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 overused, your plants won't be burned. Let's see how to make it now:

Ingredients Needed:

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
  • Herbs
preparing-ingredients
Preparing ingredients

We will now explain a bit about the ingredients we use, so you can understand them more easily:

Water:

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 can evaporate out. Chlorine kills bacteria and we may not want it 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. 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.

Herbs:

To ward off unwanted flies, bugs or fungi you can use these common and readily available herbs:

  • Lemongrass
  • Rosemary
  • Mugwort
  • 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 can 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

step-01-chop-up-herbs
Chop up ingredients herbs

Firstly, fill the water in a bucket. Then cut up the herbs. This helps the faster break-down of the ingredients.

Then:

Step 2: Mix In the Molasses

step-02-mix-in-molasses
Mix in 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.

And finally:

Step 3: Put the Em in & Stir

step-03-stir-em-in
Pouring EM in - the final step

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 is not recommended because it may re-act with the ingredients.

We can then cover the top and let the microbes do their thing:

cover-the-bucket
Cover the bucket

You can place the bucket somewhere warm, but not too hot or not too cool. Because overheating could kill some microbes. And the cooler temperature might slow the process down. Lukewarm like lukewarm water would be good.

After 15-45 days, depending on local temperatures, your batch will be ready to use. For maximal 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:

done-herbal-em-batch
Done herbal EM batch

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 & Results

Here in the garden, when the sunny season hits (some time before it's about to rain), we can see bites of yellow flies on the orchid leaves. These bites open doors for the fungi to come in party, which we don't like.

yellow-fly-bites-on-orchid-leaves-roots
Yellow fly bites on orchid leaves and roots

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.

white-mealybugs-on-edible-plants
Mealybugs on edible plants
mealybug-onorchid-leaves-roots
Also mealybugs on orchid leaves and roots

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.

spraying-herbal-em
Spraying herbal EM

After spraying, we can leave it there for some hours so the herbs 'soak in'.

Coming back a day later, we can see:

after-spraying
Mealybugs now stop moving & expose orange body

The bugs now stop moving (are dead). We have dissolved their protective white coating with the spray, which they now expose an orange body. Their remnants may still be on the plants, so after this we can use a hose to spray it down.

Our plants are then kept happy and healthy. For edible plants, this can serve the most strict 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, this lessens isolation time after harvesting.

Bonus Tips

For leaf spots (usually caused by the fungi Cercospora), you can mix this herbal EM solution with urine (or more poetically Liquid Organic Fertilizer L.O.F ) at a 1:1 ratio.

When spraying, it's not recommended to use while the plants are flowering. It would be good to spray before flowering or when the plants are about to set fruits.

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