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Effective Micro-organisms
Effective-Micro-organisms (EM) is a culture of different micro-organisms that one adds to the garden soil, compost and kitchen waste or uses to spray plant leaves. It improves the balance and diversity of the micro-organism life in the soil - that is to say, the "health" of the soil is improved, and thus it's quality.
EM is used on and in the soil as well as upon the plant leaves to improve the plant growth and quality as well as enhance the harvest in the allotment.
There are no genetically modified micro-organisms in the EM culture. It consists of different types of micro-organisms found naturally in soil environments throughout the world.
EM does not work in the sense that if it is used on the leaves or soil that there is a direct influence on the amount and quality of harvest, rather the influence is upon the roots. The plant makes larger root clumps and thus the harvest is improved through an enhanced nutritional uptake. EM stimulates the growth of the fine hair roots through which the "food" can be better absorbed from the soil.
EM has several uses, a couple are: It aids the composting process and the processing of vegetal kitchen waste (the liquid that results can be thinned and used on the soil). Some farmers use EM mixed with cow or horse manure to enrich it and help process it. Additionally, it is purported to have other uses but I won't go into those here.
So how do you do it? What do you do? EM comes in a dormant liquid form. The instructions explain how to mix this with, for instance, molasses (food for the micro-organisms) and non-chlorinated water. When the suspension is maintained at a certain temperature, the organisms begin to grow (like when making yogurt). The resulting solution can then be further thinned with non-chlorinated water for use. (Tap water has chlorine which inhibits and can kill the organisms). The dilution of the solution varies, depending upon how and for what you intend to use it.
This technique is worth trying at least for some flower and/or veggie beds, if only for the fun of trying something new. It will not, in any case, cause your soil any harm.
There are many websites with loads of info about EM and many that sell it. You can see a couple on the "Groene Links" page. See the button on the left side of the page.
We have found a website that offers a free starters' kit to try it out (see the picture below). You get a small bottle of dormant EM, a small bottle of molasses and an air-trap. You only have to pay the sending costs. I don't know if they will send it to an address outside Holland, but you can ask them via e-mail.
The pictures below were taken from the British magazine, "Kitchen Garden" - May, July, August and September 2005 issues. The photos were taken by Andrew and Carol Seall. The photos illustrate the difference between inoculated and non-inoculated plants after being grown under the same circumstances and for the same length of time.
Potatoes: roots with EM (Left) have developed further than the root clump (Right without EM).
"Scarlet Emperor" broadbeans show excellent root forming (right).
"Rocket": roots ABOVE with EM, Below, without EM.
Garlic: Above, without EM, Below, without EM.
A free EM starter kit from the emwinkel.*
Click on thumbnails to see fotos in a larger format
What's on this page:
Effective Micro-organisms
Making a Clamp
Soil is the very basis of allotment gardening. It isn't simply dirt that we walk around on but rather a complex and fragile covering of the earth which gives nutrition to plants and serves as an essential element of the ecosystem. There are several types of soil; however, we will just discuss the type that exists or needs to exist on our allotments after a short description of soil in general.
All this info didn't just spring out of my head one morning when I woke up; rather, it is a compilation of ideas and excerpts that I have come across in my search to learn more about the very substance that makes gardening possible -- soil.
Much of the info was written in a scientific way,but I will try and relate what I learned using regular language, so that we can understand what it is and how we need to treat it. A description of how it is made, the layers, the nutrients, protection, feeding/care and some comments on digging will be touched-on here.

What Is Soil?
Soil is composed of four main ingredients: Organic matter, broken-down rock, water and air. The first ingredient (organic), refers to living or dead plant matter such as stems and leaves, dead and decaying animal matter and small and microscopic living organisms. The second ingredient can be in the form of minute sand grains to small stones, clay or silt. Stone is weathered by wind, water and ice. The last two ingredients of the soil make it possible for things to decay and the micro-organisms to live and function.
Some examples are bark, peat, bracken etc. These constituents are usually less nitrogen-rich than a fertilizer or compost but have good potassium levels and are a source of humus. These additives really help when you dig them into a heavy soil because they give it better aeration and a better structure.
Don't Forget the Basic Essentials
The three main nutrients your soil must have are N P K, or Nitrogen Phosphorous and Potassium. Nitrogen is necessary for stem and leaf growth. Phosphorous, which is needed to help establish a good root system. Finally, Potassium is necessary for root and fruit crops because it is needed to produce sugars and starch.
You can test your soil and if necessary add these elements. Some of the ways you can do this are outlined above.
Many products can be stored in a clamp during the winter, such as carrots, beetroot, onions, apples, pears, turnips, potatoes and even roots from dahlia's and gladioli.

On the pictures you can see how we built a clamp for beetroots. Should the leaves of the beetroots be taken off or not? Some say yes and others say no because it can cause the beetroots to bleed. Still others say that they won't bleed if you twist the green off instead of cutting. We chose the middle way and cut the stems off near the leaves, leaving quite long stems on the beetroots.

(1) First we dug a round hole approximately 30cm deep but square would be fine too.
(2) On the bottom goes a layer of straw but since we didn't have straw we used a pile of dry twigs.
(3) On this we piled the beetroots in a pyramid shape. This pyramid can be half as high as the diameter of the hole so with a hole of 1m diameter, the pile can be 50cm high.After this we covered the pile of beetroots with another layer of twigs, best would be a layer of straw 15cm thick.
(4) After that, we covered the beets with a 15cm layer of twigs
(5) Then a layer of soil, again 15cm thick. It would be good to make a ventilation hole in the middle and fill it in with straw.
(6) Finally we dug a trench around the clamp and the job was finished.
5 & 6
Making A Clamp
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