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Old 09-07-2006, 12:11 AM #1

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The re-use of our soil

Ok, everyone.This is a topic that I have been researching lately and I have just read a post in Indoor soil asking for opinions on whether or not to rejuvenate the soil or not. IMO, I think it is a very good idea. Since I do come from a family of farmers from the mid-west. There was something in the 3lb. post on this that stuck in my mind.

. "Farmer's don't strip their topsoil after a harvest - or even a few - in fact their soil is their most precious commodity - why should it be different for indoor gardening as long as proper care is taken to build healthy soil?"

I had never seen my Grandfather strip his topsoil either. So, with that said, I guess that I'm looking for some debatable input to this.
After this harvest in a couple of months, I will take my Fox Farm 20.00 a bag soil and add all the admendments and let it cook and place my precious little plants in it. Remember, that we all take this chance in the first place buying unknown soil from the store...right? So, come on everyone lets work this subject over and see what everyone thinks...good or bad.


Simple Soil Recycling by the 3LB

I am not the 3LB, but i do like the way they do things... I plan on doing 100% organics because ive been getting headaches from the hydroponic grown crap. This is an excerpt I found from another thread.

ok here goes . . .

in the beginning God made earth also variously known as soil/dirt/sand/clay/loam etc . . . and then later Miracle-it-Grows made a mockery of the term soil and this begat hydroponics (just so no one tries to take this literally and accuse the bird’s of spreading misinformation - yes we know miracle grow soil didn’t cause the rise of hydroponics - but it makes a nice introduction story!). . . and thus began the three_little_birds efforts to bring real dirt back into indoor farming . . .

Farmer's don't throw out their topsoil after a crop, so we've always found the suggestion that folks dispose of soil after every indoor crop kind of ridiculous . . . we set out to disprove those folks who said that soil needed to be disposed of and in the process we've found our soil actually grew more fertile with time and some effort!

what will it take to use your soil over and over . . . time . . .dedication . . .a willingness (and ability) to do a lil physical labor . . . our process will involve some observation on the soil makers part . . .and you'll need to do a lil thinking . . . you will have to avoid salt and chemical ferts at all costs and build a collection of boxes or containers of different organic amendments sitting around on shelves . . .

we started with a standard soil mix pretty much like everyone else . . . when choosing a beginning organic soil we look for products like FoxFarm OceanForest or Mushroom Compost (at least the "shroom post" we find) that are often more "tree fiber" based rather than built with peat moss . . . we prefer these as our primary component over soil mixes like ProMix or SunshineMix that are mostly peat which is more acidic . . . if you plan on reusing your soil just once or twice then the peat mixes will probably work fine . . . but if you hope to use your soil endlessly like at the bird's nest then we'd say not more than 50% peat based mix to 50% tree fiber mix . . .

for the first grow prior to recycling we used a more expensive potting soil mix like the FoxFarm and then mixed in about 1/3 cheap peat based organic soil mix that was mostly peat, perlite and sand . . . we grew a couple small crops from start to finish using Earth Juice organic fertilizers and dumped all the used soil in a big 50 gallon Rubbermaid tub (w/ lid) . . . when the tub was about 4/5ths full (appx. 40 gallons of used soil) we stopped adding soil and went to work . . .

that first pass on soil remixing we added bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal and dolomite lime to the used soil . . . to be quite honest our proportions have changed a lil bit over time but it was likely something in the range of 2 cups blood meal, 4 cups kelp meal, 4 cups bone meal and 4 cups of dolomite lime . . . we mixed all those ingredients into our soil and moistened and waited a month until it was time for more soil . . .

For our next grow we would have mixed in about equal proportions of fresh and remixed amended soil . . . about ½ used soil with ½ fresh new soil and perhaps a lil added perlite to make sure the soil stayed light . . . and ran that through another grow using moderate feedings with the Earth Juice ferts . . . again we collected the used soil as it finished in the 50 gallon Rubbermaid bins . . .

at this point we started using our soil as an indoor compost bin for indoor garden waste. . . we really didn’t want to dispose of our fan leaf and stem trim in the trash . . . so we began chopping our indoor garden wastes and mixing them into our soil . . . we had quite a build up of trim trash at one time and to be honest it didn’t break down that fast this first time . . . we turned the compost in that bin several times in the next couple of months to get that trim to decompose . . . it seemed like the stems never would break down . . . finally they kind of decomposed and we mixed that “composted” soil in with our normal remixed soil and thus our composted soil methods began . . .

the plants grown in that remixed soil containing compost were very strong . . . stronger still than their sisters in fresh soil and with our 50/50 fresh and used soil remix . . . so we started including some composted soil in with every mix . . . we stopped adding any fresh soil to the mix about this time as well . . . in honesty we’d run short on soil for the moment and decided to try 100% remix . . . it worked . . . and it worked well . . .

Now let’s fast forward to a day when all of the soil remix bins had just been freshly mixed and were still stabilizing . . . we were ready to move another container to our bloom room and there was plenty of our compost on hand but no soil ready . . . now if a person reads Ed Rosenthal or Cervantes they will usually see warnings against trying to grow plants in homemade compost . . . we never quite understood this since compost is great as a top dressing in the normal garden outdoors and such . . . but we were still concerned that the “experts” knew something we didn’t . . .

we filled a 2'x3' container w/ compost and transplanted the plants in simply hoping for the best . . . turns out there was no reason to worry at all . . . they grew HUGE . . . the next time we had enough indoor compost to experiment in this way again we did . . . and the results were again beyond our normal experience . . . a third “bumper crop” from pure compost convinced us that there were secrets in the soil . . .

this post is closing in on two pages in length on the word processor now . . . so it’d be best to come back with one more post describing the current state of ongoing soil recycling project at the bird’s nest . . . in concept and practice it’s actually quite simple . . . we add organic matter as available to our soil . . . amend with nutrient goodies . . . and treat it all with great care and love . . .

we’ll be back to share the love and our current soil methods . . . the secret may very well be in the soil . . . but the bird’s won’t be keeping any secrets ourselves on how our methods work . . .
wow thats alot to read lol but all great info.

Last edited by vonforne; 03-22-2007 at 02:26 AM..

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Old 09-07-2006, 12:51 AM #2

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I was thinking about removing as many roots as possible, then baking it in the oven for a while, to kill any negative bacterias or fungus,etc

Then mix it in with the new batch

Old 09-07-2006, 12:58 AM #3

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I reuse some soil. Make sure to remove as much root mass as possible. I like to let it sit for a while stewing with added beneficial fungas and bacteria and a bit of volcanic ash for minerals. Remember after the second use of a peat based mix you will need to start adding lime of some type to keep ph in check its all a learning cure. Protect or peat sorces people!!

Old 09-07-2006, 01:03 AM #4

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i doubt theres anything wrong with using your soil again as far as recycling goes , but u really need to dump it into the compost and rejuivenate it for it to become properly viable again and at its maximum potential as anyone would want ..
it is very different in the vege garden where u are constantly adding mulch and huge colonies of micro organism flourish ..
if u were to scrape the topspoil away what would u have then , and how would u replace it ?? all u need to do is add more organic material ... soil is a living thing .....

Old 09-07-2006, 02:36 AM #5

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exactly wally, and I don't think you will need to put it in the oven since you add more organic material and as you know from a compost pile it will heat up. That is why you need to turn the soil from time to time.As 3lb. states, that if you use long term organic material, mixed with short term organic material you are providing everything the soil needs to live. you just add all the organic material that is used up by the plants and give it sufficient time to start to decompose. And how would it be any different than a vege garden then?

Old 09-07-2006, 08:24 AM #6

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Great discussion Von ... keep the faith brother!

I have been growing in the same soil for years now and get better results every year. I find the same is true of my veg garden

I recently compared two clones grown side by side; one in my "remixed" soil and the other in FFOF potting soil with added perlite and nutes. The FF plant experienced difficiencies, the remix clone did not. The remix plant had twice the root mass at transplant, and later gave twice the yield at harvest. It all comes down to nutrient availability. The lasting influence of balanced organic additivies feeds a thriving herd of bacteria, mycelium, nematodes, worms, etc who in turn release a complete range of ready-to-use nutrients into the soil. Whats not to love?

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Old 09-07-2006, 03:43 PM #7

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Originally Posted by 3LB
Farmer's don't strip their topsoil after a harvest
this is misleading, by growing and harvesting biomass you are stripping the topsoil. time and processing can unlock previously unavailable nutrients but with each successive crop there will be a loss in total nutrient value unless organic matter is returned.

Last edited by SatGhost; 09-07-2006 at 04:58 PM..

Old 09-07-2006, 09:57 PM #8
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Why do you think they till the soil down a foot or so?
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Old 09-07-2006, 10:12 PM #9
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I have been reusing soil for years.... no baking, no washing... I grow my plants so that by harvest they are starving... I have several large rubbermaid tubs of soil, and it gets to 'rest' in a tub with a bit of moisture and some crushed limestone for a month or so before reuse...
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Old 09-07-2006, 10:15 PM #10
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