Compost Tea Bubblers: do they actually help? + Large bubbles vs small bubbles?

Discussion in 'Growing Organic Marijuana' started by RenaissanceBrah, Jan 10, 2023.

  1. There is some controversy online as to whether compost tea isn't the same as just adding compost or worm castings as a top dressing, and watering.

    Have you seen any large benefits to brewing your own compost tea, vs just applying compost directly?

    (Also, does bubble size matter when brewing compost tea? Some say you need large bubbles, some say small, some say it doesn't matter).
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  2. Yes,Your adding larger populations of microbes if it's brewed correctly. I add compost tea to all my outdoor pots every spring to jump start my dormant microbial populations. I also water in my plants when using newly mixed growing mediums for their first cycle. I use a simple DIY 5 gallon airlift system to make my ACT's.
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  3. to get the full benefits of the tea , you need a microscope to be able to use it at the just right activity
    i dont have that , so i go by the head
    i also use big bubbling to achieve this , it seems to me that using stones it takes much longer to build the head same as some of the things io put in it, like fish emulsions , the oil seems to make the head just disappear , that isnt bad , if you have a scope.
    there can also be to much mollases added, it builds the head and can fool you when it is ready,
    if im rushed to feed i use just open hoses
    if i have time to feed i use bubbling and hate cleaning out my stones hahah
    when my head just starts to turn a amber color , i add my fish and then feed
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  4. If you get a big “head” going, a little bit of liquid fish will tame it right down.
    My thought on compost teas is this. If you have enough compost or vermicompost, just top dress it and water it in. If you have a tiny amount of compost, then make a tea to spread it out.
    I agree with TimJ on using it in new soil or outside at the beginning of the season.
    I used to be a big tea user, but its much less work to top dress.
    You do get a nice boost of available food when you apply a tea. When the bacteria in the tea dies, its food for the soil food web. But if you have a well made soil to start with, I feel its better to let the microbe populations develop on their own based on exudates given off by the plant.
    This is where I sound like a hypocrite. If I have an unhealthy plant, and Im stumped over whats wrong. The first thing I would do is add a compost tea.
    I also agree that a simple airlift is the ticket. The smaller the diameter the pipe is, the less air is required to make the lift work.
    I make compost tea for my neighbor every spring to do just as Tim does. Works great for the neighbor, just not what I normally do in my gardens.
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  5. i made mine with 1 1/4 inch pvc and use it in a 33 gal can, love the thing , my feral cat aint to wild about it, with the noise it makes she cant hear as well while she wears out mama chair on the porch hahahah.
    my tea really isnt much of one, just 2 heaping handfuls of compost a little kelp a half cup mollases and around 3 potato's all wrapped up in a painter bag , when the head starts to turn amber i mix in my fish and then feed, the main reason i made my uplift was i was tired of boiling these dang rocks from the mollases, the next batch will have pretty much same stuff other than i swap the compost for leaf mold in the yard and also add some grits or oatmeal to the bag, strange stuff most folks dont use , but them plants sure show off the like .
    i cant use much fish from the cats homies coming up and kicking it with her every and all night , wouldnt surprise me at all if them critters dont use my chair too , dang wild life.
    my cat is such a slut
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  6. #6 Vee, Jan 11, 2023
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2023
    I've been doing this for many years ultimately, I had no way of confirming my results, without blowing some serious cash on a big end microscope or contracting a lab ..or blowing bigger cash on a bigend compressor that does give some? results, most noobs screw it on the air intake see you tube.
    Lucky me I had a hort. guy as a client and gave him a gratuity for some advice ...

    COMPOST EXTRACT is the way too go and yes you can see the here and now results.
    little is ever mentioned of this horty secret its so dumbass

    Simply add 2-3 pints of your quality soil/compost to your old kitchen sieve and allow clean/cleanest(low ppm)
    water to trickle thru out, take as long as you dare 2-3 hours, this washes the goodies out into the water that you later water the plants with, so in fact watering and feeding at the same time. (earlier days I had a fish tank pump keeping the bugs alive in the bucket but later removed this as their was enough 02 in the water)

    I've saved a serious bundle as we all do in organics

    good luck
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  7. #7 LoneYote, Jan 11, 2023
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2023
    I like to mix things up. I just watched the above extract video and now I'm assimilating that new information. Learn something everyday. Seems somewhat problematic from the perspective of needing a "biologically complete" compost, which also requires the use of a microscope to ensure "completeness." However, i think that topdressing with a richly amended vermicompost can work as a fertilizer as well as adding microorganisms, whereas a compost tea formulated to multiply the microorganisms can have a less pronounced fertilizer effect and be used more for inoculation. Depends on what type of compost you have and/or how you make your tea. I closely follow microbeman's suggestions (by volume): 2.38% (vermi)compost, 0.50% black strap molasses, 0.25% kelp meal, .063% fish hydrolysate. I bubble 36 hours in a 5 gallon bucket using a TeaLab bubbler hooked to a commercial grade air pump. It's noisy but my plants don't complain.
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  8. Small bubbles and lots of them.
    The disturbance of the water is actually what gets it done
    And you increase surface area with smaller bubbles.
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  9. Thanks Tim - I wasn't aware of the airlifts, those look interesting. The airlifts are much more beneficial / work better than airstones?

    Also, have you tried a compost extract, like the one Vee was referring to?

    If I get around to building a airlifter, would be interesting to grow something and compare growth / results with using airlifted vermicompost tea / vermicompost extract / and just top dressing with worm castings.

    Thanks Os - how come you feel it's better to let the microbe populations develop on their own based on exudates given off by the plant?

    I've always seemed to learn the lesson of letting nature do it's thing, which is why I'm debating on building a compost tea bubbler. Perhaps just top dressing get's almost similar results, just a bit slower.

    In terms of innoculation, I wonder how KNF would compare to brewed teas. (Though KNF does sound complicated, I've never tried it. I do hear amazing things though about it... people seem to have killer results using KNF to introduce good biology / bacteria to their soil).

    Going back to the airlifter - how come you think the airlifter setup works better than using bubbler stones?

    Interesting, I'm tempted to try this out, as it would save a lot of money (not having to buy an air pump and extra pipes).

    I could do a compost extract with vermicompost yes? Would that also work well?

    Have you ever compared results of using a compost extract to an aerated compost tea?

    Thanks for the suggestion, never knew about this method.

    Thanks LoneYote - what benefits would you say there are to inoculation vs adding fertilizer?

    What difference do you see when you add a aerated vermicompost tea, vs just top dressing with your vermicompost?

    Is it the same results, just takes longer with top dressing?
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  10. I have a large fish tank air pump. It works ok to oxygenate water when I run a blumat reservoir. It does work to make simple teas. But, I use the air lift for making ACT's. It breaks the surface tension of the water while making an ACT much better than airstones and we don't deal with plugged airstones. I do not use a bag for my compost or castings. They get dropped directly in the pail. I stir it a few times during the brew period to keep things suspended. I use the paint strainer bags you can purchase in Lowes or Home Depot to filter my ACT after brewing. I only use ACT's in a watering can, I do not run them through my sprayers.
    I have not made compost extracts.
    I'm not sure I see a significant difference in growth.
    But, I have never run side by side tests.
    As for KNF. I have fallen down that rabbit hole and I believe I've made every single potion the process suggests. If you have questions just ask. I still have a closet full of KNF inputs as well as 1/2 a refrigerator shelf. Growing in a well made living organic soil is far easier than KNF in my opinion.
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  11. This is the way I think about it. This primarily applies to what I think of in a more closed system like an indoor container. When there isn’t a plant in a container to communicate it’s needs with the soil life, that’s the time to try and boost microbial populations or inoculate the soil. For example you make up a new mix, fill a container and let it nutrient cycle for a bit before planting. At this point in the game the best thing we can do for the soil is to get all kinds of bacteria, fungi, worms, etc breaking down materials into a nutrient available food. Either for a plant or for another form of soil life. We’re after a big diverse population of soil life.
    Once you plant in the soil, the plant begins communicating with the soil life trading things for what it wants. It’s my belief that adding a tea loaded with a certain bacteria or whatever at this point throws off the balance of what the plant/soil life already has been establishing. I believe that top dressing material that the soil life can go out and grab, when it wants, is really the better way.
    In fact, I believe in this so much, that I think anything but “water only” can be counter productive. This all is assuming everything I need is in the soil or top dress.
    That’s the gist of what I do. It kind of ties in what other folks do as well.
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  12. As far as my thoughts and experiences with knf and fruit/plant based extracts go…I’ve never noticed any effect using them in my cannabis container grows. I also feel that my soil is very complete and lacks nothing. However, when I give these extracts to my friends they rave about how well they work.
    That being said, I think there is a point where if you have good enough soil, and a large enough amount of soil it’s kind of a waste of time and energy.
    I also want to be straight forward about the fact that my whole goal is to do as little as possible besides watering. If I could get good results without top dressing, I wouldn’t do that either. I’m just not there yet. Top dressing vmc with some dry amendments is always way less work than mixing up anything that’s liquid, and for the most part is fool proof.
    Why an airlift. Cause it works really well! You aerate the water on the way up, and again as it pours out the airlift tube into the brewer container. I made a vortex style airlift out of an upside down water cooler jug. I used to hit everything I grew every other day with either a compost tea or a nutrient tea. My vortex style airlift does a spectacular job making nutrient teas like kelp or neem or whatever.
    If you have even a small air pump, you make aact. You just need to use a much smaller brewing container. I used to just use a 1 gallon jug with an air stone and an old aquarium pump that I had laying around. It worked fine. I only filled the jug half way to allow for foaming. I didn’t really scale up to the big unit until I was using it in a whole greenhouse and for outdoor stuff.
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  13. Thanks Tim - would you say KNF was worth it, in your experience?

    I thought KNF was a method to make a well made living organic soil better, though inoculation?

    KNF does seem labor intensive, which is why I haven't gotten around to it yet.

    I understand your viewpoint, and that's the viewpoint I try to grow from as well - to mimic nature, as it's pretty much impossible to beat nature (in the long run). It's processes have been perfected.

    So what you're saying is right when you mix a soil, inoculate it with aerated compost tea? Or once it's settled for a while, before planting?

    What would you say to people who do see positive results, over just top dressing? Do you think there are tradeoffs down the line, to those positive results? Or perhaps in taste / effect / etc of the final product?

    Thanks Os - interesting anecdote about KNF and living soils. I guess KNF is just a way to get to a great organic living soil.

    I'm also trying to do as least as possible in the garden. Nature also taught me she prefers it that way ha. Things grow better when I leave them alone.

    Right now my setup is just keeping a good worm bin, feeding it organic food scraps, coffee grinds, and organic amendments like kelp and crab meal, malted barley, oyster shell, etc etc. And letting the worms make those inputs more bioavailable, before top dressing with those worm castings every once in a while.

    So far it's worked great, wondering if I could make it better. But so far I'm stoked with the results that that gives.

    My biggest wish at the moment would be for a good filter, since our tap water here has chlorine in it. I help my family grow fruits and veggies, and try to get them to aerate the city water for at least a day, but I think sometimes they don't do it, and plus the sprinklers get city water into the pots as well. My last grow I was using purified water, and seemed like the plants looked healthier with that.

    I'll make a airlifter in a 5 gallon bucket, seems like a great tool to add to the garden. Was going to build it with this design.
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  14. In my experience I did not see KNF as a better system of growing the limited plants we grow. If I did, I'd still be using the system. If you do get into it further than simple plant extracts. Be prepared to spend some money. I made quart jars of my OHN and it was costly just for the vodka alone. Making IMO is great for outdoor plants that live in the ground. But, I didn't see much of an impact in my indoor containers using it. I use ACT with new soil right at planting time. I also use it in my outdoor pots just prior to planting each spring.
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  15. no wonder you dislike tea, i only feed my tea once every two weeks, the rest is just watering, man if i did this every other day , i just use bottles hahahah
    knf is bottles but what you make, down south here the best fpj i use is sweet potato , these plants be dancing like a dog that just took a dump when i feed it to them hahah
    my deer ate all my comfrey and i been having the hardest time getting it to establish for the last 2 years, it just been in drought and triple digit heats and it want grow, which sucks , to me that is the only feed any plant needs.
    im planning on a spot down the hill were i can shade the comfrey from 2 to 5 this coming season or when i can buy more , finding good stuff is a gamble indeed ,strickly medicinal seeds were i got them last out of oregan i believe.
    they sent great crowns but the weather tore them up
    anyway i can see why you dont care for tea now
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  16. i spent right at 120 for vodka and everclear and root stock about 40 bucks
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  17. Some folks will argue that stinging nettles are even better than comfrey. Here's a link that you may find helpful.

    Foraging Texas: Stinging Nettle
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  18. An upfront inoculation is all that’s needed before planting. I use good fresh compost, leaf mold, and vmc to build my mix. All crawling with life. For me there is really no point to using a tea to inoculate the soil upfront, because the same microbelife from the tea is there already. If I was using a lower grade, store bought compost , for example. That is where inoculation would be more effective.
    For people that are having great results, and like that style of growing, keep doing what your doing. If they get bored of doing the extra work of teas, they should work on making a better soil mix. Like the old man said, “make good compost and the rest,,,,”.
    You have a worm bin, so you are well on your way down the right track, regardless of what style you choose.
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  19. #19 LoneYote, Jan 12, 2023
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2023
    I'm using a similar approach as TimJ and OS. However, since I am growing smallish amounts for personal use, my pots can sit for several months between cycles. So, when I do make a tea, it is more from a perspective of "waking up" the media with some fresh soil life and intending to get whatever disease suppressing characteristics out of the tea for sprouts and seedlings. I use topdressed vermicompost (a hybrid of Sinse's Mix) as needed during the grow to provide additional nutrients and keep the soil life chugging along. Haven't seen any definitive randomized controlled trials (RCTs) either way that would add a scientific veneer to my reasoning, so take my anecdata with some salt. One specific case that I feel confident in reporting is when I grew a plant in a small fabric pot using a living soil recipe, about 4 weeks into flower it started to show lack of vigor and signs of nutrient deficiency in the leaves. What happened was that the root ball had completely filled up the pot with a solid mass and practically exhausted the available organic matter. After applying a tea drench, the plant quickly revived to a point where I could limp it through to completion with a balanced organic top dress (Dr. Earth Bud & Bloom) and a couple more teas. Actually that plant turned out pretty okay. I was using store bought worm castings at the time. There are so many variables that I don't see it as a black and white distinction between tea vs. topdress. Either way, getting into vermicompost production and use has been the single biggest factor in improving my gardening practice. Smiles.
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  20. The IMO recipe always fascinated me. I'll use it for a fig tree I'll be planting in our backyard, in native soil. We have a canyon maybe a mile away, I think some of the California Oak trees must be 100+ years old, near the creek in the canyon.

    From what I remember reading, you want to find the oldest tree in the region, since theoretically it's the most resilient / has the best microorganisms around it.

    Is that the practice you followed to create your IMO?

    One thing I wondered about is how close the collection source of the IMO has to be to your garden, as here in California we have lots of microclimates, you can go just a mile or two away and the weather can be a bit different (cooler, more/less precipitation, etc etc).

    So wondering if collecting IMO from a 100 year old tree a mile away in the canyon would be best, or from a 40 year old tree within 100 ft, in a residential yard, where every so often miracle grow was sprayed.

    I been hearing about Comfrey, how do you use it to feed your plants?

    How would you use comfrey or stinging nettle to feed your plants?

    Thanks Os. I'll keep tending to the worm bin, been a great asset for sure. I'll try what TimJ mentioned, using my vermicompost extract right before planting things, to give an extra microbial boost to the soil.

    I've also been toying with the idea of bringing oak leafs (and oak leaf mold) from the California Oaks in the mountains on the outskirts of town, and using that as an input to my worm bin. Well, just the leaf mold - the actual california oak leaves take forever to break down, but I was thinking of using the leaves as mulch for my outdoor in-ground fig.

    Have you ever thought about planting a cover crop in your pots in the off seaon? (Not sure if you grow indoors or out).

    Thanks for sharing your anecdote about saving the plant with compost tea - looks like it's a good tool to keep in the arsenal. Seems to be the best option for sick plants, when one is unsure what's the problem.

    And I agree, a worm bin is for sure the best asset in my garden. Fun too.
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