Saturday, September 13, 2008

Liquid organic fertilizer

I made this super compost tea producer this summer.
It came after years of thinking about it and is an improvement of an earlier design I used when I gardened in Gunnison Colorado.

I should explain what my garden was like out west.
Gunnison is zone 2 in good years. The last year I gardened there I believe was 1998.
On July 2 we had 24 degrees in the morning. It didn't outright kill everything because I had everything either in tires or planted on ridges and the cold went down in the trenches between them.

The soil was so bad the water would bead up on the surface and run off. I had been adding coffee grounds and compost for three or four years to improve it. The main garden I raked into ridges and valleys and to water it I would flood the valleys with the hose and let the water soak in.
My first super compost tea maker was a stack of tires I placed so that they straddled one of the valleys.

It had a hardware cloth bottom and was four or five tires high. I started putting all of my scraps into it, along with all the coffee grounds I could snag at work. When I watered I would run the hose into the top tire and let the water run over everything inside and then into the garden. Water and weak fertilizer in one shot. It worked well that last year there. The people who bought our house required in the contract that I remove the gardens along with the tires and the big compost bin I had built from pallets. I almost cried as I had to haul everything I had worked so hard on to the dump.

So with that in mind I have been meaning to build something here in Ohio to make my own fertilizer and here is the result.

Don't be confused by the propane tank. The tank is just a convenient place to put it. I had on old trash can sitting around that I tried to store ears of corn in a couple winters ago. If you look close right above the handle in the front you can see one of the holes the rats chewed in it to get to the corn. There is also a nice big hole in the bottom which suits my purposes now.

I built a stand out of 2x4's that was high enough that I could slide a five gallon bucket underneath to catch all the goodies. I put some aluminum sign material in the bottom of the trash can to keep everything from falling right through. I work next to a sign shop and I snag all of their throw away signs. It is either plastic or plastic sandwiched between aluminum. I have used it for many many things here on the homestead. I added a couple of large rocks so it wouldn't blow over.

After I built it I put three loads of grass clippings in it from our bagger mower. Then we started adding our table scraps. The chair is there so the kids can reach to dump in scraps. I also discovered tomato worms can't crawl out of the can so they all went in. (we picked over 25 from a single brandywine plant this year) Whenever there gets to be a lot of scraps I put in another bag of grass clipping to keep the flies down.

Here is what comes out of the bottom.

I haven't used it near as much as I should of this year, and our garden is poorer because of it.
Tanya has been dealing with severe allergies and hasn't been able to do as much in the garden as she would like. I did dilute some and sprayed it on the Indian corn while it was setting ears just to give it a little boost. I have only used it when the rain has filled the bucket. Otherwise I could pour water through and make tea anytime.

My thoughts on the future of producing your own fertilizer lead me to think someone could take a tank and built a septic type system with a garbage disposal to run everything through on input. You could add any organic material and let it cook in the tank and get a low level fertilizer out the other end. Just some thoughts.


1 comment:

carsonb said...

Nice design. It amazes me that people have so many things lying around unused or destined for the dump that would make great composters.