One easy way to culture IMO is to actually go out in a nearby forest and 'hunt' them. This is more applicable if you live near open spaces or on a homestead.
Another way we can do is to get the IMO that are already existent on the foods around us & provide a happy home for them to multiply. You can then use that IMO solution for your compost, animal houses or the soil in your garden.
Let's see how to make IMO right now:
Way #1 - Go Hunt IMO (Wild)
If you have big trees or forests around your house, then chances are there may be billions of IMO you can collect right around those spaces. In this case, you can get ready for some fun and we can go hunt the IMO.
With these easy steps below, we can start with:
Step 1: Make a Collection Box
In a wooden box, you can put in the substrate. The substrate is the stuff that will attract the fungi & other IMO to come and reproduce there. If you don't have a wooden box, you can use a plastic box as well.
To attract the microbes, you can use rice grains. Cook the rice so that it's well done but non-sticky. You can use 1 cup of rice per 2 cups of water. If you want the rice to be more on the dry side, reduce it to about 1.5 cups of water.
You can cook the rice so that when you release a handful of cooked rice from your hand, the grains should fall through nicely and not stick to your fingers.
After making the rice, fill it in about 2/3 of the collection box. We want the extra headspace on the top so it creates some sort of heat to make it warm for the IMO to live & reproduce in.
Finally, on top of the box place a piece of tissue paper, a paper towel, a T-shirt or some sort of breathable cloth you have available. The fibers will be fine enough for the little guys to fall through while keeping the big guys like snakes or rats away from our box.
Then we can move on to the next step:
Step 2: Go Hunting
Now, with your collection box at hand, find a good spot to place it out in the open space. Look around near the bases of the trees.
If you spot some white fuzz on the fallen leaves, then it's a good sign that some good IMO are present there. Pick up some of the leaves and spread them evenly on your box.
We don't want to put the leaves all in the center of the box because that might make the tissue paper cover droopy and the moisture might break it up, leaving space for the bad microbes to come in.
If it looks like it's about to rain, hook some tarp on the tree branches to cover the box. Then, we can wait for about a week to check back for our IMO.
Step 3: Harvest the IMO
After about a week or so, you can check back to see how the IMO is developing. If you see a blossom of white fuzz (like white floss cotton candy) all around your collection box, then it's a major success. And if it's your first hunt, that's even greater.
However, if you see only a few white spots here and there, it is also okay. Any reds, yellows, or greens are fine. This can be considered a learning experience and it does take a while for many people to find the sweet spot.
If you see some black mold on top, then we may need to discard those. It's not really the beneficial IMO we're heading for. Anything other than the white fuzz (or reds, yellows, greens) may mean some troublemakers. We'd better release them out in the wild.
Here's a video of a natural farming guy Chris Trump showing how to hunt wild IMO:
>> Link YouTube:How to: IMO 1 KNF
This is another super cool video of capturing your own IMO:
>> Link Vimeo:
Korean Natural Farming - IMO Part 1 (Bryan McGrath)
In case you don't live near forests or near-by natural fields, then let's try another way. In fact, we believe anyone can do this at home:
Way #2 - Homemade IMO (Semi-domesticated)
For this IMO cultivation way, we'll need to gather some ingredients. All of them are easy to find and cheap and this method requires no electricity.
For 20 liters of IMO:
- 17-20 liters of de-chlorinated water
- one liter of molasses
- a handful of rice bran
- 5-10 packets of digestive probiotics
- 2-4 cups of yogurt (the sweetened one is okay)
- 3-5 rice wine yeast balls
- 2 bananas (or pineapples, mango)
- 1 papaya (or pumpkin)
- a 5-gallon (20L) bucket to hold the ingredients
In this method, we'll be using 'domesticated' or 'cultured' local microbes to get started. They are present in the yogurt we use, the probiotics, the yeast balls and the local fruits and veggies.
To feed them, we use molasses as the sugar source and some rice bran for starch. The water is the happy environment for them to live and multiply in.
One idea behind this is to get started with the native microbes that have been adapted to the heat or the cold of the local environment. Also, as all of the ingredients for the making are edible, once done the IMO itself may also be consumed safely by human.
This gets us back to the idea of food as fertilizer and fertilizer that can be consumed as food in a whole circle. Similarly, in Korean Natural Farming or JADAM, they have FPJ (fermented plant juice), FAA (fish amino acid) or LAB (made from milk). All of these are made from organic sources. They can be used as fertilizers and can be safely consumed by humans.
If you can't find molasses in the local area, you can replace it with brown sugar, white sugar, malt syrup or sugarcane juice. These are the direct foods that microbes can absorb fast and easily. Sugars are the carbon source for them.
In places like Canada or Brazil, rice bran may be hard to find. For this, you can also use oat bran, rice grains, rice flour, rye bran or cereal bran. Those that contain starch in them. The bran here plays a role in attracting the microbes and breaking down nutrients.
The Bran Layer
In a cereal grain, the bran layer is the enzyme-excreting layer that kick-starts the breaking down of starch (stored inside the seeds), releasing energy for the seed to use and giving a signal to the seed, letting it know that "Ok, we're ready for germination. Let's do this!".
For the yeast balls, you can alternatively use baking yeast, a can of beer (any brand), or some bread. Look for Saccharomyces cerevisiae on the package.
These are the fungi that help turn starch into simple sugar. In our IMO mix, these active fungi will create a white film layer on top.
And also: Why do we use bananas & papayas here? Firstly because those fruit are widely available in many places. Bananas also contain other good stuff like vitamins and minerals that can be consumed by the microbes easily.
You can use any other ripe fruits as an alternative. Fruit trees that take up a lot of energy from the soil, or possibly make the soil corroded after some time, have the most delicious and nutritional fruits.
The making process for this IMO is very simple. We'll begin with the first step:
Step 1: Mix the Molasses Into the Water
To get started, first pour the water into the bucket. Then, mix the molasses into it and stir until it dissolves. If there's chlorine in the water, then remember to let it sit for 3-5 days so the chlorine can off gas. Then, you can use it to make the IMO.
Step 2: Gradually Add All the Ingredients In
You can add all the ingredients in whatever way you like–the order of it doesn't really matter, except for the rice bran as we'll be putting it in last. For the bananas, pineapples or mangoes, you may want to smash or chop them up before mixing in. This helps increase the surface area, making it easier for the microbes get to work.
We're leaving the rice bran to put in last. Because when we sprinkle the rice bran on the surface, it will create a sort of closed layer to protect our mix against the bad guys. The bran also helps in activating the microbes.
Step 3: Cover the Bucket & Let It Sit in a Warm Place
After you've mixed all the ingredients into the bucket, cover it with a piece of nylon screen or something that is breathable. This is to avoid flies from getting in.
Then, place your bucket somewhere warm. You may need to stir the solution a few times a day to oxygenate the mix & mix the contents well. In a warm climate, the IMO should be done in about 5-7 days.
How to Tell When the IMO Is Ready?
For the first 1-2 days, you may see some bubbling going on. The bubbles are about the size of a pin needle and sometimes larger.
This is a good sign that the microbes in all the stuff we put in are waking up & kicking and punching around. On the third and fourth day, you may see a thin film of fuzz on the top. And continuing on day 5-7, the film then may disappear.
At this point, the IMO mix now will have a slight acidic smell. Try mixing it with water with a 1:20 or 1:50 ratio. Then, use that solution to spray around some stinky spots like in the toilet or a smelling compost bin.
If the smell disappears within 3-5 minutes, then you know you get yourself a very good batch of IMO and that your microbes are healthy and alive. If it's more than 15 minutes and the odor still lingers around, then the IMO we got may not be that active & we may need to say goodbye to them and get a new batch going.
In the Final IMO Solution, You'll Get:
- Beneficial microbes (from the yogurt, the probiotics)
- Indigenous microbes (IMO from the air as we use a breathable cloth)
- Enzymes (produced by the microbes)
- Fungi (from the yeast balls, turning starch into sugars)
Once you've got a hang of making this IMO stuff, you can creatively mix any organic ingredients you find locally to serve different purposes.
For example, we can mix in:
|Fish or soybean||Nitrogen|
|Moringa leaves||Micro & macro nutrients|
|Chili, lemongrass||Warding off pests|
|Aloe vera||Spraying mealybugs|
If you plan to use the IMO mix to fertilize your plants, dilute it with a 1:50 or 1:100 ratio of water. As the acidity in the final IMO mix is around pH ~4, it may burn the plants if applied directly at the base or sprayed through the foliage. Diluting it is the safest bet & the easiest way to use for the garden.
As you can see, culturing IMO is both fun and easy. Give it a try today & see the results right in your backyard. Hope this brief post has sparked some ideas for you to get started. Happy IMO-ing.
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