Bokashi / Composting

How to Use Effective Microorganisms for a Healthier Garden

Taking care of your plants means taking care of the soil. The secret? Introducing effective microbes! Effective microorganisms (EM) are all the rage in the gardening world right now, and it’s easy to see why. Have you ever stumbled across the term and wondered what they actually are and how they could benefit your green space?

In this article, I’ll reveal the magic of EM and show you how to use them to create a healthy and thriving garden ecosystem. 

What Are Effective Microorganisms?

At the heart of every flourishing garden lies a bustling community of microorganisms. These little helpers, including insects, bacteria, and fungi, play a pivotal role in determining the vitality and health of plants. Similarly, effective microorganisms (EM) are a specially prepared mixture of these valuable organisms and nutrients. They are available in both dry and liquid forms. 

Once introduced into the soil, EM supports the existing soil life in their important tasks. They help break down organic matter, making essential nutrients more accessible to plants. Plus, they combat harmful pathogens and diseases, ensuring that your crops stay protected from any uninvited guests. 

Depending on requirements, additional herbal ingredients like horsetail extracts and nettle can also be added, creating optimal conditions for strong roots and healthy plant growth. 

healthy soil with EM1 effective microorganisms

Effective Microorganisms Uses

Effective microbes perform a variety of tasks in your garden. Here’s a rundown of the key uses of EM:

1. Conditions Soil

Think of effective microbes as little helpers for your soil. They break down organic matter like plant residues, dead leaves, and compost, which in turn improves soil structure by making it fluffy and well-draining. This is great for plant roots to grow deep and strong. 

2. Accelerates Decomposition 

Add effective microbes to compost piles to speed up the decomposition process. These microbes munch away on the organic materials, turning them into nutrient-rich humus much faster. As a bonus, these tiny organisms also reduce the foul odors that sometimes come with composting, making your composting experience much more pleasant. 

Effective Microorganisms help with decomposition of compost

3. Reduces The Need For Fertilisers

Due to improved nutrient availability and soil health, effective microbes usage often reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers.

4. Prevents Diseases 

These beneficial microorganisms keep harmful pathogens and pests in check. By crowding out the bad guys and creating a healthy environment in the soil, effective microbes help prevent diseases from taking hold of your plants. 

5. Promotes Plant Growth 

Effective microbes produce hormones and compounds that encourage plant growth, making your plants happier and healthier. Additionally, they improve the uptake of nutrients by plants, so your garden greens can get all the goodness they need to thrive.

6. Improves Water Quality 

When added to ponds or water tanks, effective microbes can help improve water quality by reducing algae growth and eliminating unpleasant odors. This makes the water safer and healthier for plants, as well as, fish and other aquatic life.

healthy soil with EM1 effective microorganisms and teaming with worms

How to Make Effective Microorganisms 

There are several different ways to make effective microbes, including purchasing a pre-activated mother culture or even making one from scratch. 

Making EM from Mother Culture 

EM can be purchased as a “mother culture,” which is basically a liquid containing specific species of microbes blended in precise ratios. You can either use the mother culture directly or take the time to activate it first with a mixture of molasses and water. 

Making your own supply of activated EM is quite simple, although it may take about a month. Start by taking one part EM in a container and mixing it with one part molasses and twenty parts water. Gently, but firmly, shake the container and screw the lid on tightly, ensuring that no air enters through it.

Next, put the container in a warm spot (somewhere between 80 to 100°F) to start the fermentation process. It’ll take at least a week or two until your EM is activated and all set to use.

Through this method, you’ll end up with twenty times the amount of EM you had before, all just as potent as the original. This will not only save you money but will also enhance the effectiveness of your microbial spray by waking up the dormant microbes in the mother culture.

Make Your Own EM

If you wish to take it a step further, you can even make your own EM mixture at home. Start by mixing fruit peels, vegetable waste, bran, and brown sugar in a bucket with a tight-fitting lid. Keep it closed for a week, stirring occasionally.

Once it starts fermenting, you can siphon off the liquid and use it as EM-1 effective microorganisms. Letting it ferment longer and adding more brown sugar and bokashi bran will turn it into EM-2, EM-3, and finally EM-4, each with increasing microbial activity and potency. 

Storing EM 

This is a living product, and when stored properly, can last up to 18 months. Store your effective microbes mixture away from direct sunlight, at room temperature, and ensure the lid is tightly closed. If you have partially filled bottles, gently squeeze out excess air before sealing to help maintain the freshness and potency.

How to Use Effective Microorganisms in Your Garden

Introducing effective microorganisms to your garden is a straightforward process that can bring numerous advantages. Here’s how you can incorporate effective microbes into your gardening regime:

For Seed Germination 

For seed germination, dilute 1 part EM with 1000 parts water and soak the seeds before planting. This introduces beneficial microbes at the root level, promoting faster and healthier plant growth right from the start.

Apply to Soil

When applying to the soil, mix 1 part EM with 120 parts water (1 oz per gallon) and use a watering can to drench the soil around the root zone. Gardeners typically apply this once a month during the growing season for optimal results, but it can be safely used up to once a week.

Apply to Compost 

In composting, dilute 1 part EM with 8 parts water and spray or mix into the compost pile. This accelerates the composting process and improves the quality of the finished compost.

Use as Foliar Spray

For foliar spray, dilute EM as described above and apply using a light sprayer in the early morning to maximize effectiveness. This method helps the microbes attach to leaf surfaces, boosting plant health and resilience to pests and diseases.

For best results, feed plants with EM at least three to six times a year, from spring to autumn. Consistent use will lead to noticeable improvements, so keep an eye on your plants and look forward to fabulous results! 

foliar spraying - how to use Effective Microorganisms in the garden

Effective Microorganisms and Bokashi Composting

Effective microorganisms and Bokashi composting are like a dynamic duo for creating nutrient-rich compost quickly and efficiently. When added to organic waste in a Bokashi bin, EM works its magic in an oxygen-free environment, fermenting the waste quickly without producing strong odors, unlike traditional composting methods. You can learn more about Bokashi vs. Compost in this guide. 

The fusion of EM and Bokashi yields two key products. Firstly, a highly concentrated Bokashi liquid or compost tea teeming with effective microorganisms. When diluted with water, this Bokashi liquid becomes an excellent plant treatment that can be applied weekly, providing organic nourishment to boost your crop growth.

The second main outcome is the Bokashi mass. This mass is also rich in microorganisms, which, when combined with garden soil, significantly enhance soil quality. 

Incorporating these products into your gardening routine fosters a healthier and more productive growing environment, resulting in vibrant blooms, lusher foliage, and higher yields. 

Final Thoughts on How to Use Effective Microorganisms for Healthier Plants

There you have it – the secret behind using effective microorganisms to unlock your garden’s true potential. As you can see, making an effective microbes solution is an easy, no-fuss job, yet the benefits it offers your plants are countless. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to give effective microbes a try! Choose a mother culture, dilute it as directed, and apply it to your crops to witness their flourishing growth. In just a few weeks, you’ll be delighted with the results!