Microorganisms, fungi and worms (6m 53s)

This is the microorganisms, fungi and worms video. This image shows how many organisms live in 1m2 of healthy soil:

Again, big numbers often illustrate proportions. It’s important to take away from this image is:

  • First, recognise they are there, in the soil, below our feet, all the time
  • They help us. In fact, we depend on them. Microorganisms are soldiers in our fight against decay. And they’re on our side, playing their role in the long chain of events that produce the food which ends up on our plates.
  • And third, let’s remember we can cultivate these guys. We can take care of them so they will take care of us. Or because they take care of us. 

There are two kinds of micro-organisms we’ll talk about here: Indigenous micro-organisms and effective micro-organisms. Also called IMOs and EMOs.

IMOs are the guys who have been in that area for some time. They know how to get around. It’s like when you travel somewhere for the first time. You ask people who have been there for awhile for recommendations on what to do, where to go, or more importantly, what food to eat. IMOs are the same. This is why we add a shovel full of local dirt to a compost pile.

Effective microorganisms (EMOs)

EMOs, or effective micro-organisms, are MOs we grow in the form of natural fertilizers. Adding EMOs provide essential nutrients, minerals, hormones and enzymes which increase soil fertility. All of these benefits help to grow healthier, bigger plants… in a shorter amount of time. Bigger… faster… more… mmmm.

The following was omitted from the videos, IMO recipes. Good information.

[What are natural fertilisers?

Just about every kind of food humans commonly consume can be made into a natural fertiliser. Here are a few recipes, many thanks for the research done by Dr Arnat Tancho and team from Mae Jo University in Thailand. These recipes are from his book Natural Farming.

Rocks (minerals)

First, rocks. Rocks are made of minerals. To extract minerals from rocks, find rocks, crush them if you can to increase their surface area, then put them in a mesh bag or wire basket, fill it with water or seawater if available (seawater helps to leach minerals), and let it sit for about 2 weeks. Minerals extracted from rocks can cure diarrhea in livestock and increase health and drought tolerance of plants.

Cooked rice (fungi)

To make fungi useful for your compost, place about 10cm of cooked rice in a wooden box. Bury the box in the woods for about 2 weeks. A white fungus will appear. Dr Tancho calls this IMO1. This is a base fertiliser you can use as a starter for other fertilisers.

Sugar (bacteria)

Take a portion of the IMO1 and add sugar or molasses. Mix thoroughly. Sugar slows down microbial activity. Cover with cloth. Keep in the shade. This is also called IMO2. It improves soil fertility.

Fresh plants, legumes and weeds (hormones, nutrients, lactic acid, MOs and yeast)

Pick green plants before sunrise, chop them into small pieces and place them in a 5-gallon bucket. Add about a kilo of sugar. Fill the container 2/3 full with water, cover and place a rock or heavy object on top to force out air. Leave to ferment for 20-30 days. Add IMO1 or IMO2. Keep in a dark cool place. Often called weed tea, this stimulates photosynthesis, increases sugar content in leaves and improves crop weight and quality.

Rice (fermented rice water)

Soak uncooked brown or white rice in water, cover with a cloth, keep in a cool, dry place for 1 week. This is a nourishing formula for seeds, which promotes nutrient absorption, stem and leaf growth and increases resistance to insects and bacterial diseases.

Milk (lactic acid bacteria)

Add 1 part milk to 10 parts rice water (from above). Leave for 1 week. The yellowish layer on the bottom is lactic acid bacteria. That’s what you’re looking for. This liquid can be kept for a long time. This promotes stem and leaf growth and increases resistance to fungal disease.

Eggshells (calcium)

Dry eggshells in the sun, then crush them into small pieces, put them in a bucket and add 10L of rice water and 2 liters of wood vinegar. Ferment for 10 days. If bubbles appear during this time, this is from the reaction between fermented rice water and the shells. Add more eggshells until the bubbles stop. Spray this on growing fruit, to increase the fruit’s sugar content.

Fruit (hormones and enzymes)

Put fresh fruits in a bowl. Layer fruit according to sugar content. The sweetest fruit goes on the bottom. Fill it with fruit 2/3 full. Add sugar. Cover with cloth. Leave for 3 weeks. This adds hormones and enzymes to plants and strengthens plant development.

Roots (herb hormone, insecticide)

Soak roots such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, neem or derria root in water overnight. Pound thoroughly and place in a container. Add molasses, rice wine or beer to cover the herbs. Ferment for 2-3 days. Add sugar and fill with water up to 2/3 full. Stir thoroughly. Leave for 4-5 days. This is used for nourishing plant seeds and also increases resistance to insects and diseases.

Bones and meat (protein)

Place fish or animal bones and meat in 5-gallon bucket. Add 1 kilo of sugar or IMO2. Leave for 1 week. This adds nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Manure (magnesium and phosphorus)

Air dry manure in the shade. Cow, horse, chicken and even humanure will work. Add 10 liters of molasses or 10 liters of wood vinegar, per 1 kg of manure. Ferment for 10 days. This adds magnesium and phosphorus, which stimulates photosynthesis, promotes flowering, increases sugar content in fruit.

Human urine (nitrogen and other nutrients)

Pee in a bucket. Add equal parts of molasses or worm juice to get rid of the smell. Ferment for 3 weeks. Dilute 100:1 before using. This adds a ton of nitrogen to the soil.

Rice husks (silicon)

Make a pile of 100 parts rice husks + 1 part ground up rice bran. Water the pile to a moisture level of 60-70%. Cover with plastic and leave to ferment 4 months. After 4 months, the bottom of the pile is full of silicon and ready to be used. Silicon strengthens cell walls to resist insects and diseases.

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What is fungi?

Fungi are spore-producing organisms feeding on decaying organic matter.

Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a large underground network of fine white filaments in the soil. Mycelium builds soil very fast by gripping the soil and retaining moisture. In exchange for the food, mycelium transfer minerals over long distances to supply trees and plants with nutrients, aiding the process of succession.

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of mycelium.

Mycorrhizal fungi

While there are many types of mushrooms, those most relevant to a permaculture site are “the mighty mycorrhizal fungi.”

Growing Mushrooms

A few methods to grow mushrooms are:

  1. First you can inoculate trees with mycorrhizal fungi when they are saplings. This increases nutrient circulation within the tree.
  2. Growing mushrooms on logs. To do this, drill holes about every 15 cm, drop spores in each hole and plug the hole with sawdust. Then keep the logs in a wet environment, even soak them in a pond. After a year, they should produce mushrooms for a long time.
  3. Grow mushrooms in plastic bags: First, sterilize sawdust from a rubber tree, specifically rubber trees… Then fill bags with sawdust, inoculate the bags with mushroom spores and seal the bag with a plastic plug. In a few weeks, each bag will produce 3-5 batches of mushrooms.


Mycologist guru Paul Stamets did an experiment in Bellingham, Washington a few years ago. (Paul Stamets) “Department of Transportation in Bellingham, Washington was being fined by the department of ecology because they had a diesel contamination spill and a big transportation yard. So they invited six bio-remediation companies and we had a little contest where who could break down this contaminated soil the best. So there were six piles that were created. We had the enzyme chemical treatment people, we had the bacterial people come in, and we had other systems that were employed to break down these PAH’s, these diesel compounds which are in the soil. And so we inoculated our batch and then we looked at the piles four weeks later. The first tarp was pulled back, it was black and neutral, diesel smelling soil. The second pile same story, third pile same story, fourth pile same story. The sixth pile they pulled out and ours were covered with oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms then, after 6 or 7 weeks, began to rot. The mushrooms produced spores, flies were attracted, the flies laid eggs, larvae began to be produced. Birds came in after the larvae. The birds brought in seeds. The seeds germinated. Plants and weeds started to grow. I don’t have a final photograph but after 8-10 weeks, our berm was an oasis of life.

So I believe we found a keystone mechanism by which we can cause a domino effect of remediation that can break down toxic waste.”

What about worms?

Worms eat organisms in the soil and produce worm castings and urine (also called worm pee, worm tea or worm juice). “Red wrigglers” are a common type of worm found on organic farms. 1 kilogram of worms, about 1000 worms, can double in size after one month.

How to make a worm bin

Worm composting bins are a great way to create worm habitats and propagate them. Anything with a lid and a drain you can create a worm bin from.

What worms like to eat

Worms like to eat anything green, especially leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, coffee grinds and filters, tea bags, brown paper, black and white newspaper or crushed eggshells.

What worms don’t like to eat

Worms don’t like to eat citrus fruit peels (like orange, lemon or lime), fats, oils, breads and cereals, sugars or processed food, salty or spicy food, meat, garlic or onions.


Leave the food on top without mixing it in. Let the worms do the mixing. When the food is nearly eaten, add more. It’s good to feed them a few times a week.

Keeping them in

To keep the worms from crawling out night. Cover the bin with a good seal, fill the container only ¾ full or rub soap around the inside rim of the container.


Maintain 50-60% moisture content. Like compost, you want a small drip to run down your hand when you squeeze the materials in your worm bin.

Castings and worm juice

Add worm castings and worm juice, or worm poo and pee, to your compost pile, on the garden, in the forest. Diluting worm juice with 20 parts water to 1 part worm juice helps stretch out your available stock.

So for our site designs, let’s think about what sorts of organic materials can we make fertilizers out of, when we try to grow these microorganisms from. For fungi, you can grow your own fungi using IMOs and different grains, leaving different cooked grains in the forest, or you can get some things, some spores online. How you want to propagate mushrooms and if and how you want to take care of worms.

Okay, good deal. That concludes this chapter. Thank you for your time.