This week in the Flog:
- Part 1 of my 3-part bloom recipe series
- My own twist on the Homemade Bloom Fertilizer recipe
- Photos to go with the recipe!
Many of my recent Flogs have covered how to make the recipes on the site – it’s just totally different to see pictures of the recipes in action. I think those can clear up a lot of confusion and help inspire people to try making these recipes. The articles have been fun to write and people have really loved them. This makes me happy – needless to say. In case you missed them, the last two were on How to Prepare Lacto, and How to Make Fish Fertilizer.
I’ve also posted several topics in the new “Natural Techniques” section of the site. Check them out – Biochar, Bokashi, Cockroach Composting are the first three – I love this section of the site as I think it will grow into a very useful reference area for natural farmers to come back to often.
This week I’m covering the How-To for another great recipe on the site – homemade bloom fertilizer! How do you make your own bloom fertilizer? Something that will encourage big blooms and large solid fruits? Ferment the fruits of prolific producers. Not only do these contain valuable Phosphorus and Potassium, they also have the fruit growth enzymes and hormones that encourage the plant to utilize the resources it has to produce large, delicious fruits – just what you’re after.
Here in the Philippines we use Banana, Squash and Papaya. However you can substitute these for large fruits native to your area. In the states you might substitute Papaya for Squash or Apple for example.
I have those fruits around here (as they always are, and in season right now even), and I also have Mangoes in abundance. So I’m adding those! Here is what my ingredients look like, using those fruits:
- 0.5 kg Mango
- 0.5 kg Banana
- 1 kg Squash
- 1 kg Papaya
You don’t have to mix in that combination. You could add more bananas (probably a good idea in fact), or more mangoes (which I could have done since they are so ripe and ubiquitous right now). You could also add in other fruits or even vegetables – next time I will add in Carrots – I’ll explain why in a post all about that fermentation.
Now that I have my fruits to ferment, time to add sugar. How much sugar? I’ll just add 1/3rd amount of sugar. That is a standard in our fermentations – 1/3 amount of sugar to dry matter. In this case the fruits have lots of moisture and lots of sugar in them so I could probably get away with using less sugar very easily, but I’ll just follow the recipe – more sugar just means a stronger fermentation. Since I have 3kg fruits, I’ll add 1kg sugar. Molasses would be best – in that case I would add 1L molasses (we roughly equate 1 L with 1 kg when doing these mixes). But for me, brown sugar is the cheapest available so I’m using 1 kg of brown sugar.
I’m adding one more ingredient that is purely optional. Water. This is just to help everything mash up in the initial fermentation. In this case I added 1L water just to ‘fill in the gaps’ and help keep it anaerobic.
Last and certainly not least – the microbes. This is also somewhat optional, since the natural microbes in the environment will infect the batch in any case. However using BIM and Lacto really ensures the correct microbes get involved first, and that you have a more diverse selection of microbes overall – it’s great, it’s the special ingredient.
Now lets look at all the ingredients together:
- .5kg Mango
- .5kg Banana
- 1kg Squash
- 1kg Papaya
- 1kg brown sugar
- 1L Water
- 1 tbsp BIM
- 1 tbsp Lacto
This is going to be great. I love this recipe because unlike the ginger -garlic recipe, we get to ferment all these ingredients together. I love making nice ferment mashes – watching as a bunch of unique ingredients degrade into a nice homogenous nutrient goop. Pretty weird I know…
A quick aside before we get into the recipe pictures – look at this pigeon! What are you doing here pigeon? Enjoying my balcony – I can understand – enjoy away….
Now let’s look at all my ingredients before starting. The fruits will go into the fermentation just like that – whole and unpeeled. The peel has some of the best nutrients of the whole fruit.
Notice the recycled detergent bucket to the right in that pic. Well cleaned! We certainly don’t want any detergent in the mix. Now all the ingredients go into the bucket. The BIM and Lacto are added last. You can see why I added water, it’s just to help dissolve the sugar and fill in space.
Now that all the ingredients are in the bucket, time to mash them up! This increases the surface area available for microbes to work on, dissolves the sugar, eliminates all the air gaps, it’s just all around a good thing in my book. Everything is now mixed up and ready to start fermenting:
We need to make this as anaerobic as possible. You can achieve this any number of ways. You can use plastic weighted down with rocks to compress everything and fill the gaps if you don’t add water.. Or you can move this to a container with very little space at the top, and keep an air lock so that oxygen can’t get in. In my case, I used water to ‘fill in the gaps’ and I’ll use a plastic bag on the surface to keep it anaerobic. The plastic is directly against the surface so that air can’t get to it. I’ll also put the lid on the plastic bucket to limit the amount of air exchange. Here’s a shot of the bucket before the lid goes on:
Notice some air in the bag, that’s just so that it takes up more space in the container, allows me to push down on it to more securely cover the surface of the fruits/fluids. Now the lid goes on the bucket as a second line of defense against air exchange. You can see the final setup ready to ferment.
Fast forward 2 weeks! I could have only waited 10 days (or less, in the heat of the Philippines), but I was busy so it sat for 2 weeks. It doesn’t really matter – it could sit like that for 6 months without a problem. As long as it’s anaerobic it will ferment to a point of stability and then sit. So don’t worry about it. Let’s see how it looks after 14 days though:
Pretty awesome looking huh? The white areas are most likely bacterial colonies such as Actinomyces, though you wouldn’t know without a lab test. It would be easy to assume those white areas are mold but this is very unlikely because of the environmental conditions we set up. Almost all molds need at least a little oxygen to survive. Also, simple carbohydrates (SUGAR) are the prime food of bacteria while more complex carbohydrates (BREAD) are the favored mold energy source. Additionally, the action of the bacteria quickly produced carbon dioxide (as evidenced by the bubbles visible in the picture above), pushing out what little oxygen there was and making conditions harder for mold growth. Nerdy fact: Actinomyces actually translates to “ray fungus” because it’s tendency to form colonies that resemble fungus initially misled scientists. Wow – that is a nerdy fact if I’ve ever heard one.
Back to the bloom fertilizer. We need to get the juice out of this! I’ll use a funnel and a 4L bottle to collect the juice from this fermentation. I just want the juice not the solid bits, so I need to strain it. Well it just so happens I have some netting around from previous bird attacks on the garden. I’ll use the netting to strain out the liquid. Here’s the setup before straining:
Initially I just tipped the bucket to get the easy juice out. Then I used the net to collect the solids as they fell out (somewhat awkward but it worked fine), then twisted the net to squeeze more juice out of the solids. Here’s the squeezing bit:
Now I’ve sqeezed all the juice I can get into the 4 L bottle. It’s fermented, stable, ready-to-use bloom fertilizer. What a neat, simple way to make your own bloom fertilizer! I can’t wait to use this in the garden, it’s going to be great. But what about the solids leftover after this fermentation? What should we do with them? That’s the twist! But since this is already a pretty lengthy article, I’ll save the ‘twist’ for Part 2 of this post. But let’s take a last look at the final product – about 1.5L of awesome bloom fertilizer!
Next week I’ll post the follow-up to this article, where I make use of that nice pre-digested, bacteria-rich solid material leftover from this fermentation. It’s gonna be great!
Keep on Growing.