Hey DGC!  A while back I had the honor of coming on the show and talking organic soil with Scotty.  My idea was to talk organic soil basics in part one and then walk through a cycle of growing with this style in part twoScotty and I recorded part one but we really wanted the Dude to be there so we stopped after that.  (We’ve all gotten a bit busy and haven’t recorded part two yet, but I’m still hoping to talk soil with the Dude sometime soon.)

I wrote up some notes before we talked.  We ended up just having fun chatting and not really sticking to the notes but I wanted to post them for you guys anyway.  I’m including the notes for part 2, as I’m not sure when we will get around to recording it but I thought you guys might find the info helpful.

Hit the comments if you have any questions.  I’ll try to check back regularly and answer them as best I can.

Thanks and Happy Growing!


Lets Talk Amended Living Soil with Soup! (Part 1)

  • Its not rocket science!
    • Organics can be easy!
    • I love all growing styles! If you grow plants, lets be friends!
    • I’m Soup the Gardener, not Soup the Chemist (no offense intended to chemists!)
    • I might over-simplify the science a bit to make it easier to understand
    • I’m not a soil biologist or soil chemistry expert, just a passionate nerd who loves to teach!
  • Your Media is a battery charged with nutrition!
    • Your plant drains the battery as it consumes nutrients to grow
    • Fertilizing refills the batteries
    • Microbes aid and facilitate the process
  • You’ve probably planted something in bag soil before:
    • The included nutrients will fuel growth for a while but then its time to re-fill the batteries and make a choice:
      • Bottles- aka “No Spill”
        • Liquid nutrition
        • Short term, quick availability
        • Its like baking- too much or not enough of one thing can throw the whole recipe off
        • YOU decide what she eats and how much,
        • YOU can screw that up!
      • Amended living soil- aka “No Till”
        • Topdressing!- solid amendments (nutrients + minerals) and composts
        • More long term, time release availability
        • Its like cooking- less precision required. If you are in the ballpark, it will work out and still taste pretty good.
        • YOUR PLANT decides what she eats and how much
        • YOUR MICROBES are the waiters and kitchen staff bringing her the food.

In other words,

  • “No Spill” = You determine the food and the quantity. Its up to you to get it right!
  • “No Till” = You keep the buffet well stocked and let your plant and microbes work out the details.


Having “complete control” is only good if you know what you are doing!


Mother nature has a lot more practice than I do.

I’m pretty sure she knows what she is doing more than I know what I’m doing.


Maybe the plant should do the driving?


Amended living soil walk-through (Part 2)

  • Start with a BALANCED soil
    • Quality bagged soil or custom blend
    • Coot mix/Build a soil is well tested and a good place to start!
    • Whats NOT in your soil matters as much as what is! Don’t use crap ingredients!
    • Making Soil with Soup” articles- Go read em!
    • Start with a big ol’ pot! Oversize your pots!
      • The more your oversize your pot, the bigger the “battery” you have
      • The bigger your “battery”, the harder it is to screw up. More room for error.
      • Root bound plants get grumpy, so transplant often and oversize your final pot


  • Start off with a healthy clone or seed and at least 1-2 gals of good soil.  (No solo cups plz.)
  • Compost teas and microbe products- Keeps nutrients cycling and plant available
    • Apply at least one source of microbes each week
    • more is better, but healthy diversity is best
  • IPM- Have a plan! (or plan on problems!)
    • “Intro to IPM” article– Multi-layered approach
    • Botanical washes- DEM Natural Mystik, ferments, herb teas (veg & early flower)
    • Predators-in the soil (full cycle) and in the canopy (late flower)
    • Scouting and traps- Know whos crawling/flying around in your grow!
    • you should be prepared to deal with gnats with any soil based system- nematodes +soil predators will keep them from being an issue.
  • Botanical Teas and Sprouted Seed Teas
    • Botanical teas are kinda like your various bottled additives
      • can provide bonus nutrients or natural PGRS ect depending on ingredients
    • SSTs are generally enzymes or hormone additives
      • barley sst is like Cannazyme ect.
    • You could probably use bottled additives and enzymes. (Dude style No till?)
  • Transplanting- Refills the batteries in veg
    • Do it when the plant is well rooted, but before she is root bound!
    • Root Bound = Slowed Down!  Best to avoid it.
    • Transplant to final pots at least 1-2 weeks before flowering
  • Topdressing- Refills the batteries in flower or when you are unable to transplant
    • Apply balanced nutrients with a slight slant towards what you think your plants are using at the moment.  (N in veg, P+K in flower)
    • Apply with compost or castings to help make things “plant available”
    • Seems to last 2-6 weeks depending on how much you apply, how hungry she is, etc.
    • Very forgiving, just don’t go too crazy! Start light! You can always add more.
  • Mulch- Keeps top dress layer active and available
    • If the top totally dries out, biological activity slows, nutrition delivery slows, growth slows!
    • Thin layer of much is best, too much can encourage gnats
    • Straw, woodchips, clover/living mulch- all good, each with different benefits
    • I like clover and straw
    • re-apply after topdressing



  • Transplant into final pots 1-2 weeks before flower so plant can settle in
  • alfalfa + kelp tea foliar in early flower for hormones
  • Corn sst drench for strong branching in early to mid flower (cytokinin! Also in coconut water)
  • Topdress week 1 of flower- check out build a soil topdress recipe
  • Topdress again around week 4 of flower- your last chance to add dry nutrition
  • Teas and/or microbe products weekly (until flush)



  • Your plants know whats up- (just don’t give them mixed signals)
    • They know their life cycle and will start to finish off by themselves (if you dont force feed)
      • Don’t topdress during the last month of flower-  it sends the wrong signal to your plants.
      • Gradually reduce microbe inputs (recharge) during last few weeks
      • Usually just plain water for the last two weeks but not necessarily “flushing” with tons of water
  • If you don’t put “junk” into your plants, there is no “junk” to flush out! So choose your ingredients wisely!



  • Its not really “no till” until you harvest a plant and decide to reuse your soil and not disturb the roots. (This is why I prefer to say “living organic soil” instead of “no-till”)
  • This is totally optional, just don’t throw out your soil! Its still good stuff! (I’ve used a lot of mine to start my outdoor veggie garden.)
  • “But what about the rootball?”
    • Chop the plant and wait a few days (or sometimes weeks for huge stems)
    • When its dried out and brittle, grab the stem and twist and yank
    • stem should come out and leave a nice crater behind for the next plant
    • Sometimes it doesn’t work. Plants grown from seed have a taproot and can be tricky
    • Dig out what you have to so you can replant, but disturb the soil as little as possible
    • Little roots still in the soil are full of nutrients and covered in microbes! Leave em!
  • Re-amending
    • Soil testing is the best approach for scientific results! (And its cheaper than you’d think.)
    • topdressing with a balanced mix of NPK, Ca and micros is 2nd best approach
    • Build-a-soil re-amend kit- you can buy it or use the recipe for template
    • Soil compacts after a few runs- add more peat/coco and compost to add fluffyness back


Thanks for reading/listening!