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Olds parks director promotes tea for healthier turf

It was suggested a demonstration of compost tea's effectiveness be staged this summer

OLDS — It could be tea time - compost tea time - for parks in the community this year, if council gives the go-ahead.

Parks supervisor Gillian Campbell raised the idea during a presentation to town council earlier last month.

She suggested council look at treating turf in town parks and play areas with compost tea, also known as microbial tea, which is a liquid created by living microorganisms in compost.

“A high-quality compost contains literally trillions of beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and other organisms that would normally be in a healthy ecosystem,” Campbell said.

She said that tea is much healthier for turf than pesticides and does a fine job of eliminating weeds by literally crowding them out with healthy growing lawn.

“Conventional pesticides, which includes your fungicides, your herbicides etc., destroy many of the beneficial organisms that exist naturally to promote plant nutrition, plant growth and disease suppression,” she said.

“Compost tea on the other hand, inoculates your soil and your foliage. So put simply, compost tea re-establishes soil biology so that nature can do its job in nutrient recycling.”

She described it as “a highly effective strategy for building soil biology. It’s effective in supporting root growth, in building water retention, minimizing compaction and suppressing diseases.”

Compost tea is now used quite extensively in turf management, especially at golf courses, as well as in some municipalities, she said.
This summer, the parks staff would like to create some demonstration plots of turf treated with compost tea to show what it can do versus conventional chemically-treated turf, she said.

She presented some slides to council showing the difference between the two kinds of treatment. One lawn, which had been treated with compost tea did indeed look a darker, richer green and a fuller lawn than the conventionally treated one.

“I’m not the one who needs to see the results because I know what they’ll be, but I think you may just find that quite interesting,” she said.

“Once we have done this and shown you what it can do, then we can actually set up our own system here so that we don’t have to bring somebody in to do it.”

Campbell was asked about the cost for the treatment. She described them as “not out of reach” but admitted she had not yet worked out precise costs.

Operations director Scott Chant said the cost of the project could probably be taken out of the town’s fertilizer budget.
“I like the looks of this and I like the environmentally-friendly side as compared to pesticides and such,” Coun. Wanda Blatz said.

It was agreed the idea could be explored during later budget talks.