To make your own EM1 without buying store-bought solutions, we need to find the microbes, create a little house to keep them & mix some food to keep them alive and happy. Today, we'll share with you 3 recipes for making your own homemade EM for cheap and for longer uses. Let's explore together!

Brief benefits of EM

The EM microbes have been found to be very effective in improving soil conditions, even for the most lifeless and clayey soil in some areas. By using EM, growers rely less on undesirable pesticides or other chemical stuff. People have seen their fruits, veggies and flowers grow stronger & produce 2x the size of the normal ones with some of this EM stuff mixed in.

In chicken coops, piggeries or fish ponds, these microbes can help reduce the foul smell. And for composting specifically, EM works like a charm by keeping the smell down and speeding up the composting process. In some places, they purify water with this solution for cost reduction. Magical as it may sound, EM is very easy and cheap to make as they exist mostly everywhere around us.

Let's see some of the basics so you can make your own at home:

The basic conditions

As you've seen earlier, there are about 3 basic conditions to cultivate EM:

  1. The microbes
  2. The house
  3. The food

Fortunately, to find these microbes you can easily look around your local markets or right in your kitchen. Microbes live on the outside of grains, fruits, veggies, etc. For our experiment today, we'll be using rice grains to collect them.

The house to keep them can be a mason jar with a lid so we can easily offgas the CO2. Also, for the water in the solution, we'll use de-chlorinated water so it won't kill off the bacteria we're harvesting. Warm water around our body temperature is best to keep the little ones happy.

Finally, we need a food source for the microbes. For this, you can use salt, sugar or minerals. Sea salt will give the microbes the minerals whereas sugar will give them the carbohydrates. You can also add ceramic powder, rock powder, azomite to add some calcium & other minerals to it. Milk and kelp are also good food sources for these guys.

The good bacteria we're cultivating

Although in most lab-made EM there are different species like lactic acid bacteria (LAB), yeast and phototropic bacteria, we'll mostly be cultivating LAB in our solution. Even with little of the other species, folks have also got very good results with using the LAB-dominant EM for their compost or garden.

Initially when we start our batch, there will be more than just one type of bacteria in it. However, when we keep our solution in the dark (as you'll see in the making steps next), the LAB will become the dominant specie–which it still is in many lab-generated EM.

Enough of the theory & let's get our hands to the chopping next!

Recipe #1: Only rice

For this recipe you'll need the following ingredients:

For 1.5 liter bottle
150 gram brown rice
15 gram sea salt
45 gram brown sugar
100 ml mineral water
For 6 liter bottle
600 gram brown rice
60 gram sea salt
180 gram brown sugar
6000 ml mineral water
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This recipe is shared by Healthy Roots & Strong Winds during their exploration time in Thailand. The work is mostly inspired the passionate Master Cho & his dedication to natural farming techniques.

Many people also ask:

Why brown rice, brown sugar and sea salt?

What we're trying to do here is to gather all the good guys we can on different materials. Brown rice, red rice or brown sugar still has the unprocessed coatings on the outside. These coatings contain extra vitamins & minerals that can be beneficial for our process.

Brown sugar, from some people's experience, contains some more nutrients than the white one–which helps the nourishment and make the process a bit faster. With good input, we can get good output in return.

However, if you can't find brown rice, brown sugar or pink sea salt in the local area, that is okay. Using white rice, white sugar or table salt still works. We will get a different dynamic of microbes in our mix.

Here we will see the steps for making:

Step 1:  Mix the ingredients

Using lukewarm water, mix our salt and sugar in a jar or bottle. Stir lightly so they get dissolved. Then, pour the brown rice in.

Step 2:  Shake the bottle

It's recommended to shake the bottle so the rice grains grub against each other. This helps to get the coatings & the LAB living on them to come out and mix with our water solution.

When shaking, you'll want to do it like the number 8 vertical or the number ∞ horizontal like a tornado. This is to make sure the grains grub well with each other on all sides & not just left and right.

After mixing & shaking, close the lid and place your bottle somewhere dark for about 7 days. Keep it out of direct sunlight because the UV rays can kill the microbes.

And then we can:

Step 3:  Wait & enjoy

Every day or so, check your bottle to see if there's any air bubbles building up. Open the lid slightly to let the CO2 gas out. Then, after a week or 10 days, you'll have your very own army of EM solution to use.

In colder climates, it may take longer so remember to keep the bottle somewhere warm or wrap blankets around it for the microbes to remain active. And with this recipe, you can make & reproduce your own EM at home.

There is another way to make EM, and this time we'll be using both rice and milk:

Recipe #2: Rice & milk

For this recipe, we'll use

Rice-milk LAB
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
Organic milk

Step 1: Mix the brown rice & water

Mix the rice into water. Then shake the bottle until the liquid turns a bit brown. Then, you can strain off the rice. The rice we use is uncooked.

Step 2: Keep bottle in warm dark place for 7 days

During this 7-day process, if needed you can twist the lid slightly to let the gas out. After 7 days, the LAB in our mix will grow in number. We can then:

Step 3: Mix 1:10 ratio of LAB to milk

Remember with this recipe, we provide no salt or sugar for the microbes from the start? So this is when our little creatures are craving for food. If we mix the LAB in milk when they're most hungry, they take the opportunity fast & reproduce quickly.

Milk contains good carbohydrates for the little guys to munch on. Leave the LAB-milk mixture in a warm dark place. Then, after about a week, you'll see some solid curd forming on the top. That is the fat + casein protein separated from milk. We don't have to throw that away. We can actually keep it to make cheese later on.

And the yellowish-brownish liquid under it is the whey, which now houses millions of good LAB microbes for us to use. You can extract some of that whey to fertilize the plants or spray around your compost bins.

If you want a one-ingredient recipe, how about checking out the final recipe with:

Recipe #3: Only milk

With this final recipe, we're doing something different. Let's make some yogurt! Why? Because we want the whey or the yellowish liquid of the yogurt making process. Skipping all the other steps of mixing in salt, sugar & minerals, this is one simple way to get your own good microbes at home. And some yogurt for the kids.

If you don't know how to make it yet, let's see the steps below:

Step 1: Heat 1 gallon of milk

Heat 1 gallon of milk up to 82C (180F) for about 10-30 minutes.

Step 2: Reduce the heat & add yogurt starter

Then, reduce the heat of the milk to 43C (110F) and add your yogurt starter. A yogurt starter can be simply some store-bought yogurt to get your batch started.

If it's too hot when we pour some yogurt starter in, the bacteria may die. So we reduce the heat.

Step 3: Keep it warm for 7 hours

Keep your batch at around 43C (110F) for the next 7+ hours. Then, when the milk sets (turns into a solid state), extract out that yellowish whey.

With that whey, you can use it directly to spray around your compost bins or dilute it to fertilize your plants. And with that, in about a night, you'll get your own easy homemade EM solution ready for use in the garden.

Have fun making your own EM

As you have seen, making your own EM mix at home is both fun and easy. With the Only Rice recipe, you can add some salt and sugar amount with the rice to feed the microbes.

With the Rice & Milk recipe, you only need rice and milk and not much of the salt and sugar. And finally, with the Only Milk one, you're getting the real essence from the milk without much addition.

Hope these little recipes have given you some ideas to get started. Have fun making EM & have a great time composting. Cheers and see you again here next time!

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