Malibu Compost Makes Some Sweet Tea (Plus a Giveaway!)

Let’s be frank (actually, Bu) here. There’s not really a cow that surfs in Malibu (at least, none that I’ve ever seen when I’ve been paddling out there). But there is a cow (make that many cows) that enjoys a happy existence on a Central California farm, grazing on non-genetically modified feed and pooping to…

Linda Ly
Malibu Compost

Let’s be frank (actually, Bu) here. There’s not really a cow that surfs in Malibu (at least, none that I’ve ever seen when I’ve been paddling out there). But there is a cow (make that many cows) that enjoys a happy existence on a Central California farm, grazing on non-genetically modified feed and pooping to its heart’s content.

Cow poop is probably not something you think about much, but picture this: That happy cow sends its food through a complex digestive system that breaks it all down into a nutrient-rich mass. That mass becomes cow poop. That poop is amended with yarrow, chamomile, valerian, stinging nettle, dandelion, and oak bark herbal preparations to help bring in beneficial microbes. That in turn is composted with a lot of love and gratitude on a biodynamic farm, under a cosmic cycle that follows the rhythms of nature and respects the life forces that sustain the earth — the forces you cannot see but can still feel, that work meticulously to provide you with good soil and garden bounty.

This entire process, my friends, is what makes Malibu Compost so special.

Though it all might sound a bit New Agey for most gardeners, biodynamic agriculture is nothing new. The principle was first introduced in 1924 by an Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, as a holistic system that emphasizes the interrelationships of the soil, plants, animals, and humans on a farm. It’s similar to what organic gardeners are likely doing in their own homes — treating the soil as a living organism, not merely a medium, and putting back into the earth what they take out.

Malibu Compost works on a 10,000-acre certified biodynamic farm, of which 1,000 acres are occupied by dairy cows and a small fraction of that utilized for composting. The company’s flagship product, Bu’s Blend Biodynamic Compost, is some shit. Seriously. And they sent me a few bags to try in my garden.

This is what my raised bed looked like at the end of the season — dry, cracked, clumping clay that snapped two trowels in half when I tried to dig up the last of my plants.

Dry clay soil at the end of a season

I spread several inches of Bu’s Blend on top of my soil and watered it in. Waited a few days for all those microorganisms to start working their magic, and then planted away. (These pictures were actually taken last year when I first started using Bu’s Blend, and I can honestly say I’ve seen a remarkable difference in the quality of that soil versus the soil in my other raised beds.)

Bu's Blend Biodynamic Compost

Amending clay soil with compost

Bu's Blend Biodynamic Compost layered on top of garden bed

Garden bed amended with Malibu Compost

When my plants grew a few inches tall, I started feeding them with a light spray of Bu’s Brew Biodynamic Compost Tea.

Foliar spray on tomato seedlings

Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer that contains all the microbial goodness of the compost it was made from. It’s a good way to get all the nutrients into your soil and plants without having to haul around bags of compost. For this reason, Malibu Compost has packaged its compost into single-use “tea bags” that you can steep in water to make a foliar spray.

Compost tea bag

To prepare the compost tea, simply steep a Bu’s Brew tea bag in a 5-gallon bucket, filled about three-quarters of the way with water. Let it sit overnight until the water turns a deep brown.

Steeping Bu's Brew Biodynamic Compost Tea

Using a stake, stir the brew vigorously in one direction until it creates a vortex.

Activating the microbes in compost tea

After a minute or so, reverse direction and stir up another vortex. Keep doing this for about 10 minutes or until your arm falls off. The constant action of stirring, breaking the vortex, stirring again, and breaking the vortex again wakes up all the microorganisms in the brew so you get all that good compost stuff going on.

Fill a watering can or sprayer with the compost tea, and soak the leaves of your plants (don’t forget the undersides!) while whispering sweet nothings to them. (Because we all talk to our gardens, right?) You can even use the compost tea as a soil drench — the same way you’d use any other liquid fertilizer.

Fertilizing tomato plants with Bu's Brew Biodynamic Compost Tea

Spraying the undersides of leaves with compost tea

Repeat this process once a month, or whenever you remember, and watch your garden flourish under all that beautiful lovemaking. Plants love having compost tea rain down on them as it promotes healthy growth and disease resistance.

Healthy tomato plant fertilized with compost tea

Healthy tomato plant fertilized with compost tea

The used tea bag can be tossed into your compost heap to decompose naturally, or it can be steeped again to make a less concentrated brew for seedlings.

This year, I’m very excited that Malibu Compost has come out with their new Bu’s Best Biodynamic Compost Tomato Tea — all the benefits of the original Bu’s Brew, but specially formulated for the heavy needs of tomato plants. They’ve also released Bu’s Buds, a new blend just for roses! The tomato tea adds kelp, worm castings, and horsetail in its biodynamic preparations, while the rose tea adds kelp, worm castings, and a greater proportion of stinging nettle.

Bu's Best Biodynamic Compost Tomato Tea

Since we are well into spring, I thought this would be the perfect time to team up with Malibu Compost on this great giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a three-pack of Bu’s Brew (containing 12 tea bags in all), one sample of Bu’s Best, one sample of Bu’s Buds, and a Stella Natura 2013 Biodynamic Planting Calendar ($70 total value). (And in case you didn’t find Bu’s Best or Bu’s Buds on their site, that’s because both of these formulations are brand new, so the winner will be one of the first to try them!)

How to enter: Leave a comment below telling me what you are growing, where you plan to use the compost teas, and/or why you might need them… I’d love to hear how you’re gardening this season! To receive an additional entry, follow @gardenbetty on Twitter, and leave a second comment below indicating your Twitter username. You have two chances to win!

The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time on Friday, May 3, 2013. Winner will be drawn at random and announced the following week. Good luck!

Giveaway Rules

  1. Giveaway begins April 29, 2013 and ends May 3, 2013.
  2. No purchase is necessary. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post.
  3. Only US residents ages 18 and older are eligible to enter.
  4. Two entries allowed per person.
  5. Odds of winning are based on number of entries received.
  6. Winner will be drawn at random.
  7. If winner does not respond within 48 hours after time of contact, that entry will be forfeited and a new winner will be drawn.

This post is brought to you by Malibu Compost. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that support Garden Betty.

Update: A big thanks to everyone who entered!
This giveaway is now closed. The winner has been announced here.


  1. I’m trying gardening for the first time. I’ve got four tomato plants in the backyard. Would love to use BU compost and tea on them.

  2. Hey there! I’m Erika T’s sister and I turned her on to”Garden Betty”. I live vicariously through you at times. I just dismantled my garden but have a good compost going. I think this tea would make it even better for the new – improved garden this fall!

  3. Hello from the East Coast!! – Upstate NY (the real upstate- Albany).

    I am renewing my love for gardening, experimenting with a variety of vegetables to grow in my city yard. We have a lot of clay in our soil and I think the BU compost and tea would be the perfect addition to keeping my plants happy and healthy.

  4. This year I am focusing on hot pepper plants. I planted the seeds indoors and am beginning to move the plants outdoors to get acclimated to the hot, dry desert climate. I also have cherry tomato plants growing. Oh and I randomly planted lettuce seeds and swiss chard plants. I can hardly believe how well they are doing. The blood orange tree I planted last year is still growing strong too. Maybe one day it will actually produce an orange. LOL. Of course I have cactus and other happy desert plants. Bu’s Brew sounds like a tasty treat for all of my plant family members.

  5. Hi! New to your blog, followed over from Apartment Therapy. Would love to win these to try on my roses, tomatoes, and the berries I’m growing for my little ones. Our lot has some pretty crunchy clay soil that I’ve slowly been bringing back to life, and these teas would help give my plants the boost they’ll need to make it through another hot dry SoCal summer.

  6. We’re (hopefully) move into a new house in June. I might try to plant some fall foods!

  7. Our little square foot garden is a conversation piece in the neighborhood. We intentionally placed it right in our front yard which sparks so many conversations as our neighbors walk by with their dogs and family. This season we are focusing on tomatoes (6 kinds) – especially excited about the new Blue varietal that we picked up at Tomato Mania. The compost tea will help keep these beauties growing and the conversations flowing out in the front yard!

  8. I would love to try your compost tea here in Washington State. I have tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons in the green house. They are all doing fine right now, the challenge will be to sustain them throughout the season. Thanks for your very helpful and informative blog.

  9. I don’t grow a lot of food in the summer in Florida. Right now I have Trail of Tears black beans, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes growing. I think my roses would love the compost tea the most though!

  10. Water trough gardening in Austin, tx – growing 13 kinds of tomatoes, 5 kinds of peppers, 3 kinds of tomatillos, 2 kinds of zucchinis, onions, cosmic carrots, okra, bush beans, pole beans, purple potatoes, and tons of herbs and leafy greens! Just had my first salad from the garden last night. Should be a bountiful summer, fingers crossed.

  11. Our season is very short and temperamental in Pagosa Springs. I’ve got a few greens (kale, lettuces & bok choys) in the raised beds now…sun is almost too intense for them already but we’re supposed to be down in the 20s tonight! Just starting to pop all the warm weather stuff (a lot of hot peppers and tomatoes, eggplant). I compost our kitchen scraps, am going to collect pine-needle mulch this year, but I’m sure my plants will LOVE this (especially the wild roses that have been fighting weevils the last few years)!

  12. !Hi Linda,

    I would love to try the compost tea in Oregon. Let’s see if I can get my carrots and beets to grow!

  13. I’d love to try this compost tea! I first learned about compost tea when I was a garden volunteer at UC-Santa Cruz’s garden. Now it would work great on my backyard veg garden.

  14. I’ve been growing in our community garden for 30 years… too much of everything, which I share with family and friends. I make lovely compost, but haven’t made compost tea, which I would love to try!
    I enjoy your blog!

  15. This year I was able to get a plot in the Organic Community garden. I’m going to grow tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and one far-out veggie that has not been decided yet.

  16. Wow! Malibu Compost would really make a big difference in my heirloom garden! I’m growing Swiss Chard, garlic, carrots, yellow filet beans, rattlesnake pole beans, popcorn, sweet corn, San Marzano paste tomatoes, pickling cukes, and too many herbs to mention.

  17. some of my friends here make tea and their gardens are amazing! I am moving to a new house and just bought a homestead book to start having a minifarm, so the tea would be great to get things going! I typically have leeks, asparagus, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, and herbs.

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