I’m a gardener, and growing healthy food is my main goal. Today I want to share with you an awesome homemade technique to get one step closer to that goal.
There are many potential limiting factors on the road to nutritious food, such as lack of water, imbalanced soil fertility, and lack of organic matter in the soil. But there’s another one that isn’t talked about quite as often, yet is one of the most important: insufficient microbes.
What I’m referring to here are the beneficial microorganisms that should be in and on our soil and plants, but are often lacking these days because of pollution, tilling, bare soil, chemical use, monocultures, not enough water, and so on.
So it’s our job to add these microbes back in there.
In fact, one of the reasons why good compost can bring such incredible results is because it not only brings in organic matter and nutrients, but these microorganisms.
The thing is, we usually don’t have as much compost around as we’d like.
And you can get into some more diverse microbial species through using effective microorganisms or brewing your own aerated compost tea recipe, but I like the following method too, because it’s simple, fairly inexpensive and homemade, all of which move us toward our goal of being more self-reliant.
So I’d like to teach you how to culture your own beneficial microbes, mainly lactic acid bacteria, plus some other wild species mixed in. Here’s how it works:
- Rinse a very small amount of rice with water and pour 1/4 cup of that water into a 1/2 or 1 cup container, leaving at least 50% air space. Put a lid on loosely. Throw the rice in the food scraps pail, or save it for dinner.
- Leave that container at room temperature, out of the sun, for a week, after which you’ll see a thin film on the surface. Strain 2 tablespoons of the liquid into a 2 cup container and add 1 cup of milk. Loosely cover again.
- Wait 7 more days. Strain out the solids on top and you’ll be left with a clear, slightly yellow fluid underneath that contains the bacteria. Add up to an equal amount of molasses to give some food to the bacteria. Keep it in the fridge if you don’t want to use it right away.
- When you’re ready to use it, mix it with 1000 parts water (less than 1 teaspoon per gallon of water), and apply it to your plants, soil and compost with a watering can or preferably some kind of sprayer (the water should be de-chlorinated first by leaving it to sit out for 24 hours).
As for how much to use, I’ve never figured out the perfect amount, but with inoculants, it’s always best to spray until the leaves are soaked and dripping.
So it depends on the size of your garden, and of course on your application method. Even in a big garden, this little mixture goes a long way.
You could use it all at once, or you could easily spread it out into 4 applications over 4 weeks. Just don’t mix it with water until you’re ready to use it each time.
It sounds crazy, but this simple recipe can really improve soil health, compost piles, and plant growth.
Do you know of any other simple ways to culture your own microbes for the garden? Or have any questions for me? Let me know in the comments below.
Phil Nauta is author of the book ‘Building Soils Naturally’, published by Acres U.S.A. He’s a SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professional who taught for Gaia College and was a director for The Society For Organic Urban Land Care. He ran an organic fertilizer business and was a professional organic gardener before starting SmilingGardener.com to teach practical vegetable gardening tips to home gardeners.