Compost Tea Is the Magic Potion Your Plants Need This Year—Here's How to Make It (2024)

Compost tea is a rich brown liquid is extracted from compost to deliver nutrients and beneficial microbes directly to your plants. Because the liquid is delivered to the soil through irrigation, watering, or spraying, it works faster than traditional layers of solid compost.

And it's something gardeners feel strongly about.

"Compost tea is the cure for what ails you," says Andy Thewlis, Farm Manager at The Inn at Little Washington. "It's a magic potion that can be brewed with ease at home. An actively aerated tea is rich with beneficial microorganisms that support soil and plant health. Think of it as kombucha for your soil."

Want to add this magic potion to your plants? Here's how to make compost tea at home, as well as the benefits it has on your garden.

Meet the Expert

What Is Compost Tea?

Compost Tea Is the Magic Potion Your Plants Need This Year—Here's How to Make It (1)

Compost tea is the liquid extract that comes from steeping compost in water. This makes a concentrated version of compost that's packed with nutrients, microorganisms and microbes, and is used as a natural liquid fertilizer to boost soil health and plant growth.

"The idea is that steeping your compost and creating a liquid compost will help the nutrients reach plant roots more effectively compared to regular compost, promoting better root health," says Alex Kantor, owner at Perfect Plants Nursery.

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Benefits of Compost Tea on Plants

Compost Tea Is the Magic Potion Your Plants Need This Year—Here's How to Make It (2)

Compost tea creates a healthier environment in the soil—and everything comes back to the soil when gardening.

"The soil is the stomach of the plant," Thewlis says. "With compost tea, microorganisms break down minerals and organic matter for plant uptake."

By using compost tea, you're aiding your plants in digesting all of the good nutrients and minerals they need. This leads to benefits including stronger root systems, faster growth, more abundant flowering, and, if you're growing fruits or vegetables, a larger harvest.

"With the use of compost tea, I see accelerated growth and heightened immune responses in my plants," Thewlis says.

How to Make Compost Tea at Home

Compost Tea Is the Magic Potion Your Plants Need This Year—Here's How to Make It (3)

Good compost tea starts with good compost, and compost is easy to make at home. You can either start a compost bin outside or in your home. Everything from food scraps to yard waste to coffee grounds will go inside your compost bin, and the compost should be ready within two months to use for either non-aerated or aerated compost tea.

How to Make Non-Aerated Compost Tea

Non-aerated compost tea is the easiest method to make at home.

  1. Put one to two cups of compost in a mesh bag—think of this as a tea bag.
  2. Set the compost bag into a bucket and fill with one gallon of clean water.
  3. Put the bucket in a dark closet or basem*nt. Stir once daily.
  4. After one week, remove the compost bag, and you have compost tea.

How to Make Aerated Compost Tea

Aerated compost tea is the same as non-aerated compost tea but on the fast track. It's made the same way as non-aerated compost tea, but with one extra step that speeds up the process: placing an aquarium bubbler in the bucket along with the water and compost bag.

Because the bubbler dissolves oxygen into the mixture, it quickly "steeps" it. You'll have finished compost tea in 48 hours rather than two weeks.

How to Use Compost Tea

While most fertilizers are applied seasonally, compost tea should be applied as often as once a week. It's applied around the base of the plant, directly to the soil.

"When using compost tea, make sure to direct the water toward the roots and soil of the plant rather than pouring it on top of edible fruits, flowers, or vegetables," Kantor says.

Thewlis adds that you can use it as a foliar spray, which is when it's spray directly on the leaves. This can help with disease and pest control.

3 Mistakes When Making and Using Compost Tea

Making compost tea is a straightforward, simple process, but there are a few places it can go awry.

Letting Compost Tea Sit Too Long

If you let a compost tea sit without stirring or aerating, it can go bad in a matter of days.

"Compost tea should have more of an earthy coffee smell, never a rancid moldy smell," Kantor says.

Using Unclean Water or Equipment

While you want good microorganisms to start brewing, you do not want bad ones. If you use water that's been used elsewhere or a bucket that hasn't been cleaned, you could invite in bacteria that will throw off the nutrient-rich balance.

Adding Sugar

Some recipes call for sugar in a compost tea brew, but that can spark growth of bad bacteria like salmonella.


  • What is the disadvantage of compost tea?

    The main disadvantage of compost tea is the unpredictability. You may not know which nutrients you're adding or at what levels, and it can vary every time.

  • Is compost tea the same as fertilizer?

    Compost tea is a type of natural fertilizer because it introduces microorganisms and nutrients to the soil.

  • Does worm tea really work?

    Yes. Worm tea is concentrated with nutrients and microbes, which aid in boosting your plant growth.

Compost Tea Is the Magic Potion Your Plants Need This Year—Here's How to Make It (2024)


How often should you water plants with compost tea? ›

Using Compost Tea

Apply compost tea as a soil drench to your woody plants in the spring and again in the fall. Applications can be done every 2 weeks in the spring and then every month in the summer. Applications for annuals and perennials can range from once a week to once a month.

How to make compost tea for hydrangea? ›

How to Make Compost Tea
  1. Gather the brewing supplies. Before you start brewing your compost tea, you'll need a few supplies. ...
  2. Fill your bucket with water. If you're using tap water, let it sit for a day in the bucket. ...
  3. Add the catalyst. Dump the compost catalyst into the bucket. ...
  4. Float your compost. ...
  5. Pump it.

Are coffee grounds good for compost tea? ›

You can also use your old coffee grounds and tea bags as a valuable component part of your compost, to help your plants bloom this summer season.

Can I make compost tea with bagged compost? ›

If you don't have your own compost pile, you can buy bagged organic compost, such as Nature's Care® Really Good Compost™, to brew your tea. You can even find pre-packaged compost tea bags. You'll still need to use a pump to add oxygen to the brewing water, though.

What not to put in compost tea? ›

Composting Don'ts

Don't add fish, meat, dairy products, bones, baked goods, fatty foods or grease to your compost pile. These food scraps do not easily decompose and may attract animals. Don't use diseased plants or plants that are toxic to other plants.

Can compost tea sit too long? ›

To truly benefit from a good compost tea's root zone enhancing qualities, it should be used immediately after brewing. Try not to let your tea stagnate for more than two hours: Take advantage of all that bio-activity & drive fresh life into your soil ASAP!

Does compost tea need to be refrigerated? ›

Unlike tea that's made from compost simply soaked in water, actively aerated compost tea is brewed and will have a pleasant, earthy smell. Compost tea doesn't store well, so if you must hold it longer than five hours, keep it refrigerated.

Can I use tap water for compost tea? ›

It is important not to use chlorinated water when brewing or applying compost tea because chlorine will kill the beneficial microbes. Therefore, tap water from the public water supply should only be used after left standing for 24–36 hours so the chlorine can dissipate.

Why put molasses in compost tea? ›

Sugars are known to be microbial food sources and have long been used in farming as a supplement to promote plant growth. In compost tea, Molasses is the most often used sugar source and in known to produce a beneficial, biologically active tea.

What color will coffee grounds make hydrangeas? ›

Coffee Grounds Are the Secret To Bold, Blue Hydrangeas.

What is the ratio of compost to water for compost tea? ›

Remember, to make compost tea, add one part compost to 10 parts water, allow it to brew for a week, agitating daily, and then dilute the concentrate at a rate of one part concentrate to four parts water. Making compost tea is simple and quick and has three advantages for the garden. It's a gentle tonic for plants.

How long do you brew compost tea for? ›

All-purpose / Balanced Tea (equal Bacteria to Fungi biomass ratios): Brew for 12 - 36 hours to encourage a more balanced life within the compost tea. Bacterial Teas: Brew for 12 - 24 hours to encourage bacterial biomass. Fungi/ Humus Teas: brew for 36 - 48 to encourage a fungal biomass.

How do you make compost tea from kitchen scraps? ›

  1. Add your kitchen scraps to a large glass jar or pitcher.
  2. Fill the rest of the container with fresh water.
  3. Cover the container loosely and let “steep” for three to five days.
  4. Using a sieve or strainer, separate the liquid from the remaining compost matter.
May 31, 2022

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