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Throughout Asia there are many different forms of Natural Farming, but perhaps the most influential are those originating from South Korea. Within South Korea there are two well-known schools of Natural Farming with a Father and Son lineage. 

Korean Natural Farming (KNF) was developed by Cho Han-Kyu, or Master Cho as he is often referred as.  The JADAM school was developed by his son Cho Youngsang, with JADAM being a Korean acronym meaning “People Who Are Like Nature”. 

Both systems focus on the use of Indigenous Micro-Organisms (IMO) to improve soil health and plant growth.  By introducing IMO to your garden you will help establish a healthy ecosystem that naturally discourages pests and disease. 

The two styles of South Korean father and son are sometimes compared to performing Classical Music or Rock’n’Roll.  As with learning the guitar, beginners may find the chords of JADAM easier to master before attempting the more complex KNF style.  

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This technique of cultivating beneficial Indigenous Micro-Organisms was designed to be accessible to even the poorest of farmers in the Third World. It is extremely simple and all of the ingredients are likely to be found in your pantry and garden.  This is a great place to start your journey into gardening with microbes!


  • Leaf Litter Humus or Compost (IMO Source)

  • Boiled Potatoes (Food for the IMO)

  • De-Chlorinated Fresh Water (70 Litre)

  • Sea Water (2 Litres for Minerals)

Put leaf litter and potatoes in separate socks with a stone in each.  Suspended socks in the middle of the barrel.  Massage socks into the water and leave for around 36-48 Hours (temperature dependent) or until disk of scum forms.  This indicates the peak of micro-organisms or "peak bubble".  Dilute heavily and apply to your soil so that it penetrates deep into the earth.  Applying during rain will assist with this process. 

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Indigenous Micro-Organisms (IMO)

The KNF method to cultivate Indigenous Micro-Organisms is a 4 Step process taking a number of weeks to complete.  It provides greater flexibility than JADAM, but it can be tricky to master.  Finding a range of healthy natural environments is key to capturing diverse beneficial micro-organisms.  A good tip is to look for signs of mycelium fungi in the surface soil and mulch.  KNF can become a great excuse for taking a therapeutic walk in nature! 

Step 1 - Indigenous Micro-Organisms (IMO1)

Cook White Rice to a hard texture by only using 2/3 of the usual water.  This ensures the rice is not too wet which would favour undesirable micro-organisms.  Place the rice in a wooden box or basket with a lid.  Sit the box in the chosen Leaf Litter/Humus and after a week it will become colonised by micro-organisms.  White fluffy growth is the most desired, although some smaller coloured blooms within the white growth is considered acceptable.  If the colour is primarily dark/black it must be discarded.  Suburbanites may find it easier to bring leaf litter/humus home and place in a dark spot, rather than leave a box/basket in the environment.     

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IMO2 – Indigenous Micro-Organisms 2

In this stage the inoculated rice is turned into a liquid by adding 1:1 weight of Raw Sugar.  This is mixed well and placed in a Glass Jar with a Breathable Lid (Paper Towel) and left in a dark place for 5-7 days.  The resulting liquid is called IMO2 and can be stored for up to 2 years in a refrigerator.  IMO2 can be applied to foliage and soil by diluting it with de-chlorinated water at 1-2tsp per 10ltrs.

IMO3 – Indigenous Micro-Organisms 3

Mix a few tablespoons of IMO2 to 20ltrs of de-chlorinated water.  Mix this liquid with 20kg of Wheat Bran.  The mix needs to be damp enough to be formed into a ball.  Mound the mix onto a patch of soil no higher than 30cm.  Cover this with some hessian bags, towel or bed sheets and it will begin to heat up and smell a little of baking bread.  After a few days the pile may become too hot and require gentle turning daily to release some of the heat.  After 5-7 days you will see white fungal spores growing over the pile and this signifies that the mixture is ready to convert into IMO4.

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IMO4 - Indigenous Micro-Organisms 4

Mix the IMO3 with the same quantity of soil from your garden.  Repeat the processes above of making a pile and covering it for around 5 days, turning every day to prevent over-heating.  You will see that the white mycelium has colonised/inoculated your soil.  At that point it is ready to use in your garden.

IMO4 can be sprinkled on the soil and/or made into an aerated “tea” and watered onto the soil.  IMO4 can be stored in a cool dark place for many years.

Obtaining a variety of IMO2 and/or IMO4 samples will ensure that you have a very diverse range of micro-organisms in your garden.  This will greatly enhance the health of your garden and form the foundation for building a balanced garden ecosystem.

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