Tuesday, June 11, 2013

EM·1 Microbial Inoculant

Back in December 2011 I attended a Tucson Organic Gardener (TOG) meeting with a presenter from Terra Ganix. During this meeting, the gentleman presenting highlighted the incredible properties of their EM·1 Microbial Inoculant. He noted that its multiple anaerobic microbes were able to naturally “heal” gardens and bring the beneficial microbes in a garden into balance. I thought very little of this presentation until this last spring when I decided to give the EM·1 stuff a try. I contacted the company and found the location (on West Grant, in Tucson) where I could pick up a bottle from a vendor without having to pay shipping.

EM·1 Microbial Inoculant

With some amount of hope, I took my EM·1 home and diluted it in water – making sure to apply it in the evening. As luck would have it, I applied it on the only cloudy day in April.  Instead of using tap water, which is full of chlorine and other possible antibacterial substances, I just used filtered water that had been sitting out for a day – just to make sure. I also applied more water afterwards – to ensure that the EM·1 penatrated deep into the soil.

So – does EM·1 Microbial Inoculant really work? What happened when I applied this miracle cure to my garden? Nothing really. All of my plants miraculously grew at the exact same rate that they had been growing. The plants that were doing poorly continued to do poorly and those that were doing well just kept on doing well. I would like to say that EM·1 is some kind of miracle item but I really cannot. One would hope that this means that I have plenty of good microbes in my garden already. Perhaps, in the future, I will get better results by applying diluted kefir to my garden

EM·1 Update: Even though the EM·1 did nothing for the rest of my garden it helped my sweet potatoes grow and produce much more than they would have otherwise produced. If you grow a lot of sweet potatoes I would highly recommend this product. I have more information on my more recent experiences with EM·1 posted here.

No noticable change in my Garden after applying EM·1 

My experience was not a total waste of money. To be able to compost more of my kitchen scraps – including bones, meat, and dairy I plan on using my EM·1 to make some Bokashi. Bokashi is a substance that uses a substrate (such as wheat bran) to pickle your compost in a way so that it does not stink. You can think of Bokashi as a compost pre-digester. EM·1 can be activated to make more EM·1 and make lots of  Bokashi – so you can compost more food without having the negative pests and smell associated with composting. You can find out more about this process on Terra Ganix’s website.


  1. Hey ... Who's compost stinks? (but it sure doesn't smell 'pickled' either.)

  2. Well at least you may have found use for it now....and you gave it a try on the soil.

    1. My Sweet potatoes are really doing quite well this year. I'll definitely have to watch my sweet potato harvest and edit this post accordingly.

  3. The key with microbial inoculates is that they will not do everything on their own. Understanding soil chemistry and physics is another key component to helping the microbes do their jobs efficiently. Also, if put on in too high of a concentration they can have "stunting" effects on the plants initially. If you like to keep things simple try a good microbial inoculant, not just one that has bacteria and faculative anaerobes in it. You need to have one that includes all levels of the microbial food web, not just the base. Then add Azomite or another rock dust along with the microbial soup. Then you will see results.

    1. Dear Robert,

      Thank you for the response and advice. There seems to be a lot of people touting the effectiveness of inoculants but very few people truly understand how they work.

      Thank you again for your insight.

  4. Hi there... I was searching for more info about EM1 and came across your blog post.

    I started using EM1 after seeing its amazing effects on my school's organic garden and I am happy to report that within 3 weeks, my lackluster fruit trees started putting out new leaves like nobody's business and my dried up chilli plant revived!

    The EM1 is not meant to be used diluted straight out of the bottle. It needs to be activated first.

    This is the formula I used :

    Mix in one 1.5L drink bottle (recycled and washed clean)
    - two capsful of EM1 (I used the EM1 bottle cap)
    - 2 spoonsful of molasses/brown sugar or white sugar (if that's all you have)
    - 1 pinch of salt
    - a few slices of lemon rind/lemongrass/pandan leaf (for scent) -optional-
    - water that was used to wash rice (just wash 2 cups or so of rice kernels in non-chlorinated water, strain the kernels out...water should be milky in colour)

    Shake the bottle and then pour some of the mix out into two other bottles.

    Now you have three partly-filled bottles. Squeeze the plastic bottle before tightening the cap. Gas will be released over the next few days and you don't want the bottles to blow up.

    Now keep the three bottles in a cool place, out of sunlight.

    Let the gas out on the 4th day.

    By the 7th day, the mix should be ready for use. You will know it was a success if the mix doesn't smell bad. Mine smells a bit lemony (I used some lemon slices) and fermented.

    Before spraying on plants, mix 10ml into a medium sized pail of non-chlorinated water.

    Spray on the leaves and on the earth.

    Do this 2 atau 3x a week. Pick a nice sunny day. Rain will wash off the good stuff.

    Hope this works for you.

  5. Dear Roslyn,

    Thanks for all the info. I would love to hear about recipes from others as well. I believe that there are different bacteria, at different amounts, depending upon what you add to activate the EM-1, what temperature and light amounts the container is exposed to, how often you release the gas, and how long you leave the EM-1 to activate to be at its best.

    I believe that there has to be a recipe that suits different kinds of vegetables at different stages of the fermentation process, but it would take a lot of researchers a great deal of time to figure that out. I am just hoping that someone comes out with a really good cucurbit inoculant in my lifetime. EM-1 seems to do a good job with the melon family at specific stages of the fermentation process, while not so much good at other times. Perhaps when the activated EM-1 is still "hot" is the best time to apply it to the heavy feeders (weeks 2-3) and when it cools (weeks 5-6) is a good time to feed the more slow feeders.

    Overall, I would have to say that I have noticed the greatest effects from using EM-1 on rooting crops.

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