Welcome everyone. Today I am going to throw out some basic parameters, guidelines really, to help you guys up your soil game. Container soil building is a little different than building soil for plants in the ground, or in raised beds. I’ll explain that later. First of all, I just wanted to say the best living soil in the universe cannot sustain being bombed with high PPM value liquid organic nutrients, or teas.
The whole point to building your own custom soil, after all, is to give your plants the elements they need to complete their lives, and end up top-shelf buds. If you want to use liquid nutrients to grow your plants, try using less soil in your mix. Use more things like vermiculite, pumice, and (rinsed/flushed) coir. Bio char is another great addition, if you like your liquids. It’s like a governor/buffer of sorts. Bio char effectively sequesters higher levels of nutrient elements that are very reactive once in the soil.
I used to run liquid organic nutrients and teas, using a custom soil that was mostly not soil. I was very successful at growing high quality plants using liquids with this custom soil blend. For those of you that want to do this, here’s my container soil build from the past, that rocked this bottle-fed organic methodology:
Container Soil Building for Using Liquid Nutrients Recipe
- 1-part perlite
- 1-part vermiculite, or pumice
- A little bit of rinsed coir (optional)
- 1-part bagged soil mix (e.g., Ocean Forest)
Boom! That was easy. It works like a champ if you use a regiment of liquid nutrients and/or higher PPM teas. This mix is also completely flush-friendly. When using liquid nutrients and/or teas, if you use a tad too much, or have salt build-up, you can almost always fix your error, with a simple water-flushing of the container.
Amendments for Container Soil Aeration
In containers you always want to use some Perlite—always! For pure aeration, perlite is the king. In the ground, the soil is aerated by everything that tunnels through the soil. Roots, worms, bugs, larva, etc. By using the no-till style outdoors (which you absolutely should), you take advantage of this all-natural aeration. But we’re talking about containers today. Perlite is a must have in container soil builds. Vermiculite and pumice are more optional. They both also aid with aeration, but not as well as the king, perlite.
I actually use 5 (soil) structural amendments in total: perlite, pumice, bark, sand, and vermiculite. Since I recycle my soil (and so should you) I only need to top-off with small additions of each of these to build my recycled soil mix. Vermiculite, perlite, sand, and pumice all recycle well. No need to continually add much more. I use bark for my mulch so it is continually added to my overall recycled mix.
Highly valuable, especially in seedling and young clone soil builds. However, it also has some extra cool bennies. Unlike perlite, which does not absorb water, vermiculite does absorb water. A lot of water. Like 30x the same volume of soil would hold. Nice! Especially effective if you like using smaller containers, or use air-pots/grow-bags, that tend to dry out super-fast. Vermiculite is also a fair pH buffer, and has a pH of about 7.0. Because of this, it is also super microbial life friendly, like “coral reefs” for (bacterial mostly) life in the soil.
Pumice is one of my all-time favorites, and I would always have some in any container soil build, if I could. It’s not super easy for many to get, but fairly easy for most. A fairly decent pH buffer, high in calcium and iron. Very porous, and it absorbs and holds water. I would say it is thee most microlife friendly of the 3 that I mention above. A small downside is that pumice is heavy, compared to the others; when full of water its very heavy. This makes for heavier containers, especially when watered. Pumice breaks down uber slowly, many years.
Additional Container Soil Building Thangs
Here are some other additions I think are noteworthy, below. I get asked a lot about bio char, and I think it is a great addition if you like your liquid nutrients and teas. It will effectively sequester your overdosing tendencies—LoL. Otherwise, using true all-natural growing methodology, you don’t need it at all. Think of it like a governor on an engine. It keeps you from over-goosing it—wink.
This is a highly effective soil addition if you like to use liquid nutrients that are super high in organic acids, like Earthjuice brand, as one example, of many. Coir buffers your pH well from diving too hard. I use zero coir in my soil mix. If you’re all-natural, you just don’t need it.
If your coir levels are too high, with too little aeration, as it decomposes it breaks down into small particles that impede airflow through the container. Your container can go anaerobic (stinky like a sewer) within a few weeks. Especially when overwatered, even a little bit.
Coir is high in potassium, and great for soil structure … at first, heh heh. I would advise only using fully flushed/rinsed coir. Unrinsed coir always has ludicrously high/toxic levels of salts. Make sure it says it has been rinsed—like out in the rain for months—or flush it yourself, very well.
Many moons ago when I used to use a Sunshine brand commercial soil mix, I would eventually have some issues with the fungi taking over my containers and driving pH down too low. That brand tends to use a lot of peat moss in their bagged soils. Over the years I have steered away from anything near those high levels of peat moss in my base (bagged) soil. It just seems strongly to me to favor fungi somehow, as it decomposes.
If your only choice was bagged soil with high levels of peat moss for your container soil building endeavors, you could compensate by also using some ground oyster shell, or dolomite lime in your mix. This will counter hard pH dives. The oyster shell keeps working for a very long time. However, the dolomite lime truly buffers your pH towards neutral (7.0) no matter where it starts out at. 7.0 pH is uber bacterial friendly pH.
I would argue this is a keystone addition, my esteemed homeskillets. Don’t use any beach, or playground sand. Clean river sand, or clean construction sand are both all good. This truly does wonders for your soil structure, and I noticed night and day differences once I implemented it into my custom mixes. Especially powerful if you recycle your soil.
Shredded bark, like mulch, is really a great addition to a soil mix. It is a great buffer for pH once it begins decomposing. It also is super-duper microlife friendly; especially for key soil fungus. Bark breaks down fairly slowly aiding soil structure/aeration. Bark is high in potassium and other nutrient elements. Cannabis loves its potassium baybee!
Rev’s Soil Container Building Tips
You can literally make the very best soil by simply using homemade compost, and worm castings as additions when recycling your soil. Of course, some perlite, and sand, are must-haves for container soil building too. As long as your worm castings are quality, and you are good at making compost from a diverse bunch of stuff—kitchen scraps basically—you are golden. Just good water after that. Literally, just add water; and I know how to use that word.
It’s also important to use the right kind of containers with proper aerating dynamics, regarding drain hole placement. Check out this article for more info on that: Growing Containers II. If you wanna score some all-naturally bred exotic seeds, go have a look at Kingdom Organic Seeds – True Living Organically Grown baybee!
The whole line about how you need liquid fertilizers to grow top-shelf cannabis is just a lie. Full stop. Prove it to yourselves! Grab a couple killer books to help dial in your journey along this path of all-natural growing. Teaming with Microbes, and True Living Organics 2nd Edition.
Hope you enjoyed the read today, see ya all back here next week. L8r G8rs…
- REvski 😊
Toxic ‘Salts’ Fix & Sprout/Clone Soil Mix
If your leaves of a treasured plant(s) express that ‘salt’ toxicity thing above, a decent flush can often get it right within 8 or 10 days. But you can see good signs within a day or two. You want to flush with distilled water. 2 flushes, 30 minutes apart. Match the gallons of the container with flushing water each flush. Finish off with spring water or groundwater after last flush. Use 1/5th size of container (gallons) in spring/ground water.
A transplant is essentially a 100% fix to salt toxicity issues as well.
For sprouts and freshly rooted clones my recipe is simple. I use 2-parts bagged soil (Ocean Forest), 2-parts earthworm castings, and 1-part vermiculite (perlite is also fine). You can have fine results just using a good bagged soil like Ocean Forest, or any of the G&B brand mixes. If you grow using a custom recycled soil mix, simply throw in some of this soil with your mix, only a little, like ¼ cup per gallon of soil. It is a primo catalyst—wink.
I'm The Rev, and I have been with SKUNK for about a decade now. I hail from Southern California, spent mucho time in Northern California, and now reside in Southern Oregon; always coastal. I am an all natural style cannabis grower and I have written a couple books on the subject - check out True Living Organics 2nd Edition on Amazon - I have been growing for over 45 years, and I have been breeding cannabis for over 30 years. Check out kingdomorganicseeds.com to see some exotic selections. Growing connoisseur cannabis is what I teach mostly, growing it in living soil without using liquid organic nutrients to feed the plant. I am also a highly skilled synthetics grower, hydroponics, aeroponics, DWC/SWC/NFT, Ebb and Flow, and soilless, but I cringe when smoking synthetic grown herbs, so for the last 15 years or so I preach the artisan style of all natural growing, specializing in container growing. Cheers and welcome aboard.