The Complete System
Continuous Credit to Clackamascoots, Gascanastan and all the others before me.
The reason we put this system together is for those that want to have a birds eye view of the entire process from start to finish. Many people want to grow naturally and just don't trust that it will work. Some are doing it now but they are missing some key element and it's not coming out quite right. Once you get the full picture and understand how flexible this whole system is you will "get it" and create your own system that works for you and your situation.
The ultimate goal is to use nothing but home made compost that has been created with all of the nutrients built in. If you can get to the point where your soil is so alive and healthy that all you have to do is plant a seed and add water, then you have arrived. Having the best soil doesn't have to take forever and in the mean time there are many Compost teas, Botanical Teas and fertilizer inputs that you can add to Build a soil for long term production.
The modern way is to use chemistry to make NPK and several micro-nutrients available to the plants through use of plant ready water soluble nutrients. The PH of the nutrient supply will heavily effect the outcome of the plant. This is the "Feeding the plant" Paradigm.
The organic way is to build a compost based on the plants that are high in nutrient content and to utilize organic amendments that work in harmony with the plant and the soil. The BuildASoil way is to combine premium compost materials with diverse mineral inputs and utilize biology along with science. We are constantly getting our soils tested and adjusting so you don't have to. We want diversity and we want it all in the soil. The nutrients aren't immediately available in the organic system, we will rely on the biology of the soil to naturally produce nutrients for our plants based on it's growing needs. The soil food web is the cornerstone to cultivating plants in a Living Organic Soil System. The soil life is active and healthy and helping to make these nutrients available, and the plants growing on this Living Organic Soil have free-choice of any nutrient they want, in balance, a balance designed by intelligent science and observation. But it doesn't come in a bottle. The other nice thing about Building A Soil for All Natural production indoors, is that you have a blank canvas to work with... you can literally build the best soil possible. While working on large outdoor farms, you have to work with the existing soil and improve it over time.
This guide is for Vegetables and Medicinal Herbs but will work with most fast Annual flowering plants. If you have a strange plant that you want to grow, consider it's native soil and best recreate that. This information works absolutely perfect for food and medicinal herbs. The entire system is meant to be more sustainable and also use local resources when possible.
This information is mainly for growing in containers and raised beds for the home gardener. If using containers for the patio, the greenhouse, or indoors, use as much soil as you can afford. I prefer a minimum of 5-30 gallons of soil per plant if growing in containers. Tomato's love the half whiskey barrel size, but bigger wouldn't be an issue except for moving it around. The larger the soil volume in your container the easier it will be to keep moist and keep alive with many different microbes and critters. The smaller the container the more botanical teas and compost teas you will end up using along with a little more attention to detail.
Rule #1: Don't try to grow a plant, instead BuildASoil that does that for you: Use Premium inputs and get premium results. Your goal is to build the best soil possible and keep it like a pet. Keep it moist and alive as best as you can, input more than you take out and the soil will last forever as it continues to evolve and become more blessed with life.
Rule #2: Learn to make your own compost and your own Earthworm Castings: You would be surprised how small of a space you can make quality compost in. Search our website for "indoor compost" and you will see what I mean. But if you really can't do the whole compost or worm bin thing, then I suggest you learn to find a really good source for local compost that is affordable. If you can't find compost local then use our pure worm castings. The shipping keeps the price a little high, but my goal is to make this as affordable as possible for everyone to benefit from.
Rule#3: Use premium quality compost or earthworm castings, preferably home made. Yes I said this twice. It's that important.
Rule #4: Don't be tempted to go back to the bottled nutrients: Even if they say organic, because nothing will be as good as you own soil. The big bottled nutrient companies buy ingredients in bulk and often use soy and cotton that are GMO and full of pesticides. Get this right and your garden will be more productive and more nutritious than ever before. Don't worry about growing plants, focus on building soil!
Rule #5: Avoid ingredients that say they are organic but really aren't good for the environment. The Organic Label is slowly selling out in the marketplace depending on who is doing the certification. Don't worry if it's not organic as long as you know where it came from and that it is good stuff. Think about each ingredient in the products you purchase. Just because the nutrients at the grow shop have cool labels and high prices does not mean that they will grow better plants.
Rule #6: No matter what else you do, make sure you MULCH. If you skip Mulching you are missing the boat.
Integrated Pest Management: Use a basic home made pest spray every 3-7 days during vegetative growth phase for pest prevention.
Seedling or Cuttings:
I always prefer to start seeds in the most amount of soil possible, so if you are starting a small garden and can afford to mix up 1/2 gallon of soil per seed or cutting you will be very well off, but start with whatever you can. I prefer to avoid stressing the seedlings with multiple transplants. So if you can sow the seeds directly into their final home that will be ideal, weather or garden space permitting.
Choose the bests organic seeds possible. Do NOT sprout them in a paper towel.
Mix 60% Sphagnum Peat Moss and 40% Earthworm Castings together. Then add a small amount of oyster flour or gypsum at 2-4 cups per cubic foot (2-4 Tablespoon per gallon) and let the mix sit for at least two weeks before using. If you would feel more comfortable you can also add some aeration like buckwheat hulls, perlite, vermiculite or anything lightweight. (If you add buckwheat hulls for aeration let this mix sit for a couple of weeks before planting in it) Once your soil is moist and ready for the seeds, plant them according to the package. Most seeds you can just push barely into the moist soil and cover lightly. Keep the top of the soil moist while you wait for them to sprout. I suggest using a sprayer as opposed to heavy splashes of water that will dislodge your seeds. Anyways, once you have your cloning and seedling soil all mixed up you will want to store it in a Rubbermaid tub, trashcan or whatever is most convenient for you for future use.
If you would like extremely detailed information on starting plants from seed or cutting, check out our blog articles!
If your soil is older and full of life you can most likely just use good clean water all the way through from start to finish. But when you are first mixing up a fresh soil it is helpful to boost the soil life by using Compost Tea's. When your soil needs a nutrient kick you can also try Botanical Tea's and other DIY nutrient solutions. To learn More about Compost Tea and Botanical Tea's, Read Below in the details.
Week 1: Use the Aloe and or Coconut Solution to water once.
Week 2: Straight water
Week 3-5: Water or Botanical Tea depending on how the plants look. If they aren't dark green and healthy, you may want to use a tea.
Focus on minimizing stress to your plants. Pay attention to the increased use of water at this point and make sure to do a good pest spray right before this point.
Week 1-2: After the Flowering Top Dress, Water only or Basic Botanical Teas
Week 3-4: Start using SST tea's at this point if you haven't done so already. (SST = Sprouted Seed Tea)
Weeks 4-8: SST, Aloe Vera Juice, Coconut water or just straight water. Don't overdo it, but don't be scared to spoil your plants. No more botanical tea's will be necessary from here on out unless you know that this variety has a long season and will require an extra boost.
Here is a basic breakdown to help you with the above schedule.
DIY Rooting solution or Cloning Gel: Aloe Vera and Coconut water
Recipe: 1/4 cup preservative free coconut water and 1/4 cup preservative free Aloe Vera Juice into 1 gallon clean water. Soak your stubborn seeds in this or use to soak your cuttings in before planting. Or like me, just water your seedling/cloning soil with it prior to planting.
Take a fresh tip of aloe vera and rub it on your plant stems before you plant them into the cloning soil below. Or Ideally, blend up the fresh aloe filet and mix with water and soak your cuttings in a cup of this mixture before planting. Say a 1" chunk for a tall glass of water? Not need to be exact, they Aloe leaf is very high in a compound called salicylic acid and is the key component for cloning purposes. Another way to do this is to purchase aloe vera juice at the health food store at about 1/4 cup per gallon. ($25-$30) Heck you could even buy pure 200x concentrate organic aloe vera powder and use to make fresh aloe vera juice on demand. No matter how you slice it, if you have heard of willow root or asprin or cloning gel to stimulate rooting then why not use the best plant of them all, the Aloe Vera Plant? It really works and you will be very happy because there are many other benefits. Check out the detailed blog article on Aloe Here.
The next thing you want is a young coconut or a simple can of coconut water from the health food store. OR they have pure Coconut water powder you can get too, just don't use the stuff with preservatives in it. Coconut water is a superfood and is excellent for seed starting and cloning, see the full blog article over here.
Cloning and Seedling Soil Mix:
Mix 60% Sphagnum Peat Moss and 40% Earthworm Castings together. If you would feel more comfortable you can also add some aeration like buckwheat hulls, perlite, vermiculite or anything lightweight. The aeration is not necessary however because the young seedlings, or clones will absolutely love the 60/40 mix. You could even grow plants to fruition in a 60/40 mix like this. Anyways, once you have your cloning and seedling soil all mixed up you will want to store it in a Rubbermaid tub, trashcan or whatever is most convenient for you. I always prefer to start seeds in the most amount of soil possible, so if you are starting a small garden and can afford to mix up 1/2 gallon of soil per seed or cutting you will be very well off, but start with whatever you can. I prefer to avoid stressing the seedlings with multiple transplants So if you can sow the seeds directly into their final home that will be ideal, weather or garden space permitting.
Complete Premium Soil Mix: (Try to find local compost or worm castings if possible)
Don't be afraid to mess with the base a little bit depending on the size of your container and how much water you want the mix to hold. If you can't get to the plants to water as often as you would like, add a little more topsoil but be aware of this so that you do not over water.
30 - 40% Sphagnum Peat Moss or Homemade Leafmold
20 - 30% Small Lava Rock, Perlite, Buckwheat hulls, rice hulls etc. something for aeration
5 -15% Topsoil (You can skip this if you are unsure of the quality of your topsoil)
1 Nutrient Kit or your own custom blend of nutrient amendments. Just make sure you have the necessary minerals that will help create nutrient dense plants.
Don't worry about being exact, just get a good mix together and lightly moisten it all and add your soil amendments and then let sit for 2-4 weeks before planting into it. You can mix it up on a tarp and then wrap it up in the tarp until it's ready or you can scoop it all into a trashcan or just simply into a huge pile in the garden. With all these premium ingredients it would be bests to keep this soil mixed up and covered. This will allow it to heat up and breakdown any of the ingredients that require more composting before you plant into it.
Use this if your plants aren't taking to the new soil well, or if the new seedlings aren't growing as fast as you think they should be. Compost tea will help kick start the nutrient cycling that occurs when soil micro-life breakdown the organic soil amendments into available plant nutrients the plants can uptake.
Often times when you see a plant that is yellowing or has strange growth it is because of a nutrient deficiency. Adding more fertilizer is NOT the problem when you Build A Soil properly. The nutrients are Absolutely in the soil, and this cuts all the guessing out. If you use a compost tea in this situation you will more than likely see all of the plants start miraculously growing healthy again within 48 hours. The great thing is you won't need to spend any time diagnosing for plant health issues because it's all in the SOIL baby!
Here is the basic Compost Tea Recipe you should always be using. Unless you have expensive microscopes and a complete understanding of the process's involved it will be best to stick with this recipe.
You will Need a compost tea brewer, if you don't have one, then check out the DIY Tutorial instructions here or email me and I'll help you build a cheap one that will work alright to start.
(If you don't have the resources to build a proper brewer, don't try and half ass it.... just make Earthworm Casting Slurry Instead and feed that to your plants.)
4 Gallons of water in 5 gallon brewer will allow for foaming
1.5 cups of Earthworm castings or high quality compost screened so as not to clog the compost tea brewer.
1/3 Cup Non Sulfured Molasses
Brew for 24 - 30 Hours at between 60 and 80 degrees F for optimal results. If colder brew for 30-34 hours if warmer brew for 20-30 hours.
Notice: Without a microscope and Dissolved Oxygen Meter we really don't know what is going on in the Compost Tea. I would recommend using EWC Slurry if you don't want to worry about all of this. To make a slurry use 10-20% vermicompost to clean water and brew for 24 hours.
************************** some useful info and a intro to clackamascoots soil mix**************************