Malibu Compost Bu’s Brew™ Biodynamic® Compost Tea: Sustainability Your Soil Can Sip On

by Audra Howerton

“Once we create a soil environment that is healthy and sustainable, we start to see plant life that is also much healthier and much more sustainable.” -Randy Ritchie, founder of Malibu Compost

Tea Bags, photo courtesy of Malibu Compost

Tea Bags, photo courtesy of Malibu Compost

What is biodynamic compost tea? How do you use it? And why use it when there’s already fertilizers, composts and other amendments on the market?

To answer your fascination in biodynamic compost tea for your garden, founder Randy Ritchie of Malibu Compost answers a Q&A on the definition, application and benefits of using this biodynamic product!

For residents of Skagit or Whatcom County, our Compost Tea Party is this Saturday on July 11th at 11am here at the Garden Spot Nursery. Randy will be discussing Malibu Compost Bu’s Brew™ Biodynamic® Compost Tea in depth while we snack on scones and tea (the kind for us and not our plants)!

AH: What is compost tea?

RR: Compost Tea is liquified extraction of compost. The quality of the compost will depend on the level of microbial diversity, nutrient density and organic purity. Our biodynamic compost is the perfect base component for a really beneficial compost tea that will revitalize soil and feed your plants at the same time.

AH: Has it been in the horticulture industry for long?

RR: Compost tea has been around for a long time in a variety of forms, nature being the first. Compost tea is really a form of bio-mimicry. For example, it rains in a forest, the water pools up around the base of a tree, the water filters through the leaf mold into the soil below, taking with it billions of microbes along with beautiful decomposed organic matter. I first learned about it from my grandmother in New Jersey who used finished, composted dairy cow manure in a sock that sat overnight in water. She fed her tomatoes with it. She called it “tomato juice.” That was in the 60’s. I used to water her Jersey tomatoes with it, so I guess, I’ve been using it personally for a loooonnngg time!

AH: How does it work?

RR: Compost and other items like castings, powdered fish hydosolate or kelp meal are put into a micron filter extractor bag, or organic muslin tea bag in our case. The bag is soaked in water between eight to twelve hours and extraction for twenty-four hours if it is aerated with a pump. I’m focusing on extractions, although I use a lot of aerated teas on our farm and landscape projects. The microbes come alive in the water and the “good stuff,” the major and minor nutrients and trace minerals are extracted into the “brew” which becomes a bock, beer-colored liquid through the process.

AH: How does a home gardener apply it? 

RR: The compost tea extraction can be used as a drench straight out of the bucket, in a watering can or a foliar feed or spray through a half-gallon or larger pump sprayer.

photo courtesy of Malibu Compost

photo courtesy of Malibu Compost

AH: When is the best time to use it?

RR: I usually feed the teas in the morning, especially if I am spraying fruit trees or the garden plot because I don’t want the moisture to create stress on the leaf structure of the plants when the sun gets too hot. It could possibly cause leaf burn as it evaporates the liquid. The teas will not cause burn, but the sun and water certainly can.

AH: Where is it mostly used? 

RR: I use it everywhere. We have a massive rose garden that we do in the city of Oakland with teas. I help manage several organic orchards and organic food grows. We use the tea in conjunction with our beautiful compost, as well as the on-site compost we make on many urban farms and landscape sites. It and the compost have all of the nutrients and minerals necessary to grow really healthy soil and plants.

photo courtesy of Maliby Compost

photo courtesy of Maliby Compost

AH: Why is compost tea useful for gardeners? 

RR: It is an essential component of a truly organic protocol in the garden. Again, depending on the source of the compost that is used in the tea as well as any other ingredients that might be added, it is safe, non-toxic, easy-to-use and the best organic amendment for helping to build good organic soil, grow healthy plants and a facilitate a more peaceful, yet vital environment at the home, garden or farm.

AH: Is it an alternative to other soil products or fertilizers? 

RR: We ease a lot of people off of their chemical and synthetic gardening practices by starting with compost teas. It has a very quick affect on the plants because it gets a readily available nutrient source right to the root level for uptake. We have seen plants turn-around overnight with a nice compost tea application. We don’t believe in the NPK myth, or turning our plants into fertilizer addicts. Compost tea is nature’s way of feeding the microbes and the plants for a healthier, more vital garden.

AH: What are the advantages and disadvantages to using compost tea? 

RR: The advantages are clear, improved soil vitality and soil structure, a great food source for the microbes in the soil, healthier plants—which in turn are more disease and pest resistant—as well as the teas bring a great aid ion for dealing with fungal issues like powdery mildew and rust. The only disadvantage I see is people making teas out of inferior compost, or unfinished composts, which can be highly anaerobic and potentially toxic.

AH: How does Malibu Compost Tea compare to other compost teas on the market, especially with biodynamic practices?

RR: Malibu Compost Teas have the highest food-grade purity level on the market because we test for GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, as well as do biological screening that test for microbial diversity and AG analysis that shows that there are no pathogens, heavy metals or pH issues happening in our products. The biodynamic preparations are the secret to creating vitality and soil health with our teas.

photo courtesy of Malibu Compost

photo courtesy of Malibu Compost

AH: What are the short and long term effects of using compost tea? 

RR: The short-term effect is immediate uptake of whatever the plants might be needing in terms of nutrition. The long-term effect is overall soil and garden health. One of the things that I love about compost teas is when using a really good compost like ours you cannot overdo it. You’re not going to burn your plants as you can with many other fertilizers. You’re not going to stress your garden out or stress the microbes out who are working hard to create food and balance in your garden.

AH: How does this benefit the soil and plant material?

RR: Traditional chemical and synthetic fertilizers kill off large numbers of microbes in the soil, and create environments that are in a highly weakened state. The use of good, truly organic compost teas keeps growing the numbers of beneficial microbes in the soil, both bacteria and fungi, which attract the the larger protozoa who will eat the smaller microorganisms and in-turn poop out beautiful plant available nitrogen. Once we create a soil environment that is healthy and sustainable, we start to see plant life that is also much healthier and much more sustainable.

Malibu Compost is a Demeter Association certified, biodynamic company based out of Malibu, CA. For more information on Malibu Compost, their practices and their products, visit their website here.


Gifts for Gardeners: Truly Terrific Tools

Good evening chickens! Just 9 shopping days left until Christmas, and in case you’re wondering what to gift your favorite gardener, our staff has put together a list of their favorite garden tools to give. ‘Tis the season!

Felco prunersMarcy suggests a Felco pruner.

They’re like the BMW of pruners. Best of all the parts are replaceable!

Nancy suggests an OXO garden knife.Hori Hori Knife

The OXO garden knife is my favorite hand-tool. It digs, divides, saws, cuts and measures. Come in to the Garden Spot and ask for the best “Hori Hori” It’s a good grip!

glovesGinger, otherwise known around here as ‘Mrs. Claus’ suggests lightweight gloves.

Clean or warm, whichever you need, they do their job!

Paige our resident Botany student and fiction writer suggests ‘Herbies!’

They are inexpensive, handy for cleaning house plants and herbs, and won’t take up too much room in a drawer. (Great tip for all you herbiesapartment/condo gardeners out there, aye?)

Audra, poet and sometimes editor, suggests ‘Herbies’ as well.

They’re great for stocking stuffers and useful to trim herbs and flowers and nose hairs! Plus they’re cute and tiny!

barnel scissorsKim our plant buyer and grower suggests gardening scissors.

They’re great for so many uses: trimming back perennials and shrub tipping, perfect for dead-heading containers and baskets. Made of carbide steel, they never rust and are always sharp. The red and white handles are always visible, you won’t loose them!

Erin has two suggestions, one for the gardener overwhelmed by loads of weeds.

I’m pretty opinionated about this, having weeded for a range of many, hula homany gardening clients over the years. Two of my favorite tools are the hula ho, great for small weeds jobs where you have a large amount of space. And you get a bit of an ab workout! Add to this a trusty potato fork, for dandelions, buttercups and other root-y pests…and you’ll be whistling while you work. Getting your zen weeding on is all laughter on the stairsabout having the right tools. While you’re at it, maybe grab a retractable rake too! And if you need a little inspiration grab “Laughter on the Stairs” by Beverly Nichols. This will get you excited about gardening again, and remind you why you’re weeding in the first place.

Any teenage girls on your list? I planted my first big garden at the pink prunersage of 14. Consider these pruning shears by Zenport. They’re just $8.99 each, so they start at a low price point, but are great pruners and are made for smaller hands. We often fight over these at the nursery. They won’t last forever, but if your daughter or niece loses them no one will be too put out. Now, one drawback is they are pink. A color I would have hated at that age. If you’re you grow girlconcerned, break out some spray paint and paint them her favorite color. (I suggest gold!) If you want to do a theme gift, grab her some gloves and a copy of “You Grow Girl” by Gayla Trail. She’s a great garden writer, has sound advice and makes gardening fun for old and young alike.

Brandy, busy gardener, avid baker and ‘mother hen’ suggests the ratchet pruners.Ratchet+Pruner

They’re super easy on the hands to use and last forever.  (Great advice for folks who get sore hands)

ph testerTony the Lavender Man, suggests a soil ph tester.

It appeases curiosity over one’s soil ph, and helps to guide future planting decisions.


We hope these suggestions help you complete your holiday shopping this year. Drop by anytime, we are always happy to give you more ideas! And remember, we offer complimentary holiday wrapping.

December Garden Tasks


Hello Folks!

It’s the Garden Spot Crew here. Here with a short list of garden tasks to keep your garden, happy and healthy this December.

1 -Got any spring bulbs around? Get those bulbs in the ground! Pronto! Click here for some tips on design from Deb.

2 -Rake up any stray leaves from late-dropping trees, add to your compost pile along with weeds and other plant bits

3 -It’s a great time to prune cherry trees and other stone fruit trees

4 –Plant for winter color, work some pansies and hellebores into your containers, dig up plants that are past their prime.

5 -‘Tis the Season for Dormant Spraying– this helps with over-wintering bugs on deciduous trees and shrubs. Best to apply 3 times over the winter.

6 -Winter Plant Protection– This is a big one.Think of tender plants like daphne or rosemary, give them a blanket.

7 –Watering…make sure your big evergreens and plants under the eaves of the house have enough water, too cold and too dry is often a fatal combination.

8 -Take Cuttings – of evergreens and hardwoods, dip them in rooting hormone and place them in a bright, well-lit area

9 –Review the year, while you’re sitting by the fire think about what worked, and what didn’t. Take notes for next year.

10 –Seed catalogs! December is the time when they start to arrive, time to peruse and dream of next year.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Garden Spots: Deb and Kay’s ‘Country Cottage’ Containers

By: Debra Olberg
A lot of flowers equals constant deadheading (removing old blooms), generous amounts of water and weekly feeding. This ‘country cottage’ container garden is nestled amongst a mature landscape which consists of three brick patios of various sizes furnished with places to sit, water features and containers filled with the flowers of summer. The garden has a collection of large trees casting a wide blanket of shade.
In the shady spaces you will find several kinds of begonias, coleus, heliotrope, impatiens, fuchsias, shade loving vines and grasses.  The sunlight does peek through in a few places allowing for experimentation with some sun lovers as well. Here you will find canna lilies, rudbeckia, dahlias, geraniums, petunia, lobelia, New Zealand flax, salvia, bacopa, million bells and more.
 Hello, my name is Debra and I am employed at the Garden Spot Nursery. I am in charge of designing, planting and maintaining this magical collection of flowers. This garden belongs to a lady named Kay, and every summer she lets me play in her yard. Over the years I have experimented with many kinds of flowers and plants determining what will do the best.
Not only am I challenged with varying degrees of shade from filtered to heavy I also have to battle with deer and slugs. I have found deer visit a few times early then reappear late season. I attempt to plant what I have found they like the least and bury what they do like among them or beyond their reach.
potting bench close up
Each spring and summer we are all at the mercy of the weather and what did well one season might flop the next, doesn’t mean I won’t try it again! I take photos and keep notes and start to plan for next year before the last begonia drops its last flower of the summer.
Next Saturday, October 26th Debra will be teaching a class on putting the garden to bed for the winter. Pick up great tips for overwintering begonias and dahlias, as well as pruning and other important autumn tasks. Read more here

Designing with Flower Bulbs: Deb’s Top 3 Tips

By: Debra Olberg

Minolta DSC

Nothing says spring quite like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and friends blooming for all to see. Bulbs can bloom in succession from very early spring, to mid-spring, and late spring giving your garden a full season of color. Depending on the bloom time, you can plant for a show of color all at one time or it can be over a several month span.


number onecroppedInterplant flower bulbs with a carpet of low-growing annuals or perennials like pansies, violas, arabis (rock cress), aubrieta, campanula, cerastium (snow in summer), cotula, erodium, hardy geranium, iberis (candytuft), blue star creeper, wire vine, corsican mint, creeping phlox, creeping thyme just to name a few.

These combination plantings give you two layers of color and a longer blooming season.

daffodil path

number twocroppedUse flower bulbs to line a walkway or path to invite people into the garden or as a border in a flower bed. Use the smaller growers along the walk and graduate to the taller types in the back.

Some great shorties to try are: Chionodoxa (glory-of-the-snow), crocus, eranthis (winter aconite), galanthus (snowdrops), miniature iris, muscari (grape hyacinth), miniature daffodils, puschkinia, scilla (bluebell), species and rockery tulips. Have fun developing planting patterns amongst your shrubs and perennials.

tulips en masse

number threecropped

For maximum color impact, plant bulbs in masses of 40 or more bulbs of a single variety. Arrange in drifts (for an informal garden) or geometric beds (for a formal garden). Always avoid planting in single rows or isolated beds.

Soil to Table: Grow your own Garlic

cooking with garlic

Garlic is a flavorful and hearty ingredient in home-cooking. Originating in Central Asia, garlic has been utilized for both culinary and medicinal purposes all over the world. Now that Halloween is around the corner, I’m sure many of you will be thinking of its repellent properties. If only it worked on deer right?

There is nothing quite like the flavor of homegrown garlic. Right now at our store, we’ve got Kim’s beautiful Italian garlic bulbs grown out at our farm ready to plant. For those of you who are new to garlic farming, here are some F.A.Q. to guide you through planting to your first garlic crop next fall.

What kind of garlic should I plant?

Be sure when shopping for garlic to choose a healthy bulb. It should be firm when you squeeze it. You wouldn’t want to plant rotten cloves.

Where should I plant it?

You want your garlic to be high and dry through the winter rains. Raised beds are a good choice or anywhere that the soil drains freely. Also, try to site it where it will get a good amount of sun throughout the day, especially afternoon sun.

garlic shoots

Do I need to amend the soil?

We recommend that you add some of Gardener and Bloome’s ‘All Purpose’ Fertilizer when planting. Dig it in well, to the first six inches of soil. Don’t add too much, be sure to follow the directions for application rate.

The main requirement as we discussed above is that your garlic have drainage. If the soil where you intend to plant is soggy, you’ll want to amend it with something like Gardener and Bloome’s ‘Soil Building Compost’.

How deep do I plant it?

In our damp climate we recommend not planting more than one to two inches down. You are measuring from the top of the clove. Also, give them six to eight inches of space between each clove.

garlic scapesWhat do I do with the seedheads?

While garlic scapes are quite pretty, now is not the time to be sentimental. As soon as you see a seedhead forming. Go ahead and pull it off. This will re-direct the energy of the plant toward the bulbs.

Do I need to water my garlic?

Other than the initial watering-in, you won’t need to water your garlic through the fall to the spring. Unless we should get an unseasonable spate of dry weather. Garlic don’t need a ton of water. Use your judgement, if the soil feels moist, you don’t need to water. In the fall, once harvest approaches, cut back on the watering.

How do I fertilize them?

When you first plant and then again in the spring, after the last frost you can start fertilizing your garlic every few weeks with a high nitrogen liquid fertilizer such as ‘Daniel’s Plant Food’ until they begin to bulb.

When can I harvest my garlic?

Garlic are similar to potatoes in the sense that they will let you know when it’s time to harvest. Their leaves will turn brown and die back to the ground in the early autumn. Then you can break out your shovel and start digging.

garlic harvest

If the weather is warm and dry you can leave the bulbs on the ground. If the weather feels uncertain, bring them inside and hang them up or place them on a screen to dry. Now the fun comes. Try a recipe like this or this or this. Or if you’ve still got basil, why not make some fresh pesto?

Fall Decor and our Facebook ‘Photo of the Week’

Greetings Garden Friends!

Well it’s been quite a week weather-wise hasn’t it? Fall is here, that is no doubt. We are battening down the hatches, the walls have gone up on our greenhouse and we’ve been busy creating fall decor like this.

photo (2)

And this.


Rain and wind aside, our gardens are still growing (and happy for the moisture). Your pictures on Facebook this week certainly prove that. Seems like every week it gets more difficult to pick. Our winner this week is Kim Campbell Radder.

Kim Campbell Radder

What a breathtaking photo. Kim, how did you do it? Hummingbirds are fastWe were enchanted by the brilliant red of the salvia against the jewel-tones of the hummingbird’s feathers. Congratulations Kim. You can pick up your planter during our business hours this week. (We’re open 9am-6pm all week long)

Thank you to everyone who participated! We are surely enjoying your photos and so are our Facebook followers. Keep sending them in, there will be another contest next week!

Want to win a gift planter from the Garden Spot? To enter our Facebook ‘Photo of the Week’ contest, all you need to do is post photos of your garden, garden critters or garden projects on our Facebook page.

Happy Friday folks!