This paragraph is one of the most important that you will read. It is how to change the mindset from a synthetic nutrient gardener to an organic. One thing you will hear from an individual trying to switch this mindset is “ERR MA GERRRDDDDD, my PH is TOO HIGH!!!” Well throw those expensive meters in the trash because they will only complicate things more. How do you like the idea of never checking your PH again? What is PPM? Who cares! It’s not necessary! When you build a proper soil mix, the microbes in the soil will buffer the PH for you! They are your new PH meter! But what about PPM, what if I overfeed my plants? Another thing that makes organics so amazing is that instead of forcing your plants to uptake the nutrients that you would synthetically, the microbes have a symbiotic relationship to the roots. When the plant needs potassium, it tells the fungi to go over there and get me some damn potassium! It is already mixed into the soil, so when your plant needs it, it will take it. No more 0-10,000-100 for flowering (exaggeration.. but barely). You don’t add more nutrients at certain stages of growth. Again, it is already mixed in your soil and the plant takes it as needed, rather than being forced to take it. I think you get the point
Before I get into the mix, I want to suggest a very important read that will completely change the outlook you have on growing: “Teaming with Microbes” by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. This will explain in detail what exactly the microbes are doing in your soil.
Okay, now we are getting somewhere. Let’s talk about the base to your soil. I will not go into far detail about everything here because in the stickies in this section, there is very valuable information already provided for you on many different parts of organic soil.
Here is the easy part; each part of the base of your soil takes an equal third of your overall. I will use 7.5 gallons as a measurement, because 7.5 gallons is one cubic foot. So this mix will make approximately 3 cubic feet. 7.5 gallons will be what I use to refer to “one part.” You can scale this up or down as needed, just remember: equal thirds!
One part humus (Compost and/or Worm Castings)
One part Peat Moss (For every cubic foot of peat moss, you need 1 cup dolomite lime to balance PH)
One part Aeration
Remember, I said you can use any ratio of the two, or just simply one or the other. I believe that diversity in your soil is an important thing. With that said, I would recommend ½ part compost and ½ part worm castings. However, this is not necessary. It will add a better microbe population to your mix. **This is the most important part of your mixture** I said I would leave the reading of the soil biology to you, but I will add one important piece of information. These microbes found in the QUALITY compost and worm castings are what will make your soil do its job. This is what will supply the water and nutrients to your plants. I will get into this a little bit when I explain the amendments that you add to your soil.
As mentioned above, you need 1 cup of dolomite lime (can be found at any hardware store like Lowes) per cubic foot of peat moss. That is not when it is dry. You first want to evenly wet the peat moss. Anyone who has worked with it before knows it can be a pain. So you need to soak this stuff for a while to let it evenly suck up the moisture. When you buy a big bag of it, such as the 3.8cuft bag, it is dry when it is 3.8cuft. When you add water, this will take more volume than that. So add your lime when the peat moss is evenly moist at 7.5 gallons. Coco can be used in conjunction with or in place of this, but that will be explained at a later time. I would recommend using peat because it works much better for this mix IMO. Also, you would not add lime to coco (You put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up!) because the PH of coco coir is neutral. This would skyrocket your PH and it would lead to problems. Remember, I said if you mix your soil properly, you will never worry about PH again!
Here you can use anything such as perlite, rice hulls, turface, pumice, lava rock, or diatomaceous earth (must be the chunky kind, not the powder). Please do not use vermiculite as your aeration amendment, this will soak up too much moisture and hold it, which is not the point of aeration. This is not to say it is useless in your soil, but don’t use it as aeration. You can use any combination of these, but make sure they add up to 1/3 of your mix.
One last thing I will add is how you water it. To keep the microbes happy and working most efficiently, your soil needs to be evenly moist at all times. That means at any part of your soil, you want it to be only as moist as to squeeze ONE DROP of water out of one handful. This must be the same all throughout, with the exception of the top of your soil when the plants are actually growing in it. It is almost impossibly to keep the top level moist at all times, especially when growing under the summer sun or an HID light.
This mixture here (as is) is PERFECT for starting seeds
Okay ladies and gents, we are almost there! This is the base of your soil.
To this is where we will add the nutritional and mineral amendments that will supply your plants with everything that you need.
Edited by StickyMeds0621, 17 December 2013 - 03:00 PM.