Organic Soil Growing 101
Organic Soil Growing
In the food industry an Organic certification means that a food was grown under conditions that meet or exceed the conditions for being considered Organic.
With Marijuana it seems more realistic to call the system or process in which we grow Organic or not Organic.
That system, of course, excludes synthetic agrochemicals and Includes the living helpful microorganisms.
What is Organic growing?
I found a wonderful quote:
"An organic farm, properly speaking, is not one that uses certain methods and substances and avoids others; it is a farm whose structure is formed in imitation of the structure of a natural system that has the integrity, the independence and the benign dependence of an organism" Wendell Berry, "The Gift of Good Land"
Farm isn't what most of us have but it is good quote nonetheless.
Our model is the natural.
At its simplest Organic growing is a seed that grows in the ground under the Sun.
The soil it grows in has been formed by natural processes and the nutrients in the soil provided by natural mineral and decayed organic materials.
In our current state of grow technology Organic growing includes the traditional as well as commercial products.
We use electrical lighting to simulate the Sun.
We trim and prune our plants to utilize the space we have indoors instead of letting it grow big outdoors.
It may seem hard to grow Organically but it isn't.
I will share what I know about the basics of Organic growing indoors. I also present information I have gathered from the internet.
I trust others will contribute also since the subject is vast.
These entries are meant to be added to, updated and improved upon.
The goal is to inform, be a primer on getting started and provide some basic information to help the new Organic gardener..
Material and topics provided here can always be improved with research on your part.
Each topic will have it's own title so that the reader can find the one they want fast
The Source of information I have gathered will be in text and in the color BLUE. You may wish to read up on what I have referenced.
I welcome correction and suggestions.
Table of Contents
Table of contents.
Actual entries will not be in alphabetical order but, the table of contents is.
Search the topics by title of posts in the thread or by link to specific post.
Making your own soil mix
Natural soil types
Organic Soil Mixes
Using sugars of any kind : a warning.
What is Alfalfa Meal?
What is Azomite?
What is BlackStrap Molasses?
What is Blood Meal?
What is Bone Meal?
What is Brix?
What is Coco Coir?
What is Coco Peat?
What is Dolomite lime?
What is Feeding the Soil?
What is Fish Emulsion?
What is Foliar Feeding?
What is Greensand?
What is Guano?
What is Humus?
What is Kelp?
What is Manure?
What is Microorganisms?
What is NPK?
What is Peat Moss?
What is Perlite?
What is PH?
What is Rock Phosphate?
What is Teas?
What is Trace Elements?
What is Worm Castings?
Natural Soil Types
Natural Soil Types
Sand, silt, and clay are the basic types of soil. Most soils are made up of a combination of the three. The texture of the soil, how it looks and feels, depends upon the amount of each one in that particular soil.
The type of soil varies from place to place on our planet and can even vary from one place to another in your own backyard.
Source : library.thinkquest.org/J003195F/newpage4.htm
Soil types are a major factor in determining what types of plants will grow in a certain area.
Plants use inorganic elements from the soil, such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, but the community of fungi, bacteria, and other microscopic creatures living within the soil are also vital.
These living organisms help with the decomposition of dead plants and animals, breaking them down into soils
Source : library.thinkquest.org/17456/soil1.html
Soil is not only a support for vegetation, but it is also the zone (the pedosphere) of numerous interactions between climate (water, air, temperature), soil life (micro-organisms, plants, animals) and its residues,
Source : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedology_(soil_study])
Containers are available in many sizes, shapes, and materials. All containers, whether clay, wood, plastic, or ceramic, should have an adequate number of holes in the bottom for proper drainage. Additional holes should be drilled or punched in containers that do not drain quickly after each watering.
Setting the container on a solid surface, such as a cement or patio floor, reduces drainage. Raising the container one or two inches off the floor by setting it on blocks of wood will solve this problem.
Source : wvu.edu/~agexten/hortcult/homegard/cntanegrd.htm
Most of us will choose a plastic type container. One common to find in a garden center. You could use anything as long as it is free of contaminants and drains well except aluminum (*). (See below).
The style of growing is also a factor
Growing clones in a 2 gallon pot is different from a mother plant, grown from seed, in a 7 gallon pot. A community grow uses a planter box approach where all the plants share a common soil.
In all container types the basic concerns are the same. Aeration, moisture and nutrients. Nutrients from an organic source of course.
Using a plastic type pot, I suggest to place small rock or other non toxic material in the bottom and place some fabric screen over it then put the medium in. This removes the need to elevate the pot for drainage.
In the community grow or planter box types not only drainage is important but airflow to the root zone.
(*) Aluminum may cause health problems so no sense in growing in an aluminum pot.
"Active and passive smoking of tobacco or cannabis will increase the body burden of aluminum and thereby contribute to respiratory, neurological and other smoking-related disease."
Source: sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TDC-4J9MXY7-N&_coverDate=03%2F31%2F2006&_alid=509946205&_rdoc= 1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_qd=1&_cdi=5195&_sort=d&view= c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_useri d=10&md5=856aa7d7a0496bf4d2f032177333129f
Last edited by Randy High; 12-30-2006 at 06:04 PM.
Organic Soil Mixes
Organic Soil Mixes
A simple way to start is to buy a premixed Organic soil from a a retailer. These may be simple or deluxe soil mixes. The guiding rule here is nutrient content and soil structure.
Not only are the elements of Nitrogen( N ), Phosphorus( P ) and Potassium(K) necessary but secondary nutrients and trace elements are too.
Secondary nutrients are Sulfur, Magnesium, and Calcium.
Iron (Fe): A key catalyst in chlorophyll production.
Manganese (Mn): Works with plant enzymes to reduce nitrates before producing proteins.
Boron (B): Necessary for cell division and protein formation; also for pollination and seed production.
Copper (Cu): Catalyst for several enzymes.
Molybdenum (Mo): Helps form proteins; assists fixing nitrogen from the air.
Zinc (Zn): A catalyst: must be present in minute amounts for plant growth
Source : green-hands.com/soil/trace.html
In an Organic soil a continued supply of these things are generated by the breakdown of materials and/or the addition of natural fertilizers. In a bag soil these should be there and last a while. However, the "Zing", as I call it, fades and we must feed the soil as well as the plants. Consider a good commercial mix a place to start and a solid foundation to work from.
If you want to make your own soil mix see the entry on "Making your own soil mixes."
When choosing a commercial organic soil mix a little research helps and the wisdom of a community such as GrowKind.com can go a long way. I have had some problems with mixes containing redwood and the loss of nitrogen. Perhaps that's just me.
I thought to list some trusted sources for soil mixes so I asked the Growkind members what they were using and here are several replies:
Others are talking about miracle grow organic soil mix but, there is some concern about it's sources of nitrogen. Again what is considered organic legally may not be what growers of marijuana want to feed their plants.
Yes I'm skeptical about anything miracle grow claiming to be organic. To it's benefit a few gardeners here are saying good things.
Also as of late I have read of poor results using miracle grow organic soil mix.
Check out what is in a soil mix if possible but buying a bag is a bit easier than mixing your own and the experiences of others helps make the choice safe and satisfying.
Any soil mix can be improved with natural amendments. Depending on the growing condition you may wish to add more perlite to a mix. This may be helpful if drainage is a concern. Greensand and kelp meal provide trace elements and compost is always a good thing IMO.
The goal in container growing is to drain well while retaining good moisture content. This is due to the roots and microorganisms needing oxygen.
Also see the feeding your soil entry
Thank you jersydude, beautifulnugs, OldGrowerDude and easygRoer..
Organic soil manufactures : Note.. The best starter soils are materials the customer can maintain with Organic material feeding.
Counting on liquid commercial products to make your product viable is lame IMO.
To benefit the Organic Grow scene is All my motive is.
Say I'm stoned say I'm crazy just say!
Last edited by Randy High; 01-21-2007 at 05:15 PM.
Some Organic growers use a substrate environment with Organic fertilizers. Substrate growing is on the edge of what I consider an living Organic system.
The fact that microorganisms can cling to the substrate materials is the bottom line for me to consider substrate growing an organic system. Yet it is closer to hydroponic then to soil in that there isn't a way to cultivate the helpful microorganisms to any useful population..
Substrate materials include Peat moss, perlite, coco peat and coir.
I would assume one could add things like rice hulls as well and it would work just as well.
Liquid organic fertilizers are used to provide the nutrients.
They are applied and the action of substrate is like a sponge to hold the liquids.
I welcome news on any other natural materials.
And as always corrections are welcome.
Compost is the aerobically decomposed remnants of organic materials (those with plant and animal origins).
Source : wikipedia.org/wiki/Compost
Compost is the Organic gardener's delight. Providing nutrients and materials that feed both the plant and microorganisms in a soil.
Sources of compost range from home made to commercial. From screened to micronized.
Compost can be mixed in a soil, applied as a top dressing or made into a tea.
Compost can be made from yard waste or store bought materials.
Compost can be made by worms this is called vermiculture.
Basically compost is the harnessing of nature's powers to reduce materials into a plant useable and microorganism usable form.
The process of breaking down materials is going on at all time is healthy soils. It is a part of the soil food web.
From : wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_food_web
" The soil food web is the community of organisms living all or part of their lives in the soil. It describes a complex living system in the soil and how it interacts with the environment, plants, and animals."
Compost is a product of a controlled pile of materials and microorganisms.
A mixture of what are called greens and browns are provided for microorganisms to feed on and they in turn reduce materials to compost.
Last edited by Randy High; 12-30-2006 at 03:34 PM.
Ahh A favorite topic of mine.
I remember my first pile. How I was amazed to the point of telling my then wife "It's steaming it's steaming oh cool!"
That was a day I tell ya...
Composting is a passion to some ( me included ).
The basic idea is that a mixture of green and brown materials mixed together into a pile that is kept moist will decompose into compost with the aid of microorganisms and some fungus into a material that feeds plants and soil microbes.
" All composting requires three basic ingredients:
Browns—Includes materials such as dead leaves, branches , twigs
Greens—Includes materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds
Serious tho, over the years since my first pile I have made many a pile and harvested some fine compost with a little effort.
This last season I employed a very small space and made a compact but bountiful harvest.
I suggest learning all you can by searching the internet. There is more useful information there then I can provide here yet, I can share my story of how I made my basic soil I use today.
A soil that is over five years old.
I needed a large volume of soil for a new planter type room.
I had two choices; buy bags of soil or compost some.
I chose to compost. In the planter box!
I bought peat moss, a large bag of Guinea pig food pellets, a large bag of green sand, some coco bean hulls, some sulfur and some lime, some bone meal and maybe a thing or two more I don't recall.
For microbes I bought a bag of top soil.
I mixed these together using no particular measure and wet them.
In a day or so it became active and I began to turn the pile.
Soon it was clear to me I used too much Guinea pig food pellets ( alfalfa based ) and I had a very hot and ammonia rich pile( a sign of too much nitrogen )
So I now had to turn this several times a day to let the excess ammonia escape and keep the pile temperature down.
During the turning I added a large bag of perlite to aid in aeration
In the end I had a nice looking soil base that has served as the foundation for season after season.
See "recycling the soil" entry for how I do this.
Here are a few sites I searched for a few links to add to this post.
By no means is this the only source for the composter.
There are many ways and many styles of composting including industrial.
It would be foolish of me to say this covers composting. I suggest a search of the Internet and read up.
Worm composting, also known as vermiculture is another type of composting I have tried.
I had these large fabric bags; the kind materials come in for feed mills and I filled them with the veggie stuff they toss out at the grocery store.
In time the worms ate and reproduced but it wasn't the best bin.
after that season I spread the material out in the garden and let them go free.
I think this is a wonderful way to produce compost and indeed Tea's.
From : earth911.org/master.asp?s=lib&a=organics/composting/wormcompost.asp
Vermiculture Worm Compost
Composting with Worms
Worms will eat most of your organic waste
Let worms eat your organic waste! They will happily turn it into some of the best fertilizer on earth - worm compost, otherwise known as worm castings or vermicompost.
This is a fascinating, fun, and easy way to recycle your organic kitchen wastes.
Worm composting, or vermiculture, requires very little work, produces no offensive odors, and helps plants thrive.
Only a few things are needed to make good worm compost: a bin, bedding, worms, and worm food. By following the steps listed below, you will learn to make, take care of, and use your own worm compost.
A source for composting worms is cosmo!
A small business they sell a wonderful product. Be aware that this is more than a box of worms. It's the source for the serious vermicomposter.
you are also welcome to search for other sources. It's that I spoke with Paul and he spent time explaining things to me when I first started out.
That is worth the mention here.
An addition 7-18-07
Here is a link to a thread on composting with wonderful pictures.
Last edited by Randy High; 07-19-2007 at 02:19 AM.
Recycling the soil
Recycling the Soil
For most container gardeners the expense of buying soil mixes is acceptable and provides consistant results.
Some mix up materials and create their own soil mixes while others may wish to reduce costs and recycle their used soil.
The idea of recycling soil is the same as composting.
For all who wish to recycle used soil I suggest the grow be done with natural fertilizers.
Still, others use a planter bed and removing and replacing many cubic feet of soil is just not practical.
Avoid fertilizers made from metals and such.
New materials, greens and browns and amendments are added and the soil is worked just like a compost pile, watered and turned till the biological activity subdues.
Materials I have used are wood shavings, rice, alfalfa, greensand, kelp meal, bone meal, coffee and a compost tea I sun dried into a powder that included pureed bananas, as a compost source, to boost the potassium.
For potassium one could add Mushroom compost or maybe banana flour ( I have not tried that so you are on you own there ) And also potash.
Fred Gardener wrote :
"I use rock dust and oyster shell and rock phosphates and crushed rock. I couldn't grow a garden without mineral supplementation."
Source : counterpunch.org/gardner05142005.html
I thank Fred for pointing that out to me today. I kind of lapsed on the mineral aspect in my soil.
Also as a bonus for researching a few things today I discovered Azomite. Azomite Trace Mineral Fertilizer is natural mined rock from a specific volcanic deposit in central Utah. Azomite has 67 major and trace elements, so its name means "A to Z Of Minerals Including Trace Elements."
Source : wheatgrasskits.com/azomite.htm?gclid=CLiG9Ma-rIkCFR0cYAodE2akQw
The materials you use are up to you.
Here the greens and browns added combined with broken up root mass provide the food for microorganisms. When it is done I consider the soil "recycled."
This is the basic idea and how I recycle. I'm sure other gardeners will have suggestions and methods.
Also the materials I use are just my choices.
After the soil is recycled it will be good to add the basics back. I find that the nitrogen has been employed and I also add trace elements with liquid kelp. Then I add a feeding layer of materials so that microbes get right on munching.
Again it is good to research things and read what others have done and are doing.
I like Fred.
Here is a link to a thread that covers composting and recycling of a large soil bed ( Indoors! )
It's a good read with wonderful pictures.
Last edited by Randy High; 07-19-2007 at 02:22 AM.
Making your own soil mix
Making your own soil mix
Soil mixes share one common concern. Provide good drainage while holding moisture. This is accomplished by mixing materials in proportions that favor this desired result.
A soil mix provides the structure the roots live in and the materials it's made of feed the biological life that provides the nutrients plants need.
It is important to think NPK and Trace elements as well as secondary nutrients in your choices of materials.
Things I know to use are compost, perlite and peat moss. To that I could add things such as alfalfa meal, kelp meal, bone meal, greensand.
The truth is I've never been a measuring kind of gardener so I have no stories
of add 1 cup this per quart that.
If I was to make a soil mix I would start with peat moss ( some are trying coco peat and coco coir ) To that I would add compost. I'd love to see a mix that is 35 - 40% peatmoss and 60 - 65% compost. The compost should be screened but not the micronized kind.
Mix it up. Now to this add perlite. Here is the thing you are using your own judgment on how much is right. We are aiming on well draining yet water holding. A lot depends on where you are in the world and what conditions you have. Very arid and you need more water holding. Cool and humid you need less.
Mix it up.
At this point we have a base soil.
To this I want to add things that provide nutrients. I like kelp so I would add kelp meal. I also like bone meal so I would add some and for minerals plus trace nutrients I have used greensand. However, today while researching things I found Azomite, a natural source of minerals and trace elements. I'm looking into that now.
To this I am thinking I would add dolomite lime. I like ground coffee so I would add some coffee ground. not instant coffee. Since I feed with fish emulsion I skip adding things like blood meal or alfalfa meal yet a little alfalfa meal might be helpful. So I add a little.
Once I have mixed it is good I'll lightly wet it and let it stand a few days before use. This gives it time to react and settle down.
Well that's me.
I welcome better instructions on a soil mix.
If you ask 10 organic gardeners you will get ten differing points of view!
Do you have a recipe? Share!
Know of one you think should be here share!
Last edited by Randy High; 01-21-2007 at 05:08 PM.
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