Actively Aerated Compost Tea (A.A.C.T.)
Updated: Sep 6, 2019
What is Actively Aerated Compost Tea, aka A.A.C.T.? Actively aerated compost tea is a beneficial and easy to make tea for plants. In fact, we believe that it is the most beneficial plant tea you can add to any organic gardener’s toolkit! This tea is made with worm castings (and/or high-quality compost), an air pump to provide an oxygen rich environment for the aerobic microbes to thrive in, and lastly a food source to support the living microbes as populations rapidly increase. This is not a nutrient tea, although the tea will contain some water-soluble nutrients from the worm castings (and/or compost). The only goal here is to simply extract living microorganisms from the worm castings (and/or compost); put them in the perfect environment to multiply, and then be watered into the soil or sprayed onto the foliage of your plants. When applied to your soil or foliar sprayed onto the plant surfaces you bring along a host of benefits to your garden. When applied to the soil it increases the nutrient cycling in the soil resulting in healthier plants. Healthy plants equal healthy harvests! The soil microbes will increase the soil structure, the soil water holding abilities, and break down the Soil Charge Pack ingredients in the soil. In turn providing nutrients and minerals as the plants request them at any moment in the plant’s life, through a natural and organic process that has been in place long before us. This is how plants have grown naturally from the beginning of time – in living soil full of fungi, bacteria, Nematodes, Arthropods and worms communicating with plant roots. With this tea we are simply harnessing the power of nature, supercharging it, and then adding it to our gardens for the benefits! Spraying non flowering plants with this tea will place beneficial bacteria and fungi physically on the plant that will crowd out bad microorganisms and help strengthen the plant’s abilities to suppress fungal diseases like white powdery mildew. A well-made compost tea will have much higher levels of microbes than in the original compost alone, so a small amount of compost can go a long way when made into tea! This is great for large gardens where is gets very expensive and labor intensive to add physical compost to the entire garden. Let’s gather the supplies! Worm Castings and/or High-Quality Compost – When making your tea this will be the most important part. If the worm castings or compost you use are low quality then your tea will be as well. We recommend getting your worm castings from a local organic gardening center, or even look around on craigslist for local people that make vermi-compost (worm compost). If you can’t find anything locally then you can order online from a variety of sources. Our favorite compost to use; not only for teas, but also when first making the base soil (step 1 of instructions) is vermi-compost directly from your own worm bin. It’s going to be pretty hard to beat homemade vermi-compost that hasn’t been shipped around the country. If you have never had a worm farm it is very easy, doesn’t smell when kept indoors, gives you a place to compost kitchen scraps, and saves you a ton of money by making your own vermi-compost! *Pro Tip - Use Soil Charge Packs as a complete diet to feed your worm bins. Brewing Container - There are many options out there for the gardener, from expensive high-end kit brewers all the way down to a simple homemade 5-gallon bucket brewer. Making your own brewer is quite easy and what we recommend for most people just getting into making compost teas. Then you can decide later if you need to buy a professional kit or not. To start all you will need is a Food grade 5-gallon bucket or whatever size best fits your needs. Food grade buckets can be found everywhere, try stopping by your local ice cream shop or bakery to see if they have any they would like to discard for free. Or just order one online. Food Source – A food source will be added to support the rapidly expanding microbe populations. The first food source we will add is Organic Unsulfured Black Strap Molasses. Simple sugars like this feed the bacteria in your tea very well. Next are regular oats, yes just regular Quaker rolled oats from the grocery store work great. Oats will feed the fungi very well. So, we take the shotgun approach and add a little bit of both of these food sources for diversity. Air Pump/Air Tubing/Air Stone – For the 5-gallon bucket brewer you will want to look for an air pump with an output of around 700gph. Also get some rubber tubing that fits the air pump that you get. When it comes to air stones we don’t use them, and instead use small weights to hold down the tubing to the bottom of the bucket. If you would like to use air stones then get as many as you need depending on how many outputs your air pump has. These air stones are quite cheap to replace thankfully, as they will get very gunked up. They can be cleaned by running them in H2O2 after use if you choose to clean them instead of replace them each time. Now you have the supplies, so let’s brew some tea! Attach the air tubing to the air stones/or weights and then the other end to the air pump. Place the air stones at the bottom of the 5-gallon bucket. Pour around 4-gallons of clean de-chlorinated/chloramine free water into the 5-gallon bucket. You will need to use chlorine/chloramine free water as to not hurt the living microbes. Contact your water company for a water quality report (some are online). If your water has chlorine simply let your water sit out for 24 hours before use so the chlorine can evaporate, it’s nice to add a small fish tank air bubblier to the water while it’s sitting for 24hrs. If your water has chloramine instead of chlorine then we suggest using an R/O filter system to reduce it. Plug in the air pump. Add your microbe food source; 1tsp (5ml) of Organic Unsulfured Black Strap Molasses per gallon of water, and/or 1tbls of Oats. When making the tea for plants that are in the flowering stage skip adding the molasses to encourage a fungal dominated tea. You can even make a super fungal dominated tea by adding some oats with worm castings/compost and letting the white fungi strands grow for 3-4 days prior to making the tea. Add ¼ Cup of Earth Worm Castings, Vermi-Compost, or properly homemade compost per gallon of water. You can mix and match worm castings and compost for more microbe diversity if you feel like it. Add the worm castings or compost directly into the water, or put it into a 400micron sized compost tea bag if you are going to use it in a sprayer. Let this all bubble for 24-36 hours out of direct light. Always try to brew your teas in an environment of 60-80f. When it gets too cold microbial activity will slow down or go dormant, when it gets to hot microbes will literally be cooked or go dormant. How to apply your finished tea. After 24-36 hours the finished tea should smell sweet and earthy. *Tip - If it smells sour or bad then it didn’t get enough aeration or you brewed the tea for too long – don’t use it on your plants, instead add it to your compost pile. Water your finished compost tea directly into your soil, or strain it with a 400micron sized compost tea bag to foliar spray onto the leaves and the top soil surface. Do not foliar spray this tea on flowering plants, no one wants worm poop or compost on their flowers. If plants are in the flowering stage then soil drench only. Only spray in low light conditions. That would be dawn or dusk outdoors or during the night cycle indoors. Indoors use a green led headlamp to see and not affect the plants dark cycles. *Never adjust the Ph of the tea, leave the ph alone. This tea will stay good up to 24hrs, after that the microbes will die off rapidly so extra tea can’t be stored. Only make what you can use. That’s it! Apply every 4 weeks to ensure good life in any organic soils. Why do we need microorganisms in our soil? When growing plants from a nutrient dense living soil such as the soil made by following the Soil Charge Pack instructions; the plant roots will communicate with the soil microbes to get anything it needs at any moment in time. Instead of being force feed synthetic nutrients and bottled fertilizers whatever we think is best for the plant at that moment in time - skipping the entire natural microbial process that has been in place for thousands and thousands of years before us. This natural nutrient cycling process happens because plants will secrete many different kinds of sugars called exudates out from the roots to attract different kinds of microorganisms depending on what nutrient or mineral it needs in that exact moment in life. For example, if a plant needs some nitrogen it will send out sugars from the roots to attract bacterial with high levels of nitrogen. If the plant needs some more phosphorus it will attract bacterial with high levels of that nutrient. This attracts other microorganisms up in the food chain continuing a process we all know as the circle of life. This process creates and provides the plant with anything it needs at any time, we just add water and let them do what they know how to do best. No more force-feeding bottled products for veg and other bottles for flower. Forget the charts, forget about flushing out synthetics near harvest, forget about ph, toss the ppm pens, simply let the power of nature make the decisions. *Now a quick service announcement; when using Soil Charge Packs your only requirement during the growing season is to add water. With that said, adding this tea will introduce huge populations of microbiology into the soil. In fact, a good tea will contain billions of bacteria and yards of fungal hyphae per every 5ml of tea! Along with some Nematodes and Arthropods. These organisms are what eat and break down the Soil Charge Pack ingredients and other organic matter in the soil, in turn making this natural growing system work. Just like they have in nature for thousands of years before us. So, a boost of soil life is great to do if you feel like it, but not a requirement when using Soil Charge Packs. When using Soil Charge Packs we have already added worm castings and/or high quality compost to our soil in step 1 of the instructions (click here for Soil Charge Pack instructions), so the soil life is already there when following the normal Soil Charge Pack instructions. We have worked hard to design the Soil Charge Packs product to be a - just add water organic product - all the way to harvest. So, this tea is just simply a big population boost of microbes if you feel like giving a boost to your living soil life, and want to add something besides just water. We understand that the water only grow system can get ridiculously easy with predictably excellent results that it can seem kind of boring if your used to mixing up lots of man-made bottled nutrients. So, with Soil Charge Packs if you feel like it then make a compost tea as a little treat for your plants while they grow. *This compost tea recipe is what we recommend for anyone having ph issues from using low quality compost when first making your base soil, or if you accidentally kill the soil life from letting the soil dry out during the 4-week resting period after mixing your soil, or if you need to get your soil life back on track from using chemical fertilizers previously. *If you are having any kind of Ph issues from lack of soil life then this tea is your go-to fix!