Whether they’re responsible for a golf course, tennis club, football or cricket pitch, groundskeepers are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality and health of their grass surfaces. Traditionally, grass surface care has involved using artificial fertilisers, pesticides, and fungicides. However, it’s known that, over time, these chemicals can cause damage to the environment and ecosystem, and this has led to a growing interest in more natural alternatives that are less harmful to the environment. One of these alternatives – compost tea – is becoming more and more popular with professional groundskeepers.
What is compost tea?
To put it in the simplest terms, compost tea is a concentrated organic liquid fertiliser. It is made by infusing biologically active compost in water for a period of time. Dependent upon the application, this infusion period can range from 18 hours to several days. Biologically active compost can be made from a wide variety of natural products, and may include plant offcuts, straw, food waste, seaweed, egg shells, tea leaves, and coffee grinds. When well-rotted, the compost is naturally high in nutrients and healthy bacteria.
The compost tea is manufactured through the process of soaking the compost in water. This allows the nutrients contained in the solid fertiliser to enter the water, producing a nutrient-rich dressing that can be easily absorbed by soil and plants. Once ready, the highly nutritious liquid is then applied to the soil around the plants, usually through spraying.
How to make compost tea
Aged compost is mixed with a catalyst that encourages the growth of the beneficial bacteria and fungi. The compost should include a balanced range of major microbes, such as bacteria/archaea, fungal hyphae, flagellates, with some ciliates and nematodes. Where there are specific needs, for example for increased nitrogen levels, the compost mix can be altered to achieve the required balance. The solid compost and water are mixed together, along with the catalyst, and the mixture is aerated or stirred regularly over a few hours before being left to steep, often for three to four days.
Once well steeped, the mixture is strained through a fine mesh to separate the liquid and solids. The liquid is then applied by spraying or pouring onto the soil around the plants. The solids are saved and can be reused to produce another batch of compost tea.
The benefits of compost tea
For groundskeepers looking to improve their courts, courses and pitches, compost tea offers a number of benefits for grass surfaces of all kinds.
- Beneficial bacteria: just as healthy bacteria is good for people, it’s just as good for grass and other plants of all types. Compost tea contains live bacteria, which improve the quality of the soil. Better quality soil means healthier grass that’s more resilient against disease and stress for higher quality playing surfaces in all conditions.
- Supports grass growth and regeneration: the high levels of beneficial, easily absorbed bacteria and nutrients in compost tea improves grass growth and regeneration for healthier, more beautiful playing surfaces.
Better water retention: as compost tea also increases the biomass in the soil, it improves the ground’s ability to retain and store water. This reduces the need for artificial watering and helps to support the grass in dry weather.
- Easily absorbed: because the fertiliser is applied in a liquid form, the nutrients are easily, efficiently, and quickly absorbed into the soil and roots, for faster, healthier and more luxuriant growth.
Reduced toxic chemical usage: while pesticides, fungicides and artificial fertilisers are generally considered necessary for maintaining any grass surface, over time, these build up. These chemicals can leach into waterways and cause harm to the natural biodiversity, including wildlife, plants, insects, and even affect people. Not only does compost tea reduce the need for all of these chemicals, it also breaks down the toxins contained in artificial pesticides and fungicides for improved health throughout the environment.
- Reduced diseases: the beneficial bacteria contained in compost tea helps to protect plants against diseases through creating a healthy symbiosis between grass and soil. The valuable microorganisms nest in leaves and roots to out-compete pathogens that would otherwise damage the grass. It also encourages plant growth hormones, supports the absorption and storage of nitrogen, and mineralises nutrients for more efficient uptake and healthier playing surfaces.
- Cost savings: being able to produce your own fertiliser can lead to considerable cost savings. Mixing the solids with water creates a greater volume of fertiliser at a lower cost. The solids are reusable, and the improved water retention reduces the amount of watering required in dry weather. Together, these can produce considerable cost savings.
Enduratank tanks for compost tea brewing
Enduratank’s cone tanks (also known as conical tanks) are ideal for producing compost tea for a range of applications. All of Enduratanks conical tanks are constructed from a single piece of high density food grade polyethylene. This one-piece, seam-free design minimises the risk of leakage, and reduces the need for maintenance. The robust polyethylene also offers high resistance to chemicals, making these tanks suitable for storing organic materials without risk of contamination.
Enduratank’s cone tanks can store materials with an SG of up to 1.5 SG, are available in sizes from 200 to 30,000 litres, and offer a choice of both vented and non-vented lids. Heavy duty, galvanised steel support frames are included as standard, although our tanks can also be supplied without the frame. As with all of our tanks, our cone tanks are fully DWI approved and meet all Regulation 31’s specific regulations.
Whether it’s a golf course, tennis courts, cricket or football pitches – in fact any grass sports surface – Enduratank’s conical tanks are ideal for producing the compost tea you need for your specific application.
For more information or to talk to one of our experts call us on 01778 562 810.