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Introduction to Korean Natural Farming

Korean Natural Farming, what is it? How does it work? How do you accomplish it? I’ve heard these questions more and more lately.

Every picture I post, I seem to get a group of people interested and amazed at the process. I, myself, must admit, when I was first growing, it awed me as well.

So much so I decided to not only crawl into that rabbit hole but leapt in. I can assure you that I was not disappointed in what I found, but how easy and beneficial it was to a natural way of farming.

Simply put, Korean Natural Farming (KNF) uses indigenous microorganisms (IMO) (like fungi, bacteria and protozoa) to produce fertile soil without using any chemicals. It’s an organic way of creating nutrient-rich soil ideal for growing cannabis!

What is Korean Natural Farming?

Korean Natural Farming, abbreviated as KNF, is a style of farming that uses fermentation to draw out nutrients and create a plethora of microbes that are beneficial to not only the plants but also the soil.

Dr Cho Han Kyu first researched KNF in the early 1960s. He wanted to design a way to use a farm’s own fertility needs by using what was grown on that farm. He found that combining Korean predilection for fermentation worked amazingly well with plant biology. He started to use and record his technique on his own farm, studying how fermentation with certain plants helped the soil web. Chris Trump, the leader in KNF farming techniques, took up the mantle decades later, refining the process for cannabis.

korean natural farming
Rice wash that’s turned into lactobacillus in the jar with organic, plain, Greek yoghurt next to it. There’s also a gallon of milk which will help create more of the lacto strain and more beneficial bacteria from the yoghurt. It’s all going to be mixed in that 5-gallon bucket with an airlock.

Different Types of KNF

There are two sides to KNF: the collection of inoculums and timing. In this instance, the inoculums we are looking for are called Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO’s for short).

These are bacteria and fungal growth found in one’s specific farming zone. Having a stored collection of these IMO’s are highly beneficial since most microbes have a falling off point. Having a collection of these in the right environment will help prevent this from happening.

Timing is critical when it comes to using these microbes at the right time during the plant’s life cycle. We tend to pay close attention to something called the Nutritive Cycle Theory. This theory states that plants and live animals need different nutrients during different stages of growth. An example is, like humans, plants require other foods depending on their age. Like a child will need more milk, vegetables, and meat as an adolescent, yet may need more fruits and vegetables as a young adult.

The same concept is applied to the plant.

So, using this knowledge, we can look at what else we are growing as a farmer, and take the extra crop and combine it with the IMOs and sugar to create a water-soluble, nutrient-dense compound that is cheaper than any amendments out there to buy.

How to Collect Indigenous Microorganisms

The first thing you need to remember when collecting IMOs is the first word: indigenous.

These can almost always be found in your backyard or woods. The collection of these organisms is relatively easy once you understand the process.

To preference, IMO is usually collected for a more extensive indoor/outdoor setup but can be used for a small indoor soil grow with a controlled environment.

korean natural farming
Rice wash lacto is prepped to be added with a syringe, adding only the clear liquid between the solids and sludge.

Three things you’ll need to get started:

  • A wooden box (cedar or bamboo is recommended)
  • Cooked rice
  • Paper towel

You want to find an area that looks healthy and has a good amount of bacterial and fungal growth. Once you have your wooden box, drill small holes in the bottom (placing a screen on the bottom will help keep pests out), place the rice in the box, place the paper towel on top, and secure it with stones or staples.

You want to place the box directly on top of the site where you want to collect bacteria and let it sit for 3-7 days—the warmer the weather, the faster the inoculation. There will be white fuzz, called hyphae, which should be growing in the rice now. This first collection is called IMO-1.

You’re then going to weigh the rice and mould and add equal parts of brown sugar. Brown sugar acts as a catalyst and food for the microbes. This step is IMO-2. You will then add this to carbonous material such as rice bran, oat bran, wood dust/chips, etc., for inoculation and composting for a week. This step is considered IMO-3.

Once you have excellent growth, you can add it to your soil at low temperatures. This is considered IMO-4 and can be stopped here or continued by diluting the mixture (compost teas are a great way to do this) or throwing it into other compost piles to expand there as well. Different IMOs are done on a small scale, such as fermented plant juice (FPJ) and Oriental Herbal Nutrients.

korean natural farming
Mix the milk and yoghurt together to start the bacterial buildup process.

How to Make Fermented Plant Juice

With KNF growing to be such a large field of farming techniques, we will finish off with the more simple, fermented plant juice (FPJ for short, and is what I will be referring to from here on out).

FPJ is just as it sounds.

You are taking plants that you find, either in your garden or out in the wilderness, and you are fermenting them to draw out its nutrients. It is simple to do, and they hold a long shelf life of 3 months to 2 years. All you need is a jar, the plant/s you want to use, and some brown sugar.

When picking out plants to use, look for ones that we, as humans, can consume as well. We’ll use a cabbage plant, for example. Take a cabbage, chop it up into small pieces, weigh it out and add an equal amount of brown sugar. Start mixing it until you see liquid being drawn out of the plant. Take everything inside the mixture, including the liquid, and put it into a jar.

Then place a thick layer of brown sugar on top of the mixture. Cover with a paper towel or clean cloth with a rubber band. Place this in a dark, room temperature cabinet with steady humidity for 1-2 weeks.

You will soon see mould collected on top. Carefully remove that mouldy material and put it into a compost pile or bin. Then strain the liquid into a clean jar and seal with a regular lid. That’s it, you have made an FPJ that is rich in nutrients for a plant in the vegetative stage.

But, what about the flowering stage? Easy, instead of greens, use fruits or vegetables. You can even do an FPJ with toasted eggshells. The only difference is to use distilled white vinegar and no sugar and allow it to ferment for 45 days. This will give you a nice calcium boost. Just dilute your FPJ in water. I do 1:10 for soil drench 1:50 for foliar sprays.

Get your own KNF Started Today

There are so many new ways of using KNF that I can go on for days. As you can see, it’s truly an easy task. You just need time and patience. Once you have things going, step back and watch your handiwork grow.

korean natural farming
I use a regular lid with a hole fitted with a water airlock to prevent pressure buildup while also preventing oxidation of the final collection of lactobacillus. This will sit for 3-5 days.

If you’ve got any questions, pop them in the comments below, and I’ll get back to you. Happy harvesting!

Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.

Chris Staniszewski