Leggy Growth with "Tea"

by Diana
(Phoenix, AZ, US)

I live in Phoenix and have been composting for about 4 years. When I was able to add the compost to the soil around my plants, it really seemed to give them a boost.

After my yard was remodeled, all plants have a drip system and the surface area is covered in small white stones.

I started to make a "tea" with my compost and pour it on the plants. I have no idea how strong it was with nutrients. I was told to make it look like weak tea. After getting the "tea" the plants (tomatoes, hibiscus, some ornamental flowering plants) seemed to grow leggy instead of greener and bushier.

What nutrients am I missing or giving too much of. I would hate to go back to store bought fertilizers.

Some Answers...and Some Questions

Hi Diana,

I know you were asking about the tea and looking at the tea as a fertilizer. Even the best compost tea is not a fertilizer. What it is is an extra helping of the microbes from your compost.

The microbes from your compost are as you might guess decomposers. What they do is break down organic matter into the forms that plants are able to use. But in your new garden system it may be that you no longer have that regular dose of organic matter so they don't really have anything to tackle.

That's why actual compost is so useful. Larger operations will use compost tea as a substitute because getting that much compost isn't practical. But they will tend to substitute crop stubble and green manures
to give those microbes a meal. Now you have small white rocks... those won't feed the critters... who in turn feed the plants.

Mycorrhizal Fungi?

I am curious... was the soil removed from your garden during the remodel and new soil brought in? This is often the case and when this happens some of the soil life that was in your soil before isn't there anymore. Specifically the mycorrhizal fungi may be missing.

These fungi could be a good part of your answer as they will forage far and wide for the nutrients and even the water your plants need. And if there was considerable disruption, even just lots of digging and cultivating, during the remodel they are likely needing to be reintroduced. And you won't find them in compost as they need live hosts. I have a few pages here about these important partners for plants.

Here is a link to a product that might help you.

And for Canadians...

Set up for Mulch?

Was landscape fabric used along with the stones for your new garden. This could be an added barrier to getting organic matter down into the soil. You might think about pulling the stones away from the plants and top dressing with a bit of compost.

In the Meantime

You can prune back some of your plants to make them bushier, giving them a chance to fill out at least until the bigger issues are better understood.

Maybe you can get back to me with details of the way the remodel was put together and I can better help you.


Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Compost Questions ... and Answers.