By Royce Hall
The idea of using decomposing matter (compost) in gardens and managed soils is not a new one. People have been utilizing the benefits of compost for centuries. However, in the past few decades there has been a great deal of advancement and research on liquid compost products, known as compost teas.
What is Compost Tea?
It can be helpful to think of compost tea as a liquid suspension of beneficial microorganisms and minerals. Compost tea is created by taking good quality compost (usually from leafy and woody material) and vermicompost (worm castings), then “brewing” the tea with a mixture of natural food products, such as kelp, fish hydrolysate (ground up fish), humates (rich black completely decomposed organic matter), and molasses in several gallons of water. Tea brewers are designed to continuously aerate this liquid mixture for 12-48 hours. This process extracts the beneficial microbes (bacteria, fungus, nematodes, and protozoa) from the compost and encourages them to multiply, resulting in an extremely concentrated mix of microbes, as well as some minerals extracted from the compost. The idea behind compost tea is that you can gain the benefits of compost without the laborious work of spreading compost.
Natural Nutrition – In nature, microbes break down organic matter, making the nutrients in the organic matter available to plants. By adding compost tea to your lawn or landscaped area, you can assist natural nutrient cycling. For maximum benefit, it is best also to add organic matter to your lawn or landscaped area for the microbes to eat. This can be done with compost, mulch, feed products (corn gluten meal) or fertilizers that have organic matter in them.
Micronutrients – Compost is very rich in micronutrients, like iron or manganese. Depending on the compost that goes into the tea, the mixture will contain many of these essential nutrients.
Diversify microbial life – While the soil is chocked full of microbes, sometimes a particular plot of land may be lacking in a particular variety of microbe which the compost tea can supply.
Disease control – A lot of research has been done on the preventive and curative effects of foliar compost tea applications (like this one). The basic idea is that the good microbes populate a plant’s leaf and prevent pathogens from settling down on the targeted plant. For best results, the compost tea must be applied frequently (every 7-10 days in some circumstances).
Compost tea contains billions of living organisms, and so one batch of tea will not be exactly the same as the next. At Limbwalker, we have our BioTea® professionally, independently analyzed yearly. These tests analyze the biological diversity and viability of our tea, as well as the nutrient value of our BioTea® ensuring that it is of the highest quality.
If you have any questions about compost tea or Limbwalker’s BioTea®, please call us at 502-634-0400, or contact Royce at email@example.com.
From the TCIA
It can be tempting to hire the first tree care company you find. But doing your homework is imperative to saving money, ensuring quality, safe work, and avoiding tree care scams.
What is an Arborist?
Before even beginning your search, be aware that the credentials of someone calling themselves an arborist can vary widely. An arborist is a professional who cares for trees and other woody plants by pruning, fertilizing, monitoring for insects and diseases, consulting on tree related issues, and occasionally planting, transplanting and removing trees. Be wary of tree care scammers – don’t just hire someone with a chain saw who knocks on your door!
“With hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars at stake, not to mention the integrity and appearance of your property and your personal safety, make sure that you take your time in deciding which company you should hire,” warns Peter Gerstenberger, senior advisor for safety, standards & compliance for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). “Disreputable companies are renowned for ripping gutters off, breaking fences and bird baths, and even dropping trees on houses. Then they typically fold up and leave, never to be seen again,” adds Gerstenberger.
A Few Things to Look For
Homeowners searching for qualified tree care companies should look for the following:
Proof of Insurance: Ask for current certificates of liability and workers’ compensation insurance, if applicable. Be aware that if the tree care company you hire doesn’t have insurance or is not a legal company – you, the homeowner – could be held responsible as a contractor.
Good References: Ask for local references, and check on the quality of their work and level of service. Don’t be rushed by a bargain and don’t pay in advance.
Solid Reputation: Verify professional affiliations the company might have, such as memberships in business and/or professional organizations such as the Tree Care Industry Association.
Comparisons: Get a second opinion and quote. Always get the estimates in writing.
Up-to-Date Knowledge: Ask if they follow ANSI Standards. A professional arborist will be aware of the current safety, pruning, fertilizing, and cabling standards.
Contract: Insist on a signed contract as to cost, dates when work is to be performed, and exactly what is to be done.
There are also inherent dangers for one attempting tree care or tree removal – pruning large limbs, felling trees and especially climbing into trees are hazardous activities even for trained professionals. For safe and efficient post-storm work, hire a tree care professional with the experience, expertise and equipment to safely take down or prune damaged trees.
Use these tips to help avoid being the victim of tree care scam artists. To report a tree care scam, contact the Attorney General’s office in your state, the Better Business Bureau or the FBI.
Find a professional
A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the safest course of action. Contact the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938. It has more than 2,000 member companies who recognize stringent safety and performance standards and who are required to carry liability insurance. TCIA also has the nation’s only Accreditation program that helps consumers find tree care companies that have been inspected and accredited based on: adherence to industry standards for quality and safety; maintenance of trained, professional staff; and dedication to ethics and quality in business practices. An easy way to find a tree care service provider in your area is to use the Find Qualified Tree Care program. You can use this service by calling 1-800-733-2622 or by doing a ZIP code search at www.treecaretips.org.
Maryhurst is a behavioral health services organization which provides therapy and treatment for adolescent girls from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky who have been severely traumatized by abuse and neglect. The main campus located in Louisville’s east end spans 14 acres. Although a residential campus with cottages, school, wellness center and administrative buildings, the campus has a park-like setting and provides a “homey” environment for the girls in our care.
We have just learned that the trees on our campus are infected with the Emerald Ash Borer beetle. Maryhurst is now struggling to cover the $10,000 cost which will rid the campus of the infestation. As a non-profit organization, we must raise $2 million each year just to cover our programming needs and provide necessary services to the girls in our care. It is difficult for us to make the Emerald Ash Borer beetle infestation a priority and find the funds to treat this issue. So, we are asking for your help in raising the $10,000 we need to protect our Ash trees.
If you or someone you know would like to assist Maryhurst by funding this project, please contact Jennifer Moran at 502-271-4520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jeneen Wiche
One of the most anticipated rites of spring is dusting off the tiller and heading out to the vegetable garden for a little soil play. It is one of those things you can’t plan for, though. It becomes a waiting game because we can’t do it if the soil is too wet; we don’t want to do it if it is too cold and we only have the time to do it when the weekend rolls around.
Tillage Destroys Soil Structure
Well, what would you say if I told you that you were off the hook when it comes to spring tilling? Tilling is passé; sure, it makes people happy to see a clean, freshly tilled garden, ready to receive seeds and seedlings in anticipation of a bountiful harvest. The truth is too much tilling is bad for the soil. Soil is not just dirt; it is a living organism and the more we disturb it the less alive it becomes.
Tilling the soil allows us to seed or plant the garden more easily; it also allows the developing roots to extend freely through the soil, but this is short-lived. Once rain visits the plot the pulverized soil becomes a smooth crust. Soil scientist, Lois Braun explains, “Both air and water should easily infiltrate these pores for healthy root growth and for a healthy soil microbial life. Tillage pulverizes larger clumps of soil (“aggregates”) into a fine powder which is easily washed by the next rain down into the soil’s pores, clogging them up.” Put this way, it makes a great deal of sense. We all know how important oxygen, moisture and drainage is for plant health so larger aggregate clumps of soil are ideal over finely tilled “powder” that more easily erodes or becomes compacted under foot or during spring rains.
Tillage, Decomposition, and Soil Organisms
The most important part of soil structure is organic matter. Organic matter slowly decomposes (tilling speeds up the decomposition) and as it does it feeds our plants at a rate that matches the plants ability to uptake the nutrients. Not to mention other living organisms that are in the soil that become displaced in tilled soil and may not be able to recover and function at their new depth. From earthworms to beneficial nematodes, an intricate system of life lies beneath the soil’s surface. And we forget about the white thread-like bodies of mycorrhizal fungi just beneath the soil surface that help to fix nitrogen in exchange for carbohydrates they collect from root nodes; in exchange they scavenge absorbable phosphate, making it available to our plants so we don’t have to…unless we are constantly tilling and disrupting the balance of life in the soil!
No-Till Weed Strategy
You should still use your spade, garden fork or cultivator to loosen the soil at planting, but forget tilling for weed control. Instead, try adding organic matter as mulch or newspaper covered in grass-clipping or compost to control weeds. For gardens that have good soil structure, try no-till this year and see what happens.
If you have any questions about soil structure, compost, or tilling, please call Limbwalker at 502-634-0400.
Limbwalker Retreat 2014