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How to Grow Marijuana Sustainably With Korean Natural Farming

Korean Natural Farming (KNF) is a blueprint for an alternative way to farm outdoors among nature. The KNF ethos argues that many growers complicate things by trying to cut back and isolate gardens from nature, whereas KNF encourages farmers to back off and let the surrounding ecosystem join in to help grow top-shelf product.

A lot of farming is done in a way that disrupts nature and growing cannabis is no exception. Following a DIY ethos and espousing a connection to the land, the KNF process works with and incorporates nature into its design and celebrates the simplicity of farming by using local resources and practices to create vibrant gardens.

KNF should be a fun process, and it’s meant to let farmers step back and enjoy growing, and you’ll appreciate your cannabis more.

How Does KNF Work?

Korean Natural Farming strives to create an ideal environment for microorganisms and plants to grow. Certain plants grow best with certain bacteria and fungi. High levels of these are found in old growth forests, while low levels are found in areas with wild grasses, and no bacteria or fungi are found where weeds flourish.

In the middle zone—between old growth forests and wild grasses—is where cannabis plants and other farmed fruits and vegetables thrive.

It’s known that having rich soil with microorganisms is beneficial, but KNF takes the process a step further by using indigenous microorganisms (IMOs) and plants, animals, and minerals from the local environment for feeding cannabis plants.

By using organisms native to the area, farmers are able to work with the surrounding environment to build up the local ecosystem, as opposed to trying to force their own ecosystem into an area where it might not work symbiotically.

Master Cho

The KNF method was developed by Master Cho, born Cho Han Kyu, whose first connection to farming came from helping his parents on their family farm while growing up in South Korea. After finishing primary school, he traveled to Japan to study farming in the mid-1960s.

When he returned to South Korea, he implemented what he learned in Japan, in combination with techniques involving fermentation, to create a new model for farming with a radically different set of rules than what most of us are used to. Since then, the method has been taught to farmers internationally.

The Solutions

KNF is designed around solutions—these are local inputs produced by the farmer. Solutions work like store-bought nutrients and feed, protect, and strengthen your plants.

Different solutions offer different levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients, to meet the demands of your cannabis plants from seed to harvest.

The nine solutions include:

  • Indigenous Microbes (microbes)
  • Plant Food (hormones, enzymes, nutrients)
  • Stimulant (vinegar)
  • Medicine (tinctured herbs)
  • Fuel (amino acids, nitrogen)
  • Bloom (calcium phosphate)
  • Fruit (calcium)
  • Mineral (trace minerals)
  • Police (lactic acid)

Solutions create readily available food and nutrients for protection of both the soil and the plants. This is done using locally sourced inputs, ranging from fish scraps for the Fuel solution to charred bones for the Bloom solution, which are then extracted into liquid form that can easily be applied to plants and soil via spraying.

Once the solutions are made, you will use varying quantities of each depending on the stage of growth your plants are in. For example, a plant in the vegetative state will use more Plant Food and Fuel solutions, whereas a flowering plant will use more Fruit and Mineral solutions.

What Are the Benefits of Korean Natural Farming?

You’ll save money with KNF, as it relies on producing your own solutions for feeding and caring for your garden. While there definitely is a learning curve, in the long run, you’ll be able to produce your own nutrients for less than it costs to buy them at the store. Additionally, you won’t need to replace your soil or worry about costly amendments.

Weeds, bugs, and diseases appear most commonly in gardens that are missing crucial elements found in a natural environment. By growing with nature, your enemies will look elsewhere to settle.

Growing with KNF will bring you closer to your garden and your surroundings. The process will encourage you to stay present and observe natural trends, allowing you to be a part of something much bigger than your product.

How to Get Started

IMO (indigenous microbes) is the first of the nine solutions and the basis of KNF farming. Your IMO is created by finding soil near your home that is rich with microbial diversity. The goal is to find a place that hasn’t been farmed, tilled, or disturbed.

You can encourage microbes found in rich and diverse soil to develop on cooked rice—this will create a colony that you can transport back to your garden. Once established, you have the ability to introduce this powerful network of microbes into your own garden and can introduce them into your soil to help bring it back to life.

KNF may seem daunting at first. Individuals and organizations like Chris Trump, Master Cho, and Natural Farming Hawaii have articles and videos online that will take you through the necessary steps to get started. Classes and workshops can also help and you can find events near your home, but the internet will be the best way to find resources when it comes to KNF.

Learn about Korean Natural Farming, a set of practices that can be used to grow cannabis sustainably by incorporating and working with nature instead of disrupting it.

DIY Organic nutrients: KNF

Korean natural farming is one of the most recent systems used to grow not only cannabis but all other plants organically. By using the microorganisms in your favor you can ferment the naturally occurring vegetation to make your own organic nutrients.

1. What is KNF?

KNF is a way of growing organically which imitates the processes that already exist in nature and relies on microorganisms to improve the health of the soil.

This system is widely used in all types of crops including, most recently, cannabis.

KNF (aka Korean Natural Farming) was created by Cho Han Kyu from the Janong Natural Farming Institute, it focuses on producing a fertile medium and improves the overall yields and quality of the harvest without using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

By using naturally occurring plants and microorganisms to decompose nutrients, you can turn them into a form that the plants are able to absorb, the plants then use those nutrients and as a result, produce food which the microorganisms feed on.

2. Benefits of KNF

  • Self-sustainable system suited for small and large-scale cultivations.
  • Higher yields with fewer nutrients.
  • Increases plant health and immune system.

3. Basic Steps on how to make KNF

There are several KNF recipes which should be used in the different stages of plant growth, each one of them contributes to certain elements that are crucial to plant development and growth.

Even though the recipes are used on different occasions, they all consist of fermenting organic matter with brown sugar and are relatively cheap and easy to make.

Step 1

Collect the material you’re going to use, if it’s from nature it’s better to collect it before sunrise (when the plants are in respiration mode).

Step 2

Do not rinse the collected plant material to preserve the microorganisms on the surface and write down the weight of the collected plant material.

Step 3

Cut the plant material in half and add brown sugar equal to the weight of the material then mix well.

Step 4

Use a glass or polyethylene jar to store the plant and sugar mix, pack it tightly and cover the “mouth” of the jar with a cheesecloth, towel, or any other breathable material.

Step 5

Store the container in a well-ventilated area, far away from light and extreme cold or hot. The jar should be ⅔ full after the plants settle, if not, add more plant and sugar.

4. Fermented Plant Juice

FPJ 1 aids in plant nutrition, it is made by fermenting the shoots of growing plants in brown sugar for around 7 days, this allows all the compounds in it to be released and then used by the microorganisms in the soil.

Fermented plant juice is usually made with sweet potato shoots, bamboo, or seaweed among others but can be made with anything you have available as long as the plants you want to collect are not flowering yet and are vigorous, grow fast, healthy, and not poisonous.

Recipe Vegetative Pre-flowering Flowering
Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ) 2ml/L 1ml/L 0

FPJ can be used both as a foliar spray or to water the soil for plants, it should be mixed in a ratio of 2ml per liter in the vegetative stage and 1ml per liter in the pre-flowering stage, ideally after the sunset.

5. Fermented Fruit Juice

FFJ is basically the same as FPJ but it’s used for cannabis in the flowering stage. The process is the same as when making fermented plant juice but instead of fermenting plant tips, you will be using fruits.

We recommend fermenting banana, mango, squash, papaya, melon, grape, apple, and strawberry although you can use whatever you can as long as they’re fresh, locally grown, and free of pesticides.

Fermented fruit juice contains nutrients like potassium that increase energy levels and promotes the production of hormones which are used to increase the yields of plants in the flowering stage.

Just like when making fermented plant juice, make sure you weigh everything before cutting it into smaller pieces so you know exactly how much sugar to add, this way you avoid problems and can easily make FFJ in 7 days.

Recipe Vegetative Pre-flowering Flowering
Fermented Fruit Juice (FFJ) 0 1ml/L 2ml/L

The amount of FFJ you use in your mix depends on how long you let it ferment, obviously the longer you let it ferment the stronger it will be but a general rule is to use 1ml per liter in the pre-flowering stage and 2ml per liter in the flowering stage.

6. Oriental Herb Nutrients

Oriental herb nutrients (aka OHN 2 ) is used throughout the whole life cycle of your cannabis plant, this mixture of aromatic herbs discourages the growth of pathogenic microbes, encourages beneficial microbes.

OHN brings a lot of benefits to your crop, it not only helps prevent and fight off pests such as powdery mildew, spider mites, fungus gnats, whiteflies, and aphids but also helps your plants increase their resilience to stress factors such as environmental conditions, increases plant robustness and encourages growth.

Oriental herb nutrients are made by following the steps mentioned above but with some differences.

OHN can be made with dehydrated or fresh herbs, even though you can get away with not using all of the herbs required, we recommend using Angelica Gigas roots, Cinnamon bark, Licorice roots, Garlic and Ginger to make a foolproof OHN.

Before starting have in mind that each needs to be in separate glass jars.

If you’re using dehydrated herbs you will need to soak the dry herbs in separate in rice vinegar or beer for 2 days to allow them to rehydrate, if you’re using fresh herbs you can skip this step.

After letting your herbs rehydrate for around 2 days (or if you’re starting with fresh herbs) make sure the herbs fill 1/3 of the jar they’re in and add an equal amount of brown sugar by weight.

Now that you have added the sugar, your jar should be 2/3 full, let it rest for 5-7 days with a breathable cover like a paper towel or cheesecloth, this will allow the OHN to breathe.

Recipe Vegetative Pre-flowering Flowering
Oriental Herb Nutrients (OHN) 1ml/L 1ml/L 1ml/L

After one week has passed you will need to completely fill each jar with vodka or other liquor with more than 40% alcohol, stirring every morning with a wooden spoon for 14 days, then strain and store in separate jars, have in mind this process can be repeated up to 5 times before discarding the herbs.

Now that you have every herb extract ready to be used, you will need to mix 2 parts of Angelica extract with 1 part of Garlic, Licorice, Ginger, and Cinnamon extract, stir slightly and let rest for 6-12 months, it’s important to keep the jar loosely covered to allow the air to circulate and prevent the build-up of gases.

If your plant is stressed (from overfeeding, a bug infestation, or overwatering for example) you should use half of the recommended amount of OHN per liter to avoid stressing your plants even more. Have in mind that even though KNF it organic they’re still nutrients and using them in excess or on already stressed plants can be bad.

7. Water Soluble Calcium

Water-soluble calcium (aka WCA) is a way of providing calcium to your plants using household items. Calcium encourages a plant’s cell processes, flowering (improves yield and quality), root growth, and prevents bud rot.

This recipe can be used as a foliar spray and is a good alternative to adding crushed eggshells into the soil or other slow-release amendments.

To make water-soluble calcium you will need to roast eggshells for approximately 45 minutes until they’re slightly tan and then cover them with brown rice vinegar in a ratio of 1:10, so if you have 10g of eggshells you will need 100ml of vinegar then cover the mouth of the jar with a cheesecloth and let it rest for 7-10 days.

Recipe Vegetative Pre-flowering Flowering
Water-soluble Calcium (WCA) 0 1ml/L 2ml/L

You will see bubbles coming out of the eggshells, if you still see them after 10 days have passed, add more eggshells and repeat the process until the mixture is saturated and you can’t see any more bubbles, at this point your water-soluble calcium is ready.

WCA should be used as a light mist very early in the morning of just after the sun goes down to avoid leaf burn and allow time for absorption before it evaporates, remember than even though KNF is organic watering with a too strong solution or too often can burn your plants.

WCA should be mixed during the pre-flowering and flowering stage of your cannabis plant and should be used in combination with the other recipes to have optimal results.

8. KNF for you

As crazy as it may seem, all KNF recipes can be consumed by humans and even animals.

Maintaining a habit of consuming KNF every day is like having an extra layer on top of your immune system, you will be consuming beneficial microorganisms and bacteria which will live in a symbiotic relationship with the ones you naturally have, protecting you against malicious ones.

Have in mind that making KNF can take a couple of tries before it comes out the way it should, we recommend gathering a bit of experience before starting to consume your fermented juices, this way you’ll be able to differentiate fermentations that turned out bad and the ones that didn’t.

9. In conclusion

KNF is an organic and environment-friendly alternative to bottled nutrients, even though it can take a couple of months to be ready for use, you can effectively make your own nutrients for very cheap. Have you ever tried any of the recipes? Share your tips and tricks, feel free to leave us a comment below!

External References:

  1. Natural Farming: Fermented Plant Juice – College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. (2013).
  2. Natural Farming: Oriental Herbal Nutrient – College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. (2013).
  3. Natural Farming: Water-Soluble Calcium – College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. (2013).

KNF is a system that uses naturally occurring vegetation and relies on fermentation to produce organic nutrients not only for cannabis but for all other crops. ]]>