Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO for short) are organisms that are found locally in your soil near the edge of the woods and leading into the woods. It’s the network that helps plants communicate, helps take up nutrients from the soil, and even helps break down organic/carbonous materials.
This makes everything available that the crops need. You can collect and use IMO for yourself, using it in your own garden, or even building large pots and raised garden beds. This is to explain the process of not only gathering your own IMO, but the reasons why you want to.
Indigenous Microorganisms have an affinity to thrive and survive. There’s nothing artificial about these guys. When you gather them, they will help in many areas. They will help with the decomposition of organic matter. This is extremely beneficial when you’re creating mounds of compost. When applied correctly, the compost pile will, well, compost at a much faster rate than it would take using traditional methods.
This also has the added benefit of adding a mycelial network to the compost as well. This means that if you use it for outdoor farming use, it will allow the plants to communicate with each other, allowing for more optimal growth.
These organisms also have a fantastic ability to heal the landscape around them. Making this an extremely beneficial source to farmers around the world. They do many other things as well, including, but not limited to, water retention, eliminating greenhouse gasses such as methane, and even reducing or suppressing disease. There’s so much that IMO does; listing them here would take too long. So, how do you get this for your garden?
How to Gather IMO
To start, you want to make a pot of rice. But you don’t want to cook the rice fully. You want some “crunchy” rice, as my kid puts it. This supplies the IMO you are going for, an ample amount of food to feed on. Once you have the partially cooked rice, you want to have a wooden box. You want this box to be porous, non-finished wood. You can build your own with some scrap cedar and some staples.
You’re, then, going to fill the box, roughly 2/3rds of the way full of the rice. Some people add wheat germ to the rice to boost it, but this is unnecessary. Then, take some paper towels and a rubber band or staples, and head to your site that has that white mycelium. You’re going to place that box right on top of the mycelium and cover it with a layer of paper towel. For a more complete collection of IMO, gather some leaves and sticks and place them around the top edge of the box. This will help facilitate the growth of the mycelium from the top of the container, allowing for a more complete collection of IMO.
After 3-10 days, you should see some white “fluff,” or mycelium inside your box. If you see some coloured mycelium, that’s okay. You can leave it or pick it out. This is the final step in collecting IMO-1. There are another 2-4 steps you can take from here.
Once you have collected the IMO-1, you can now weigh the IMO-1 (not the box, just the rice with mycelium) and add an equal weight of brown sugar. Adding the brown sugar will cause the microorganisms to go dormant, allowing you to almost store those organisms permanently for future use. This step is considered IMO-2.
From this step, you have 3 other steps you can do, depending on your goals. Are you trying to build a compost pile that you can use for a large-scale farming project, or are you trying just to inoculate some soil that’s already been used so that you can revitalise it?
Depending on your plans will depend on what steps you’re going to take from here. Each step, like the previous two, is straightforward to do. You’re just going to have to be patient since it will take time for the IMO to build up in the system that you’re throwing them into.
From this step forward, you will want to remember one thing. You do not want to use any fungicides on this soil once built. Fungicide will destroy everything you have collected and grew. IMO-3 is the start of using IMO for its intended purpose. This step is to multiply your organisms in a carbohydrate-rich material. In this example, I will be explaining the process using a 5–10-gallon rectangular bucket for ease. I take roughly 4-5 gallons of carbon-rich material, such as sawdust or spent grains are the two best examples.
You’re going to make sure that the material is at water capacity (if you take and squeeze the medium real hard, and you get barely a drop to form, that’s at water capacity) with dechlorinated water and 2-3 tablespoons of sea salt. If you live near the ocean or the sea, you can use either of those as well. Once the material is ready, you will inoculate it with the IMO-2. You will measure out 15 mg of the IMO-2 and thoroughly mix it together. Do not cover the mixture with a lid. Instead, cover it with a breathable material such as cloth once mixed. You will let this sit in a partially shaded area for about 7-14 days, turning the mixture every day to every two days. You will know it is finished when you see the white mycelium form large clumps in the mixture. This is the final step to IMO-3. With this step, you have one of two options, you can turn this mixture into the soil, or you can turn it into a foliar spray to spray your crops, adding a protective layer against pests.
Optional Steps to Apply IMO to Your Soil
IMO 4&5 are the final two steps of the process, depending on what you want to do. The only difference between the two is the applications. IMO 4 is the actual build and use of the substrate, usually using indigenous soil, to use in the garden. IMO 5 uses the IMO 3 as an inoculant for a compost pile. That’s really the only difference. If you want to make IMO 4, the process is straightforward. You will build the soil with any amendments you wish to add.
For those who practice KNF or JADAM farming, we will add some varieties of fermented plant juices (FPJ’s), fish amino acids, possibly some biochar, and any other pre-composted materials. You’ll add that soil to equal parts of the IMO-3. Like in IMO-3, you will need to turn the soil every day to every two days to prevent a buildup of heat. You will know it was successful when you, again, see the IMO clumping up the soil, and it no longer heats up. You can now use this soil to plant directly into.
For IMO-5, there really isn’t an exact ratio. If you have a big compost pile that you want to speed up the composting, adding roughly 5 gallons of IMO-3 to the pile will help facilitate the breakdown of the pile, at a much more rapid pace, than if you were going to let the pile just sit like normal. Again, you’re going to want to turn the pile until almost all the material has broken down. Once that process has been completed, you now have a rich and natural fertilizer that will last longer than any store-bought. If you want to turn IMO-3 into a foliar spray, just mix it with mineralised water (seawater or dechlorinated water with sea salt) at a 1:1,000 ratio. Adding yucca or sulfur will help as a surfactant, allowing the water to spread evenly across the plant’s leaves.
How You Can Use IMO
By making and following the steps of IMO, you will find that your soil will become healthier. You will no longer have to till the land to bring up beneficial nutrients, and if you have heavy clay or compacted soil, you will see that soil start to break down and loosen within a year. Farmers have claimed that 6”-14” of compacted and clay soil has become usable within that one year. And if you have sandy soil, this will even help keep that soil bonded together and help with water retention.
All you are doing is gathering a multitude of microorganisms found naturally in the wilderness, and you are harvesting them to build up the soil on your farm. This creates a regenerative cycle in your soil, allowing you to reuse the soil without the necessity of tilling. It adds so many benefits that you cannot go wrong in its use. With the ease of making and using this, we hope to bring more farmers into this family and help heal our mother Earth.