Compost tea does not sound very appetizing to us humans—and it shouldn’t—but plants really love it. Compost tea is exactly what it sounds like: composted material soaked or steeped in water.

Many recipes also call for small amounts of humic acid, kelp, yucca, molasses, fruit pulp, rock dust or other additives to really get things going. The resulting tea contains billions of microbes that are beneficial to soil and plants, and can either be added to a garden as a soil drench or as a foliar spray.

Now, you might be wondering why you should go through the process of creating compost tea when it’s just as easy to add dry compost to a garden and be done with it. However, compost tea improves upon the nutritional benefits offered by compost. It is higher in nutrients, helps break down toxins, helps stifle foliar diseases when applied to leaves, and is an effective microbe inoculant for soil.

Getting started with compost tea is easy. There are brewing kits available that provide a complete set-up for brewing compost tea at home. These kits can be fully constructed with minimal effort, or they can require a more DIY assembly. Gardeners who are unable to create their own tea can also find ready-made compost teas available at select gardening shops.

Compost tea should be used quickly once it has been decanted from the brewer, usually within 4-6 hours. To prolong the effectiveness of the compost tea, it is necessary to keep it out of the light. Store it in a cool area in an open-top container that did not previously have any chemicals in it, as using a storage container that previously held chemicals may kill off the vital microbes that help make compost tea so valuable.

Do not worry if the tea is not completely used before it goes bad; it can always be added back to your compost pile or poured onto your soil. Also, using tap water can affect the quality of the compost tea because of the additives it contains, so keep water from the tap in a container for a few days to allow it to de-chlorinate before using it.

Compost tea can be used on both indoor and outdoor crops. If you’re applying directly to leaves, do so in the early morning or around dusk to keep from increasing UV damage. If you’re applying to soil, the compost tea will need to be diluted. I apply the tea to the soil, and then water afterwards to ensure the tea is entering the root zone of the plants.

Otherwise, simply dilute the tea first by mixing 1-8 cups of tea per gallon of water. A more diluted solution should be applied on a weekly basis, while a more potent solution can be applied on a monthly basis.

If you’re growing hydroponically, you can also make use of compost tea. In a recirculating system, simply add 1 gal. of compost tea to a 20 to 50-gal. reservoir. Lawns and landscapes can also benefit from compost tea, especially considering the ground is not always full of nutrients if fill dirt was once used to level the yard.

As with anything added to the environment, be sure to not overdo things, as this could result in runoff that may contribute to water pollution, but considering compost teas are comprised of organic materials, the risk of this happening is low.

Compost tea is just one more way to capitalize on the cycle of life and add fertilizer to your plants. The microbes that live within compost tea help soil and plants, and ultimately help increase the quality of your produce. Find the best way to invest in a brewing kit or pre-made compost tea to get a lush lawn, healthy root system and great crops in no time.