If I had to choose one product as being the most important for the garden, effective microorganisms would be it. EM is a liquid mixture of important beneficial microorganisms that are known to work cooperatively to provide tremendous benefits for soil and plants.
One of the main reasons I started this business was because I couldn't buy effective microorganisms in Canada. I couldn't find it.
But since then, I've seen incredible results using it on many different gardens, and I'm heard even more great feedback from customers. Plus I've gone through a lot of the research and the results are incredible (e.g. 50% increase in yield, elimination of disease, etc.).
I've never had that big of a yield boost, but I have seen numerous benefits.
This is one of the most important products I carry and is equally economical to purchase. The benefits of EM are so immense, I cannot even begin to do it justice. I can start a list like the one below, but it's really just the beginning. EM technology will improve:
- Seed germination and plant health
- Plant nutrient uptake
- The composting process (including bokashi composting)
- The soil in your lawn and garden
- Water quality
- Breakdown of sewage sludge
You can buy the mother culture below, or if you are a home gardener and don't want to take the time to activate the effective microorganisms, it makes sense to buy it already activated as 'Activated EM'.
Effective Microorganism Products
EM (Mother Culture)
Effective microorganisms mother culture can be used straight from the bottle, or it can be activated first. Note that EM is sold under many brand names (you may have searched for em1, em-1, emro, biosa, efficient microbes, etc.) some better than others. This one from SCD called 'ProBio Balance Plus' is on par with the best of them, made by people who have studied under Dr. Teruo Higa.Info/Buy
If you don't want to go through the process of activating the effective microorganisms, you can buy it already activated.
Not only is it less expensive, but many of the microbes have recently been awakened from dormancy, so it is of equal or maybe even better quality for application purposes.Info/Buy
I also carry pH paper, which is useful to determine when the activation process of effective microorganisms is finished. The range is 2.9 - 5.2 and we're looking for an ideal range of 3.2-3.5, and at least below 3.9.
Please note: Due to its narrow range, this pH paper is not suitable for measuring soil pH.Info/Buy
Bokashi consists of bran that has been fermented with effective microorganisms and then dried for easy storage. It is used primarily in bokashi composting, and as a general soil amendment.
This particular product is made right here on Vancouver Island by Cowichan Compost. Larger quantities available on request.
What is EM Activation?
Effective microorganisms can be "activated", a 1-4 week process (or longer) by which 1 part EM (mixed with 1 part molasses and 20 parts water) is fermented to increase your quantity of EM by approximately 20 times. The resulting activated EM (AEM) is used the same as regular EM.
It has traditionally been done to save money and improve the efficacy of the EM, primarily because it wakes up dormant microbes. It sounds a bit overwhelming at first, but it is actually easy and very fun. You don't have to do it, but I recommend it if you will be using a lot of EM, as it will save you money. Alternatively, you can order it already activated by me up above.
Here is my EM Activation Procedure. The following video also covers the activation process:
Effective Microorganisms Application
Preferably, effective microorganisms would be applied in smaller, regular doses, such as monthly or even weekly. At minimum, it should be done once in the spring and once in the fall. EM works great when combined with biostimulants. Here are some application rates, with more details at the links below:
Dilution - EM and activated EM can be diluted with water for application with ratios from 1:50 water to 1:10000 water. This ratio depends on the frequency of application and the area you are trying to cover. For example, daily use through irrigation systems is often done at very diluted ratios. Use on turf and in gardens would be lower.
Here are some ratios that I have come up with based on my research. I spent considerable time researching application rates for my February 2009 Newsletter.
I determined that it would be a good idea to experiment with using lesser amounts of EM (the lower end of the scale below), particularly if you are having trouble diluting it with sufficient water. As shown below, I would like to see at least a 1:250 dilution for foliar sprays and a 1:100 for turf and soil, and I believe that 85 ml (1/3 cup) of EM per thousand square feet would be a good place to start:
- 1:10000 - for daily use, such as through an irrigation system
- 1:1000 - for weekly foliar use; 20-125 ml of EM per 1000 sq ft
- 1:100-1:250 - for monthly use as a foliar feed; higher dilution (1:250) is better if possible; 85-500 ml of EM per 1000 sq ft
- 1:50 - for monthly/seasonal use on turf and as a soil drench; higher dilution (1:100) is better if possible; 85-500 ml of EM per 1000 sq ft
- 1:1000 - for soaking seeds; 5-10 minutes only, as some seed may ferment after too long
I have never run into any problems, but it is theoretically possible to ferment flowers and young, tender leaves if the application rate is below 1:250. If you have prize roses, it would be best to use a more diluted ratio to avoid this possibility. Note that the application rates above and below are for the EM before it has been diluted.
If you're using city water and you want to get rid of the chlorine, leaving it in a pail for 24 hours will be sufficient to dechlorinate it in most cities. In some cities such as Victoria, however, they use chloramine in the water (chlorine and ammonium), which does not dissipate as readily. In this case, a small amount of humic acids or a crushed Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) tablet can be stirred into the water before use.
Here is another way to look at effective microorganisms application rates:
- Lawn and Garden - Manufacturer's recommend a total of 1 gallon(US) per 1000 sq ft per year, split into applications as often as is feasible. This is a lot more than is typically used in agriculture (see below). I believe we should try using the agriculture rates, particularly if we are using a backpack sprayer or something similar where mixing it with enough water for a proper dilution is not feasible due to time contraints. I think that perhaps the dilution ratio is more important than the actual rate of application.
- Compost - 1:100 until compost is moist, but not soaked (like a wrung out sponge).
- Agricultural inoculant - A total of 1 to 10 gallons(US) per acre per year, split into applications as often as is feasible. For some reason, the recommendations for farming are generally less. There could be several reasons for this, but ultimately it points to the fact that there is no recipe. Research is still being done on optimal dilutions and application rates.
Bokashi composting takes relatively short time and does not require a big compost bin. It is well suited for an apartment or balcony. Kitchen scraps are fermented in a sealed bucket with the help of bokashi bran infused with effective microorganisms. Because the scraps are essentially pickled, there is neither odour nor insects, and virtually no limit to what can go in the bucket: You can compost all vegetable and fruit materials including citrus, as well as raw or cooked food, and even dairy, fish, meat, and bones.
In a plastic bucket with a tight fitting lid, layer bran and food wastes until the bucket is full, then let this sit for a couple of weeks with the lid on tight. The fermented material can then be buried in the garden and will continue to decompose underground, while creating a nutritious depot of organic matter in the soil. You can plant the spot as early as two weeks later. It’s a win-win: Re-using kitchen waste right at home where it was generated, and providing nutrients and beneficial microorganisms to your garden soil at the same time!
Bokashi can be used to activate compost (mix one pound bokashi bran into a quarter yard of organic matter and keep covered). It can also be dug into the soil at a rate of one pound per 200 square feet, or be used to topdress lawns and gardens. Last not least, bokashi can be fed to livestock at a rate of 3-5% of their feed rations.
You can make your own bokashi by fermenting bran or sawdust with a mixture of EM, water, and molasses. It’s much like activating EM: The ratio is 1 part EM to 1 part molasses to 100 parts water. Add this liquid to dry bran and mix until the bran feels evenly moist but not wet. Then pack the bran firmly in an air tight container, cover the top to keep out oxygen, and let it ferment in a warm place for one to two weeks. When it’s done, the bran should have a sweet and pleasant smell. It can now be dried and used in the bokashi bucket with your food scraps.
Lastly: Activated EM works just as well as EM mother culture for making bokashi bran, and saves money!