you to use less of both of these costly and often damaging inputs. Applying compost tea to your turf will increase the population of soil microbes in your green with the result that, over time, you’ll need less fertiliser and fewer pesticide applications for problems like fusarium disease.

Breaking out of the Circle of Decline

the Circle of Decline, the reason many greens never improve
the Circle of Decline, the reason many greens never improve

If you’re a regular visitor to Bowls Central you will know about John’s article called The Circle of Decline. This is a state that many bowling greens and other fine turf surfaces suffer after years of inappropriate maintenance.

The Circle of Decline started to happen on greens when greenkeepers began to follow symptoms management programs in the mistaken belief that we can control nature. Now after decades of management practices such as sand top-dressing, inorganic, acidic fertiliser use and an over reliance on pesticides, many clubs are finding they have a soft, thatchy, annual meadow grass dominated green.

Such greens are impossible to set up for high performance. They are spongy, soft, slow and inconsistent to play on. They are unpredictable to maintain and frequently have problems with quirky runs, bumps and hollows.

Worst of all, they are expensive to maintain and demand a lot of inputs for not a lot of satisfaction in return.


Some of the greenkeeping practices routinely carried out at bowling clubs have become traditions; repeated because we think we have to, with no good agronomic reason. In many cases these actually make your green worse. Worse still, is that these expensive greenkeeping traditions run away with cash and actually harm the biology of your green. Let’s look at just one aspect of what is now considered conventional greenkeeping, salt.


Inorganic fertilisers are derived mainly from mineral salts. Sulphate of Ammonia which is used to supply Nitrogen, and Ferrous Sulphate, used to supply Iron to the turf are mainly made by mixing ammonia or scrap iron with concentrated sulphuric acid in temperatures over 8000C . The salt indices of these products are around 69 and 85 respectively.

By repeatedly applying these types of fertiliser salts we kill off much of the soil biology (microbes) and perpetuate the majority of the problems that take up our time and a large proportion of club budgets.

When you apply 100Kg of Nitrogen per hectare as ammonium sulphate, you actually apply a salt equivalent of about 350Kg.

With Sulphate of Iron, this salt accumulates to form black layers of compacted soil, iron bands and aggregations of fines that contribute to the formation of root breaks. Iron in these concentrations has some fungicidal properties and far from being a benefit, this is actually a serious problem. Natural, healthy greens are stuffed full of beneficial soil microbes, many of which are fungi, essential companions to the fine perennial grasses, like the Fescues and Bents we need in our greens to make them perform well. Soil microbes also contribute to  root growth, nutrient retention, disease avoidance and help to create and maintain good soil structure for improved drainage.

 “conventional greenkeeping is slowly killing bowling greens and making them impossible to set up for performance and within reasonable budgets


No Stress Fescue and Bent

Conventional wisdom says you have to stress Poa annua (Annual Meadow Grass) in order to convert a green back to finer grasses. Many greenkeepers have found themselves unemployed by trying this, using all manner of questionable techniques. For the record, Poa is better than bare soil.

And, when you create a soil microbe population dominated by beneficial fungi, there is no need to stress Poa. The soil will naturally encourage perennial grasses.

By degrading thatch as it is produced, you feed these beneficial fungi and in the process you also enable the plant roots to attract and associate with mycorrhizae which use the root exudates as a source of nitrogen, further reducing the need for inorganic salt laden fertilisers. 

John Quinn on winning the fight against the Circle of Decline

John Quinn's Master Greenkeeper BlogMaster Greenkeeper John Quinn now considers brewing and applying your own Compost Tea to be a vital and key component of the greenkeeper’s arsenal.

“Compost tea helps your green to help itself in terms of recovery from the Circle of Decline. 

Many of the problems we encounter such as frequent fungal disease attacks, annual meadow grass dominated swards, shallow rooting, excessive thatch, ineffective fertiliser and pesticide treatments can be traced back to the over-reliance on fungicides, sand and high salt index fertilisers over the past 4 decades.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but almost all of the problems we encounter on bowling greens are self inflicted. If we take one aspect of Circle of Decline Greens…excessive thatch, it’s easy to see that this is actually a man made issue.

To reverse the Circle of Decline, as greenkeepers, we need to take responsibility and take actions that move towards more natural greenkeeping. We need to get over the idea that we are somehow in supreme control of nature.

We don’t have to make the soil or the turf do anything, we merely have to help nature take its course”

Saving Money is Infectious

John with Students in China
John teaches greenkeepers all over the world

“When I speak to greenkeepers, they are always under pressure to produce results in terms of how the green plays, which of course, is the sole reason for my book Performance Bowling Greens existing.

However, when push comes to shove, most bowls clubs are struggling to make ends meet and budgetary concerns are never too far beneath the surface.

And that’s why Compost Tea is such and important part of the recovery process”

The Money in Thatch

” A few years back I wrote a couple of books about boosting membership and turning failing bowls clubs around. I dipped into my business advisory experience for the content of those books. I’m continually updating all of my books, and when I re-write these in the next year or so I will certainly be focussing ways to save money. One of these is to recognise the potential thatch has as a free fertiliser source.

Excessive thatch build up on greens is purely a result of the excessive inputs of inorganic fertilisers and pesticides we have become accustomed to. A great deal of this expenditure can be avoided by changing to a more natural greenkeeping program. 

The Double Whammy Money Saver

If you remove thatch physically and then compost it you will make humus rich compost full of trace elements and macro nutrients. This exact same process will happen to this material naturally in the green if there is sufficient oxygen, moisture, and critically, a robust enough population of thatch degrading micro-organisms.

How does that grab you?

By simply facilitating the natural degradation of thatch at its natural rate we can essentially allow the green to manufacture much of its own fertiliser. And it’s better fertiliser into the bargain. The double whammy saving comes when we can also reduce materials, machinery and labour costs on things like hollow coring, top dressing, fertilisers, disease control, localised dry patch and surface disruption to play.

Compost Tea is an un-miss-out-able part of this transitional process to natural greenkeeping”

The road to low disturbance greenkeeping.

“As I’ve ranted on about frequently, a natural fine turf eco-system can sustain itself naturally with absolutely no assistance from humans. In such a system there will be no build up of excessive thatch, there will be little or no damage from fungal diseases, there will be no drainage problems and there will be no lasting damage from bouts of drought, heat or cold. It is a completely self sufficient, self perpetuating eco-system in perfect balance. Nothing is lacking; there is sufficient nutrition from the degradation of thatch, the grass is closely cropped by grazers like sheep and rabbits (their droppings are a fertiliser input) and there is a sufficient Cation Exchange and moisture holding capacity in the soil due to the natural build up of humus from microbial activity in the soil.”

This very same system, with perhaps a few tweaks to please the bowlers can be employed on any bowling green and the best way I know to get started, regardless of current green condition is to make Compost Tea a central component of your management regime.


Conventional wisdom says you have to stress Poa annua (Annual Meadow Grass) in order to convert a green back to finer grasses. Many greenkeepers have found themselves unemployed by trying this, using all manner of questionable techniques. For the record, Poa is better than bare soil.

And, when you create a soil microbe population dominated by beneficial fungi, there is no need to stress Poa. The soil will naturally encourage perennial grasses.


What does Compost Tea do?

Compost tea is a highly concentrated microbial solution containing a wide range of the 25litre bowing green compost tea brewerbacteria, fungi, protozoa and beneficial nematodes that create healthy biologically active soil in which to grow healthy plants.

Your 25 litre bio brewer is perfectly suited to brewing consistently high quality compost tea for your bowling green, helping you to achieve a healthy biologically active soil.

  • Improves soil structure, oxygen diffusion, water infiltration and depth of active rootzone
  • Retains and recycles nitrogen and other nutrients
  • Rapidly decomposes thatch and turns organic matter into humus
  • Produces hormones that encourage plant growth
  • High biological activity in the soil and on the plant, reduces opportunities for pathogens to grow
  • Introduces high levels of beneficial fungi to promote fescue and bent grass over Poa annua

What’s in the Bowls Central Compost Tea Kit?

Everything you’ll need to get up and running quickly and easily is in the kit, including your very own compost tea brewer/aerator and all of the equipment, materials and instructions you’ll need to make your first few brews.

The Compost Tea Brewer

25litre bowing green compost tea brewerCompost tea has traditionally needed a very large brewer and pump, but now you can make your own brew at a scale and price that make sense for a bowling club. Your brewer has a 25 litre capacity and is compact enough to be stored away on a shelf when not in use. It comes complete with a reusable “teabag” to contain your compost during the brewing process and the all important aerator pump. A filter for use during decanting into your sprayer is also included.


Brewing Kit

In your starter kit you will find enough high quality compost to make your first few brews, activating nutrients to feed your brew and an activating plant extract. 

Fungal Additive

Since many lignase producing fungi that degrade thatch do not grow in the time it takes to make a good compost tea, we have included a highly concentrated mix of 7 species of soil fungi in a special additive. This has been selected for its ability to degrade thatch and organic matter, converting it to humus and essential organic acids. The fungi also maintain the fungal dominance needed for perennial grass growth and to help out-compete the fungi that cause fairy rings and fungal dry patch. You simply add this to your brewer at the beginning of the brewing cycle.

Compost Tea Starter Kit for Bowling ClubsA message from John about ordering your kit.

It’s time to get started and of course I will personally provide you with unlimited support on your learning process with Compost Tea.

Getting started with Compost Tea couldn’t be easier than it is with this starter kit, that I’ve put together especially for bowling clubs.

To make sure you are delighted with your kit and know exactly what do do with it, I’ve made a special arrangement with the manufacturer to deliver it to you direct.

Your kit comes with full instructions and in addition you can email me directly with any questions you have. I will also be sending you a series of follow up emails to make sure things are going well and hopefully to hear back from you about your experiences with Compost Tea.



Compost Tea Starter Kit

Any Questions?

John Quinn's Master Greenkeeper BlogWhen I talk about Compost Tea to greenkeepers for the first time, they worry that it is just the latest, new fangled, hair brained idea to surface and that it will be gone tomorrow.

In fact this couldn’t be further from the truth. Compost tea is a very old fashioned, natural and economical (thrifty even) method of soil fertilisation used by growers all over the world.


All we are doing is taking some compost, putting it in a bucket of water and oxygenating it in the presence of a food source for the soil microbes. The aerobic microbes in the compost then multiply like, well, microbes to create a bucketful of aerobic microbe rich tea, which goes onto the turf to boost the microbe population in the soil. 

I know you will have questions, so please don’t hesitate to ask me now.

Ask a question about Compost Tea or the Compost Tea Starter Kit Now