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What Is The Soil Food Web?

The Soil Food Web is the community of organisms living all or part of their lives in the soil. Billions of these organisms are present in just one handful of healthy, living soil. They carry out the natural processes in the soil and on plant surfaces necessary for plant development.

Think of the Food Chain where the bunny eats the plant, then the snake eats the bunny, then the hawk eats the snake, and so on.  The Soil Food Web is much like that, but with regard to the microscopic organisms on top of and beneath the soil.  Simple organisms trade nutrients with plant roots, and they break down dead plant materials and organic matter. Complex, predatory organisms then prey on them. Then, even more complex organisms prey on the complex organisms, and so the process goes. 

The connection of food to eaters is not linear. It weaves back and forth. For instance, some organisms may feed on multiple foods, or they themselves could be food to other organisms.  This creates the “web” that the Soil Food Web is named for. 

One of the most important functions of the Soil Food Web for gardeners and land managers is the beneficial relationship between these microbes and trees, shrubs, turf, flowers, etc. The little guys provide nutrients to your plants in exchange for sugars and other foods that your plants make through photosynthesis. But there’s more…

According to the National Resource Conservation Service: “There are many ways that the Soil Food Web is an integral part of landscape processes. Soil organisms decompose organic compounds, including manure, plant residue, and pesticides, preventing them from entering water and becoming pollutants. They sequester nitrogen and other nutrients that might otherwise enter groundwater, and they fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, making it available to plants. Many organisms enhance soil aggregation and porosity, thus increasing infiltration and reducing runoff. Soil organisms prey on crop pests and are food for above-ground animals.”

A Healthy Soil Food Web Will…

  • Make nutrients available at the rate plants require leading to flavor and nutrition in produce. (This also reduces the need for fertilizers)
  • Retain nutrients, stop runoff and stop leaching of chemicals into waterways
  • Suppress diseases through competition, inhibition and consumption. (No need for pesticides)
  • Build Soil Structure. This reduces your need for water by increasing the water holding capacity of the soil itself. This also increases plant root depth, which is a further benefit to plant health.
  • Decompose toxins!

What Are Compost Extracts And Compost Teas?

Compost Extract and Compost tea are both organic liquid soil amendments.  

Compost Extract is an aerobic water extract of compost.  Compost Tea is like an extract, but it is brewed with additional microbial foods over more time.  Each liquid contains a consortia of beneficial organisms which are then applied to plant surfaces, soil surfaces and root systems.  Compost Tea has a higher concentration of beneficial organisms, and Extracts are quicker and economical to produce. 

Each liquid has a rich, brown color and is free of all toxins and pathogens.  Great for turf, trees, shrubs, gardens and easy to apply.  Just don’t drink it!

How Do Extracts, Teas, And The Soil Food Web Make Healthy Plants?

The beneficial microbes that make up a healthy Soil Food Web community are concentrated in Compost Extracts and Teas. When Compost Extract or Tea is applied, the microbes adhere themselves to plant and soil surfaces, where they begin working their magic.  Compost Extract and Compost Tea inoculates your soil with the organisms necessary to allow nutrient cycling, the building of soil structure, and competition with diseases.  The beneficial microbes work with your plants and reproduce, providing a long-term source of nutrition.

 Why Choose Compost Extract Or Tea Over Conventional Products?

The list of advantages and benefits of using Extracts and Teas is staggering…  

  • They are organic amendments safe for the environment and your wallet.  The Ground Up’s Extracts and Teas are free of all chemicals, pathogens and toxins. This means they are healthy and safe for neighboring landscapes, people, pets and wildlife.
  • Microbes within these amendments free up nutrients in the soil and channel nutrients to plant roots.  In this way, Compost Extracts and Teas fertilize your plants and reduce the need for synthetic additives.
  • Compost Extracts and Teas will build soil structure, unlike other amendments.  When microbes get into the soil, they break up compacted soils and build soil aggregates, thus building soil structure.  When they build soil structure, they allow more water to percolate into the soil and roots can grow deeper.  When it rains, water accumulates in the soil and is stored there. The roots of your plants enjoy this additional water and require less irrigation on your end.  This has the added benefit of reducing runoff and further reduces water waste.  
  • Beneficial microbes suppress plant diseases through competition, inhibition and consumption.  A healthy plant’s roots are COVERED in beneficial organisms. These “good guys” prevent root feeding nematodes, fungal disease and other “bad guys” from gaining a foothold against your plants. They crowd the bad guys out on the plant surface. The good guys outcompete the bad guys when it comes to eating the foods they both like. The good guys even consume the bad guys directly in some cases.  

All these benefits and a small price tag lead to an affordable product up front. Watch as you save on water, chemical inputs, pest and disease mitigation and more throughout your growing season.

How Do You Apply It?

Compost Extract and Tea are applied to plant and soil surfaces via foliar spray, soil drench and deep root feeding.  The method and amount being applied depend on the plants being treated, the time of year, the results we are seeking and the current health of the plant.  Typically, a foliar spray is recommended for large-scale applications like turf or agricultural land.  The Ground Up also takes special care to deep root feed selected trees at the right time of the season for maximum benefit. 

We implement a wide range of gallons of liquid amendment per acre, but note that it is impossible to overdo it! No amount of The Ground Up’s Compost Extract or Tea will cause nutrient burning like with chemical fertilizers.

How Is It Made?

The Ground Up uses the GEOTEA Compost Tea Brewer to make all of our Extracts and Teas. GEOTEA Brewers are on the leading edge of compost tea brewing technology.

First, the brewer is filled with CLEAN, natural spring water.  Then, a “tea bag”  filled with high quality compost is attached to an aerator and suspended into the liquid.  The aerator is turned on for some time and shakes all the beneficial microbes off of the compost and into the liquid.  The liquid extract may or may not be fed to encourage the microbes to “wake up” and reproduce to brew a full “Tea.”  

Sounds simple, but it takes a good bit of experience to end up with a quality extract or tea.  Our team is composed of trained soil health experts and we have the tools required to ensure we brew the highest-quality liquid amendments. We take the time to test our compost, extracts and teas to ensure there is a diversity and abundance of microbial life.

When Should Compost Extract And Tea Be Applied?

Compost extracts and teas can be applied any time the ambient temperature is above 40℉, though it takes professional knowledge to get the maximum benefit from your liquid amendment.  For instance, some plants benefit from treatments all year, while others prefer treatments only in mid-spring or fall.  It all depends on plant species, soil health, ambient temperature,  application method and more.

The frequency of applications depends on the same variables. The Ground Up will assess your soil and plant health to determine when and how much liquid amendment is required. Our Soil Health Experts will then take the time to consult with you and develop a plan that will work for you.  


  • It’s not an herbicide or pesticide, so it is safe for children and pets to play on directly after application to yards and fields.
  • It’s ecological and beneficial for pollinators and other wildlife.
  • It’s economical.
  • It’s the future of agriculture, landscaping, and horticultural science!