Good Stuff / Soil Fertility

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

Malibu Compost

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.

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »