Organic Soil Mixes and
Soilless Hydroponic Mixes

For different gardening styles and situations there are different soil mixes that are appropriate. Below are a few mixes that I use myself for different occasions, and an explanation of how you can use each in your gardening strategy. The soil recipes below should do well for most plants, but are not for acid loving plants.

Quick Tips

A large container, such as a cheap plastic storage tote or a kiddie pool, comes in handy for making soil mixes. It is easier to mix ingredients evenly when everything is dry. It would be a good idea to wear a dust mask whenever you are mixing soil. Another option is to add all the ingredients to a garbage bag, close it, and mix your soil up a couple of containers at a time this way. Finally, a hand-pump spray bottle full of water helps to knock the dust out of the air if it does get too dusty.

A Good Seed Starting Mix

worm castings

You want a seed starting mix to retain moisture, yet be well draining. There is little need to add very many nutrients at this point. You can purchase commercial potting soil for this, or you can make up your own soil mix.

For starting my own seeds, I use equal parts vermiculite, perlite, and sphagnum peat. I than add 10 percent worm castings. You should add 1 teaspoon of lime for each gallon of soil and mix well. The nitrogen in the worm castings is gentle to the young sprouts, and it is in a form the new plants can use immediately.

To help things out, I wet this soil down with water, first making sure to add 10 ml/gallon Thrive Alive B1 and 10 ml/gallon Maxicrop liquid seaweed. Make sure not to make the mix too wet...the roots need air. The mix is just wet enough when you squeeze a handful and only a few drops come out.

Soil Mixes You Eventually Feed

If you are unsure of the exact needs of your plants, than this is a good soil mix to begin with. It is also good if you are transplanting shortly before flowering, but want to feed your plants through watering once flowering begins. It contains enough organic fertilizers to feed your plants for about two weeks, than you can begin adding a little fertilizer at a time as you water.

bat guano Start with equal parts vermiculite, perlite, and sphagnum peat. To this, add 20-25 percent worm castings. Never use more than 25 percent worm castings in any of your soil mixes.

For every gallon of soil add 1 teaspoon of lime and mix everything together well. For each gallon of soil, add 1 tablespoon of bat guano and 1 1/2 tablespoons of kelp meal and mix well. Here I have shown a high phosphorus guano, but if you are still in the vegetative stage, use a high nitrogen guano (like Mexican bat guano). After about two weeks of growth, begin watering with a 50 percent strength nutrient solution.

Keep a close eye on your plants to see if they want more, or need less. As you gain experience and learn the different fertilizer and soil additives, you will be able to mix up your own favorite custom soil mix.

Soil Mixes You Don't
Have to Feed

If you hate mixing up fertilizer each time you water, than this strategy might be for you. Start your seeds in a regular seed starting mix. Than, each time your plant is ready for a bigger container, transplant it into this fertile organic soil mix. If you time it so your last transplant occurs the same time you begin flowering, you should only ever have to give your plants plain water (although I recommend you add Thrive Alive and Maxicrop to your water also).

foxfarm soil

Begin this soil mix by adding one bag each of Foxfarm Original, Foxfarm Ocean Forest, and Foxfarm Light Warrior. To this mix, add 1 level cup of Foxfarm Peace of Mind 5-8-4 and mix well. I usually begin my plants in the smallest dixie cups I can find, in my seed starting mix. After that, I transplant into a 6 inch container of this mix. Two or three weeks later, I transplant into a 12 inch container. Finally, right as I switch to flowering, I make my final transplant to the next size container (usually a three gallon one). Most of the nutrients are used up by the time I begin flushing them, so it works out well.

Soilless Mixes for Hydroponics

Sometimes people use soilless mixes in hydroponics. This is especially true for the hand watering method. The idea is to make a mixture that holds moisture as long as regular organic soil mixes would. This is accomplished by using vermiculite, sphagnum peat, or coconut coir, all of which retain water. A good place to start is to use equal parts of each.

Another example is the reservoir method. This method is well suited for the use of lava chips as a medium, but a mix of 1 part vermiculite to 5 parts expanded clay pellets works as well. The same mix should work well in other systems, like a drip system, although I have never tried this myself.

A soilless mix heavy in materials that suck up water is perfect for the wick system. An equal mix of perlite and vermiculite works well. A mix of perlite and coconut coir should work equally as well.

Leave the soil mixes page and
Check out the Organic Hydroponics page

Learn How to Feed Your Plants with Hydroponic Nutrients

Dirt Cheap organic and hydroponic gardening supplies

Find out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 20 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients....and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden....but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people.

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible....and in the last 20 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol).

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.

Make a year's worth of compost in one week!

What is colloidal humus?

Make the world's best compost

Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 20 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients.

High Efficiency

One final solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants is concerned. Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle, you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system!


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This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 20 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.

Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!

High Efficiency
Soil Gardening

This is where my advice ends for people growing in water. But some of you out there are in love with soil gardening and organic gardening, and rightly so! It's a pro-human activity. It is pro-conservation. It is pro-life. It nurtures and promotes life at all levels, from the micro-organisms to beneficial insects, to healthy humans. It's natural. it's spiritual. Gardening is written deeply into our DNA, like how you feel watching a bonfire or sitting by the ocean or next to a river.

My friend John at Food4Wealth has more than 20 years experience organic gardening, so he reminds me a lot of myself. He knows organic gardening like I know hydroponic gardening, and over the years he has learned just about every trick there is to organic gardening. He knows what makes the plants grow, and he knows how to do it with as little effort as humanly possible. His garden never needs digging, naturally repels pests, has no weeds, always produces more than his family is able to eat, produces vegetables everyday all year round, and....only requires 8 HOURS of light, easy effort PER YEAR!

Low effort organic gardening!

Years and years of experience and results can't be argued with....the Food4Wealth gardening strategy is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work....specifically for organic gardeners who love soil gardening. THIS is the most efficient and productive way to do organic gardening, period! And combined with the ability to make a years' worth of colloidal humus compost in just one week (see World's Best Compost), this overall organic soil gardening strategy is just unstoppable- foolproof, low cost, and low effort!

Learn about high yield organic gardening

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