Compost “Tea” Rethinks Campus Waste
In an effort to employ more organic solutions in the maintenance of Penn's campus landscapes, Facilities and Real Estate Services treats the campus soil, grass, and plants with compost tea. Compost tea is all natural, made by soaking or steeping compost in a tank of water. The resulting "tea" is then applied to soil and vegetation, improving the microbial health of soils, making it more difficult for weeds to grow, and reducing the need for pesticides.
The compost used to make the tea comes from our campus food waste, compostable cardboard, napkins, and paper towels that are sent to the Wilmington Organic Recycling Center where they undergo an eight-week composting process and are returned to be used for the compost tea product. Each tank makes 250 gallons of tea which can cover one and a half acres; 15 to 20 tanks will provide enough tea for the entire campus. The first round of the compost tea application took place early Summer 2012, with twenty different green spaces across campus sprayed with the tea, followed by further rounds in the late Summer and into the Fall.
FRES landscape architects conduct chemical and biological soil testing twice a year on all of Penn’s turf (lawn and passive recreation). They also look at the soil profile twice a year, which shows the health of the turf by looking at the length of the turf roots. Healthy turf will have roots 4-5” long. The team has been testing since compost tea applications began in 2012, and anticipate useful data after a few years, which will really show the benefits.