The ingredients & process for making garbage enzyme (GE) is basically similar to making vinegar or apple cider vinegar. The good thing is that we're utilizing our own fruit or kitchen scraps so the cost is very low or practically free. GE has many applications in the garden & around the house. Let's jump in on the fun & make it right now.
But a question one may ask is:
How Does Garbage Enzyme Benefit Plants?
Being made from the process of fermentation, GE releases smaller bits of nutrients from long or more complex chains, thus making nutrients more available and easier to uptake by plants.
According to WikiCommons, fermentation is an anaerobic enzymatic conversion of organic compounds.
Likewise, in the final GE solution, there are converted simple sugars like ribose that plants can use right away (no need further decomposition). Because this stuff is organically made, an accidental overdose won't burn your plants.
To make GE, here are the ratio of ingredients we need:
The recommended ratio for making GE is 1:3:10. Specifically, this means:
- 1 part sugar
- 3 parts organic waste
- 10 parts water
In the following section, you'll understand why we use these ingredients & if there are any alternatives. The info is for the foundational understanding of this process.
If you'd like to skip right to the action, zip down to the making garbage enzyme step-by-step guide section on this same page.
Now, let's see why we use:
1 Part Sugar
Sugar & alternatives
People say it's more beneficial to use brown sugar because it has some more minerals in it compared to the processed white one. Other types you can use are sugar cane sugar, jaggery powder, palm sugar or whatever is available in your local area. Remember to smash the sugar a bit smaller before putting in to speed things up.
But should we use:
Solid or liquid sugar?
There is still some discussion going on between using dry solid sugar vs wet liquid sugar like molasses. Because here we're trying to extract or pull the enzymes out of the waste, using dry solid sugar may help. It creates some osmosis pressure for the juices to move out into–like a current. On the other side of the table, people believe it's the pressure of pushing oxygen out that helps extract the good bits. So solid or liquid may not be a totally big issue.
If you're using liquid sugar, try not to use honey. Because there are some anti-bacterial properties in honey, which may kill the microbes we're harvesting. We may then end up cultivating honey instead of building up our little enzymatic empire.
Molasses is a great choice for many because it's often sold as a waste product for very cheap. The concentration of sugar in molasses is high so we don't have to use a lot of it. Also, inside molasses there is more than just simple sugar–it has iron, magnesium, carbon, calcium & other amino acids. Black strap unsulfured molasses is preferable because it contains no sulfur that could cause a bad smell.
The selection of the organic waste will give you different GE results. Let's see that part next:
3 Parts Organic Waste
Depending on your practical application, you can choose your organic waste accordingly. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- If you intend to use the GE for cleaning, choose something like:
- Citrus peels
The final product will have a great smell of citrus & has good cleaning properties for stubborn stains.
2. If you want to use GE as a fertilizer for the garden, then try:
- Soybean: for nitrogen
- Old bananas: for potassium
- Any other fruits or veggies will also work
3. Finally, if you want something to control the pests, bugs or mosquitoes, try:
- Some other spicy stuff
It's not necessary to blend these before mixing in. Some folks chop them up to speed the re-action time.
Finally, we need to add:
10 Parts Water
It's good to use de-chlorinated water so no chlorine will kill off our microbes. If you put in citrus peels or lemon juice, the vitamin C will help de-chlorinate the water immediately.
If you use tap water, let it sit exposed to the sun for 1-3 days or bubbling it for 90 minutes. Reverse osmosis RO water also works. Mix in lukewarm water (about human body temperature) to get the microbes ready for action.
Now on to the making. Here we'll be doing the GE with some citrus:
Making Garbage Enzyme: 4 Steps
Step 1: Chop Up the Organic Materials
Blending the materials can help speed up the fermentation process. If you don't want to blend it, then chopping it up into smaller pieces is also fine. This helps increase the surface area so we'll extract more of the enzymes out.
We're also doing another batch with yam this time:
Step 2: Mix the Ingredients
If you use solid sugar, then smash it up before dissolving in. Mix the sugar with the lukewarm water. Then, add the chopped up organic materials about half way or two-thirds in the jar to prevent spilling or built-up pressure while fermenting. And mix the solution.
Very important at this point that you place some heavy dish, stones or wooden stick on top. As the peels are fermenting, they will float to the top, getting exposed to the headspace oxygen. They may get moldy or turn gray-blackish then. Trust us, you'd never want to smell that smell. It lingers hauntingly. So the heavy weight keep them down bathing in the water.
We forgot to put a weight in. So don't be like us.
Step 3: Close the Lid & Put Jar in a Cool Dark Place
After step 2 is complete, your GE is basically set for action! The only thing we need to do now is close the lid tightly to prevent any air from getting in. Then, place the jar in a cool dark place.
For the first 4 weeks, remember to loosen the lid a few times a day so the CO2 can gas off & doesn't break your jar.
Now, we can let the fermentation happen for 90 days and wait to harvest our GE.
(P.S. If you're making this with orange or tangerine peels, it smells amazing and refreshing even just a few days in. Especially so, when you loosen the lid to let it off gas).
Step 4: Harvest the GE
The whole enzyme solution will be ready in about 90 days. You can speed this up by adding some store-bought yeast (which shortens the process to 30 days). Our yam GE batch was made on Apr 3. Let's wait another 2 months to harvest it.
When the GE is about done, you'll notice a white film of fuzz on top. This is the normal white mold & means your batch is good.
The GE will have a light acidic & slightly alcohol smell like some fruit cider. It's a very nice pleasant smell with no foul odor.
In the final solution, you'll get some stuff like:
- Some light alcohol (very low percentage)
- Organic acids
We also have the enzymes:
- Lipase: breaks down fats/lipids
- Amylase: chops up starch into sugars
- Protease: decomposes proteins into amino acids
- Cellulose: rips long chains of cellulose in veggies
Plus the yummy single sugars (monosaccharides) that can be taken up right away by plants:
Let's put our GE to good use:
Using Garbage Enzyme in the Garden
For fertilizing plants, you can mix in 3 ml (1/2 tsp) per 1 liter (4 cups) of water. Or more simply, 2-3 tsp per gallon of water. Because the GE is slightly acidic (pH 2-3), you may want to dilute it before feeding your plants. The ratios of 1:100/500/1000 works fine for fertilizing. About 50-100ml of diluted solution per plant should be fine. The feeding frequency can be 10-14 days apart for each application.
As this stuff is organically made over time, it won't burn the plants even if we accidentally use too much or a heavy dose on them. There won't be any ants attracted around your growing area when you spray the GE around. The microbes will have consumed all the sugar we put in initially.
If your trees are something like blueberries which actually like the acidity, then we may not need to dilute the solution. If you use it for cleaning, then a 1:10 (GE:water) ratio is fine.
Storing the GE
The remaining GE can be good for up to 5-6 months. Store it in a dry cool place away from direct sunlight. Or keep it at room temperature & not inside a fridge.
What to Do When Things Go Wrong
- While fermenting, don't place the jar somewhere too hot or it might get black mold
- If black mold appears, add some more sugars (so our good microbes multiply and could outnumber the bad guys) & wait to see. If the situation doesn't improve, you may need to start a new batch
- Clean the jars before making the GE
- Don't let oils/fats stick to the jar or the inside contents
- Add enough sugars so maggots won't appear
- Close the lid very tightly so we won't get any flies buzzing around or laying eggs inside
- Keep some of the GE to produce the second, third & so on generations
Garbage enzyme (GE) is super simple to make & packs a ton of benefits for the home and garden. Although the name may not be that appealing, the stuff works well. The basis of it, like some other composting methods, is fermenting. Which is fun to do at home, on a large scale and doesn't cost a lot of energy.
Remember to stick to the ratio 1:3:10 and some ideas for choosing your own ingredients. You're then basically set for success. With only 4 steps, you can make & multiply your own GE to fertilize the plants, shoo away bad bugs or keep the compost smelling nice and clean.
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