Making fish emulsion is a powerful experience

June 22, 2011 | By | Comments (5)

It’s been two weeks since I started my crazy project for creating homemade fish emulsion, and I know you’ve all been holding your breath, waiting for news about how it’s coming along. Well, let’s just say it’s been 90° here, and the whole rotting process seems to be…progressing. I braved a closer look yesterday so you could have the details.

  The vault in the garden

The fish emulsion container, looking perfectly innocuous

As long as it’s closed, the Vittles Vault airtight seal keeps most of the odor at bay. (I brought along a clothespin for my nose, just in case.)

Open that puppy up, though, and WHOA. You can see that the sardines are getting nice and juicy. I closed the container immediately, but when my family came outside 5 minutes later to pick plums, well, words were spoken and gasping sounds were uttered.


Fish emulsion rotting

The fish are looking less fish-like, which is good, I guess

So I’m going to give the emulsion another 2 weeks to…emulsify. And at this point, I might not open the container every day, even though the original instructions said to.

But just wait. Once this stuff goes on the garden, my plants are going to be so happy and healthy that it will all be worth it. Right?



  1. The best organic fertilizer (it’s made from fish) | A blog by Sunset

    […] Get a bottle of your own! We’re using some in the test garden, and we’d love to know how it works for you! Also, remember that time Senior Food Editor Elaine Johnson made her own fish fertilizer? […]

    July 9, 2015 at 10:00 am
  2. kathy wills

    when my kids (3) were in high school they were forever raising money for one thing or another and one fund raiser they all three had to do was sell big bags of fresh manure (dont know who came up with this) but i bought a couple bags for my garden each year and saved one for “manure tea” i just dumped one bag into a large garbage can and kept refilling it with water all season. this was the best stuff ever. I’ve since moved and the kids are all out of school, but i sure miss the manure tea, the store bought bags are just useless for the process….one of these days i will have to track some down in the spring

    June 27, 2011 at 12:41 am
  3. Bea Douglas

    I remember when I was a kid my mom would save all the blood, guts and bones from freshly caught fish and she would have us kids dig a moat around her fruit trees. (Not the process you are doing but nonetheless a
    “raw” version of your emulsion) In went the mixture and yes…. She had the happiest trees. I still can only get the BEST oranges ever from her yard.. A special treat every time I go him to San Diego!

    June 25, 2011 at 4:27 am
  4. Elaine Johnson

    Rena, I’ve actually been shaking the whole thing to mix it, rather than stirring it, because with such a big volume, the stick just wasn’t working.
    As for opening it daily, I think the idea was to get some air in there–but hey, why overdo it, right?
    I didn’t want to bury each fish because it would have taken a long time and also, my plants were already established. Once the emulsion is “done,” I’ll dilute it and water the plants with it.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm
  5. Rena Takahashi

    You are a brave brave brave person. It seems to me that instead of opening it up every day to stir, can’t you just shake or roll the bucket around?
    Also, why is this better than just burying the fish – do you plan to use it as a foliar fertilizer spray?

    June 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm

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