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Compost tea provides natural alternative to lawn fertilizer

Flowerfield Enterprises' truck they use to spread compost tea
Nancy Camden

It’s officially spring and while some people are starting to think about fertilizing their lawn, others are using compost tea. 

We know what compost is—organic matter decayed into nutrition for plants and other growing things. Dane Terrill ofFlowerfield Enterprises says compost tea is liquid compost that’s actively aerated.

Terill is the director of sales and marketing for Flowerfield. Flowerfield has a 275 gallon tote to hold the water that is aerated through a pump system.

“We take a high-quality compost. And what constitutes high quality? Very diverse populations of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes—something local that has the indigenous species that are used to living here in Michigan,” says Terrill.

They add foods like fish hydrolysate, kelp, and humic acid that feed the different microbes to the aerated water. 

Trees and lake.jpg
Credit Nancy Camden

“They proliferate. If you had a million microorganisms to start with, in 24 hours with the air and the water and the food, you would have a gazillion,” Terrill says. “And we use that as an amendment to our soil to add biology to bring the biology back to what Mother Nature had intended. To grow it naturally without the addition of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.”

Chuck Holman’s job is to apply the compost tea to customer’s soil. He says there are many reasons why people choose compost tea.

“They know that it’s safe for their kids to play. It’s safe for their pets,” he says. “They’re liking the taste of their vegetables and stuff out of their gardens. The great thing about what we put down, we put it on everything that is growing, trees, shrubs, vegetable gardens, flower gardens.”

Terrill says people often use too much fertilizer which pollutes waterways. “When you spread your chemical fertilizer and the water, whether it be the rain or your irrigation system, waters that into your soil, the nutrient solubilizes where the plant can take it up right then, right there. The plant does not overfeed itself. It only can take up so much and the rest of it is going to leach through into either down your yard and into your lake or down into your aquifer or stream.”

Terill says compost tea doesn’t leach into yards and streams because it’s essentially ‘alive.’

“There is very negligible amount of amount of nutrient in compost tea from a water soluble standpoint,” he says. “The nutrient in compost tea is tied up in the bacteria and the fungi and the protozoas. Those microbes don’t allow those nutrients to leach into the lake because they are tied up in a living body.

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