During the last month, I have been immersing myself in the study of Korean Natural Farming. KNF was developed in the 1960s starting from a re-elaboration of ancient Japanese techniques.
The fundamental insight of KNF is to strengthen the biological functions of every aspect of plant growth to increase productivity and nutrition. The result are healthy plants and a thriving soil food web that eliminates the need for chemical interventions, whether to protect against predation and competition with other plants.
Another key idea of KNF is that all the preparations and biostimulants produced can be made from indigeneous material found on the farm itself. Animal manures and other waste products are avoided altogether and this reduce the occurrence of pathogens and the excess of nutrients that would attract insects and unbalance plant health.
I like to think of the different preparations used in KNF in terms of the following analogy. In our vegetable patch, we want to introduce plants to the landowners (Indigenous Micro-Organisms or IMO), add the skilled workforce (Lactic Acid Bacteria or LAB), give them a regular and natural immunity booster or tonic (Herbal Nutrient or OHN), food that stimulates healthy hormones (Fermented Plant Juice or FPJ), a few tough experiences to strengthen them (Apple Cider Vinegar or ACV) and then obviously lots of protein- and carbohydrate-rich food (Fish Amino Acid, FAA).
You might have already seen us prepare FAA and LAB in previous posts, so I will focus on some of the other preparations to give an idea of we are talking about.
One of the key preparations of KNF is IMO (Indigenous Micro-Organisms), which can be thought of as the landowners - microbes driving our soil systems. The preparation of IMO consists in a 4-step culturing of bacteria, fungi, nematodes and protozoa taken from an undisturbed area on the farm itself. These microbes have adapted themselves to the climate, soil, water and other conditions specific of one's own site, and, if re-introduced to our vegetable growing areas, can re-establish biological balance and activity that we inevitably disturb by growing non-native, highly productive crops. Moreover, IMO metabolism produces complete proteins, while competing insects prefer incomplete proteins. IMO is also rich of pathogen repellent microbes!
Another central preparation is OHN (Oriental Herbal Nutrient), which can be seen as a tonic. This is a biostimulant made of 5 herbs which are fermented and from which a natural alcohol extraction is made. The essential oils and plant hormones derived from this naturally pathogen-repellent plants are then applied at very low rates onto seedlings and vegetables, to stimulate their own immune system. OHN is a mediator; when applied to plant leaves or roots, it ensures that harmful pathogens are neutralized before they can outcompete the beneficial biology. A plant with a healthy immune system will produce root exudates that stimulates those qualities in soil life, and in time this can make our soil able to biologically invigorate plants.
On the other hand, FPJ (Fermented Plant Juice) is a source of plant hormones extracted through fermentation from vigorous native plants. These are then transferred to our vegetables and soils to stimulate healthy growth of leaves and roots. LAB (Lactic acid bacteria), a preparation that we shared with you in one of our previous posts, provides useful workforce to our soil ecosystem, improving the decomposition of minerals, organic matter and also keeping pathogens in check.
I have been working on developing some variants of this recipes that use completely locally sourced materials, for instance replacing brown rice vinegar with apple cider vinegar, some vigorous wild plants typical of East Asia with natives to the UK with similar biochemistry, and so on. We have also built a collection box and a fermentation cabinet to store fermenting jars away from insects and other interested animals (mainly mice and birds, not sure whether Roger enjoys fermented plants, he definitely loves Sauerkraut!)
Next week, Flavia will be making a Natural Wetting Agent that is essentially a natural liquid soap made of ingredients that biodegrade within 5 days and become plant nutrients. The natural wetting agent will act as a surfactant that we may (or may not!) use to apply some of these preparations to plant leaves. It can also be used as dishwasher liquid and a body soap, as it has exactly the same properties of a castille soap!
We will soon be sharing some videos and posts about some of these preparations, so stay tuned! A full understanding of how to use this system on a garden scale, with very VERY simple DIY recipes will be taught on our course "How to feed your soil and heal your plants". 👉 livingsoilgarden.co.uk/fertility-course