What is Organic Living Soil (OLS)
Organic Living Soil is not simply dirt, living soil is complex in nature, having diverse varieties of life all working together to create a perfect environment for your crops. A combination of worms, springtails, rove beetles, other predator mites, fungus, enzymes, and more will cycle your nutrients, organic and non, to create plant-available nutrients that are ready when your plants decide they need them. This is where No-till grow styles have come into play. Chopping and dropping cover crops and recycling all plant matter back into the system, feeding the soil not the plant. By following this method, you may reduce labor, waste, and fertilizer. Using only clean inputs and knowing that you have all the complex life to do the job for you is the start of healthy growth!
Choosing Your Container Size
When working in soil I’ve found it best to use the largest container that will fit in the footprint of your grow space. Using a raised bed is a great way to utilize all of the space in a grow tent. Using a large container will give you advantages over smaller containers in a few ways. Larger containers will equate to larger yields, as well as a diversity in life which is essential to overall plant health. With larger containers allowing for water retention and a larger body of food, you can achieve a water-only grow style. Meaning once you’ve established everything necessary in your rhizosphere to cycle nutrients you will use little to no nutrients in waterings. Only amending the soil in very small amounts after each harvest using general all-purpose fertilizers. and allowing the biodiverse life to manage the rest. With this we are becoming a steward for the plant, feeding the soil and allowing the plants to express their true genetics. In the end, larger containers will have more buffer for hiccups as well as have larger biodiversity for optimal plant health.
Organic Soil Inputs
Whether beginning a grow outside or beginning a garden inside, the first thing we want to look at is your soil ingredients. Cannabis prefers a humus-rich, fungal dominant soil. Knowing this, getting your list of ingredients generally will start with three parts. Peat Moss, Organic Matter, and Aeration are all in the ballpark of 33% per part. Always trying to source things locally and as sustainably as possible is the goal.
Your list of ingredients may differ depending on what you may source locally. There are many ingredients that are interchangeable to achieve your goals. Knowing what is quality and long lasting is key. You’ll want to ensure you have ingredients that will last over continous cycles, such as pumice or lava rock for long-term aeration. Peat moss for its sustainability and mycorrhizal properties, however coco may be used if that is what you have available. Rice hulls for extra aeration and added silica as they break down over time. Once you have the main components you’ll want to fill in with a small number of nutrients and minerals. Crustacean Meal (crab and shrimp), Icelandic Kelp, Neem Cake/Karanja Cake Neem, Ahimsa Karanja, and milled malted barley at a combined rate of 5-6 tablespoons per gallon of soil. Also, minerals such as rock dust that is highly paramagnetic, oyster shell flour, and gypsum dust at a rate of a 1/2 cup per gallon of soil. However, this is not an end-all-be-all recipe. Just like actual cooking, there are a million ways to bake a cake. Once you have your list of ingredients mapped out it’s time to get “cooking”
Cooking Your Soil
In living soil conversations, we talk about “cooking” our soil, which is really referring to all the microscopic life creating heat from the energy created by breaking down organic and inorganic materials. Once we have all our ingredients the next step is to mix our ingredients! Mix the recipe in a tarp, raised bed, pot, or whatever you have. Next, we will want to jumpstart our soil by inoculating the biology to begin cycling nutrients. We can achieve this using some Kashi Blend, Fermented plant extracts, Rootwise, or other probiotics containing all the beneficial life necessary to create a truly living soil. After we have soil mixed and biology inoculated, we want to cover it with a tarp, mulch, or cardboard, and allow time for the soil to “cook”. Depending on the volume, the soil will literally raise in temperature. After allowing to cook over a couple of days to a weeks’ time, the soil needs re-mixed evening out possible dry pockets and the biology. Upon uncovering your soil, you will notice mycelium growth on the top layer of soil indicating you have effectively inoculated your mix. Do not be alarmed, as fungi developed from good healthy inputs will only protect your rhizosphere and help cycle nutrients. Mix the fungi layer back into the soil.
Build-A-Soil Artisanal Soil
If mixing something from scratch isn’t the best option for you, pre-built artisanal soils are available for no-till organic cultivation. Buildasoil has a fantastic line-up of high-quality, seedling-to-harvest soils ready for any garden. the BAS (Build-A-Soil) Light recipe is great for the hobby gardener that would like to supplemental feed on a regular basis via liquid root drench/foliar sprays and top dressing. If you’re looking for more of a water-only completely built soil, the 3.0 recipe is packed with everything necessary for a beautiful harvest. Remember water-only method works based on the size of the pot vs. the size of the plant! You must have enough soil to feed the plants all the way through harvest, as you would not be adding nutrients to the soil with this methodology.
Growing In Living Soil
Now that you have your soil purchased or mixed and your container size is chosen, you are ready to plant some plants! Companion plants or cover crops are also a great way to jumpstart life. As your cover crop grows they will help fixate nitrogen as well as other nutrients while producing exudates to feed the biology keeping your soil ALIVE! In conjunction, the cover crops will also help soil structure, as the roots grow they create airways for more oxygen after every watering, and pathways for water help to condition your soil. As your cover crop grows unruly you may smother it or chop it down to continue nutrient cycling. From there you may use a fermented product or Kashi to help facilitate the decomposition process. Thinking of your pots as a big stomach that constantly eats everything you put in it to feed your crop is a great way to think of a living soil system. Put your hands in some soil and get growing!
Thank you for checking out the content, if you have any questions at all please feel free to post them in the comments below! or give us a call at (605)-348-2358 happy growing!