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Living soil at The Green Organic Dutchman’s growing facility

Do you know what living soil is?

You may have heard of the term in relation to sustainable agriculture, or even in growing organic cannabis. It’s a relatively new term, but the concept of cultivating cannabis this way is far older—in fact, it has occurred naturally for thousands of years. 

Things changed when, in order to keep up with the demand, indoor cultivation, synthetic mediums, hydroponics, aeroponics, and other industrial growing methods became more popular.

Today, most commercial growers don’t grow cannabis in living soil. But those who know their cannabis—the pundits and connoisseurs, the mindful cultivators and meticulous consumers—prefer it.

There’s a reason for this, of course. Let’s start with what living soil is.

What is Living Soil?

To the naked eye, the soil is unassuming. We see living things grow on the soil—plants, animals, and people—but not what grows in it.

Under the microscope, the soil has a rich and diverse ecosystem that’s teeming with life. From beneficial bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, protozoa, anthropods, nematodes, and other microbes, these microorganisms break down organic matter that in turn, produce nutrients plants need to grow. This symbiotic relationship between plants and microbes makes the soil not an inert medium, but a living, thriving ecosystem!

A healthy, certified-organic cannabis plant grown by The Green Organic Dutchman

Isn’t All Soil Alive?

Yes, all soil is alive—to a certain degree. But it can degrade because of several factors, one of which is human activity. 

Intensive farming practices, overgrazing, and deforestation among other disturbances can leave the soil bare. Bare soil can’t retain moisture. Without moisture, both plants and microorganisms can’t survive. Bare soil is also more prone to erosion, which means whatever nutrients it is carrying can easily be (or might have already been) swept away.

The introduction of too many chemicals can also kill the soil. Besides, just because it came from the ground doesn’t mean it has the right pH levels or enough nutrients to sustain a cannabis plant and make it thrive.

Can you grow cannabis in commercial soil? Sure you can. 
Most commercial soils have sufficient nutrients that can support the growth of cannabis for three to four weeks. However, it would most likely be depleted by the time your plant starts to flower.

Remember: just like other living things, the soil is a moving, growing, and changing (albeit slowly) living thing that needs air, water, and nutrients to stay alive and support plant life. This can only be achieved if there are microbes in the soil.

The Benefits of Growing Cannabis in Living Soil

Living soil is about diversity which makes it a great medium to grow cannabis. So what makes living soil a more well-rounded option than other types of soil?

Living Soil Has a Structure That Supports Root Development

The beauty of any plant, cannabis included, starts at the roots. It is essential for their growth, flowering, and yield. 

The primary purpose of the roots is to provide the entire plant not just with water and nutrients, but also with oxygen. When the soil is too compact—which is often the problem with heavier soils like loam and clay—the roots will have a hard time penetrating and growing into the soil. 

Because of this, the plant won’t develop sufficient roots to help it absorb water and nutrients needed for growth. The result? An inferior plant and a decreased yield.

Living soil, on the other hand, has a naturally loose structure that’s easy for the roots to penetrate. Because the roots get sufficiently oxygenated, the development of a robust root system is encouraged leading to the plant’s optimal growth.

Where does living soil’s loose structure come from? 

Its “looseness” can be attributed to the bacteria, fungi, and microbes present in the soil. As microorganisms go about their job breaking down plant debris and processing organic matter, they also excrete dead microbial cells which contribute to the soil’s structure. 

Cannabis grown in living soil produces healthier, higher-yielding crops.

A sample of living soil being held in a glass test tube

No Need to Use Inorganic Fertilizers

Cannabis plants need nutrients like nitrogen to grow. Although there’s plenty of nitrogen in the air, it’s not in a form cannabis plants can use. It must undergo a chemical change called “fixation” to alter its molecular structure and make it usable by plants.

To provide the necessary nitrogen needed by cannabis plants, some growers use fertilizers that contain nitrite and ammonia which have potentially toxic effects on humans.

Certain beneficial bacteria in living soil, on the other hand, can convert atmospheric nitrogen into fixed nitrogen. Microbes also eat and digest compounds that create bioavailable fertilizers eliminating the need to use synthetic nutrient solutions. 

That means cannabis grown in living soil is clean and safe because it has fewer chances of being contaminated by toxins and heavy metals from synthetic fertilizers.

The Qualities of Different Cannabis Strains Are Expressed to the Fullest

Because living soil is all-natural, unexposed to artificial fertilizers, the cannabis can express its unique qualities—the flavour, aroma, and psychoactive effects—to the fullest. This is the reason why connoisseurs prefer cannabis grown in living soil.

Crafting Certified Organically-Grown Cannabis at TGOD

Follow us on social media to learn more about our organic growing best practices, or ask your budtender about TGOD’s sustainably and certified organically grown cannabis products.