Compost tea does not create fertilizer. Fertilizer comes from elements. You can't create an element like Nitrogen, Phosphorous or Potassium. That is you can't grow it in a tea. If you could we would grow gold. Same idea.
Compost tea is really nothing more than seeping the elements from compost into a liquid. So if you put in a shovel full of compost, you won’t get any more N P or K than is already in the shovel full of compost. Therefore compost tea does have some very weak fertilizer it. For the sake of straight fertilizing you are better off just put the compost around the plant.
Compost tea can grow soil bacteria at a high rate. By adding in sugar, typically unsulfured molasses, along with an aeration stone… you can grow billions of soil microbes. Some people feel the microbes block plant pathogens from getting on the leaves. I do not know if this is true but I tend to think it is not. You simply pour the tea on the leaves.
So why do people swear by compost tea as a fertilizer and preach about the benefits. Well, it doesn’t hurt number one. It has some fertilizer in it from the compost. But the significant change they really see comes from the billions of microbes they pour into the soil.
The hungry microbes want to eat. They do their job by chowing down organic matter and changing it into a fertilizer form your plants can readily use and absorb. The bacteria speed up the breakdown of your organic matter and create lots of N, P and K. The plants suck it in and grow.
You are not really adding fertilizer to your plant. You are adding billions of soil bacteria that attack the organic matter and leave behind waste the plants love. This has a pro of greening up your plants. It also has a con of more quickly going through the organic matter. Nature moves at a pace that slowly breaks down organic matter and thus delivers an even supply to the plants over the season.
The bottom line is to keep organic matter moving into the garden. Compost is a great way to add free matter and thus fertilizer to your garden.
Good Luck with Your Garden,
Gary (The Rusted Garden)
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