By Molly McCarthy
By now, you probably know that organic is often considered the gold standard of food, beverages, and even herbal medicine (including cannabis and hemp!). Labeling something as organic means that it was grown without harmful pesticides or fertilizers that could compromise the plant or its environment.
There is a step further than organic that we can go in order to truly produce the best possible crops, while also protecting the integrity of their environment. That step is using a no-till practice to create living soil!
What is Living Soil?
Living soil is created when, instead of tilling soil to prepare it for a new crop, you simply leave the soil undisturbed so it can maintain all of its glorious bacteria, fungi, worms, insects, and everything that makes up the complex ecosystem of the soil. By maintaining all of these living organisms, you bring the soil to life!
These soil organisms are incredibly important to the overall health of the soil, so it is imperative that they are kept intact! Soil organisms play a vital role in breaking down organic material and incorporating it into the soil. This organic material provides a steady stream of nutrients to current and future plants, which reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
Ever heard the saying: “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it?” That’s exactly what we’re doing when we create living soil and allow nature to do its work and support plants through natural processes.
What Are the Benefits of Living Soil?
• It produces organic crops due to the lack of need for fertilizers or pesticides.
• It reduces the risk of soil erosion by keeping structure of soil intact.
• It increases water retention, and therefore saves water.
• It sequesters, or holds in carbon, which is far better for the environment than the massive amounts of carbon that are released into the environment when soil is tilled.
• It creates a higher terpene and biodynamic plant. Terpenes are the fragrant oils that give hemp its smell and flavor, and are a vital part of any full-spectrum product, highly contributing to the “entourage effect” by working in tandem with cannabinoids.
Overall, living soil is better for us because it creates more nutrient dense plants that will be more effective, and it is also better for the actual plants because it gives them the natural substances that they need to thrive, rather than loading them up with bottled nutrients and pesticides.
How Can You Create Living Soil in Your Own Garden?
You can incorporate living soil into your own garden for healthier plants! All you need is a good base mix and some added nutrients.
An easy base mix is equal parts peat moss, an aeration material, and compost.
• 1 part peat moss - peat moss is very absorbent and retains water very well.
• 1 part aeration - materials like pumice and rice hulls are used to increase aeration and drainage.
• 1 part compost - compost is high in organic matter and nutrients.
Then you need to add the necessary nutrients and micro-nutrients! These are measured by cubic foot of soil, so their amounts depend on the amount of base mix you have.
Per cubic foot you must add:
• 1/2 cup kelp meal
• 1/2 cup neem cake
• 1/2 cup crustacean meal
• 2 cups basalt rock dust
• 1 cup gypsum dust
• 1 cup oyster shell flour
Mix all of these materials together and let them sit for 2-4 weeks to allow the soil organisms to begin breaking down nutrients into the soil!
Plants are only as good as the soil they are grown in, so instead of feeding plants directly, try feeding the soil! Living soil is the new gold standard because it is easier, more efficient, and creates better products than other forms of agriculture!