Firstly this guide only applies to our living soil product. Don't try to apply this to other brands of living soil as it may cause issues for you. Why does this only apply to our soil? Because the water holding capacity of our soil is far superior to almost any other soil you can purchase. Thus, you will most likely be under watering another soil if you use this guide. If you do use this guide for another living soil product, don't get mad if your plants die. :)
Unfortunately grower's have been using other inferior brands of living soil for far to long. They get use to the fact that those soils will need excessive amounts of water, and they think this is just how it is. It is not. Using gallons of water and getting runoff is not normal. At least with our soil.
Let me give you a recent example from a customer. They are using 30 gallon containers, with brand new soil straight from the bag, they have added worms, and cover crop. Because they were use to inferior brands of soil they were watering a little over 1 gallon each watering. They sent me pics, and the plants looked good enough, but I could tell that they would be healthier with less water. I advised them to cut back to watering Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with ½ gallon of water each watering. Within a week or so the plants were standing up tall, and they were lush and green. With our living soil, less water is more.
Our soil is designed to retain water, and as it ages the watering holding capacity will dramatically increase. For example, I have some 25 gallon containers that are going on 4 years old, it's actually the newest soil I possess, when plants are in full flower in those containers I will give them 48 to 56 ounces of water per watering Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. When the plants are smaller and vegging they will get anywhere from 36 to 42 ounces per watering Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That's it. Never anymore.
Those are some random numbers I'm throwing out at you, but it's based off how much water is in a solo cup, depending on how much you fill the cup up. I usually fill the cups a few ounces away from the top.
There are many caveats to the amounts that I have given you. Most importantly is the humidity in your grow room or greenhouse. I have noticed in Oklahoma, where it is humid as fuck, we are watering even less than that sometimes. The plants are not transpiring as much water as say high up in the Rockies where the humidity is 10%, and the soil is not evaporating as much water. We have some customers in humid climates, with solid VPD, watering twice per week. Even that has surprised me, and I spent years trying to make a soil that would do this very thing. Go figure.
The next caveat is air temperature. Obviously the warmer it gets, the more water your plants are going to need. This is less of an issue the larger the amount of soil the plant is in. A soil bed is going to retain more water than a 30 gallon container. Also the size of your plant can play a role in how much water is needed. A larger plant will need more water to grow properly, but it will also shade the soil from sunlight, and slow down evaporation from beneath. Again, less is more, and you can always add more water. It's kind of impossible to take it away.
If you are outdoors the wind can also play a role in how much water is needed. The wind can be similar to the sun, and drive water from your plants and soil. When combined, humidity, sun, and wind, can make it so that you are watering everyday outside. It's just the nature of the beast. Especially deep into the summer.
The age of our no-till living soil indoors will play a huge role in how much water you will need to use. The first cycle will use the most water, and each cycle after that will be less, and less, until it peaks at the least amount of water needed somewhere after 1 to 1.5 years of soil use indoors. I have found after 3 to 5 cycles indoors you will be able to be pretty consistent with how much water you will be giving your plants from there on out. Outdoors the seasons are going to play the biggest factor in how much water to use. The age of soil outdoors isn't as big of a factor as indoors because of the long winter season between crops. Size of plants, humidity, heat, etc,, will always be a factor though.
That's great, but how much am I suppose to be watering my living soil?
I prefer to do measurements in solo cup amounts. If you are in a commercial sized grow, I would suggest purchasing a water meter that can go on the end of your hose so that you can measure how much water each plant is getting.
Let's start with how to water brand new soil right out of the bag. We get this a lot from people that have been use to using soils like Foxfarm, Roots organic, etc... They fill their pots or soil beds with our soil, and they dump a bunch of water on it and it just flows out everywhere. Then they call or email, and tell us our soil sucks, and they want their money back. Well we don't cover operator malfunction in our soil guarantee. We also don't have a soil guarantee other than it will grow straight fire if you don't fuck it up. :)
The right way to water our soil when it is brand new out of the bag or tote is by doing very small waterings multiple times per day. I will water 2 to 3 times per day, and do 1/8 t ¼ the amount that I would normally water each watering. The slower you apply the water the better. If you just dump a shit load of water on the soil it will run right off because peat moss is hydrophobic.
Hydrophobic just means that it sheds water, and doesn't want to soak it up. Once you break that hydrophobic barrier though, the soil will need less water than almost any other soil on the market. On top of using light multiple watering adding a mulch layer helps a lot of people to get the water to soak up easier. It's not 100% necessary but it will help on initial waterings.
If you want to be lazy, and time is of the essence, then you can add yucca extract to your water. Yucca extract is a natural surfactant that will make it so that any soil will soak up water immediately.
Again, none of that is really necessary. Just take your time and be methodical. After a couple of days you can begin a standard watering schedule as outlined below. 99% of our customers never have an issue with the first waterings, but it does happen occasionally.
Typical Vegetative Plants Watering Amounts
(we suggest using fabric pots for your plants)
Clone in Solo Cup
4 to 6 ounces of water 2 to 3 times per week.
Larger clone in 1 gallon fabric pots
1 full solo cup 2 to 3 times per week. (16oz of water)
3 gallon fabric pots
1.5 solo cups 2 to 3 times per week (24oz of water)
5 gallon fabric pots
2 solo cups 2 to 3 times per week (32oz of water)
Typical Flowering Plants Watering Amounts
(when plants are deeper into flower you may need to use more water)
15 gallon fabric pot with flowering plant
2 to 3 solo cups 3 times per week (32oz to 48oz of water)
30 gallon fabric pot with flowering plant
4 to 5 solo cups 3 times per week (64oz to 80oz of water)
45 gallon fabric pot with flowering plant
7 to 8 solo cups 3 times per week (112oz to 128oz of water)
For soil beds it's best to use the 45 gallon container average and adjust based off of how much soil you have in your beds.
For a 4' x 4' x 16” living soil bed you would want to use the following
2 to 3 gallons of water 2 to 3 times per week
2 to 3.5 gallons of water 2 to 3 times per week
You can multiply out from here for larger beds.
Keep in mind these are rough averages, and it is best to pay attention to what your plants are looking like, and water accordingly. When plants are under watered they will have droopy leaves, and the leaf itself can seem thin and soft. When a plant is over watered the plant leaves can have a crescent moon shape to them, and the texture of the leaf will be rougher, and visibly different than a healthy plant. When a plant is getting the proper amount of water in our living soil, it should be praying straight up to the sky and the leaf texture should be smooth, and an even look all over the plant. The color should also be a deep green that many will mistake for to much nitrogen. They just haven't seen what an actual healthy cannabis plant looks like though. :)
No matter how much you water, you never want to get runoff. Runoff is a complete waste of water, and it will be leaching nutrients from the soil. Both of those things are bad. The best part of this is you can run a commercial sized grow without a floor drain. That and you will be saving a finite resource which is starting to be in short supply. Some municipalities are implementing strict water control policies on the runoff from hydroponic grows. Our customers don't give two fucks about this because there isn't any runoff with our soil, oh how sweet that is. Doing the right thing is beneficial to the planet, and financially to the grower. Its' almost as if it was meant to be.
Filtering your water is an important step to make sure your plants are getting what they need, and not getting something they don't need. From years of tests we have found that straight city tap water will kill your soil eventually. It may start out good, but eventually your plants are going to look like straight dog shit, and you are going to blame the soil for your incompetence.
We have seen the same thing happen with RO water. It will happen to a lesser degree, but your plants can and will eventually end up starting to yellow, and just not look right. For this reason we suggest filtering all water ( regardless if it's city water, or well water) with a sediment filter, and carbon filter. That's all it takes. We sell the complete setup for this for roughly $60.
Let me guess, you think you can just bubble your water and the chlorine will come out of it? You would be correct, but most cities use chloromine now, and it will not bubble out. The only way to remove it is by filtering with a chloromine filter. We have these as well, and they only run a few more dollars than a standard carbon filter. That's pretty cheap to make sure your plants are healthy and happy.
If you are between cycles indoors and there are no plants in your pots, you still want to keep the pots or beds moist. If you don't the soil can dry up and the worms, and micro-life can die. Eventually your soil can die, and it's a bitch to try to bring back to life. It is possible, but it's not the funnest thing to do. Cutting the water amount in half while there are no plants in the soil is typically plenty to keep everything going.
When growing outdoors and the season has ended using a thick mulch layer over the soil so the soil doesn't freeze, and dry out is always a good idea. Depending on your climate you may need to insulate more with hay bales, or other methods. the idea is to not let the soil dry completely out. If you feel you to do a few waterings over winter, it can help to keep the moisture level in the soil up. Less is more, and a little goes a long way in the cooler months.
One of the number one things we see in new and even seasoned growers is their lack of experience with knowing how much to water. It's seems like most people get brainwashed from the throw away soil industry that you need to use shit loads of water, and there needs to be runoff. None of that is even close to true. They have been lying to you this whole time.
Use this guide as a base to start your watering regime, and make sure to take notes and pay attention to the results. This is not meant to be an exact schedule that you should take word for word, but a basic guideline on where to start. Remember, less water is more with our soil.