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Compost Tea Fundamentals

One of the most often asked questions about compost tea goes like this:

“Why can’t I just use the compost from the Garden Centre to make compost tea for my greens?”

This is usually mistakenly based around the belief that buying specially inoculated compost will be an expensive business in the long term.

Using the correct compost that has been created purely for the purpose of brewing high quality compost tea for fine perennial turf is not expensive. £ for £ it’s the most beneficial and cheapest operation you can possibly initiate at your club.

For example, by starting off with the Compost Tea Starter Kit from Bowls Central, after you take out the initial cost of the kit, each brew will cost under £7! Just this week I put together an advisory package for a large bowls green contractor and due to the volume he’ll be brewing his costs are down at £4/application for an average sized bowling green.

The reason you shouldn’t use garden centre compost

Apart from the pricing issues which as we’ve seen isn’t actually an issue, an explanation of the compost manufacturing process might help to explain the importance of using the real deal.

Compost Manufacturing Process

With pretty much any aerobic compost you can produce a bacterial compost tea, however if the compost has been made properly with the temperature rising to >65oC at least 2 and usually 3 times during a 42-49 day production there is usually a limited range of fungal spores and nematodes. On analysis you often find the ratio of active fungi to bacteria is < 0.2:1

To counter this we lay the finished compost out onto good microbial active, organically managed soil in a layer about 5cm deep  so that it can be reinoculated with nematodes and some soil fungi and to give the bacteria plenty of oxygen to multiply and feed protozoa. At the same time it is inoculated with a range of soil fungi which are allowed to grow until the compost is covered with a web of hyphae at which point it is collected and bagged.

Our Compost and Nutrients packs include an inoculant comprising Phanerochaete chrysosporium ; Aspergillus oryzae  ; Chrysosporium pannorum ; 5 x Trichoderma Sp and 3 x Bacillus Sp

It can then be justifiably called a Fungal Compost Tea Starter because we know it has a very high population of fungi. It also differentiates it from compost supplied to growers of brassicas and beets which need a bacterial dominant compost.

The fungal additive I recommend is slightly different in that it also contains fungi which are good at degrading thatch in addition to the phanerochaetes and certain Trichoderma species. Available lignin is in short supply in well made compost so we apply those in the fungal additive that goes into the brewer with the compost, nutrients and activator.

 

7 comments

  1. Bob Slatford says:

    ready to apply our first compost tea brew. What are the best weather conditions under which to apply it and under what conditions should we not apply it please ?

  2. David McGuire says:

    John
    I have just bought compost tea ingredients it seems to work out about £30 a brew 25 ltrs.
    You are saying it works out at £7 a brew can you tell where you purchase your ingredients?
    I already had a brewer and air pump

    • John Quinn says:

      Hi David

      Thanks for your message. Brewing effective Compost Tea should be cheap and £30 is way off the mark and even my £7 estimate is conservative.

      Depending on the quantities of compost and nutrients you buy, even working with a small, bowling green sized brewer the economies are there to be had.

      Of course, it is important to use properly inoculated compost otherwise you’re wasting your time, so you shouldn’t skimp on quality.

      It’s also imperative that you are brewing a fungal dominant Compost Tea to encourage perennials (bent/fescue) over annuals (Poa), so I recommend using the fungal additive too, as this ensures that you are brewing a mix that contains all of the thatch eating fungi needed for best results.

      So, to costs. A 24 brew compost and nutrients pack is £78.75 and 1kg of Fungal Additive is £45.90 (just about enough for 24 brews depending on organic matter in your rootzone, you might need a little more for very sandy soil). Divide that by 24 and your down around £5 per application.

      Too long to go into here, so I’ll send you my recommended brewing guide by email.

      Any questions, please fire away

      Cheers

      John
      Re: where to purchase your ingredients. I am of course biased, but you should buy them on Bowls Central!
      More on Poa to Bent transition here

  3. Ray says:

    Hi John
    Please can I have a copy of the brewing guide. As we have started to use the compost tea.
    Many thanks Ray

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