Q – Is it true that I only need to just water my Living Soil?
A – Yes. Our Living Soil blends contain all nutrients, minerals and microbes required for natural plant growth.
Q – How much and how often should I water my Living Soil?
A – In a 57L Geopot with 2 x 25L bags of Living Soil we recommend watering your soil lightly before planting with roughly 4 litres of clean, plain water. You should only just be able to feel moisture on the bottom of the GeoPot with the back of your hand. If there is runoff you have watered a little too much. Ensure your soil has been thoroughly moistened before planting. Plant into your ready-hydrated soil, water slightly around root ball of seedling to settle into new soil and leave alone until plant starts to show healthy new growth. Once plant looks established in your Living Soil, aim for even moisture throughout soil by using only 1 to 2 litres of water per 57L Geopot, roughly every 2 days depending on plant needs and environmental factors. Don’t water to the point of runoff. Mulch will help lower water usage and encourage beneficial microbes.
Q – What is the best type of water to use on my Living Soil?
A – We use plain water from the tap or a clean rainwater tank. Plain tap water works best if bubbled with aquarium air stones in a reservoir overnight before using. This will aerate your water and remove any chlorine via evaporation. If your water is filtered than you are good to go!
Q – How can I tell if I am over watering my Living Soil?
A – Overwatering is very common during early stages of planting. This mistake is usually made when watering in young seedlings or clones into fresh soil. You will notice drooping leaves and slow, to no growth. To minimise seedling stress from overwatering, ensure you hydrate your soil as soon as you’ve filled your pot before planting anything into it. Lightly and evenly water until pot feels a little heavier. If in a GeoPot a good indicator of perfect soil hydration is when the bottom of the pot just starts to feel moist but not wet, on the back of your hand. Once you have evenly hydrated your soil, plant seedling or clone and only lightly water for the purpose of settling rootball into new soil. If you have mulched your container you will not have to water again until seedling shows healthy new growth. Aim for even moisture and no run-off.
Q – How can I tell if I am under watering my Living Soil?
A – Growth will slow down and even stop. The top layer of soil will be dry and crusty with minimal microbial activity noticeable. This will lead to a hydrophobic soil that will be difficult to re-hydrate. Aloe should be used at 10ml/L to penetrate dry pockets and re-hydrate soil. Underwatering can harm microbes, requiring topdressing of wormcastings or a Living Soil Topdress Blend and watered in with Aloe, Amino-Tech or a botanical tea with Neem and Kelp meal. Any of these remedies will feed bacteria and fungi critical for nutrient cycling in a living organic soil eco-system.
Q – What does IPM mean and why is it beneficial to the plants in my Living Soil?
A – IPM or integrated pest management is a process you can use to build plant resistance against pests and disease while minimising risk to people and the environment. It encourages beneficial microbes and predatory insects while inhibiting pest’s ability to eat and breed. It’s a strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage and promotes an ultimately balanced, living organic eco-system.
Q – How often do I use the IPM kit for my foliar spray?
A – Once per week for prevention and every 3 days for an outbreak. Make sure you’ve covered every square centimetre of foliage with your IPM solution.
Q – What time of day should I apply my IPM foliar spray to my garden?
A – At sundown or when your lights switch off indoors. Do not spray your plants under direct light as they will burn.
Q – What type and size of container should I use with my Living Soil?
A – For use in containers we recommend a minimum of 50L volume for each fast-growing annual plant. If you exceed the number of fast-growing annuals per 50L pot by more than 1, less than satisfactory performance may be observed. This is due to not enough soil biology necessary to meet the demands of your plants. Set yourself up for success from the start and if planting nutrient-hungry, fast-growing annuals, ensure there is at least 50L of soil to more than meet its needs. Success in no-till organic growing is directly relative to the volume of soil you have to work with. Try to use the rule above as a minimum and bear in mind that as you increase this volume, so too will the performance of your crops. We recommend fabric pots which encourage an aerobic environment in the root zone. The microbes we want in the soil food web thrive in aerobic environments so when using containers this is a no-brainer. We like to use GeoPots as they are very high quality and will last for years.
Q – Can I put seeds or clones directly in my Living Soil?
A – Yes, there are no “hot” components or artificial fertilisers in Living Soil blends. You can successfully germinate seeds, plant seedlings or clones and grow all the way to harvest in the same soil!
Q – Will this work for all of my plants?
A – Living Soil blends are designed for fast growing, annual crops that prefer a bacterially dominant soil. All vegetables and herbs will grow to their full potential in this soil mix.
Q – How do I ensure my Living Soil is completely hydrated before planting into it?
A – Living Soil mixes are slightly more dry out of the bag than what is recommended for plant growth. When you first fill container or raised bed with your Living Soil, it should be evenly and slowly watered with Aloe at 10ml/L to allow high levels of saponins to penetrate all dry pockets. Allow 24 hours prior to planting for moisture to fully hydrate soil to optimum levels. Use this same technique for re-hydrating and re-using Living Soil that has been left to dry out for too long. Watch this excellent video by Jeremy Silva of Build-a-Soil that demonstrates in detail how to properly water your new soil. He uses a yucca extract to penetrate soil that may have become a little hydrophobic in bag, however the Living Soil Aloe product also contains huge levels of saponins to deliver a similar hydrating effect.
Q – I just planted into my Living Soil for the first time, and my plants don’t look very healthy… what could be the problem?
A – 9 times out of 10, any issues will be related to moisture levels in soil from either under or over-watering. Ensure you have hydrated soil correctly and use Aloe at 5-10ml/L for it’s hydrating effect. Check to see you have not overwatered by lifting the pot and looking for excess moisture at the bottom of pot. If environmental conditions are good and the pot is heavier than when you first watered, most likely this is the problem. Leave alone and wait a few days for the soil moisture to reduce to optimal levels. Living Soil thrives and functions optimally as an aerobic ecosystem. The microbes in Living Soil prefer a healthy, oxygen-rich environment to effectively break down organic matter and exchange nutrient ions with your plant. If you starve your Living Soil container of oxygen, these microbes cannot do their job effectively and will even begin to encourage harmful anaerobic bacteria.
A – A botanical tea is a liquid suspension of beneficial properties from nutrient accumulating plant material, in this case neem and kelp meal. Per 20L of water, simply add ½ cup of neem meal and ¼ cup of kelp meal. Aerate with an aquarium bubbler for 24 hours and water your plants. Feed the left over plant material at the bottom of the bucket to your worm bin or compost pile. By using neem meal in a tea, not only do you benefit from the naturally balanced nutrient profile to feed your plant and soil, azadirachtin and many other limonoids which are present in abundance are spread deep into the soil to help fight pests or disease that may be present. Many pest resisting compounds in neem are taken up by the plant for powdery mildew and pest resistance. Raw Kelp Meal contains balanced macronutrients, over 60 minerals and contains many secondary plant metabolites due to minimal processing. Some of the growth promoting hormones contained in raw kelp meal include cytokinins, alginic acid, mannitol, auxins and gibberellins. This is far superior to any liquid or soluble kelp product available. This simple yet powerful combination of 2 raw plant amendments is highly beneficial to any organic garden.
Q – How often do I apply teas to my Living Soil?
A – Once per fortnight is optimal.
Q – When do I plant my Cover Crop seeds?
A – Cover crop seeds should be planted in between or even at the beginning of a crop cycle to fix nitrogen and feed soil microbes via their root exudates.
Q – Do I need to cut down my Cover Crop?
A – Depending on the crop you are growing, you may have to chop if it becomes tall and dense enough to start shading your main plants. If growing larger, fast growing annuals you will find that it will naturally die off in the shade of the canopy. Your cover crop is storing valuable nutrients within its biomass and will add these to the soil as a mulch once dead.
Q – Can I transplant from a synthetically fertilised container into my Living Soil?
A – This is not recommended. You will see incredible results when planting a seedling, clone or even germinating your seed directly into your final container. A plant grown with artificial fertilisers will not be used to attracting microbes for food and will have a difficult time adjusting to a new and living, soil food web. Further to this, the salts from the original fertilised root ball may harm living organisms in your soil which could be detrimental to the health of the soil biology as well as the plant.
Try to minimise transplants to avoid disturbance of the soil food web organisms. Roots,Fungal hyphae, bacteria, nematodes, protozoa, earthworms and soil mites have been building soil structure to create a perfect ecosystem for your plant to grow in.
Q – What organic liquid extracts can I use as additives to boost health with my Living Soil?
A – A number of organic teas and additives can be used to enhance growth by feeding microbes and adding natural growth promoting hormones. Aloe contains many beneficial enzymes and plant hormones that boost immune health and soil life. Fish Hydrolysate is in excellent fungal food and natural chelating agent. Silica builds cell wall strength, improving photosynthesis and overall robust plant health. Neem is useful for pest prevention due to countless limonoids that inhibit pest feeding and breeding. Many liquid extracts can be used, as long as the extract is natural and designed for plant use.
Q – Should I use additional fertilisers or nutrients with my Living Soil?
A – Do not use any synthetic liquid fertilisers. Synthetic liquid fertilisers will only harm soil microbiology due to salt content and are counterproductive to the ultimate goal of creating a living soil food web in your container or raised bed. We want to leave the job of feeding the plant to the soil biology.
Q – Do I need anything special for the different phases of the plant’s life from seed to harvest?
A – Plants grown in a Living Soil food web are in control and have a huge bank of all nutrients and minerals needed to thrive. No special timing for plant cycles are needed as the plant will determine its own physiological changes as it needs. However we can assist these changes with topdressing and or botanical teas prior to flowering. Freshly ground malted barley fortnightly throughout the plant’s lifecycle to speed up harvest times. You can topdress it and water in with fulvic acid for a huge enzyme boost. Malted barley contains the enzymes amylase, phosphatase and others that break down nutrients as well as chitinase which is useful in preventing pest larvae from hatching and maturing. See our Malted Barley with application instructions.
Q – Do I need to flush my plants with my Living Soil?
A – No. All nutrients are stored in the soil due to a high cation exchange capacity and high levels of microbiology. You do not want to flush these out!
Q – I’m a total beginning gardener, do I need anything other than my Living Soil to have great harvests?
A – You can have a successful harvest with only our soil, a 15 gallon pot and fresh water! When you see how easy this is we can help you step up the performance of your organic Living Soil with teas and topdressings.
Q – Where do the worms come from?
A – Living Soil mixes are blended with worm castings which contain many cocoons and the occasional worm. The cocoons will hatch and worms will mature. These are extremely beneficial to the overall health of a Living Soil food web.
Q – Where do my Living Soil’s ingredients come from?
A – All Living Soil ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible. We pride ourselves on being a socially conscious and environmentally ethical company and will support our local and sustainable organic industry as much as we can.
Q – I’m not going to be gardening for a little while, how do I keep my Living Soil alive?
A – You can plant some cover crop seeds and leave outside with a very occasional watering. tip into some heavy duty wheelie bins or food grade storage tubs. Poke a few small holes in the lid for ventilation as you do not want the soil to become anaerobic. Make sure the soil does not completely dry out or you will need to re-hydrate with Aloe prior to planting.
Q – My Living Soil will be in storage for a long period, how do I keep my Living Soil alive?
A – Sell it to a friend and change their lives forever. Or tip into some heavy duty wheelie bins or food grade storage tubs. Poke a few small holes in the lid for ventilation as you do not want the soil to become anaerobic. Make sure the soil does not completely dry out.
Q – How often and how much should I use the Topdress Blend in my Living Soil?
A – Topdress Blend should be used every 1 to 2 months, depending on crop demands and environment. ½ to 1 inch layer on top of soil, covered in a light mulch layer is a good amount to use.
Q – Is there an ideal temperature to help my Living Soil thrive?
A – This is crop dependant. If temperatures do not get below freezing you can grow winter crops and the soil will perform great.
Q – How deep should my mulch layer be?
A – In fresh soil, do not layer your mulch more than a centimetre or 2 as it is not yet established and the soil food web needs to be balanced. Too much of anything in early stages of growing in Living Soil can invite fungus gnats and other un-wanted pests, as well as creating unhealthy, anaerobic conditions in the rhizosphere.
Q – My mulch layer is getting moldy, is this OK?
A – Clusters of white mycelium can be seen when your soil is first used. This mycelium becomes visible in the mulch layer from beneficial fungi in your soil beginning to break down organic matter. This is a good sign that your Living Soil is indeed… living.
Q – Why do you recommend Geopots and what is Air Pruning?
A – Living Soil requires aerobic conditions to foster the critically important soil food web inside your container. GeoPots promote an aerobic environment through a breathable fabric. When roots hit the edge of the pot they grow new shoots instead of circling around the pot and becoming root bound. In long term, no-till, organic growing, this is a winning container.