If you are one of many growers that use soil I have some very inexpensive advice that will help you grow healthy plants with improved yields.
It may sound very simple, but the first step in growing in soil is growing your soil. Healthy soil grows healthy plants. Using organic methods or chemical nutrient lines, you still couldn’t grow a garden in the desert.
Simply put, your plant receives all of the “food” it needs to grow through its roots. In order to get this “food” you need a solid healthy root structure and nothing helps to promote root growth like good healthy soil. Start at the bottom. The soil you place in that pot is the cornerstone in your plant’s foundation.
An excellent component in any “soil recipe” is worm castings or vermicompost to be specific. When people hear worm casting or vermicompost most folks have no idea what it is. I will tell you – WORM POOP!
How do you collect worm poop? That question is probably the most commonly asked. It’s fairly simple. About an inch of organic material is placed on top of a raised bed full of Red Wigglers. It is digested by the worms and about an inch of worm humus or vermicast is scraped from a screen at the bottom of the bed. That is the most commonly used method by commercial worm farms. The advantage is that you can control the worms diet and you eliminate contamination.
Worm castings are odorless. This is another advantage over other manures or compost. This may be why people don’t know it’s worm manure.
Vermicompost contains worm mucus, which helps prevent nutrients from washing away during watering and also increases moisture holding capacity.
Worm castings are very easy to work with because they will not burn or kill a seed or a clone. A plant will grow in pure vermicompost, although that is not an optimal environment.
Vemicompost is a natural time release and immediate source of nitrogen. It has 10 to 20 times more microbial activity than the organic matter the worm ingests and it’s rich with microorganisms. They add enzymes such as phosphates and cellulose.
It’s much more simple than it sounds.
In organic applications strong microbial life is the number one priority. Enzymes and microbes assist plants in finding, absorbing and getting nutrients into the roots and enzymes assist the plant in breaking down nutrients.
Vermicompost, in short, improves root growth, soil aeration and plant yield. It also increases moisture retention. Worm castings also naturally repel attacks from certain pathogens and pest organisms. The bottom line is: the addition of worm castings helps promote microbial life in organic applications and helps replace microbial life and nutrients sometimes destroyed by chemicals all of which are necessary to help promote healthy growth.
Now most growers who have been at it for a while have their own special “soil mix.” I am writing this article with growers that have not achieved that level of expertise.
The most important part of mixing soil is to remember that roots have no sonar or radar to lead them to nutrients. You need to mix thoroughly. I use a very old-fashioned method: a five gallon bucket, a one-quart cup and my arm. I use the one-quart cup to measure percentages of soil and conditioners. I use my bucket and my arm and fingers to do the mixing. Some people use a small shovel instead of their arm and hand, but I like the exercise and I can feel spots that are not mixed enough. Largers growers with a lot of pots will use large tumbling composters (available at garden centers). Whichever method you use, the most important detail is making sure you mix thoroughly.
When I plant in my one-gallon pots for vegetation, I use six cups of High Perlite Potting Soil to four cups Detroit Nutrient Company Vermicompost. I add all ten cups to a bucket and put my arm to work, carefully mixing my conditioner into the potting soil. I then pour the contents into my planting bucket on top of a good base of coarse-ground perlite. I add my seed or clone and start my grow.
When I transplant up to five gallon buckets I mix three cups Detroit Nutrient Company Vermicompost to seven cups of High Perlite Potting Soil. An I add some Dolomite. A more advanced recipe would be 30% Vermiculite, 30% Perlite and 40% Detroit Nutrient Company Vermicompost. This recipe is more specific to marijuana growers.
You can find a lot of soil recipes in many online forums. Remember to keep it simple. Look into the science behind all the ingredients you add. Make sure you’re adding short term and long term benefits. I have found vermicompost is a beneficial addition to any soil recipe.