This year has been a major growing moment for me with ideas and principles behind gardening. I have always believed in and have wanted to practice organic, no-till, pesticide-free gardening but like most who venture into this I never really invested time into doing research down to the microbial level and learning about the symbiotic relationship between the plants, the soil and even me.
Does this sound familiar? I would start every year by adding compost and turning the soil of the garden beds have been dead or dormant from growing anything but weeds since last year’s harvest. So I add compost, turn the beds, add fertilizer, turn the beds again and then plant; happy with whatever crop production I could get. To me, this is how it was supposed to go, adding 10-10-10 fertilizer occasionally and just kinda hoping for the best each year, and each year I would get discouraged with the low yields, the pests, and overflowing weeds.
Well, late last year I was introduced to Regenerative Agriculture by my father and since then I have just not been able to digest enough information on it. Now keep in mind I am still learning and will always be learning about different ways and techniques to grow and better garden. One of the biggest things that have drawn me into RA (regenerative agriculture) is that it emphasizes that symbiotic relationship not just between the plant and the soil, but MY symbiotic relationship to everything on my homestead and the life that teems all over it.
By utilizing RA and learning techniques from Korean Natural Farming; I will be able to build not only a garden but a homestead that is filled with life above and below the soil; be able to lessen my own carbon footprint, and build a relationship with all the life on my homestead and grow the absolute healthiest food and more of it… basically doing it the way Mother Nature wants me to do it.
One aspect that I am learning about is a foliar Tea.
What is a Foliar Tea?
In layman’s terms, a foliar feed is a “juiced” up organic fertilizer for your garden. However, it is far more than that;
Inside your soil, there is hopefully a full ecosystem of microbes that are going about their daily job. Just like humans we all have a different job that we must perform. These microbes in the soil work, eat and communicate with each other and the surrounding plants.
You see when a squash plant says “hey microbes I need more nitrogen,” the microbes than find a good quality source of nitrogen, hopefully nearby, and then bring it to the plant to feed on. Consequently, now the plant is healthier and happier because it is getting the food it wants, so because it is happier now it will produce bigger and better vegetables and fruits for you; if the microbes in your soil do not have anything to eat or enough to eat, they will move on and leave your plant hungry for food and no way to feed itself.
So this is where a foliar tea comes in. A foliar tea is an organic fertilizer that adds not only nutrients for your plants but also feeds the microbes themselves. A foliar tea also adds more microbiology to your soil which in turn will build a soil system that becomes pest resistant, weed resistant, and very healthy for your plants.
How do you make a Foliar Tea?
What you will need:
- An Aquarium Pump to aerate the tea.
- A Cheesecloth to wrap up the items you have collected and allow for tea penetration.
- A Five Gallon bucket.
- A watering can or better yet a backpack sprayer.
- Rainwater (Do not use city water due to the chemical treatments it goes through)
- Soil, plants, and collections from around your garden and property.
- Seaweed or liquid seaweed (kelp) if you are not near an ocean like me.
- Add some worm castings
Now when you are out collecting things from your property, you want to use parts of plants, parts of trees, soils from near ponds or under matted leaves, flowers, dandelions and etc. You are not always going to be utilizing the same things for each tea you make. why? well, do you like to eat the same thing every single day, of every single week or every single month? no so mix it up and feed them different things every two weeks.
One thing that has helped me is an app called PictureThis. This app allows you to take a picture of a plant and it does a pretty good job of identifying and letting you know what kind of plant it is. I use this app to find good things around my property to use, stay away from stuff like poison ivy and such; but utilize stuff from your property and grow stuff in your garden that you will be specifically using for these tea’s like borage or hairy vetch.
Now that you have gathered these items you want to wrap them up in a tight ball with cheesecloth and tie it shut. Add this ball to your water and then turn on the aquarium pump, but make sure you have taken off the rocks from the ends of the air lines you do not want them on there then use a brick or something to hold the tubes down.
Turn on your pump and aerate your tea for 24 hours. Once you have done this, I split that tea into two 5 gallon buckets both already half full of rainwater so I essentially just diluted the mixed by half. You then take one 5 gallon mixture and pour it into either your watering can or your backpack sprayer. Take your other mixture and add the pump back in and continue to aerate that tea so it is just not sitting there while you are feeding your garden.
You MUST use all of this tea mixture within two hours after aerating. The aerating process increases the microbiology and as soon as the pump stops your microbiology begins to die off. Approximately around the two-hour mark, the microbiology that you have spent 24 hours creating is now half as strong as it was when it first finished.
I cannot tell you exactly how much plants to use, or how much Quantum to use or how much seawater to use that really depends upon the size of your garden. When you are feeding your plants, you do not need to sit there and water your plant with the tea, I would just say give it a good spritzing for a second or two and then move along down the row, you just want a good coating on the leaves.
Once your first bucket is empty, grab the other one and continue on. The good thing about the tea is that this is not just for your garden, you can use this on your fruit trees, on your lawn, in your flower beds, etc. Everything in nature will respond better if it has beneficial microbes.
Well, this is the basics of a foliar tea, there is far more information about all of this and as I learn and grow, I will do all that I can to share this knowledge. I will have a small video that will accompany this article on my Youtube channel within the next week or so. So please be sure to swing out and subscribe so you do not miss out.
In the meantime here are a couple of books to check out for more information:
Until Next Time,
Live Your Best Life.
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