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Growing Cannabis in Living Soil: How to Do It the Right Way

Last updated: 28 September 2023

growing cannabis in living soil

Too many newbie growers think, “I wanna use the strongest nutrients out there to grow the strongest buds.” However, more experienced growers aim for the most natural and organic practices to get a smoke that has the best smell and taste and a unique high. This is where growing cannabis in living soil comes into the picture.

What is Living Soil?

If you want to create the best living soil for cannabis, you need to understand what it is and how it works. As the name suggests, living soil is abundant in beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other live microorganisms that work together to help your weed plant better absorb nutrients and repel diseases and pests.

What is Living Soil Made of?

The ingredients of cannabis living soil range from those that provide structure for the roots to those that improve aeration and water retention or serve as organic plant food.

what is living soil made of

Living soil can be made up of any combination of the following:

  • Peat moss or sphagnum
  • Perlite and vermiculite
  • Coco fiber
  • Compost
  • Worm castings
  • Bone meal
  • Fish meal
  • Alfalfa meal
  • Bat guano

We can’t provide an exhaustive list or give you the exact ratios. However, we can say that peat moss (which looks like black earth and can be easily mistaken for this) should be the staple and can make up to 50-70% of the mix. Coco, perlite, vermiculite, and pumice are examples of soil conditioners and can make up about a third of the volume. The rest are organic nutrients and should be used in moderation.

How is Living Soil Different From Other Growing Mediums?

As any hydroponics grower will tell you, soil isn’t really necessary for growing cannabis. Any non-toxic medium that provides stem support and root stability is enough. This can be coco coir, rockwool, expanded clay pebbles, etc. However, these mediums have zero nutrients, so it will be entirely on you to give the plant everything it needs, and in the exact ratios, too.

However, living soil is different. It has lots of organics stored inside it, and beneficial microbes will decompose them for your cannabis to feast on. Later in the grow cycle, you will add more, but it doesn’t need to be an exact science – use anything organic, down to grass clippings, and the living things in the soil will take care of the rest.

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Benefits of Growing Cannabis in Living Soil

The best kinds of living soil for weed will give you so many benefits that you’ll never want to go back to synthetic nutrients.

benefits of living soil for cannabis

Healthier and More Resilient Plants

Weed plants grown on synthetic nutrients often look so stressed out that it’s almost pathetic. Organically-grown cannabis, on the other hand, looks thriving, vibrant, and has such a robust health that it’s naturally resistant to diseases and pests.

Bigger Yields

It’s true that adding synthetic nutrients in exact proportions brings the most abundant yields, but it’s very difficult to strike the right balance for that. Odds are that you’ll either overfeed or underfeed your ladies or provoke some kind of deficiency or lockout. Using living soil for weed protects you from these dangers, resulting – and here’s the kicker – in higher yields.

Cleaner Smoke

Cannabis grown with artificial nutrients builds up salts that make the smoke harsh and chemical-tasting. This requires a long flush for the taste to improve. In living soil, you can harvest the plant without a day of flushing and still enjoy a smooth and great-tasting product.

Better Use of Resources

As a grower, you’ll be saving a lot of money on growing medium, nutrients, and water. Pots with living soil can (and should) be reused, and you don’t need to follow the standard advice of watering ‘til at least 20% runs off. Forget about this kind of waste forever – just water the pots to saturation and stop.

How to Create Your Own Living Soil

create your own living soil

The Recipe

This is just a sample recipe made with the do-not-harm approach in mind:

  • Peat moss (any peat-based potting mix will also do) – 50-60%
  • Perlite (the greater the percentage, the more often you’ll have to water) – 15-25%
  • Compost – 25%

You can use any other conditioners and amendments, but reduce the above ratios accordingly. For example, if you want to add 10% worm castings, then reduce the compost by 10%.

Mix, Water, and Leave to “Cook”

After you’ve mixed every ingredient, thoroughly moisten the mixture and allow it to mature for about 4 weeks. Even if you don’t add any extra microorganisms, they’ll migrate to the medium and colonize it themselves. You’ll get even better results if you introduce an inoculant containing diverse strains of beneficial bacteria, mycorrhizae, and other fungi to the water.

Tips for Growing Cannabis in Living Soil

  • Plan Ahead: Building a thriving ecosystem takes time. Prepare your living soil for cannabis at least a month before planting to allow living things inside it to develop the perfect balance of mutual support and cooperation.
  • Keep the Medium Moist: Water is essential for life. After mixing your organic living soil, give your pot a thorough sprinkle. Ensure you pre-soak any perlite and vermiculite before adding them to the mix.
  • Avoid Disturbing the Soil Between Cycles: The delicate ecosystem of beneficial organisms living in the root zone doesn’t like being disturbed, which is the principle behind the no-till method. When harvesting a plant, gently remove it, add a bit more medium and amendments, water thoroughly, and allow it to "cook" for a few weeks before starting the next cycle.

Organic vs. Handmade Living Soil

Buying organic soil from a reputable supplier is a safer option for newbies. Why? Because in striving to provide only the best things for their babies, people often go overboard and overfeed them. For the same reason, they tend to make living soil too “hot” (overloaded with compost, worm castings, and other such products).

However, if expertly crafted, homemade living soil can be much better than store-bought products. Just start low and slow for the first couple of grows, and in time, you’ll come up with the perfect formula.

Super Soil vs. Living Soil

super soil and living soil

The concepts of “super soil” and “living soil” are so close that you can easily mix them up. Both are organic, both rely on creating the perfect mix right from the start, and both use the power of microorganisms to feed your cannabis.

However, there’s a difference. When we say “super soil”, we put stress on the fact that our medium is loaded with everything the plant will need all the way to harvest. Our job will be to water the plant, and that’s it.

With living soil, the main thing is the microbes working their magic in the root zone. The stored-up nutrients will be enough for some time, but later in the grow cycle, you’ll have to top-dress the soil with amendments, add organic fertilizers to the water, and brew organic teas.

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Do I Need to Water Cannabis in Living Soil?

Yes, give your weed plants water the same way as you would with any other type of soil: first, every few days and later, every day. Most probably, you’ll start with plain water or compost teas but will begin adding organics when your plant starts to look hungry. Remember that in organic cannabis soil, you don’t need to water until run-off – just water to saturation.

Should I Start My Seeds in Living Soil?

Yes, living soil is probably the best medium to start seeds, but make sure you haven’t made it too hot by going too hard with nutrient amendments. Excess levels may harm the sensitive roots and slow down the growth or even kill the young plant.

Final Thoughts

Like all organic methods, growing cannabis in living soil is as easy as it is rewarding. We hope our post has helped you overcome any last reservations or strengthened your resolve to begin your experimentation. Now that you know how to make living soil for cannabis, you can grow the cleanest and tastiest bud you’ve ever smoked, and isn’t that something we all want? Happy growing!

Herbies Head Shop expressly refuses to support the use, production, or supply of illegal substances. For more details read our Legal Disclaimer.

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