Feed your garden with tea

Making compost tea:

This is a simple, inexpensive way to brew up a healthy, organic potion to spray on the leaves of your plants. This called a foliar feed.

What you'll need:

  • An old pillowcase or some cheesecloth
  • A five-gallon bucket
  • A dowel or piece of molding slightly wider than the diameter of the bucket
  • Water
  • Organic compost

Cut off the top (the open end) of the pillowcase so it's about 20 inches long. Scoop in some compost (I used a four-inch pot as a scoop and added about five scoops). Tie the pillowcase to the dowel and suspend the bag inside the bucket. If using cheesecloth, place a small pile of compost in the center of a square of cheesecloth and bring up the four corners to tie to the dowel.

Add water to the bucket until the bag of compost is submerged. Set the bucket in a sunny spot and let your compost tea "steep" for about four days. The tea is ready when the color is a rich chocolate brown.

Pour the tea into a spray bottle or pump sprayer and apply to foliage. Do this early in the morning so the foliage has a chance to dry during the day, deterring fungal diseases. Do not spray if the temperature is over 90 degrees.

Make smaller batches using a smaller bucket and less compost.

Source for compost: Most nurseries sell organic compost. Holly gets hers from Save Mart Supermarkets. The compost is made from vegetable trimmings and other compostables from its markets.

Find out more about gardening from Holly Hayes: http://www.mercurynews.com/homeandgarden

Email San Jose Mercury News gardening expert Holly Hayes: hhayes@mercurynews.com

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