Compost Tea: Why It Works

At HowtoOrganics.com, we’re passionate about sustainable lawn care solutions. Organic lawn care isn’t just better for our planet—it’s also better for your lawn and your wallet. Organic lawn care methods are better for your lawn than chemicalized lawn care products.

Today we’ll be exploring why this is true. Regular readers know that HowToOrganis.com is in the middle of a series exploring the benefits and science behind compost tea. This is the third article in that series. Our first article provided a basic overview of what compost tea is and what it does. Compost tea is really an organic fertilizer created by brewing decomposed compost with water. Our second article was a look at how this soil soup works.

This week we’ll be diving more in depth into the question of why compost tea works. What exactly makes it so different—and so much more sustainable—than traditional chemicalized lawn care?  Our experts here are joined by Jerry Erickson, whose years of experience guide our discussions.

So, why does compost tea work?

The best way to answer this question is comparatively. Let’s break down the contrast between compost tea and a traditional chemical lawn care regiment.

At the molecular level, chemical lawn care products are force feeding your plants.

That’s a shocking sentence, but what does it mean? Using chemical fertilizers is about prescribing various chemicals in their ionic form. For a chemical to be in its ionic form, it must have a net positive or net negative charge—which means that chemical has either too many or too few electrons. These unstable chemicals bind much more easily with water—and your plant takes up these nutrients involuntarily in its water supply.

Here’s the problem: your plant did not request and does not necessarily need those chemicals in those amounts at that specific time. Chemical fertilizers have no subtly, they simply blanket the plant in minerals and nutrients that the plant involuntarily takes up. These chemicals force themselves into the plant’s structure, without regards to what is needed or healthy for the plant.

This formula is bad news for your plant. In extreme amounts it can even kill the plant.

Organic lawn care, by contrast, focuses on the symbiotic relationship between the plant and the soil. Rather than forcing unnecessary and dangerous chemicals onto a plant in hopes that it will get what it needs, organic lawn care methods begin with the knowledge that the plant does get what it needs from the soil.

Your plant uses microbes to be in constant communication—literal, actual chemical communication—with the soil. The microbes and fungi in the soil talk with your plant to be able to provide nutrients and minerals as they are needed, and in the amounts that they are needed. The whole system of your soil is alive. Compost tea, as piece of an organic lawn care regiment, works with this system to build the healthiest plants possible.

Here’s an example. Imagine that, based on a soil test, your soil needs phosphate. A chemical lawn care solution would be to put sulfate onto phosphate, thus putting the phosphate in its ionic form. This ionic phosphate would be applied to the plants—likely in a fertilizer—and the plant would be forced to take it. But how much phosphate does the plant need? When does it need it? The ionic phosphate doesn’t care.

An organic solution would be to apply phosphate, and then inoculate with compost tea. The compost tea helps the plant to see all the phosphate around it, and communicate with the soil to ensure it gets exactly the amount it needs, exactly when the plant needs it.

When you’re hungry, you want a specific amount and composition of food to make you full in the healthiest way. Chemical fertilizers would be like telling someone you’re hungry, and then having that person feed you without any regards to what or how much you need. Dangerous, right?

Organic lawn care is like being hungry, and selecting exactly what your body needs from a grocery store—healthy and sustainable.

So here are your choices: you can force feed your lawn with toxins or you can organically employ nature. This later solution is cheaper, more sustainable, and more effective overall/

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