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How Milk Improves Soil Health

Compost Tea

Part 3 of 5

Compost Tea

ARTICLE How Milk Improves Soil Health Compost Tea Edit

Raw milk is not the only thing that will improve the soil. Compost tea is a liquid made by running compost through a “brewer,” a device somewhat akin to a fish tank, in that oxygen is added to the water containing the compost and this action flushes the microbes out of the compost into the water. The resulting liquid is a “tea” that can be sprayed on pastures and crops, to their great benefit.

Two men that make extensive use of compost tea are Mark Sturges and David Herringshaw. These two have never met and until recently had not even heard of each other. Sturges lives in western Oregon near the coast and for 10 years has had a business spraying compost tea on vineyards, cranberry bogs, fruit and nut trees, and pastures. Sturges adds malt extract, kelp, and seas minerals to his tea, and if he is spraying pastures, he adds molasses to build the bacteria content. Herringshaw lives in the near-desert southeast part of Oregon at an elevation of 4,100 feet. He uses compost tea on his own land and has the brix level of his pasture and hay ground up to 22. That’s tantamount to feeding corn. Herringshaw attributes the high brix to the compost tea and also sea minerals, which he applies at the same time. He uses nothing else.

I have seen the compost Sturges produces. It is so alive it literally moves. I have not seen the compost Herringshaw makes at the other end of the state. I can only imagine how good it might be. He fortifies it with raw milk. Think for a second what Wetzel said about using your imagination to grow the applications for raw milk. Herringshaw has already used his imagination.

Earthworm Castings Tea

ARTICLE How Milk Improves Soil Health Part Earthworms Edit

This tea is identical to compost tea except that worm poop is substituted for compost. Almost everyone thinks tea from earthworm castings is great stuff, and some even think this tea is superior to compost tea. Earthworm castings are known to suppress certain diseases of grass and some people think the use of castings might suppress harmful bacteria such as staph and E. coli.

There is a story going around that a university was having problems with athletes getting staph infections from burns sustained on grass practice fields and the university stopped applying chemicals to the grass and instead turned to worm castings and solved the problem. I spent two weeks trying to track down this story and at this point, I don’t believe it is true. Maybe someone will prove me wrong.

I did, however, come across an interesting situation in St. Louis County, Mo., where the Parkway school district turned to earthworm castings in lieu of commercial fertilizer. The groundskeeper there is Matt Jenne, who prior to coming to St. Louis was a golf course superintendent in Florida. While working in Florida he noticed earthworms had built up their castings on the greens. They picked up the castings as part of cutting the grass, and then piled the grass-castings mixture and let it compost, after which they used it with great success on new grass and bare spots. To feed the life they had in the soil, they applied molasses once a month with their irrigation system.

When he got to St. Louis Jenne decided to go with worm castings on two football fields, applying between half a ton and a ton per field. The castings are applied dry and work best when the field has been aerated.

Jenne may have an explanation for the staph infection story. He says that artificial turf causes staph and the only way this can be controlled is to disinfect the artificial turf.

Here in Osage County earthworm castings are available at Eisterhold Brothers on U.S. Highway 63 between Westphalia and Freeburg. Unfortunately, they have decided to close their business when their current supply runs out.

An excerpt from “How Milk Improves Soil Health“, Terroir Seeds. 

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