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How to Make and Use Your Own Lactobacillus Culture

Hey DGC!

Lactobacillus is a genus of beneficial bacteria. They are found pretty much everywhere and there are even some inside your digestive system right now! In fact, Lactobacillus bacteria are in many probiotic supplements and Lactobacillus species play an important role in the production of many common foods. In the garden, Lactobacillus serum can be used as a digester, helping break down organic matter and turn it into a form that is available to your plants. Since Lactobacillus bacteria are everywhere, its easy to make a concentrated culture you can use around your home and garden, and all you need is a few basic ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.  I originally saw this recipe at www.theunconventionalfarmer.com and have since come across a few similar recipes on other sites.

Its good stuff and its easy to make!

lets do it!

Things you will need:

Optional but helpful:

Step 1: Gather wild bacteria-

Rinse a cup or so of rice in a few cups of water. The water will get cloudy as it picks up starches from the rice. Remove the rice and cook it for dinner or throw it into your compost pile. What we are after is the starchy water.

Take your dish of starchy water and find a safe place you can leave it for 3-7 days. I suggest somewhere warm and out of the way so it doesn’t get spilled or disturbed. I usually keep mine in the kitchen on top of the fridge, since its slightly warm and will stay undisturbed. Bacteria from the environment will be attracted to the starchy water and will colonize the liquid in your dish.

img_0790c

Loosely covered rice wash collecting bacteria on my dirty counter. 

After a few days, the liquid will start to separate into three distinct layers:

The middle layer is what we are after, so separate it from the rest and move it to a larger jar or container. The easiest way is to use your turkey baster to suck it up and transfer it to a jar. If you don’t have a baster, you can skim the top layer off and carefully pour the middle layer into a new container. However you do it, try to isolate the middle layer.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, so just do your best to separate the middle layer without taking too much of the top or bottom layers.

Step 2: Add milk so the Lactobacillus takes over the culture-

Native Bacteria cultures ready to add milk.

So now that we have our culture containing a diverse group of native bacteria, its time to separate out the Lactobacillius. As you may have guessed, Lactobacillus LOVE milk, specifically the sugar lactose. By adding lots of milk to our collection of wild bacteria, we will encourage the Lactobacillus to take over and dominate the culture. Before long they will take it over completely, and we will be left with only the Lactobacillus we are after.

In a large jar or container, combine about 10 parts milk to 1 part of your native bacteria culture from step one. 

So for every 100 mL of culture from step one, you will need about one liter of milk.

Measurements don’t need to be exact, but make sure to leave a few inches of room at the top of your container. Loosely cover it, but don’t seal it completely air tight. We are trying to keep outside air from getting in, but still want the container to be able to vent excess gas if it needs to. You could also use an airlock lid on your container like I am doing.

Leave it undisturbed for 5-10 days at room temperature.

After a few days, the bacteria + milk mixture will start to separate into layers.

At the top, a cheesy layer will form, and the bottom will be a cloudy liquid, usually cloudy white with a little yellow tint to it.

It will also start to smell like stinky cheese. Usually the smell stays mostly in the container, but be aware this process does create some cheesy odor that you may find unpleasant.

We are after the liquid layer, but the cheese layer is full of beneficial bacteria as well. It makes a great addition to your compost pile or soil.  I’ve read you could also probably eat it or feed it to your animals, (its basically cheese and beneficial bacteria) but it smells pretty weird so I have yet to try it myself. It usually goes in my compost pile.

After about 5-10 days, the mix should be completely separated into a solid layer and a liquid layer. Use your turkey baster, strainer, or careful pouring to separate the liquid into a different jar or container. This liquid layer is full of the Lactobacillus we are after.

Day 1- Milk and native bacteria culture combined. The purple and blue thingies are “Pickle Pipe” one way valves that allow the jars to vent air out but not in. They are nice tools to have when making this sort of thing, but not required.

Day 2- starting to separate

Day 5- Mostly separated.

Day 7- Separation Complete

Strainer lid- very useful but optional. Available most places that sell canning jars.

Cheese chunk and lacto culture after separating with strainer lid

Cheese!

Step 3: Add sugar to the lactobacillus culture to preserve and stabilize it.  Mix your lacto culture with a roughly equal amount of sugar or molasses.

So if you have 1 liter of lacto culture, add about 1 liter of molasses or 1 kilogram (about 2.2lbs) of sugar.

In order to stay alive and happy in their jar, your Lactobacilli need a long term food source. Adding a bunch of sugar or molasses gives them something to snack on and will preserve your Lacto culture for a year or more. The type of sugar doesn’t seem to matter too much, but I prefer organic cane sugar as its not bleached or as heavily processed as other varieties. The type of sugar you use may effect the color of your final product, but I’ve made many batches with several different types of sugar and they all seemed to work fine. The finished liquid is ready to use and stable to store at room temp for at least a year, and probably much longer.

Finished Lacto cultures.  Color may vary based on the type of sugar you use.

How to use your finished Lacto culture

In the garden-

Water it in- 15 to 30 mL per gal –Helps break down organic mater and fertilizers into plant available forms. Helps with nutrient uptake and availability. Its pretty much just beneficial bacteria and some residual sugar, so its compatible to mix in with whatever else you are watering.

Foliar- 15 mL per gal –Natural antifungal, Helps prevent powdery mildew. Populates plant surfaces with beneficial lactobacillus which outcompete other harmful microorganisms. Use it alone or as part of your regular IPM spray.

Make fertilizer with it- Lactobacillus will attempt to break down any organic composting material it comes into contact with. You can make “fermented plant extract” by mixing nutrient rich plant mater with lactobacillus and allowing it to break down and ferment for a few weeks. After the mix is fermented, the chunks are strained out and the remaining liquid is a very effective fertilizer containing lots of nutrients and beneficial lacto bacteria. This is a bigger topic I will cover in detail another time, but if you are interested in learning more, search the internet for “fermented plant extracts” and “dynamic accumulators” for tons more info.

Use to aid in composting or make bokashiWater it into your compost pile. Helps break down organic matter and accelerate the composting process. Also helps reduce compost related odors. Can be used to make bokashi bran or used in anaerobic composting methods. Also seems to speed up the “cooking” process when preparing freshly mixed soil for use.

Around the house-

Drain digester/deodorizer- Helps break down organic sludge stuck in your plumbing. Works well to help unclog slow drains. Pour a little bit of undiluted lacto down your drain to help break up a clog or use it diluted to help deodorize a smelly drain. Works best when you pour a little in and let it sit over night before using the drain again.

Deodorizer/cleaner- Dilute to around 15 mL per liter of water to make a deodorizing spray. Use to get rid of bad odors around the house. Very useful if you have pets or other animal related odors to deal with. Very effective deodorizer, even when heavily diluted. Effective for use on animal bedding, livestock areas etc.

Its useful pretty much anytime you’ve got something organic you need to break down or deodorize!

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments. I’ll do my best to check in and answer what I can.

I leave you with a few fun lacto pics from times I’ve used it in my garden. I will cover using lacto to make fermented plant extract (FPE) in a future article. Hopefully this serves to show you the possibilities or gets you thinking of ways you could put lacto to work in your own garden.

Thanks for reading! I hope you learned something!

Sources and Recommended Reading:

http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/recipes/lactobacillus-serum/

http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/SA-8.pdf

http://waytogrow.net/diy-bokashi-composting/

A different batch of lacto.  Cheesing up nicely

Nettle and Comfrey fermented plant extracts

Fermenting fan leaf FPE.  Day 1

Fermenting fan leaf FPE.  4 weeks later.  Lacto is breaking them down.  The liquid will be strained out and fed to plants.

I water my soil with lacto and recharge before while its cooking.  Its ALIVE!!!! 😛



Comments

44 responses to “How to Make and Use Your Own Lactobacillus Culture”

  1. Bud McLovin Avatar
    Bud McLovin

    Soup… u are my hero. Great article. I Can’t wait for my second grow to start and to use this formula. Thank u so much! 🙏🌱🌿🌲💚

  2. Mzdezi Avatar
    Mzdezi

    I’ve decided that my first grow will be organic. Keep feeding me Soup!!!

  3. MiTanker Avatar
    MiTanker

    Im a huge fan of LACTO, its one of those quick fixes that seems to go a long way every time. I’ve even soaked my ladies air-plants with it, they seem to almost grow over night.

    thanks for the post I no longer have to explain this to my buddies.

  4. BitcoinBud Avatar
    BitcoinBud

    Lacto serum is great stuff to have around the home and garden. I have been using bokashi composting for my kitchen scraps for years. As well as in the kitchen and garden to supress molds and mildew. I have used it on my vegetable garden for years. I have just recently started growing my own cannabis and plan to use it there as well to prevent and or treat powdery mildew. Have you ever heard of the old milk treatment for powdery mildew …..ding,ding,ding,ding, yup thats right you have been treating with lactobacillus and didn’t even know it.

    Another quick way to get started is by skipping step one and adding probiotics directly to your milk. Just visit your local farm supply store and ask for calve or kid (baby goat) probiotics. Read the lable these are nearly all lactobacillus. Including enterococcus faecium, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus casei & lactobaillus plantarum.

    Animals such as cattle, goats, sheep & horses are what is known as ruminates. They feed on rough foliage such as grasses. The animals themselves cannot process this biomass into usable energy. They rely on the microbes aka the different strains of lactobacillus residing in their “gut” or ruminate system to break this plant material down into nutrients that they can use.

    It just so happens that these are the same microbes that are found in the soil.
    So we as gardeners can colonize and use these micro digesters to our benefit to make organic fertilizers and mold/mildew treatments.

    And by using the probiotic products from the farm supply, you know exactly what strains you are inoculating into your serum instead of relying on chance that you will get what you are looking for.

    Sorry for the long winded explanation. But as a new grower I rarely find a significant way to contribute, but this just happens to be something I know a little bit about from growing up on the farm.

  5. SOUP Avatar

    Cool tip BitCoinBud!

    Thanks for dropping by!

  6. Tim Milliron

    4.5

  7. Pacer Avatar
    Pacer

    How do you use your fermented comfrey? We have several comfrey plants that are used medicinally but have toyed with the idea of using them in the garden. Thanks for the excellent write up.

  8. SOUP Avatar

    @Pacer Comfrey has tons of great uses around the garden. If you have comfrey plants, the easiest way to use them is to topdress with the leaves or mix them into your compost/soil.

    I’ll probably write an article about making and using fermented plant extracts at some point, but in the mean time, check out this:

    https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/sa-7.pdf

  9. Omoba Avatar
    Omoba

    I want to make organic antibiotic with local herbs in my country, can I soak the herbs in lactobacillus for days in order to extract the medicinal compound from them.

    Kindly help me

  10. Hazy Avatar
    Hazy

    Hi Soup,

    Can I add half the amount of sugar instead of what you recommended in your article. Since I won’t be using the culture over 6 month period, can I get away by adding less sugar.

    If yes- what is the minimum recommended ratio if it is to be used within 1 month?

    cheers
    Hazy

  11. SOUP Avatar

    Hi Hazy-

    I would think you would be alright storing it for a month or so with less sugar, but I really have no idea. I’ve never attempted what you are describing but I’ve read you can keep a lacto culture in the fridge for up to a week without adding any sugar. Maybe try keeping your culture in the fridge if you are going to use less sugar. Let us know how it turns out!
    -Soup

  12. SOUP Avatar

    Omoba!-

    Sorry i just saw your question! I really dont know much about making the kind of thing you are talking about so i’m not sure i can really advise you. I’m not sure how you would go about making an effective antibiotic from herbs and i’m not sure using a bacteria like lacto is the best way to produce an antibiotic. In my experience lacto and lacto fermented stuff has more of a probiotic effect. This might not be the right process for what you are trying to do. Good luck though! I hope you find the answers you were looking for!
    -Soup

  13. Afternoon Jones Avatar

    Good evening soup, do you store the finished serum with the pickle pipe on or with a canning lid?

    Also, do you think you could use this kind of thing to keep a clone machine with Dewey misters clean?

    Thank you for your time

  14. Afternoon Jones Avatar

    Also, do you know anyone that is taking this internally as a probiotic?

  15. Max_Power Avatar

    I do drink a about a tbsp in tea when I have a shitty stomach. Can be helpful. Would probably be more helpful if I was smart enough to take it regularly. I ferment other things with the LAB (garlic/ginger) that I do take regularly, to get the LAB benefits.

    I store LAB with a mason jar lid on, not the pressure valve. Haven’t had any jar explosions, yet.

    I have used this and/or worm bin leachette to clean out drains and an old shitty cloner’s tubing. I just used a 10:1 water to lab dilution. It wasn’t clogged when I did it, just not draining as efficiently as before. I did not have plants in the cloner when I was running that solution through.

    Cheers

  16. SOUP Avatar

    ^^^What max said. ^^^

    I personally find eating lacto fermented foods (kimchi!) more beneficial than ingesting home made lacto culture, I’m sure both have benefits though.

  17. Max_Power Avatar

    Just saw that theunconventionalfarmer.com is no longer be hosted. If anyone wants to use it as a reference (or any website that they used to enjoy that is no longer hosted on the web) they can go to the website archive.org and look up old versions of the webpage. That is how I find all the good info Gil and Patrick used to share.

    @Soup You made a reference that you would do a post on FPEs in this write up. I am excited to read it! Not trying to hurry you, just a friendly reminder that your writing is greatly appreciated and reread by those of use who are forgetful AF.

    Thanks for all of your hard work good sir.

  18. SOUP Avatar

    @Max Yeah i dunno what happened to theunconventionalfarmer.com, I always liked those guys and was sad to see the site is not around anymore. Great tip on using archive.org.

    I’m so glad you enjoy and refer back to my articles! I will get going on that FPE article… it is way overdue! I’ve been crazy busy so I’ve kinda been slacking on my ferments (and writing) lately but I’ve been gathering up a bunch of ingredients to dive back into it. So yeah not sure when i’ll get to the article, but I plan to make a batch soon so it shouldnt be too long.

    In the mean time… check this from our buddy Jeremy at BAS:

    https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0248/9641/files/Do_It_Yourself_Homemade_Plant_Fertilizers_Revised.pdf

  19. Ndsparker Avatar
    Ndsparker

    How can I apply this to aquaculture?

  20. SOUP Avatar

    I’ve never used it in aquaculture myself so I can’t really offer any specific advice about it. I have heard a lot of people do use it in their fish systems though so I’m fairly sure you should have no issues.

    I’ve seen a few people in the DGC using recharge in aquaponic systems with no issues, so I imagine lacto would be a great addition as well.

    I would start out dosing very small amounts of lacto into your system and see how things react.

  21. conkerahh Avatar
    conkerahh

    A cloth strainer, etc. is preferred to metals- lactobacilli and friends are killed when coming in contact with metals.

    As for introducing into aquaculture- I keep a ginger bug on my countertop and the goldfish in my aquaponics system go CRAZY when I toss them some fermented ginger (several times a week-daily depending on what I’m eating). The snails almost immediately come out of hiding when some fermented melon rinds or squash pieces hit the tank floor. Keep in mind I have a small indoor chop and flip aquaponics system- not sure at what point the probiotics would interfere with the tank biology and how. Seems like time for me to experiment though…

  22. Anonymous

    4.5

  23. Kris Knight Avatar
    Kris Knight

    Awesome comments, and a fucking awesome article thx Soup! I personally learned a lot here, I’ll be giving this a try

    1. SOUP Avatar

      🙂👍 thanks for reading and for your kind words! Im always happy to help spread the word about these great recipes and techniques!

  24. murphy570 Avatar
    murphy570

    Can i use this as my yogurt starter culture?

    1. SOUP Avatar

      Thats a great question!

      I’ve never made yogurt, so I’m not sure. I think in theory it should work for that though. You’ll have to try it and let us know. 🙂

      A homemade lactobacillus culture should have a nice variety of lactic acid consuming bacteria so I would think it would work well.

      1. Jimijazz Avatar
        Jimijazz

        Hello Soup. Thank you for the very helpful and informative post. I’m in the process of making up a batch right now. Having made yogurt at home in the past, I was wondering if the whey by-product from yogurt-making would be the same thing as this, just add the sugars and that’s it. All I can imagine would be different is that the lactobaccilus would be a different strain. Would you think this would be a viable shortcut for people that do make their own yogurts and cheeses? Thanks in advance.

        1. Jimijazz Avatar
          Jimijazz

          Sorry, I just noticed that you’ve already replied to a similar question.

  25. JustCoolin Avatar
    JustCoolin

    Ive only made fpj so I couldn’t help him out. But here’s his post. He attempted to make your recipe but has questions.

    https://www.dudegrows.com/lactobacilli/

  26. Bhaskar Avatar
    Bhaskar

    Dear Soup,

    Thank you very much. I have ground my kitchen waste(We are 100% vegetarians,hence only vegitable & Fruit peelings) & my Lactobacilli is enjoying it’s food in a bottle. Hope to reap the best product after few weeks.
    Thanks again for guiding.
    Bhaskar
    Bangalore
    India

  27. Bhaskar Avatar
    Bhaskar

    My dear Mr.Soup

    Can we apply home made Lactobacilli diluted solution to flower & vine seedlings before & after transplanting to a container.

    I would also like to know if, I can suspend using garden store bought Bokashi bran & start using the Lactobacilli, I have prepared under your guidance, for my Bokashi compost bin
    .
    Thank you again
    Bhaskar
    Bangalore
    India.

    1. SOUP Avatar

      You can definitely give diluted lactobacillus to seedlings. Using it around transplant time is a good idea. 👍

      You can actually use lactobacillus to make your own bokashi bran. I’ve never made it myself, but I think you are basically just mixing you lactobacillus + a sugar source + a bran/grain base.

      I would google “make your own bokashi” and see what you find. I’ve seen a few good tutorials out there that could help you.

      I think you’ve already done most of the hard work by making the lacto, the rest of the process looks pretty easy.

    2. Fire Avatar
      Fire

      Hi Soup,

      About 2 months ago I made lactobacillus. Yesterday I noticed my bottles had a film, a vinegar smell and seems carninated when shaken up. Is this a second fermentation and what do I do with it once it reaches this stage?

      I know I didn’t store it in a dark enough spit, so the next batch will just be put into smaller bottles and stored in the fridge. I don’t want to waste what I have but I don’t know what to do with it. Your advice would be greatly appreciated!

      Thank you

  28. Anonymous

    3.5

  29. microbes4trichomes Avatar
    microbes4trichomes

    So, I was stoned working today (I wash dishes so who gives a f*ck) and I was thinking, could this foliar spray be used in shoes and on your feet for foot odor? What about for foot fungus seeing as its a good anti fungal for the herb?

    1. JustCoolin Avatar
      JustCoolin

      Definitely could lol, I know Chris Trump(man known for bringing Knf to the main stream) uses a deodorant made out of it.

  30. Barton Avatar
    Barton

    Great article soup!
    Quick one – If I’m using LAB to control a past fungal spore problem – how many times a week can I foliar spray my plants with it?
    Thanks!

  31. jahboom Avatar
    jahboom

    This was incredibly easy! Gonna see how my girls like it & start getting ready for next year!

  32. Dr.Geist Avatar
    Dr.Geist

    Hey SOUP,
    I’m a day away from seperating the cheese layer from the lacto and noticed that a thick layer of green/grey fuzz grew all over it. I assume this doesn’t phase the lacto but would the cheesy part still be safe to ingest?

    https://ibb.co/n0YJM2z

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