Why Trees Love Compost Tea
Trees are such a vital part of our landscape, whether natural or cultivated, that it is important that we take the very best care of them that we possibly can. They provide us with shade, fruit, nuts, oxygen, support for swings and tree houses, and nesting spots for birds. Water, careful pruning, and some extra nourishment are their main needs that humans can provide.
Nourishment For Your Trees
One of the nourishments that your tree will love is compost tea. Compost is full of rich nutrients that feed the soil, which in turn feeds the trees, grass, and plants in your yard. Distilling a tea from your compost is one way of getting those nutrients directly to the roots of your tree.
The type of compost tea you make will depend on what type of plant or tree on which you wish to use it. Some will require a bacterial-dominated compost, others will prefer a fungal-dominated compost. Trees prefer a fungal/humus dominated compost tea. Both conifer and deciduous trees benefit from the fungal compost tea.
Sources For Purchasing
It is possible to make your own compost tea at home. There are commercial devices available in which to make the tea, or you can create your own. Or you can buy the compost tea ready-made at some nurseries or garden centers. If you choose to make tea at home, all you really need are a couple of buckets, some fresh finished compost, water, and something to strain it with such as burlap or cheesecloth.
There are several reasons compost tea is beneficial. We will examine some of them here.
Replaces Chemical Fertilizers
It is always a good idea to use natural products whenever possible. Making and using organic compost tea will allow you to avoid using chemical fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides. Compost tea will not harm any living thing that comes in contact with it—pets, wildlife, people—or the soil and ground water. It will only benefit, never destroy. Compost tea will never burn plant or tree roots and leaves.
A major reason to use compost tea is that it will save you many dollars, especially if you make your own with simple, home equipment. You’ll never buy all those liquids, powders, or granules again that really do more harm than good.
Helps Ward Off Tree Diseases
Because you are feeding your tree, and the surrounding soil, with organic nutrients, diseases are discouraged from attacking your trees. When the soil and the tree are both healthy and growing under optimum conditions, the tree itself is better able to resist disease and insect pests.
Provides Valuable Organisms For Trees
Compost tea contains live microbes that are beneficial to the soil and to the immune system of trees. This results in healthier trees that are better equipped to resist stress.
Necessary Nutrients For Trees
Compost tea provides the necessary nutrients that trees need to thrive. Soil becomes depleted over the years, especially in an urban setting. Trees, grass, and plants all compete for the nutrients and water in the soil. If you have a large yard with lots of lawn, flowerbeds, and trees, plus a vegetable garden, maybe some fruit and/or nut trees, berries and grapes, all of those things are taking nutrients from the soil. Sooner or later the soil will be depleted and you will need to feed it. Compost tea nourishes tree roots quickly with its fast-absorbing nutrients.
Greater Tree Growth
Because your tree is being fed all of the nutrients and minerals it requires, it will grow and flourish as never before. If it is a fruit tree, the fruit will be plentiful, rich and delicious.
Use It Quickly
Compost tea is alive. The oxygen level decreases as the tea ages, also depleting the active aerobic organisms that are important to the trees. After you have made your compost tea, it is best to use it right away. Use it at least within 72 hours. You can refrigerate compost tea for up to 30 days. Before using, smell the tea. If it smells foul, it has probably lost its oxygen. Throw it out. It isn’t good anymore. If it is good, let it return to room temperature before using.
When to Use
Apply monthly, or at regular intervals, for the best results. Apply in late winter or early spring both before leaf buds form, and when they break, but aren’t open yet. At the first sign of insect infestation or the onset of disease, apply the compost tea around the base of the tree. Use every couple of weeks until the problem has disappeared.
Early morning or near dusk when the soil is moist is the best time of day to apply your compost tea. This is when the beneficial organisms in the tea will make the best contact with the soil and remain active. A misty morning after a nice rain is an excellent time to apply the tea. But don’t do it during or right before a rain.
The sun’s ultraviolet rays can kill the microbes, so don’t apply the compost tea after 10:00 am or before 6:00 pm, even on cloudy days.
How Much To Use
Use compost tea at full strength for best results. You generally can’t use too much tea. The more you use, the more the beneficial and diverse microbes will multiply. If you choose to dilute the compost tea, it is possible to dilute up to 16:1.
The basic components used to make a rich compost include dry straw, alfalfa, and manure. These components are used in different percentages depending on whether you want a bacterial compost, a fungal compost, or a balanced compost. Other additives can include liquid kelp, blackstrap molasses, cane sugar, yucca extract, fruit pulp, rock dust, humic acids, and ground oatmeal.
If you need the help of a professional arborist in determining the type of compost tea to use for your particular trees, please give us a call.