Introduction: Compost Tea Fertilizer Brewer and Pallet Compost Bin
Why should you compost and make compost tea?
Composting is a good way to limit yard and food waste and recycle it into mulch and soil and ultimately help your yard and garden's overall health. Even if you don't have a garden, composting is still great for mulching your landscaping, and even making fertilizer for your lawn and other plants you might have.
What is compost?
Compost is decomposed organic matter that is used as a fertilizer for plants. Compost is made up of green and brown matter. Brown matter typically consists of decayed leaves dirt and brush, whereas green matter consists of grass clippings, kitchen food scraps and garden waste. Green organic matter is rich in nitrogen, whereas brown organic matter is rich in carbon. Compost should always be layered in green organic matter, then brown organic matter, not all one or the other. Healthy compost is teeming with worms and bugs, which is completely fine. bugs help break down the compost faster. Compost is a great way to fertilize your lawn, garden, and landscaped areas for free without buying harsh chemicals or pelleted fertilizers.
What is compost tea?
Compost tea is compost soaked in water to get a nutrient, fungi, and microorganism rich liquid that can be used to water your gardens.
We will be making a compost bin for cheap, and using the compost for an organic DIY fertilizer known as compost tea.
Materials for the compost bin:
For the compost bin, I used
- 4 (preferably heat-treated) pallets (which I got for free from my local Ace Hardware store for free)
- a few nails
- 8 L brackets with screws
- 2-3 hinges with screws
- 1-2 hook latches with eye screws
- Carboard (as needed, to fill in the holes so the compost doesn't escape)
- A screwdriver or drill
- a staple gun
Materials for the Compost tea brewer(s):
For the compost tea brewer, I used...
- an 18 Gallon plastic storage bin,
- 2 small aquarium bubblers (https://www.amazon.com/Tetra-Whisper-Easy-Aquarium...),
- Airline tubing (https://www.amazon.com/Penn-Plax-Aquariums-Flexibl...) cut to the needed length,
- 2 air stones (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MTD3MSF/ref=p...)
- 1 cheesecloth or mesh bag (optional) (https://www.amazon.com/Whitmor-Mesh-Laundry-Bag-Wh...)
Step 1: Make the Compost Bin
- Lay out your 4 pallets in a square on a flat area of land.
- Make sure they are in good condition and are heat-treated pallets. It should say HT for "heat-treated" on the side of one of the wooden beams. Chemically treated pallets aren't food safe like heat-treated pallets are, so it is better to use heat treated pallets especially if you are using the compost on your vegetables.
- Nail pallets together as needed to reinforce them if they are in poor condition or falling apart.
- Lean two pallets against each other to form a corner, and screw in the L brackets to secure the pallets together. Put the screws through the holes of the brackets and screw them in, spacing the brackets out evenly so the pallets are secured together in an L shape. They should be sturdy and not wobble too much.
- Lean the next pallet onto the other side to make a C shape. You are ultimately making a square-shaped box. Next, screw in the L brackets to secure the pallets together accordingly. The box should now look like this from a bird's eye view: I__I.
- Position your box for easy access, especially if you are using a wheelbarrow for moving your compost to your garden.
- Insert the last pallet into the middle of the C shaped box to make a square. It should be as flush with the sides as possible in a square shape.
- Lay out your hinges on the wood, spacing them out evenly, and screw them in, inserting the screws through the holes. Screw the hinges in on both sides. It should move like a hinged door so you can easily access your compost.
- You can add eye hook latch(es) to the other side of the door pallet if you want to be able to lock your compost bin so animals or pets don't get in. The latches should be on the side opposite the hinges like a door. Take the latch and screw it into the side of the door pallet, and screw the eye into the pallet that the door rests on when it closes. Remember, the compost bin is a square, and the front of it has a door that hinges and closes.
- Make sure all of your screws, locks, and hinges are secured and tight.
- If desired, staple sheets of cardboard onto the inside of the compost bin, so the compost doesn't escape through the cracks of the wood. you can also put cardboard in the bottom of the compost bin so it doesn't drain or wash away.
- Make sure the door closes and opens. If it does not, you can adjust the sides by pushing and pulling them to the desired width in relation to the door so it fits and closes properly. Re-adjust the angles and shape of the box as necessary. You can also re-screw the L brackets into the wood of the pallets if needed. The box should be as close to a perfect square as possible.
- Fill your compost bin with lawn clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, trimmings, leaves, and other yard debris and waste in layers of greens and browns.
Make sure to water your compost bin as needed. It should not be dry, but not soaking wet. It should be like a wet sponge.
Keep an eye out for worms. They are a good thing! Worms are a good sign and help your compost decompose faster.
Use your compost in your garden like mulch when it is finished decomposing. It should be very dark and similar to soil if it is finished.
Have fun composting!
Step 2: Compost Tea Brewer
- Gather your materials, making sure the bins (soon to be brewers) don't have any holes or cracks in them so the water will stay in.
- Connect the air line tubing to the air stones by pushing the tubing onto the connecting nozzle. The tubing should be snug and airtight with the air stone.
- Carefully glue the air stones onto the bottom of the bin(s) not getting any glue on the top of the stone.
- Let them dry.
- Position the bins near an outlet so you can plug in your air pumps later on.
- Fill the bins 2/3 of the way full with water.
- If you are using tap water, let the bins sit outside preferably in ta sunny location for at least 24 hours. This dechlorinates the water, so your beneficial fungi and bacteria can grow. If you are using rainwater, you can skip this step, since rainwater is not chlorinated.
- Once the water is ready, attach the air line tubing to the air pumps.
- Fill a mesh or cheesecloth bag with finished compost. The compost should be almost like a thick muddy very fine mulch substance if it is finished compost, and ready to use.
- After making sure your bag is full, zip or tie it up closed.
- Gather a fine-particle cereal such as oats or wheat bran, and sugar. I used a cereal called Grape Nuts.
- Measure out roughly 1 tablespoon of sugar per gallon of your water into a blender. I used 10 tablespoons of sugar since I didn't want to overfeed the bacteria. Don't add too much since the bacteria will grow too fast and eat all of the sugar and die. You want to allow the bacteria to grow slowly so your system doesn't go anaerobic, and grow bad or harmful bacteria. Keeping your brewer aerated is very important. Next, measure out your cereal. the cereal feeds the fungi in your brewer. I measured out about 1/4 a cup of it into my blender. You want bacteria and fungi so your tea is richer, more decomposed, and has more beneficial fungi and bacteria for your plants.
- Blend your bacteria/fungi food mixture together.
- Insert the full bag of compost into the brewer.
- Plug in your bubblers
- Pour your bacteria/fungi food mixture into the brewer.
- Mix everything together well, making sure the compost is steeping and the food mixture is dissolved.
- Leave your bubblers on, and after 24 hours you will have compost tea fertilizer! Make sure to not over-brew it. It should smell earthy, like compost, not like rotten eggs or rotting flesh. After 24 hours, be sure to water your garden with it very soon, as needed. As always, you should water your plants at the base by the roots, not on the leaves, so aerial bacteria and fungi don't grow on them.
- As needed throughout the year, repeat steps 9-18 to make your compost tea fertilizer again and again.
Have fun gardening with your new compost bin and compost tea system!
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