The Secrets to Making Great Compost Tea

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When I first mentioned I was going to make compost tea, my friends thought I was nuts. They thought I’d be drinking it. But when I explained that it was for my plants, they just nodded their heads. Uh huh, here she goes again!

Compost Tea

What Is Compost Tea?

Compost tea is a solution made from compost. You can use any kind of compost, but those that are well aged have the most nutrients. Vermicompost, which is made from worm castings, is probably the best you can find. The worms do the work in a very short time, often cutting years off the normal schedule. Compost normally takes 3-4 years to fully break down. This is, if it’s done naturally. If you use a machine, or a roller, compost will decompose more quickly due to retained heat and moisture. Whatever kind of compost you use, be sure it has no chemicals that may harm your plants.

Directions For Making Your Own

Setting up a home tea brewer is easy. Here are the directions:

Gather these supplies


  1. Clean the bucket well with water only. Don’t use bleach or detergents.
  2. Place a shovel full of compost in the pillowcase and tie it tightly with string. Place it in the bucket.
  3. Cover the pillowcase with water. Fill the bucket most of the way to the top.
  4. Add the molasses. It will feed the beneficial bacteria and provide the plants with iron.
  5. Attach the air stone to the hose going to the pump. Place the air stone in the water and the pump on a surface higher than the water. This will reduce the chance of back-flow if the electricity should be cut off.
  6. Turn the pump on. The air stone will bubble, feeding oxygen to the bacteria.

It will take a few days for the tea to be ready. When it is, drain the water into a bucket and water your plants right away. There is no holding time as the bacteria will start to die when the oxygen is cut off. If the weather is cool, it may last a day or two, but no longer.

*Want the benefits of compost tea for your plants, but don’t want to make your own tea brewer? No problem – you can find compost tea brewers here and get started right away!

A Few Tips

Use rain water or well water whenever possible. You can use city water, but it must be free from chemicals like chlorine. If it has chlorine, you can let it sit overnight and the chlorine will dissipate. If your municipality adds ammonia to the chlorine to make chloramine, you must first break the bond. Most pet stores carry chloramine breakers for aquariums. Once the bond is broken, you can let the water sit as previously noted. Check with your city to find out what’s in your water.

Be sure your compost is well aged or set. This will help eliminate weed seeds from sprouting in the bag and inhibiting bacterial growth. The enzymes produced by sprouts are good, but when they break down, there is too much bad bacteria. It will also eliminate large sticks and rocks that may puncture your bag. Additionally, well set compost is higher in nutrients.

If your mixture starts to smell after a while, it’s not getting enough oxygen. It should never smell sour or musty. It should only smell like dirt, maybe stronger. If it develops a smell, pour it into another section of your compost and start over.

You can use burlap sacks, but the weave is usually too loose and some silt will be lost. I use old cotton pillowcases. Cotton will biodegrade after a while, unlike synthetic fibers like polyester. Check your fiber content before you start.

The molasses isn’t totally necessary, but I find it gives microbes a lift. If you feed them, they multiply faster. You can use honey, but it lacks nutrients molasses provides, especially iron. You can add an iron supplement, but that can take a long time to get into the soil. Most plants will start to turn yellowish when lacking in iron.

Are you feeding tomatoes? Soak some eggshells in a bucket of water with a few tablespoons of vinegar. (It doesn’t matter what kind.) The vinegar will help leach calcium out of the eggshells. Add this to your tea water to help prevent blossom end rot. It works well for squash, peppers and eggplant too.

This time of the year your plants can probably use a boost. Compost tea is the perfect way to water your plants and add nutrients at the same time.


About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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  1. Hana says

    Thanks for sharing, what a great idea!
    I only knew/learned about chicken manure tea from my granny.

  2. Eve says

    I’d like to get directions for easy beginner composting. I want it to work and I’ve tried to wing it a couple times. Someone mentioned a plastic coffee can to start with but what exactly do I do? Should I chop up vegie scraps and egg shells? Help!

    • meena sharma says

      Hi are you doing in the ground directly or in the pot .you can use all veg.& fruit left overs any thing from the fridge that is waist you can dig a whole in the ground and put all the waste in it and cover with one layer of dirt put water to flow well. keep repeating it till it is full ,wait for few days then fill up your pot from this .you can make an other whole while this is in use , use tea bags -coffe -rice water noddle water,milk bones meat old wood any thing mother earth does not mind any gift from human to keep it alive worms will come to help it break-down. I have a lot of years of doing this in the pots put tea leaves and mix it so no bugs sor flies put rice -noodle water for aloe vera and any plants hope you have some start .good luck.meena sharma