Friday, April 16, 2010

Workshops: Organic Gardening - plus Compost Tea recipe

Last weekend saw unbelieveably warm weather, and we were able to hold our Organic Gardening workshop outdoors on the garden patio.  Much more inspiring than discussing this topic indoors.  The aim of this workshop was to familiarize beginning gardeners with basic organic principles and techniques - including building and maintaining soil health, compost, tilling vs no-till approach, brief overview of permaculture approaches, as well as companion planting, bio-intensive gardening in small spaces, and organic pest controls.  This was a lot to cover in two hours, given that we also wanted to have enough time to answer the many questions of the participants.  Really, this organic gardening basics could be a whole series in itself - something to consider for next season.

The most important point to bring across was how vital soil health is to a successful garden - getting to know your garden's soil qualities (sandy, clay, poor drainage, too dry, acidic, alkaline, etc) and creating a healthy balance with maximum beneficial microorganisms by using: compost and, better yet, compost tea, as well as aged manures, worm castings (from vermicomposting bins), mulches (straw, shredded newspaper, woodchips), and other simple additions like fish emulsions, eggshells (calcium) and so on. 

Compost Tea Recipe
The best way to quickly improve your soil health is to apply compost tea on a regular basis.  Using a fish aquarium bubbler helps to create a compost tea filled with oxygen (aerobic), as the beneficial microorganisms need oxygen to survive.

What you will need:
5 gallon plastic pail
1 shovelful aged compost (about 3 large handfuls)
Small fish aquarium bubbler

1. Fill pail with water and let this sit for 24 hours to evaporate chlorine (from city water).
2. Add compost into a mesh bag and tie bag loosely closed.  The mesh bag should be fine enough to hold the compost inside, while still letting water flow through.  Put bag in the pail of water and let steep like a "tea" for 12-24 hours, while running the aquarium bubbler.
3. Strain compost tea into a watering can and use on garden immediately  This tea does not keep for more than a few days as microorganisms die and you are left with anerobic water.  A similarily beneficial "tea" can be made using worm castings from a vermicomposting bin.

1 comment:

  1. Do you ever make "tea" with stinging nettle? is so, could you please discuss as a blog topic (watch: it's here somewhere, I just can't find it!) Thanks again!