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:
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.
Rooting Cuttings: Mix 50% Sphagnum Peat Moss and 50% pumice together. If you would feel more comfortable you can also add some small amounts of earthworm castings up to 10%. The castings are not necessary however because the young seedlings, or clones will absolutely love the 50/50 Mix. 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.
Seeds: Start off in full strength living organic soil. No Special recipe is needed just for seeds. 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.
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% Canadian Sphagnum Peatmoss
15-35% Premium Organic Compost (If your compost is really potent use less)
30-40% Aeration material (We use pumice and rice hulls together)
5% Pre Charged Bio-Char
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 plant right into it. No reason to wait 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. We used to always recommend this period of rest for the soil to "Homogenize" or come together but we are finding that with premium compost there isn't a reason to do it. This recipe is very forgiving.
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.
If you want a detailed report on how to make your own fermented plant extracts and botanical tea's then Fill out your name and email below and I'll send you the report instantly. I just setup the auto email and once you put your name into the form below you will receive a free copy of our E-Book "Homemade Plant Fertilizers"
After you fill out the form above you are going to receive a cool E-book that I wrote on how to make your own fertilizers at home.... This E-Book uses a Lactobacillus Serum to help Ferment some of the materials.... If you are interested in that weird stuff, Then Checkout our Video Blog Post on LactoB.
Seeds have all the enzymes ready to create life and we can harness this with sprouts. Think of this as a do it yourself enzyme tea that costs pennies.
This super seed tea will change your game completely and is worth the extra time it takes. Use this weekly or at least once per month especially towards the finish of your plants.
Ingredients: 2 ounces of Organic Barley Seeds, Corn Seeds, Legumes, really anything but it works best with barley because barley is cheap and also high in nutrients.
I use a seed sprouter but you could easily use a jar. Take your 2 ounces of seeds and soak them for 8-12 hours or so and then rinse well. This is key, because you will be rinsing off a compound that inhibits growth on the surface of the seeds and we don't want this in our finished product.
Once the seeds are soaked and rinsed you can leave them kinda moist in the bottom of the jar and let the sprout over 2-3 days. Once the tails are as long as the seed itself you can then fill the jar with water and let it sit for 3 days or you can blend up the seeds and mix with 5 gallons of water to use immediately.
In nature things fall to the forest floor and slowly decompose into a rich top layer of compost and humus. This process can be utilized in your garden as well with amazing results. You can take a small amount of the amendment you want to add and sprinkle it on top and then cover it up with compost or worm castings. For instance, chopped up comfrey and some kelp meal top dressed with a layer of worm castings. That would be an incredible nutrient kick for any plant! Check out our Top Dress Kits over here.
Use Dead mulch like wood chips, straw or anything you have to keep the top layer of soil moist, this will add a huge benefit to your plants, will also minimize the water input needed and weeds will struggle to grow. You can also plant a cover crop like clover to act as a sort of living mulch. Read all about mulching over here.
When you start adding organic material to your garden soil and begin using compost and mulch you will use MUCH less water because of the water holding capacity and efficient use by the soil itself. That being said, watering is important and you should follow some basics for best results.
1. Water before sunrise or in the early morning. Indoors this means before the lights come on, or just after. This will allow the plants to have moisture for the hot day. Watering at night can cause issues based on your environment and should be avoided unless they have to have the water.
2. Water with Clean water. Use rain water or use tap water that has sat out for a day or two. Filter your water, just do something to have the best water you can afford to use for the garden.
3. Water at a temperature that isn't extreme. Don't use ice cold water or hot water if at all possible.
4. Make sure you have proper drainage and water till just a little barely comes out the bottom of your container or until the garden is properly moist but not flooded.
5. Don't aim for wet and dry cycles. Aim for Consistency of time of watering and also for a good moisture level in the soil. Keeping the soil moist will keep all the soil microbes alive and well. Drying out the soil will kill much of the soil life.