Merging Hydroponics With Organics In Korean Natural Farming

This article was originally published in Garden Culture Magazine US24 & UK26.

Segregation is not usually synchronistic with peace and prosperity. I can’t really think of any point in history when separating and isolating peoples and things have ever had anything other than a negative impact on the overall success of a people. To name just a couple of examples, the Mongolians and Chinese missed out on countless opportunities to elevate each other’s societies, and Germans were separated and even forced to go to the extreme lengths of having to create two football teams.

The integration of different cultures is always the way forward. Alexander the Great knew this when he saw the majesty of Asia’s trading network on the silk road, a melting pot of all things desirable and useful. Trade routes and the exchange of people/knowledge/resources helped to elevate these people to dizzying heights – a veritable golden age for our ancestors. The growing media your plants are sitting in are no stranger to this phenomenon, particularly in relation to a bit of the old hydro/organic fusion of ideas. You can keep all the control and efficiency of hydroponic media, whilst integrating organic practices to boost the final quality – essentially aiming for the best of both worlds.

Physically how, though?

Firstly, you need to think about how you can possibly integrate anything into your pre-existent hydroponic regiment. For example, you might be among the vast swathes of growers who are using drip irrigation systems in coco pots. If you are, then good for you! This is possibly the easiest of all systems to integrate the finer aspects of KNF into. The only thing you will need to do is water your organic inputs by hand every now and again, when and where they are applicable. This same thinking can really be applied to almost any hydro system. In a nutshell, you can hand water through organic amendments at almost any point (within reason).

Unless you are amending your media with dry fertilizers, you are essentially just adding to what you are already doing, so change nothing in terms of the EC and pH levels you normally set your reservoir at. Other than maybe lowering your EC slightly now and again, keep your existing feed regime exactly the same, then add MNF bits in as you see fit throughout your plant’s life cycle. “Easy enough” I hear you say, “I can switch my irrigation pumps off and hand water once a week. So what should I use and when?” Well, dearest fellow, let’s have a quick look at a few of your options so you get the gist.

IMO’s/LAB’s (Bacterial)

The bacterial amendment arm of your KNF additives. No longer restrict yourself to a few species of bacteria/fungi from a dusty packet – get the best you can from the natural world around you. Once you have made yourself some IMO2 (or LAB), you can add this at any point you wish. The first watering after a transplant is always the most ideal to inoculate any fresh new roots, but a weekly top up can be applied to increase biodiversity in your pot at almost any point. For full effect, you could even inoculate your entire media before planting out, in a similar way to how IMO3 is made (see previous issues for further details).


Ferments can be hand fed into your media almost at any given point. A weekly feed will give you the opportunity to cycle through all the ferments you have made, starting with root ferments in early veg, moving to vegetative ferments in mid-veg, then switching to more flower/fruit ferments as you transition through the flowering stage. The aim of the game here is to match the type of ferment you have made to the stage of life that your plant is in at that time so that the inherent hormones and nutrients meet the demands of your plants at that particular time.

These are possibly the best two to focus on when integrating KNF into hydro practices. Both of these inputs are fun to make and can significantly change the end result of your crop. As a place to start, they make a great organic addition to almost any method of growing you currently employ. Of course, you are by no means restricted to just these two or three; other KNF inputs can also be utilized just as well. But keep in mind, they take a lot more effort in the early preparation stage, something many lazy hydroponic growers tend to be rather fearful of.

Other bits and Pieces:

WSCP/WSCA may not be quite as crucial, as your mineral nutrients should have more than adequate levels of calcium and phosphor (although, an additional bit of organic versions hand watered through won’t hurt). OHN can be used as a foliar spray or root drench to help boost the vitality and immunity of your plant (but it’s a faff to make). FAA can give a huge boost of amino’s for a plant and can be a great food source for fungi.

In a nutshell:

Basically, the world is your oyster. An occasional hand-watering allows you to integrate almost any aspect of organic growing into a more mineral program. Just make sure not to add any extras to your reservoir; organic additives tend not to sit well in a tank over time. Essentially, you are giving yourself the best of both worlds in this scenario – all the efficiency and predictability of hydroponics, with all the quality boosting aspects of organics: win/win.

Read more articles in the Korean Natural Farming series:


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  • Kismet Kechejian says:

    Reading this article look promising but I got list with all the three and four letter codes dispersed within. At least for me in the USA I need help… Can you please provide definitions so I may make full use of your post. Much appreciated.

  • Ray Lang says:

    I was able to locate a small bamboo forest in my area near a friend’s home. I harvested several pounds of bamboo shoots at daybreak one morning. I took them home and chopped them up. I think I had around 2 gallons quantity. I followed directions to make the FPJ. Strained off the liquid after 7 days, added an equal amount of brown sugar by weight and now have about 3/4 gal of FPJ. I am growing comfrey to use to make FPJ when I have enough.

  • Susan says:

    You might be able to get the herbs in your local pharmacy.

  • Aryiah says:

    Can you be more specific when you say “fresh ingredients” and “other herbs”? I really want to try this but really need a better list of things that I will need. Thanks so much!

  • sanu says:

    Does this spread fungal, viral or other disease when we prepare liquid of diseased plant parts


After many years as a hobby, I began my career in Hydroponics working for Aquaculture in Sheffield, the UK's largest and most forward-thinking grow shops of the time. From there I began to work for Hydromag, responsible for the hydroponic content. Most notably, the product tests and comparisons, breaking ground in the industry and cutting through marketing hyperbole by showing consumers exactly how products stacked up against each other. From there I worked with CANNA, as editor of CANNAtalk, author of the research articles and delivering seminars throughout the UK to grow shops on the finer details of cultivating in a hydroponic environment. I'm currently writing for a number of companies in the hydroponic industry, of course, the most important of all being the powerhouse publication that is, Garden Culture.