Living Soil

Hydroponic systems grow like crazy, but living soil will give you healthier, tastier plants and more consistent results for less money.

Living Soil is an ecosystem

Living Soil is the ultimate way to garden organically. The goal is to recreate the most perfect natural conditions for your plants that could possibly occur in nature in a controlled environment. You will find that your plants are bigger, healthier, have better nutrient density, and produce better tasting fruit than any other method of gardening.

When you grow in living soil, you are not only nourishing your plants, but also the entire ecosystem that lives in the soil. You will find that with proper care, you can grow healthier plants with comparable growth rates to a hydroponic system, but with far fewer repeating input costs. The Living Soil ecosystem also tends to be naturally disease resistant, minimizing the need for pesticides.

What is Living Soil?

Living soil is a large community of living organisms linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Every teaspoon of soil is home to billions of microorganisms—bacteria, fungi, nematodes, insects, and earthworms that all have important roles to play in the success of your plants.

This community of organisms in living soil works together to break down organic matter in soil which, in turn, provides valuable nutrition to your plants. This no-till soil functions as its own ecosystem, feeding itself and the plants that grow from it through a food web of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms and anthropoids.

  • Bacteria and fungi break down dead plant and animal tissue which become nutrients for plants.

  • Nematodes eat plant material and other soil organisms, releasing nutrients in their waste.

  • Specialized mycorrhizal fungi form symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationships with plants. The fungi bring hard-to-reach nutrients and water directly to plant roots (sometimes directly into the plant's cells), and the plants provide the fungi with carbohydrates.

  • Worms and insects shred and chew organic material into smaller bits bacteria and fungi can easily access.

  • Garden earthworms burrow and create pathways in soil that fill with air and water for plant roots.

The route of decomposition:
  1. Organic matter collects on the ground where decomposers like bacteria and fungi break it down.

  2. Next, organisms like nematodes and protozoa come along and feed on the bacteria, fungi, etc.

  3. Then, small insects come and feast on the nematodes and protozoa until small animals consume those insects.

  4. At every stage, the organisms are excreting waste organic matter for the decomposers to eat, beginning the cycle over again.

Meet your soil

Bacteria are single-cell microorganisms that are present in all types of soil, but their populations diminish with the increase of soil depth. Though bacteria can live under starvation and dehydration conditions they reproduce quickly when optimal water, food, and environmental conditions exist. Having a diverse bacterial population increases soil productivity and crop yields over time, while also assisting in decomposition.

Actinomycetes are similar to bacteria and fungi, but do not have the chitin and cellulose found in the cell walls of fungi. The deeper your soil, the more actinomycetes will be found as their numbers increase in the presence of decomposing organic matter. Temperatures between 77°F and 86°F are ideal for actinomycetes growth and the most commonly found are thermoactinomyces and streptomyces which help prevent molds, mildew, and other soil pathogens.

Fungi are second only to bacteria in their abundance in soil and the quality of the soil has a direct effect on their numbers. They are found in all soils and have filamentous mycelium, composed of hyphae. The quality and quantity of organic inputs present in soil have a direct effect on fungal numbers. Degradation of organic matter along with help in soil aggregation are the main functions of fungi in soil. Additionally, certain species of fungi produce substances similar to humics in soil which improve nutrient uptake in the root zone. Some fungi also aid in the mobilization of soil phosphorus and nitrogen into plants — two of the three most important macronutrients your plants need.

Establishing roots becomes much less challenging when mycorrhizal fungi are introduced. “Myco – rhizal” literally means “fungus – root” and describes the mutually beneficial relationship between the plant root and fungus. These specialized fungi colonize plant roots and extend far into the soil to acquire resources beyond the “nutrient depletion zone” that plants can’t access alone. Mycorrhizal fungal filaments in the soil are truly living extensions of plant root systems and are more effective in nutrient and water absorption than the roots themselves as hyphae, or fungal roots, grow much faster and longer than the roots of the plant itself. This essentially expands the surface area of the plant root allowing for increased access to nutrients, water, and oxygen.

Benefits of Living Soil

Some of the benefits of using living soil include easier absorption of nutrients by plant roots, reduced watering frequency, limited erosion, improved aeration and additional protection against more dangerous pests.

Living Soil can be reused over and over
Living Soil allows for the grower to reuse soil for many years, saving them money on labor, fertilizer, and growing media. Your living soil will improve over time as the microbes cycle nutrients and build soil structure. It's important to remember that each time you harvest a plant, you're removing nutrients and organic matter from the soil. Those will need to be replaced each cycle. Guano  or worm castings  are extremely popular organic choices.

Living Soil is naturally pest resistant (fewer pesticides needed, if any)
Nature has a way of keeping everything in balance. Growing in living soil is the most natural way to grow possible. By keeping the beneficial microorganisms in your soil healthy, they will naturally fight off many harmful pests. 

Healthier plants are more disease resistant plants
Your plant and the microorganisms in your soil have evolved together over thousands of years. They have evolved to work together to create a symbiotic relationship that nurtures both plant and soil. This ecosystem has long since purged any weakness from the system. 

Better tasting, more nutritious fruit and veg
Hydroponics is excellent at creating large fruits and high yields, but it isn't always the best at creating the tastiest fruits. Often the plant doesn't have the full balance of micronutrients that soil provides that creates the rich flavors filled with nutrients that we associate with home grown vegetables. Better access to the full spectrum of nutrients in the soil means more nutritious foods. 

Better Terpine production 
Terpines are those magic compounds that are mainly responsible for flavor profiles. Living soil tends to be better than most other growing methods in producing these delicious and aromatic compounds.