I think we need to clarify some things before we delve deeper. Firstly, Our soil is a “living soil”. There are many types of living soil on the market, and almost all of them are designed to be thrown away when you complete a cycle. This seems like a total waste of a good soil doesn't? It's also a fuck you to planet earth by throwing away limited resources. To top it off you have to buy more soil, and replant every cycle, wasting money, and tons of time.
So we have established we do indeed make a living soil, but is it a water only living soil? It was never designed to be used that way. We do however have many customers that have had successful grows using water only. It gets tricky when you want to try to reuse the soil. Without the typical things a no-till living soil has, reusing our soil as a water only soil is going to prove to be difficult.
This is where using the soil as intended comes into play. It's all about longevity and quality results. When setup properly, the soil becomes pretty self-sufficient, and adding back in nutrients that were removed by your plants becomes extremely easy.
So you bought our soil, and you want to know the next steps to making it the most badass no-till living soil to grace the planet earth? Really how badass the soil is long term is up to you, not us. If you fuck up re-amending, watering, etc.. it's on you. The beauty is that it's so very hard to screw this up.
You need to think about your containers, or soil beds as nothing more than composting bins that you happen to plant plants in. That's really all they are. That's where the worms come into play. The worms are a part of the composting process that will digest the amendments that you top dress, and break them down into a usable form that is bio-available to your plants roots. Without worms no-till isn't going to work very well. I've tried, and failed miserably. When setting up new containers I prefer to use large numbers of worms right out of the gate. For say a 30 gallon container I would use between 100 and 200 worms. I recently setup 10- 25 gallon containers and used 5000 worms because I am impatient. When taken care of the worms will multiply in numbers, and eventually self-regulate how many are in your containers. They know how many can and cannot survive in a set space.
I also like a heavy population of rove beetles in the soil. You can purchase a small amount, and then use avocados in your pots to help the populations grow. Cutting avocados in half and placing them face down will give rove beetles, and worms a place to hang out, eat, and breed. This will keep their populations high, and is a much cheaper alternative than constantly buying them. Rove beetles like to eat fungus gnat larvae, and root aphid larvae. Keeping their populations high will help with soil born pest issues. When populations are kept at elevated levels, you will notice that they will travel throughout your grow room, and can even go to other grow rooms. I have seen many times where you have a large population or roves in your flower room, and then your veg ends up being thick with them too. They like to travel and find food where they can.
Nematodes also perform a similar task as rove beetles, and that's why I add them every cycle. Nematodes are microscopic worm like critters that like to feed on insect larvae. You want to make sure you get the right nematode for the right pests issues. In your yard outside, nematodes can live for up to 18 months, but in side in containers and beds I like to replace them every cycle. So roughly every 3 months or so. They compliment rove beetles very well, and when used together, soil born pests seem to be non-existent. Nematodes will not move form here you water them in, so make sure to cover all of the soil surface when applying them.
Hypoaspis miles are another great predator to add to your containers. They are a small light brown mite that preys on fungus gnat pupae. They like to stay in the top layer of soil, whereas rove beetles will travel all over the damn place. Roves, hypoaspis miles, and nematodes will make it so that you shouldn't have any soil born pest issues.
When potting our soil fabric pots perform the best. They also have an IPM advantage built into them. They act as a mechanical barrier to pest infiltration. The pests cant physically go through the container or soil bed. This leaves the top of the soil as the only place they can inhabit,, and with a high population of nematodes, rove beetles, and hypoaspis, they aren't going to make it through alive.
Another lesser used critter I use in all of my containers is pill bugs AKA Rolly Pollies. Rolly Pollies will help your composting efforts, and with the worms you will be able to break down all of those top dresses you apply to your soil over the years. Once they get established they are hard to kill off so they tend to last the life of your soil. It does take some time for them to increase their populations, but be patient as it will happen. To collect rolly pollies for free, you can set a piece of plywood in the grass in the summer, and then harvest them as needed from under the wood.
I started to use crystals in my containers about 4 or 5 years ago. Even if you don't believe crystals have energy they do bring value to your soil. If you get bigger clusters that are the size of your hand and you bury part of it below the surface, you will notice that you just created a long term habitat for all of your critters that you have added into your soil. Rolly Pollies absolutely love hanging out under crystals, so do rove beetles. Alternatively you could use chunk of wood, but I would be concerned with bringing in disease, or pests. Scaling up crystals into a commercial grow would prove to be costly, but is possible. Using plain rocks such as river rock would work too.
Planting a cover crop will make for a healthier soil, and healthier plants. Studies have shown that plants like being around other plants. That's why this can be considered cover copping and companion planting all in one. We sell a pre-mixed blend of cover crop seed that will aid in aeration to the soil, bring in nutrients ot the soil, and offer companionship to the other plant they are planted by. For long term usability of no-till living soil a cover crop is 100% a must. Without it compaction is going to kill you.
I like to spread my cover crop seeds and then add a layer of mulch. The cover crop seed will sprout and grow up through the mulch. Over time the mulch is used by the composters in your soil as food, and also pieces get incorporated into the soil. Thus adding organic matter back into your soil. I now maybe add mulch once a year or so to my containers.
When watering your beds and pots you want to use filtered water for the best results. We DO NOT recommend and RO water filter. RO water filters strip to much out of the water, and we have seen customers run into issues using them. Like wise we DO NOT recommend using straight tap water. The chlorine, or chloromine will kill the microbes, and your plants are going to look like total dog shit. For optimum results we suggest you use a sediment filter, and a carbon filter. That's it. A standard carbon filter will filter out chlorine, but not chloromine, so make sure if you have chloromine in your water you get the appropriate filter. Alternatively chlorine can be bubbled out of the water with an air pump, air stone, and 24 hours of time. Chloromine however has a chemical bond that can not be broken, and has to be filtered out. Most cities now use cholorimne, but you can call your water department or even look at tests results on their website.
At some point you are going to want to re-amend your soil. Indoors we do this after you crop out, and outdoors you may do it twice in a season. Our premixed re-amendment blend will have everything you need to replenish depleted nutrients in your soil, and preparing you for future harvests. All you do is spread it out along the surface of the soil, and the rest is handled by your army of digesters you have added to your soil. It's that easy.
Every container or bed I setup now gets everything I just listed. Why, because I have found out over the years it just works. I didn't get to all of this in a month. It took many, many years, to find what works, and this combo works for me.
As always, experiment and play with things to see what works best for you. Nothing works 100% of the time for everyone, and there are always changes that can be made to better your results.