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Monthly Newsletter

April 2021
What is Compost Tea?
Years ago, when I first heard the words "compost tea," I asked myself this same question. As a tea enthusiast, I'll admit I was a hair disappointed to discover that it is not for human consumption, but rather a superfood for plants. But no need for you to be disappointed! Your plants will love this brew, probably even more than that feeling you get when you cradle a cup of decaf English Breakfast tea with a splash of milk on a nondescript January morning while staring wearily at the sheets of snow pelting against your window and you take a sip of that steaming infusion that seems to emanate warmth and peace right through your esophagus and straight into your bones. #oddlyspecific? Indeed, plants get much more than warmth and peace from compost tea. Compost tea is ALIVE. It is an elixir of protective life for your garden!
Think: multivitamins for plants! 
Imagine: a liquid infusion of the best that compost has to offer! 
Compost tea: a rainbow of genetic diversity in a jar. 
Compost tea is made by liquid extraction of the microbes present in compost. These microbes include beneficial bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. The process of making compost tea is remarkably similar to how you make your Earl Grey or chamomile at home: water is continuously aerated for 24-48 hours through mature compost, whose beneficial microbes "seep" into the water to create a highly concentrated brew. A little goes a long way with this stuff. While compost tea naturally contains inorganic nutrients (such as carbon, nitrogen, and magnesium) which enrich soil, the overwhelming benefits come from the presence of live organisms. When applied to a garden or potted plants, these biotic components are like an army, ready to protect against damaging pathogens that can threaten the health (and taste!) of your plants and produce. These biotic armies from compost tea actually "colonize" the surfaces of plants and leaves when sprayed onto the plant. Soil scientists call this "competitive colonization of leaf surfaces for microbe‐mediated disease control" (Mengesha et. al, 2017). You can think of compost tea like a rainbow of microbial genetic diversity: with more types of microbes present on your plants, there is a higher chance that one of them will be armed with the proper defenses against any sort of pathogen that may attack your plant. Pretty rad, Mother Earth!

Mengesha, W., Gill, W., Powell, S., Evans, K., & Barry, K. (2017). A study of selected factors affecting efficacy of compost tea against several fungal pathogens of potato. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 123(3), 732-747.

Tips for Using Compost Tea
Compost tea can be poured directly onto plants (house plants, flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables...) or soil as you would water them normally. Additionally, you can put compost tea in a spray bottle and spray it directly onto the leaves and stalk of the plan, thereby encouraging leaf colonization (see above). While compost tea is versatile in this way, its shelf life is quite volatile. Ideally, it should be used within an hour, and at most up to two days of acquiring it. The longer you wait, the more likely those microbes won't be around any longer to defend your plants. Also, be careful if you choose to use compost tea on a hot day - the hot midday heat can be damaging to our little microbial friends. Opt for the morning or late evening instead. 
Where can I get compost tea?
Soil Cycle has got you covered! This year, we launched a compost tea subscription service to provide you with compost from April through September. We use Soil Cycle compost, worm castings, humates, kelp, and other trace minerals to brew our tea. There are several different options for tea amounts (1 gallon/month, 2 gallons/month, etc.) to fit your needs, or you can work with us to create a custom plan. Visit our website to learn more, or fill out the sign-up form if you're ready to rock and roll! 
Soil Cycle Hosts Another Successful
Compost Give-Back Ride
This past Saturday, 13 volunteers gathered at the Soil Cycle space to bag, bike, and deliver over 175 pounds of cured, Soil Cycle-made compost to 26 homes! We hope our subscribers are as stoked as we are to use their compost!
Mark your calendars: May 6-7 is Missoula Gives - the annual fundraising event for local non-profit organizations. We are seeking "cheerleaders" who will advocate for Soil Cycle on their own social media platforms, inviting donations from their followers, family, and friends! We will give you a toolkit with everything you need for your posts including our mission, values, and even awesome photos of our team hard at work. Sign up to be a cheerleader here, and help us move into a bigger and brighter future of sustainability in Missoula!

Intern Spotlight!

Moira Bruce
In Pasang, Nepal, holding a baby goat on top of a roof. Moira was working with GIVE Volunteers helping rebuild homes destroyed by the 2015 earthquake.

What has drawn you to intern with Soil Cycle? 

I was frantically looking for an internship opportunity that had to do with sustainability in order to complete my minor in Climate Change Studies. I randomly found Soil Cycle after Googling “sustainability internships in Missoula” 15 different times. I emailed Caitlyn and she got back to me right away! I couldn't be happier working with Soil Cycle and I would love to keep working with this organization far into the future. 

What projects are you currently working on at Soil Cycle? 

I started off my internship researching methods of static aeration, a process in which air is pumped into the compost piles to oxygenate the compost. Aeration helps decrease the physical labour of turning the piles and helps increase microbial activity. Aeration also prevents the piles from becoming anaerobic and smelly. This is a big construction project, so work on it hasn’t yet begun. In the meantime, I have been sifting finished compost, feeding the red worms and harvesting worm castings, building compost piles, and turning compost piles. 

How did you become interested in composting/sustainability? 

I first heard about climate change around the age of 15 in high school and took a class as a senior that was called Environmental Systems and Societies. I have become very passionate about climate change ever since; it both terrifies and fascinates me. I am convinced that humans have the intelligence and creativity to live sustainably, and Soil Cycle is direct proof of this. I have been a vegetarian since I was born, have been eating consciously since I was a child, and last summer I tried (and failed miserably) to have a compost bin. There are so many better ways to eat well while taking care of the planet, and learning about these methods is something I truly enjoy. 

What other hobbies do you have/what else do you do in your life that is relevant to Soil Cycle's mission? 

I’m an avid backpacker, supporter of being environmentally conscious, and am determined as a woman to prove that my ideas matter. I am a strong leader in the outdoor community - I’m a raft guide at Glacier Raft Company in the summer and I will be leading a backpacking trip for the Wilderness and Civilization program at the University of Montana. At Soil Cycle, I have found that the female leadership matches my own. Having Caitlyn as a strong female mentor is extremely inspiring to me and I am excited to meet more women like her in the sustainability field.

Tending the Land We Call Home:

A Permaculture Workshop
by Trez Robbins
Growing up, one of my favorite pastimes was catching and releasing butterflies. They, and their caterpillars, fascinated me. I requested butterfly identification books for Christmas. I asked my parents for a part of the garden to plant pollinator-attracting flowering shrubs and perennials. I even learned how to do some carpentry by building my own small butterfly house out of lumber and white screen material. I valued the amount of diversity in the butterfly species around me, seeing multiple skippers, swallowtails, or tiny blues visiting the flowers I had planted or the vegetable garden where I harvested my lunch.
Due to my love of the natural world, I decided to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies when I arrived in college years later. The major covers many heartbreaking issues we face as humans: environmental degradation, climate change, watershed pollution, soil desertification, biodiversity and ecosystem loss... All this in a world that has seemingly forgotten that we are so intrinsically connected to all other life that by changing our ecosystems so drastically we are unraveling our very existence along with them. Even when I graduated I wasn’t sure how I was going to make a positive change with such massive obstacles. What could one person do in the face of all these big challenges?

Noted entomologist Doug Tallamy has addressed this question in his new book, “Nature’s Best Hope”. In it he offers a way to coexist with other species in nature: to use privately owned lands to improve habitat and food sources for other species, sequester carbon, and hold water one yard at a time. He calls it the “Homegrown National Park”, a grassroots call-to-action for individuals to restore biodiversity on their land however big or small a plot. City streets and private yards are persistently planted with ornamental nonnative trees, shrubs, and of course, the atrocious lawn grass, which all act as food deserts for pollinators and birds.
These ornamental plants might make us all feel like we are surrounded by vegetation, but so little of it is edible or nutritious to our native species. Native caterpillars need native plants to eat, native birds need the caterpillars to feed their young, and humans need complex diverse ecosystems to survive. Native butterflies, moths, and bees make our lives better through pollinating food and flowering plants, providing beauty to a landscape, and supporting complex ecosystems.
As members of Soil Cycle Missoula, I know that you are all aware of your part in your local and global ecosystem. You reduce your landfill waste, you contribute to a nonprofit that works to turn food scraps into healthy soil, you grow healthy food in your backyards with that soil. It is amazing to see what we can accomplish when we work together on something. This is why I wholeheartedly suggest looking into the Homegrown National Park project, consider shrinking your lawn, planting native plants, and avoiding all herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers in your yard. We can restore biodiversity together!

If you want to learn more about urban gardening, native plants, garden design, and soil health in an interactive online class series, please consider joining me (Therese), Kate of Phoenixes Rising, and Caitlyn of Soil Cycle Missoula in "Tending the Land We Call Home: Urban Gardening through a Permaculture Lens". Thursday evenings 6:00 – 8:00 pm MDT April 29, May 20, June 17. Find us on the Soil Cycle Missoula events page, which will redirect you to register at www.Phoenixesrising.org/Programs

~Therese Robbins, VP of the board and garden manager at Soil Cycle Missoula, certified permaculture designer, and certified herbalist

Our fearless, intelligent, and endlessly creative executive director, Caitlyn, has mixed up pretty much the coolest thing since sliced bread. World, meet Soil Cycle's Organic BIOCHAR BLEND!
This long-lasting, activated biochar soil amendment blend is made from locally-made biochar, worm castings, Montana volcanic minerals, Azomite, kelp meal, raw sugar, and sand. Together they create the ultimate mixture that supports a wide variety of plants in your home and garden. Each ingredient in our blend is specifically selected to improve overall plant growth, yield, resilience, and nutrient holding abilities while improving moisture retention, texture, and soil productivity.
Learn more and scoop some up on our website!

Thank You For Your Support!

With Love, from our Board and Cyclists! Keep on turning...
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