Thursday, August 06, 2009

Making compost tea - and rain water harvesting

This has been a summer of plentiful rain but few hot sunny days, and the garden produce has been slow to ripen. This week we finally tasted the first fresh tomatoes (subartic cherry and yellow plum were the first), and the long-standing flowers of the eggplant and hot pepper plants have nowbegun to shape into fruits. This abundant rain has meant that our new rainwater harvesting tank has been full continuously - in fact, on the heavy rains two days ago it filled up and over-flowed three times in one downpour! That means 3 x 1150 litres (or 3450 litres) of water collected in that one storm off our new very large steel roof on the straw bale addition plus the house roof.

To give an idea of how much water that is, consider these stats from's water conservation website:

How many litres of water does a garden hose use per hour?
1100 litres per hour

How much water is used in a shower?
A typical shower will use 160 litres. (8-10 minute)

How much water is used in a regular toilet per flush?
16 to 23 litres per flush

How much water would be lost by a leaking faucet or toilet?
A leaking toilet would lose 400 litres per day ($200 per year) and a faucet would lose 5000 litres per year.

However, all our other rain barrels and pond were also full from the storm, so we actually (disappointingly) didn't have a place to store the overflow and after that big storm the garden certainly didn't need more watering for at least another day or two! Maybe we've rigged up too many good eaves troughs, more than we actually need? The rain tank comes with a 3/4 horsepower pump which is used to pump the water through a hose into other parts of the yard (which saves us carrying it by watering can or bucket). We will have to set up further rainbarrels into which we can pump the overflow on storms like this.

During an earlier rain storm we also collected water for compost tea. We had filled a wheel barrow with compost mix from our composting bins, and when the water filled the wheel barrow we just let it sit for a week or so to steep. Voila! Compost tea! This tea we've now been pouring onto the garden beds and tomato containers for an extra nutrient boost. Comfrey or nettle leaves are also often added to the compost tea because they are rich in nutrients and make and excellent organic liquid fertilizer. So simple, yet so effective.

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