Herbal EM is the mixture of effective microorganisms and herbs. It is a simple solution to ward off insects like yellow flies, mealybugs or fungi on plant leaves.
Gentle on plants, gentle on human, this stuff is also cheap to make and multiply. Even if accidentally overused, your plants won't be burned.
Let's see how to make it now:
To make herbal EM, we need:
- 6 liters water (de-chlorinated)
- 1 liter molasses
- 1 L alcohol (under 45°)
- 1 L vinegar
- 1 L EM
We will now explain a bit about the ingredients we use, so you can understand them a bit more easily:
Here you can use de-chlorinated water as the base mixture for our solution. If you use tap water, remember to let it air out 1-2 days so the chlorine in the water can evaporate out. As it usually kills bacteria in the water so we may not want that in our mix.
To de-chlorinate water quicker, you can bubble it with an aquarium air pump for 30-90 minutes. Squeezing in some lemon juice (vitamin C) can also help. Alternatively, you can also use reverse osmosis RO or well water.
Alcohol & Vinegar
The alcohol is not for us the makers to celebrate but together with vinegar they help dissolve the thick molasses more easily – especially in cold weather when molasses tends to turn thick. This is so it's easier to mix them in the solution later on.
You can also use boiling water to de-thicken the molasses. If you use boiling water, let the solution cool down a bit before adding EM. If the molasses is not too thick, lukewarm water is also ok.
To ward off unwanted flies, bugs or fungi you can use these common and readily available herbs:
- Piper lolot
- Ginger, chili: to make the insects 'tear up' or make the plants not that delicious any more to them
- Aloe vera: to create that stickiness for our solution. But don't put too much because it may block the sprayer head.
The amount here we use may vary. If you want something more powerful, add more herbs. If it is used as a prevention spray, then we can reduce the amount a bit.
Also use what's available in your local area where you can find it easily or more cheaply at the time of season.
And with the ingredients ready, we can move on to the making steps:
Step 1: Chop Up the Herbs
Firstly, fill the water in a bucket. Then cut up the herbs. This helps with the faster break-down of the ingredients.
Step 2: Mix In the Molasses
Pour the alcohol + vinegar one by one (the order doesn't matter) into the molasses to de-thicken it. Shake well. After that, pour the molasses into the bucket of herbs.
Step 3: Pour the EM in & Stir
Pour 1 liter of EM in. And stir so the ingredients mix well.
For stirring, you can use a wooden stick, bamboo or inox bar. An iron or aluminum stick may not be recommended because the metal may re-act with the ingredients.
We can then cover the top and let the microbes do their thing:
You can place the bucket somewhere warm, but not too hot and too cool. Because overheating could kill some microbes. And the cooler temperature might slow the process down. Lukewarm like lukewarm baby shower water would be good.
After 15-45 days, depending on local temperatures, your batch will be ready to use. For maximum power, some folks let it ferment up to 90 days.
Basically, the longer it sits the more of the herbs get broken down. And at this time, our herbal EM is ready to be taken out and used.
The Done Herbal EM Batch
After about 90 days, this is what the herbal EM looks like:
There is some fuzz or film on top. And the liquid is bright brown reflecting the color of the molasses.
With this, we can scoop out some to use for our garden:
Test Spray & The Results
Here in the garden, when the sunny season hits (some time before it's about to rain), we can see the bites of yellow flies on the orchid leaves. These bites open doors for the fungi to come in party, which we don't like.
On other edible plants, there are white mealybugs as ants help move their eggs around and protect them from ladybugs. They give ants sweet juice as a 'thank you' note in return.
You can see them here:
We also want to say goodbye to these guys so let's test spray our stuff. You can mix 6ml of herbal EM per 1 liter of water. Or about 1-2 tsp per gallon of water. And then spray.
After spraying, we can leave it there for some hours so the herbs 'soak in'.
Coming back a day later, we can see:
The bugs have now stopped moving (are dead). We have successfully dissolved their protective white coating with the spray, which now exposes their orange body. Their remnants may still be on the plants, so after this we can use a water hose to spray it off.
Our plants are then kept happy and healthy. For edible plants, this can serve the strictest standards of some markets for safe no-chemicals organic produce.
Because we use edible ingredients (vinegar, molasses, EM, herbs) in our solution, after spraying and saying goodbye to the bugs, the plants can be picked and consumed almost immediately. Unlike other chemical-based sprays which requires an isolation period after the spray, this lessens isolation time after harvesting.
For leaf spots (usually caused by the fungi Cercospora), you can mix this herbal EM solution with urine (does not sound very pretty but more poetically it's also called Liquid Organic Fertilizer L.O.F but who am I to judge). We can use a 1:1 ratio.
When spraying, it's not recommended to spray while the plants are flowering. It would be good to spray before flowering or when the plants are about to set fruits.
If you like composting in general, you may like this post below:
The post talks about worms. And compares their different types. There's also one that's great for composting and beginners.
If you're curious, you may check out:
Share or pin this post!