Full disclosure- Grassroots provided the beds for this article at my request. I met the team from Grassroots at the Emerald Cup in 2019 and I was really impressed with their products. I thought the crew would enjoy seeing how to set one up, so I contacted Grassroots and they were happy to provide me with a few beds so I can show the DGC what they are all about. Thanks GrassRoots! – Soup
Living Soil Beds are Awesome!
As I’ve said in previous soil articles, your soil is your battery and with a living soil grow, your soil volume is really important. If you’re planning on relying on your soil to feed your plant all the way to harvest, you need a nice big battery to hold all that nutrition. Any pot 15 gal or larger can work, but if you really want an EASY living soil experience, soil beds are the way to go.
A bed of soil provides a sizable battery your plants can draw from. With large beds of well balanced soil, you can often grow for multiple harvests without needing to amend the soil at all. This large volume of soil helps buffer both nutrition and pH. This helps keep things growing smoothly with minimal work from the grower. Keeping a large bed going for multiple runs with minimal disruption gives the soil microbial community time to grow and develop. I could talk all day about why living soil beds are great, but the bottom line is… They are a fun and easy way to grow great bud! The hardest part is getting started, and it isn’t even that hard!
I’ve actually had soil beds in my grow room before. My first beds were some low quality fabric beds that I put directly on the cement floor in my grow room. As you can imagine, putting the beds directly on the floor turned out to be a mistake. Having the wet fabric sitting on the cold cement definitely wasn’t ideal for the root zone, and having run off from the beds going directly on the floor created all kinds of messy issues. I had some good fun with those old beds, but this time around I really wanted better quality beds, and to set them up RIGHT. Step one was getting the beds up off the floor. For this I decided to build some rolling stands and put the beds on wheels.
I was also really excited to try GrassRoots’ new Living Soil beds. One issue I noticed with my old beds was that the sides of the bed dried out a lot faster than the center of the bed. This air pruning on the sides makes sense when you are watering in nutrients, but with living soil it isn’t ideal. With a living soil grow, we want most of the soil to stay slightly moist all the time. The smart people at GrassRoots noticed this issue, and they developed their new Living Soil Beds (with “MoistureLock Liner”) as a solution. The extra layer of plastic allows for air pruning to happen at the BOTTOM of the pot, without overly drying out the sides.
Learn more about GrassRoots Living Soil Pots and Beds
The living soil liner is just one of the reasons these beds are really cool. They really are a well made product and a well thought out design. I am genuinely impressed with both the quality of the beds, and the amount of thought GrassRoots put into the design.
But before I get distracted talking about the beds, lets talk about the rolling tray stands.
Rolling Tray Stands
To get the beds off the ground, I decided to put each bed in a tray, and put each tray on a wheeled frame. I really like keeping things flexible in my grow, and putting the beds on wheels allows me to move them around if needed. I poked around to see what other growers were using, and I saw a few other growers using metal frames made of some stuff called unistrut.
I really liked this design, but when I looked for unistrut locally it was only available in huge quantities or in super long pieces I would have to cut myself. I’m not really experienced cutting metal or working with this sort of stuff, so I was concerned about making it work. Then I found a place online selling pre cut pieces that seemed like they would work perfectly, and surprisingly the shipping was free!
To hold the strut frame together, I ordered some of these channel nuts:
And these bolts:
The channel nuts and bolts hold the black strut pieces together to make the frame.
And then comes the wheels:
Important Note about wheels– Make sure to get wheels strong enough to support the weight of whatever you’re rolling. I used these because I had a bunch of them laying around from a previous project. I have no idea what they are rated for, but its probably lower than recommended. I’ve used them for lots of other projects and I’m confident they can take the weight, but proceed with them at your own risk! I am also using 6 wheels instead of 4 to help spread the weight around a little more.
There are lots of other caster wheel options on Amazon, Zoro and at your local hardware store, so get yourself something good! Make sure your wheels can take the weight and consider getting larger diameter wheels, which will make your bed easier to roll.
The wheels are attached by two long bolts secured with some nuts and a big washer. I brought one of the channel struts and a wheel to my local hardware store and the helpful dude in the screw and bolt department helped me figure it out. Check out the picture of the wheel above to see the setup we used to attach the wheels to the frame. Thanks helpful hardware store guy!
All screwed together it looks like this:
Next comes the tray. I used “low profile” 3×3 flood trays, available at most hydro shops for around $50 each. I filled each tray with a bag of large pumice to help aid in drainage. Pumice is similar to perlite but the pieces are much stronger. This allows it to hold up better to the weight of the soil on top without getting crushed.
That’s the trays and rolling stands covered, now let’s build some beds!
GrassRoots Living Soil Beds
The kind folks at GrassRoots provided me with two of their 3×3 Living Soil Beds with the optional trellis add on. They are available in lots of other sizes, and can even do custom orders. The folks at the Grassroots factory can make whatever size or shape of bed you could want. Many of the standard sized beds are actually a little bit smaller than their listed size, which allows them fit into standard size trays. This makes it easy to put them inside a flood tray or a grow tent.
The beds are made of super thick fabric. It’s basically the same stuff your standard fabric pots are made of, but THICKER. They are very well constructed, and you can tell GrassRoots put in a lot of effort to make these beds durable and long lasting. The stitching is top notch, and the materials all seem super strong and designed to last for years, even under harsh conditions.
The beds come with the corner pvc joints, but you have to supply your own straight PVC pieces. It’s not hard to buy some pvc at the hardware store and cut it yourself, and doing it this way makes the shipping a lot more affordable.
The optional trellis kit adds another set of joint pieces that allow you to add upright poles and create a trellis system above your bed. This is a really nice optional feature, and I definitely recommend it!
The beds were really easy to assemble and they came with great directions. I’m not going to go over the whole process, but here’s some pictures of the unboxing and assembly process to give you a taste:
I am super excited to grow in these beds! I’m really happy with them and I can’t wait to get them filled with soil and full of plants!
Huge “Thank You!” to GrassRoots for supplying the beds and giving me this opportunity to show them off to the DGC!
Stay tuned for more! Soon I will be filling these bad boys up with soil and getting them ready for blast off!