There's nothing like a stiff cup of Earl Grey to put a spring in your step in the late afternoon, so why shouldn't your eggplant and watermelon enjoy a similar boost? That's the general idea behind compost tea, a potion rich in microbial agents to help refresh the soil, and in turn the plants.
When I recently told the Personal Farmer Peter Anderson that some of my crops were flagging, he immediately prescribed a spot of compost tea. (I am, after all, planting directly in the ground rather than in a raised bed with pristine soil, so the PF very generously blames all weaknesses in my garden on bad dirt rather than on user error.)
Gardens of Babylon at the Farmers' Market brews its own compost tea in a giant drum in the back of the plant center, using a secret formula of seaweed, fish emulsion, wood chips and other organic ingredients designed to strengthen the food web in the soil with a hit of nematodes, fungal spores and other bacterial goodies.
Compost tea is available by the gallon for $3, plus a coupon for $1 off. The tea-colored liquid should be poured onto plants within 48 hours of purchase, and can be used as a primary fertilizer.
It's hard to tell whether the recent dose helped my plants, but if you have any testimonials--bad or good--regarding compost tea, please share them.