How to Make Compost Tea

Skip the expensive fertilizers this year and make your own home-brew, compost tea! Not only is compost tea a highly effective fertilizer, but it is easy to do, cheap, all natural, and won’t burn your plants. You can use the tea as a foliar spray, on new seed beds, and transplants.  It will inoculate the soil with beneficial microbes (bacteria and fungi)beneficial and give everything a boost of life.

Here is what you need: 

5 gallon bucket, big trashcan, or 50 gallon drum.  You can make as much or as little as you want at one time.


Finished compost, rich garden soil, forest soil, worm castings, or a combination of all. The more diversity you add, the more diversity of beneficial bacteria, and fungi you will add.

Nylons, woven burlap sack, or other slightly porous fabric.

Unsulphered molasses. Molasses is food for the beneficial microbes that reside in the compost.  It helps them multiply even faster, and contains potassium.  You can also use cane sugar, maple syrup, or corn syrup. Use 1/4 cup for every 5 gallons of water.

Aerator (aquarium pump, or fountain pump). Oxygen is necessary to keep the mixture aerobic, alive, and not stinky. You can pick one up for under $30 at a place that sells fish tanks or fountain equipment (Lowes). I got mine at a garage sale for $3, so keep your eyes open!

Other things that can be added to the tea are fish emulsion, yucca extract, kelp, rock dust, or ground oatmeal.

Here is how you do it: 

Fill your bag with compost, 2 cups for every 5 gallons of water.

Secure a stick or stake across the top of your bucket or barrel.  I use a bamboo garden stake with a little bungee cord on each end that attaches to the barrel handles.

Hang your bag of compost from the stake.

Fill the bucket or barrel with water so that the bag is submerged.

Pour in the sugar.

Hang your pump from the same stake, towards the bottom but not touching the bottom.  It should be easily putting air into the water.

Let it set with the pump going for 24 hours. Use it quickly when done brewing.  Because this is a living conconction and that is why it is so useful, you don’t want to let it sit around and go anerobic.

Other tips:

If you have chlorinated water, let the water you will use sit for a day or so to allow the chlorine to dissipate, before making your tea.

If you only have a small aquarium pump, consider only doing two or so gallons at a time so that you make sure to have good aeration in the water.


This article was written by Emma O’Connell, founder of

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