Malibu Compost
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Malibu Compost Makes Some Sweet Tea (Plus a Giveaway!)

Let’s be frank (actually, Bu) here. There’s not really a cow that surfs in Malibu (at least, none that I’ve ever seen when I’ve been paddling out there). But there is a cow (make that many cows) that enjoys a happy existence on a Central California farm, grazing on non-genetically modified feed and pooping to its heart’s content.

Cow poop is probably not something you think about much, but picture this: That happy cow sends its food through a complex digestive system that breaks it all down into a nutrient-rich mass. That mass becomes cow poop. That poop is amended with yarrow, chamomile, valerian, stinging nettle, dandelion, and oak bark herbal preparations to help bring in beneficial microbes. That in turn is composted with a lot of love and gratitude on a biodynamic farm, under a cosmic cycle that follows the rhythms of nature and respects the life forces that sustain the earth — the forces you cannot see but can still feel, that work meticulously to provide you with good soil and garden bounty.

This entire process, my friends, is what makes Malibu Compost so special.

Though it all might sound a bit New Agey for most gardeners, biodynamic agriculture is nothing new. The principle was first introduced in 1924 by an Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, as a holistic system that emphasizes the interrelationships of the soil, plants, animals, and humans on a farm. It’s similar to what organic gardeners are likely doing in their own homes — treating the soil as a living organism, not merely a medium, and putting back into the earth what they take out.

Malibu Compost works on a 10,000-acre certified biodynamic farm, of which 1,000 acres are occupied by dairy cows and a small fraction of that utilized for composting. The company’s flagship product, Bu’s Blend Biodynamic Compost, is some shit. Seriously. And they sent me a few bags to try in my garden.

This is what my raised bed looked like at the end of the season — dry, cracked, clumping clay that snapped two trowels in half when I tried to dig up the last of my plants.

Dry clay soil at the end of a season

I spread several inches of Bu’s Blend on top of my soil and watered it in. Waited a few days for all those microorganisms to start working their magic, and then planted away. (These pictures were actually taken last year when I first started using Bu’s Blend, and I can honestly say I’ve seen a remarkable difference in the quality of that soil versus the soil in my other raised beds.)

Bu's Blend Biodynamic Compost

Amending clay soil with compost

Bu's Blend Biodynamic Compost layered on top of garden bed

Garden bed amended with Malibu Compost

When my plants grew a few inches tall, I started feeding them with a light spray of Bu’s Brew Biodynamic Compost Tea.

Foliar spray on tomato seedlings

Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer that contains all the microbial goodness of the compost it was made from. It’s a good way to get all the nutrients into your soil and plants without having to haul around bags of compost. For this reason, Malibu Compost has packaged its compost into single-use “tea bags” that you can steep in water to make a foliar spray.

Compost tea bag

To prepare the compost tea, simply steep a Bu’s Brew tea bag in a 5-gallon bucket, filled about three-quarters of the way with water. Let it sit overnight until the water turns a deep brown.

Steeping Bu's Brew Biodynamic Compost Tea

Using a stake, stir the brew vigorously in one direction until it creates a vortex.

Activating the microbes in compost tea

After a minute or so, reverse direction and stir up another vortex. Keep doing this for about 10 minutes or until your arm falls off. The constant action of stirring, breaking the vortex, stirring again, and breaking the vortex again wakes up all the microorganisms in the brew so you get all that good compost stuff going on.

Fill a watering can or sprayer with the compost tea, and soak the leaves of your plants (don’t forget the undersides!) while whispering sweet nothings to them. (Because we all talk to our gardens, right?) You can even use the compost tea as a soil drench — the same way you’d use any other liquid fertilizer.

Fertilizing tomato plants with Bu's Brew Biodynamic Compost Tea

Spraying the undersides of leaves with compost tea

Repeat this process once a month, or whenever you remember, and watch your garden flourish under all that beautiful lovemaking. Plants love having compost tea rain down on them as it promotes healthy growth and disease resistance.

Healthy tomato plant fertilized with compost tea

Healthy tomato plant fertilized with compost tea

The used tea bag can be tossed into your compost heap to decompose naturally, or it can be steeped again to make a less concentrated brew for seedlings.

This year, I’m very excited that Malibu Compost has come out with their new Bu’s Best Biodynamic Compost Tomato Tea — all the benefits of the original Bu’s Brew, but specially formulated for the heavy needs of tomato plants. They’ve also released Bu’s Buds, a new blend just for roses! The tomato tea adds kelp, worm castings, and horsetail in its biodynamic preparations, while the rose tea adds kelp, worm castings, and a greater proportion of stinging nettle.

Bu's Best Biodynamic Compost Tomato Tea

Since we are well into spring, I thought this would be the perfect time to team up with Malibu Compost on this great giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a three-pack of Bu’s Brew (containing 12 tea bags in all), one sample of Bu’s Best, one sample of Bu’s Buds, and a Stella Natura 2013 Biodynamic Planting Calendar ($70 total value). (And in case you didn’t find Bu’s Best or Bu’s Buds on their site, that’s because both of these formulations are brand new, so the winner will be one of the first to try them!)

How to enter: Leave a comment below telling me what you are growing, where you plan to use the compost teas, and/or why you might need them… I’d love to hear how you’re gardening this season! To receive an additional entry, follow @gardenbetty on Twitter, and leave a second comment below indicating your Twitter username. You have two chances to win!

The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time on Friday, May 3, 2013. Winner will be drawn at random and announced the following week. Good luck!

Giveaway Rules

  1. Giveaway begins April 29, 2013 and ends May 3, 2013.
  2. No purchase is necessary. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post.
  3. Only US residents ages 18 and older are eligible to enter.
  4. Two entries allowed per person.
  5. Odds of winning are based on number of entries received.
  6. Winner will be drawn at random.
  7. If winner does not respond within 48 hours after time of contact, that entry will be forfeited and a new winner will be drawn.

This post is brought to you by Malibu Compost. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that support Garden Betty.

Update: A big thanks to everyone who entered!
This giveaway is now closed. The winner has been announced here.

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  • Cherie Rufus

    I’m trying gardening for the first time. I’ve got four tomato plants in the backyard. Would love to use BU compost and tea on them.

  • Robin McG

    Hey there! I’m Erika T’s sister and I turned her on to”Garden Betty”. I live vicariously through you at times. I just dismantled my garden but have a good compost going. I think this tea would make it even better for the new – improved garden this fall!

  • Erika T

    Hello from the East Coast!! – Upstate NY (the real upstate- Albany).

    I am renewing my love for gardening, experimenting with a variety of vegetables to grow in my city yard. We have a lot of clay in our soil and I think the BU compost and tea would be the perfect addition to keeping my plants happy and healthy.

  • This year I am focusing on hot pepper plants. I planted the seeds indoors and am beginning to move the plants outdoors to get acclimated to the hot, dry desert climate. I also have cherry tomato plants growing. Oh and I randomly planted lettuce seeds and swiss chard plants. I can hardly believe how well they are doing. The blood orange tree I planted last year is still growing strong too. Maybe one day it will actually produce an orange. LOL. Of course I have cactus and other happy desert plants. Bu’s Brew sounds like a tasty treat for all of my plant family members.

  • Ychuckar

    My grandpa always used compost teas. He had the best tomatoes around.

  • Kristine S

    Hi! New to your blog, followed over from Apartment Therapy. Would love to win these to try on my roses, tomatoes, and the berries I’m growing for my little ones. Our lot has some pretty crunchy clay soil that I’ve slowly been bringing back to life, and these teas would help give my plants the boost they’ll need to make it through another hot dry SoCal summer.

  • rachel

    We’re (hopefully) move into a new house in June. I might try to plant some fall foods!

  • Lindsey Delahanty

    Our little square foot garden is a conversation piece in the neighborhood. We intentionally placed it right in our front yard which sparks so many conversations as our neighbors walk by with their dogs and family. This season we are focusing on tomatoes (6 kinds) – especially excited about the new Blue varietal that we picked up at Tomato Mania. The compost tea will help keep these beauties growing and the conversations flowing out in the front yard!

  • I would love to try your compost tea here in Washington State. I have tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons in the green house. They are all doing fine right now, the challenge will be to sustain them throughout the season. Thanks for your very helpful and informative blog.

  • Kay Sauer

    I don’t grow a lot of food in the summer in Florida. Right now I have Trail of Tears black beans, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes growing. I think my roses would love the compost tea the most though!

  • Brittany

    Water trough gardening in Austin, tx – growing 13 kinds of tomatoes, 5 kinds of peppers, 3 kinds of tomatillos, 2 kinds of zucchinis, onions, cosmic carrots, okra, bush beans, pole beans, purple potatoes, and tons of herbs and leafy greens! Just had my first salad from the garden last night. Should be a bountiful summer, fingers crossed.

  • Laura Dollar

    Our season is very short and temperamental in Pagosa Springs. I’ve got a few greens (kale, lettuces & bok choys) in the raised beds now…sun is almost too intense for them already but we’re supposed to be down in the 20s tonight! Just starting to pop all the warm weather stuff (a lot of hot peppers and tomatoes, eggplant). I compost our kitchen scraps, am going to collect pine-needle mulch this year, but I’m sure my plants will LOVE this (especially the wild roses that have been fighting weevils the last few years)!

  • Ann Waters

    !Hi Linda,

    I would love to try the compost tea in Oregon. Let’s see if I can get my carrots and beets to grow!

  • Elka Karl

    I’d love to try this compost tea! I first learned about compost tea when I was a garden volunteer at UC-Santa Cruz’s garden. Now it would work great on my backyard veg garden.

  • Barbara Garden

    I’ve been growing in our community garden for 30 years… too much of everything, which I share with family and friends. I make lovely compost, but haven’t made compost tea, which I would love to try!
    I enjoy your blog!

  • carilou3

    This year I was able to get a plot in the Organic Community garden. I’m going to grow tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and one far-out veggie that has not been decided yet.

  • Julie Backus

    Wow! Malibu Compost would really make a big difference in my heirloom garden! I’m growing Swiss Chard, garlic, carrots, yellow filet beans, rattlesnake pole beans, popcorn, sweet corn, San Marzano paste tomatoes, pickling cukes, and too many herbs to mention.

  • Tia Bednar

    some of my friends here make tea and their gardens are amazing! I am moving to a new house and just bought a homestead book to start having a minifarm, so the tea would be great to get things going! I typically have leeks, asparagus, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, and herbs.

  • I also follow you on twitter! 😀

  • I would love to try this out on my garden! Always looking for ways to keep my plants happier and healthier. 🙂

  • manda

    I follow you on twitter.

  • manda

    I am trying to grow tomatoes and I would use it on that! Great giveaway!

  • Melissa

    In the foothills outside of San Diego, I’m growing kale, carrots, lettuces, tomatoes, onions, and herbs in a raised bed and three huge horse troughs and would use the compost tea on all of them! Hope I win! Thanks for the chance!

  • Lisa M.

    We are growing many things in 2 small raised bed areas in our yard. We have composted and even bought bags of manure—so far so good. I would love to try the Bu’s Brew, it sounds great, esp. for the tomatoes. We didn’t have a lot of luck last year with them so hopefully this year will be better. Thanks for the chance to win these items :0) I know you use the random selector, but it would be so cool to win because Friday is my birthday.

  • Shanice Penn

    This year is my first attempt at container gardening. I am attempting to grow all heirloom veggies and fruits. So far I have planted two varietals of tomatoes, (Paul Robeson and Green Zebra); Chinese Yellow Cucumbers; Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach; Chantenay Red Core Carrots; Basil Fine Verde; Parsley Giant of Italy; Oregano Wild Zaatar; and Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberry. I will likely plant a few more seeds or seedlings throughout the Spring, Summer and early Fall. It’s been a cooler than usual Spring in the mid-Atlantic so I will use the teas to provide my garden with both the nutrients and boost it needs to grow and bare edibles throughout the growing season.

  • Bobbi

    growing lots of tomatoes and peppers this year..along with beans,and corn.Been slowly trying to build up the soil around here,and that compost tea sounds like it would help out a lot.looks pretty easy too!

  • Hannah

    My tomatoes, peppers and other veggies would love some compost tea. Our garden is only 2 years old and the hard clay soil can always use some help 🙂

  • Leanne

    I would love to use compost tea on my tomatoes, eggplant, okra, squash, canteloupe, watermelon, cowpeas, yardlong beans and armenian cucumbers. Our soil is very heavy clay, and my plants struggle to get nutrients from it, so any help I can give them is most welcome!

  • jen

    Waiting for my red cherry peppers to sprout!

  • Gretchen

    Ooooh, I just set the garden out yesterday. Mainly cool crops – lettuces, tat soi, kale, mustard, spinach, arrugula. I blew through all the compost that we had produced since last fall, so I’d really love an addition like this.

  • Rachel C

    I garden in the Pacific Northwest (Western Washington.) The native soil on our property is glacial till, we have brought in over 250 yards of topsoil for our one acre property. We are lucky enough to live by Ostrom’s Mushroom Farm and enjoy using spent mushroom compost in our flower and veggie beds. I have made my own compost tea in the past. I have read several articles recently on Biodynamic Compost and would love to try some!

  • Kim

    I’ve been gardening in Northern AZ for twenty years (since I was 10 and trusted to run the garden on my own.) This year, I’m starting a brand new garden with my man, about fifteen miles north. The soil is what we call “moon dust” meaning practically powder. Even the native grass won’t grow there! We’re putting in raised beds, and I’ll be pulling out all the tricks, techniques and secrets I know. Not sure how it’ll go but we’re doing all heirloom: tomatoes, beans, corn, beats, radishes, carrots, herbs, cucumbers, etc. Compost tea will make my life SOOOO much easier!

  • Rebecca Caley

    following on twitter! @CaleysCulinary

  • Rebecca Caley

    I’d love for some Ca cows to fertilize my beds! (Didn’t know Malibu had an area left that was 1000 acres.)

  • Holly

    I’m adding two new raised beds to my yard this summer and I only have one rather small compost heap, so I will need more organic matter to enrich the soil. Currently I have tomatoes, cukes, snap peas, spinach, kale, collards, romaine, red lettuce, eggplant, jalapenos, beets, arugula, onions, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and tons of herbs. It may seem like a lot, but I have two kinds of squash waiting to transplant and so much more I’d like to add. I’d love to try the compost tea on the newer beds and on the established plants that always need a little extra help during the hot So. Cal summer.

  • Jane

    Love your blog would like to try the compost tea!!

  • minna chavarria

    I’m following you on twitter, my username is @minnastarlarock

  • minna chavarria

    I love getting your blog updates! I would love to use Malibu compost on my tomato plants and corn, squash and pole beans patch. Good luck to everyone!

  • Erin

    I would use the Tomato Tea on the 39 different varieties of tomatoes I have planted. This year I did not want to grow any variety that I had grown before so when I went to the Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa last September I went crazy buying new seeds. It was so much fun and should make for a very interesting tomato crop!

  • MicroLinda

    Love to keep up with your gardening, chickens, and adventures on your blog! Malibu Compost sounds great, would like to try it out on my 18 tomato plants, assorted cucumbers, peppers and squash growing here in the San Fernando Valley!

  • I follow you on twitter on both of my handles @shespeaksbark and @justwhimsical

  • I’ve got strawberries going, onions, and a bunch of lettuce/spinach. We are moving next month so I’m not really allowed to get any more than that going until we’re settled, but we’re moving to a warmer climate so I should be able to get somethings going once we’re there too!!

  • SunnySanDiego

    Came across your blog and have been reading it rather religiously, especially since we just bought up a 1/2-acre property in SoCal and have been planting at a furious pace. We’ve got fruit trees now as well as an assortment of Earthboxes and in-ground terraced beds holding tomatoes, eggplant, squash, corn, beans, herbs, flowers…

  • Rebecca

    Love your blog- very helpful!!

  • Leah

    My Twitter account is @leahdudley

  • Leah

    My vegetable and flower gardens in hot and dry Texas would love the compost tea! I have lots of tomatoes, peppers. cucumbers, cantaloupe, beans, okra, herbs, along with all my flowers and shrubs.

  • last year was the first year i grew an assortment of veggies in the garden box my husband built me. after that success, i have gone CRAZY this year! started my own seeds, trying my hand at composting, and experimenting with new types of garden beds: i built an above ground hugelkultur for some potatoes & made a small “lasagna” bed for some flowers. i am in the process of working some new patches of land for even more veggies this year. i am mostly excited about growing my rainbow blend carrots, because i failed pretty hard last year by not thinning them out. they were very cute, but very, very tiny, ha.

  • Shanice Penn

    My twitter account is @pennysgrand

  • Judith

    I live and grow on three acres in western Maryland, surrounded by small family farms and horse farm–and a dairy a few miles down the road that, alas, does not offer its cow poop in any form. I would use Bu’s rich-sounding products in both my large vegetable garden and equally large ornamental/meditation/native garden. Thank you!

  • Cary Bradley

    This stuff sounds terrific. Your garden bed up top looks so familiar to me as I previously gardened in Whittier for 30 years and end of season beds were always that cracked and dry. Bu’s must be magic. Now I garden in Connecticut where there are farms nearby and I am applying composted stable bedding which is luscious. This year I’m growing the usual culprits including many new ones based on your recommendations! Poonha cuke, purple plum radish, black futsu, black garbanzos, ananas noir tomato, and many more. Thank you!!! Very excited to be growing banana shallots from seed too this year. Thanks for introducing me to Bu’s blend. Biodynamics is definitely a field I plan to explore more!

  • Lisa Ferraro

    I have 3 new raised beds this year. I’m growing 2 types of kale, pac choi, 5 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and lots of herbs and lettuces! I think the compost tea would be amazing to help my garden get off to the best start it can this year.

  • Trish Kennedy

    Would love to give it a try. We’ve got brand new beds we’ve cleared and I’m sure this GA clay could use the boost!

  • terri flowerchild

    I would love to try it in our small vegetable garden!

  • Becky

    I have read so much about compost tea as a foliage feed to treat/prevent various diseases. I would love to try it on my fig tree, which always gets hit with rust fungus. I think it would also help all of my beans and peppers this summer!

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