Sunday, July 10, 2011

Compost Tea & Pumpkin Leaf Diseases

For the 5th day in a row we have had big rain in Denver. The plants haven't minded it since the hail netting has stopped the hail. Monsoonal flows from the southwest are bringing in warm, moist air into Colorado, which the plants tend to like. The rain storms in my mind have been atypical because things don't cool down as much as usual when it rains and the rain has come in bands where it dumps for 15-20 minutes and then the sun pops back out again. The nights have also been about 3-5 degrees warmer at night too.

The last two days I've started thinking more about leaf diseases like powdery mildew than I normally would this time of year. In August it is typical to get some powdery mildew but if it gets out of control it can slow down your pumpkin growth and even kill the plant. Throughout the season I give my plants an aerated compost tea to help keep a healthy biology on the leaves and in the soil.

An aerated compost tea is just what it sounds like. I take a painters strainer bag and put about 3/4 cup worm castings, along with a leaf or two, some alfalfa meal, molasses and humic acid. That is then placed into a 5 gallon bucket that is full of water that has been sitting for at least 12 hours that has a fish tank hose in it. Attached to the hose is a fish tank air pump that is designed for a 20 gallon fish tank and I have the compost bag suspended in the water above the end of the hose so the air bubbles go up through it. The idea is to build healthy biology (bacteria and fungus) in the water that will be beneficial to the pumpkin plants and soil. By aerating the compost, anaerobic bacteria that are harmful don't develop as much and more beneficial areobic bacteria and fungus blossom. In the end you are pouring a plethora of biology onto the plant which in theory overwhelm the bad stuff in the pumpkin patch, feed the pumpkin plants and give a minimal amount of nutrients.

If you get a bad spot on your lawn sometime try pouring some aerated compost tea on that dead spot and then see what happens over the next 5 days. It is amazing the kinds of results that you can get.

Tonight I gave the plants some compost tea that I've been brewing for about 2 days. Typically I only brew it for about 24 hours but the rainy weather hasn't allowed me to get into the patch much in the evenings.

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