As a lifelong ‘soilless medium’ grower who has recently transitioned over to the living soil method, it is hard for me to contain my excitement in sharing with others what I have experienced over the past year. Investing the time to learn this new method has paid off more than I could have ever expected. Not only my plants but, frankly, my life as a grower has been transformed by choosing this path. Let me tell you how.
1. Effective, natural and easy pathogen prevention
I have been growing cannabis in the Lower Mainland of B.C. where some of the best bud in the world is grown. This is where I learned my skills as a hydroponic and soilless medium grower. One of the biggest problems that cannabis growers are faced within this region are pests, like thrips and spider mites, and pathogens like powdery mildew and botrytis. Any growers reading this know just how bad it sucks to find the tell-tale signs of powdery mildew on your crop and how much work is involved in getting rid of this problem.
Well, let me tell you a story. Powdery mildew (PM), thrips…nothing scares me like it used to. In the past months, I have seen all sorts of pests and pathogens bite the dust thanks to the natural resilience of building a living ecosystem in my soil, ready to devour mold spores, pest eggs, and even full adult pests. There is nothing too nasty that my living soil pots and beds can’t take once I have loaded it up with the right flora and fauna.
I will never forget what it was like when a tiny thrip issue developed, knowing that they would be everywhere else in my room by the end of the cycle unless I treated them with something harsh.
Now, when I notice a touch of thrip damage on a clone, I don’t have to wait before planting in the main room. No time wasted, no costly chemical-based treatments…nothing. I just plant those babies because I know that the predator bugs that are waiting for them in my bed will have a feast as soon as they land!
The same goes for mold spores—you can add little helpers that eat those too! It is amazing to see how PM can no longer devastate a whole room at the rate that it does in a sterile environment. Losing an entire room to mold would be unthinkable now because I have time to spot the issue and quarantine the plants in question before the mold gets everywhere because the spread is slowed substantially by the flora and fauna that is already thriving on my plants and substrate.
2. Low cost, low effort, high sustainability
This is a big one—in particular for those of us that are part-time home growers with full-time jobs and a life. Growing your own is rewarding no matter what method you choose, but it is nice when you can do it with the least amount of cost and effort while staying green. No-till organic living soil is by far the least costly and least labour-intensive method of growing I have ever experienced. As a patient with some mobility issues, this was a real lifesaver for me.
‘Soilless medium’ growers tend to choose aerated peat moss or coco coir. Every time I would get a pest or a pathogen and/or every time I had a nutrient or pH imbalance, I would have to throw out all of my growing medium. This was costly, labour-intensive, and bad for the environment.
Today, I have been using the same soil mix for over a year and my harvests only get healthier and more resilient. However, the most exciting part is that I no longer need to buy fertilizer. That’s right, I never have to buy feed again thanks to the fact that I have learned to allow my garden to produce its own feed, naturally through the use of self-generating flora and fauna. Sure, sometimes I have to use some food scraps to make a tea or a top dress, or order in some extra bugs to repopulate a particular type of living component to my soil, but even with these considerations, it costs essentially nothing to feed my plants.
Because I give my plant bed mostly just water for the majority of the plant life cycle, this makes it easy for me to set up drip systems that will not get plugged up with water-soluble nutrients, improving the reliability of these systems and reducing another big chunk of my workload.
There are too many advantages in terms of cost and labour reduction to cover in this short article but believe me, my life is completely changed on this front, allowing me to keep my hard-earned cash and leaving me with more time and energy to spend on other things.
3. Amazing quality without sacrificing quantity
Do you remember the first time you smoked truly high-quality cannabis? Well, that’s what I’m used to day-to-day now that I have switched to letting Mother Nature do that hard part for me.
I know what it takes to grow the best quality cannabis in a sterile environment where you must control every feed and environmental parameter perfectly in order to consistently and reliably obtain high-quality results. This is why high-grade cannabis is hard to find and expensive to buy.
That is over for me. My organic no-till living soil setup delivers the best quality I have ever experienced, hands down. It took me from being a mediocre grower to immediately competing with the best. And the secret to that is simple. It’s not really me doing it. I am letting Mother Nature do the bulk of the work and she knows how to do things that no human can do.
And don’t believe anyone telling you that just because living soil produces the stinkiest of nugs that you have to sacrifice on yield. Effectively, while your living soil is still in the process of breaking down, adding living teas instead of traditional water-soluble fertilizers is the best and only way to match the weights of other modern growing methods. This is true.
But now that my soil has broken down fully, I have managed to obtain similar—and sometimes even higher—yield from this system WITHOUT BUYING NUTRIENTS.
I know, it sounds crazy but it works, and you will be amazed at just how good cannabis can get when you unlock the full potential of your cannabis genetics with living soil.
About the author: Adolfo Gonzalez is a life-long cannabis grower, breeder, writer, researcher, and community organizer. He is the co-founder of CannaReps, a globally recognized cannabis education company. CannaReps is famous for creating and delivering the Cannabis Sommelier program to an international audience, with the most recent addition of the ‘Living Soil at Home’ course, which is created and delivered by master grower Mike Cyzchij.