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HOME + GROW INFORMATION + SOIL GROWING FAQ

FAQ: SOIL GROWING

What size container should I use?
How many bags of soil will I need for my garden?
How often should I water?
How often should I flush?
What is the best nutrient to use?
What should the pH be in my soil?
I have been hearing a lot about “beneficial organisms.” What are these?
My plants are falling over, how do I hold them up?
What does perlite do, and why do I need it?
What makes Fox Farm / Ocean Forest so special?
Why should I grow with organics?
What is the main difference between soil and hydro? Will I get the same yield?
What is your favorite soil to use?
I have water leaking from the bottoms of my pots and making a mess…what can I do?

 

What size container should I use?
The basic rule of thumb is, the larger the plant, the larger the container should be.
Roughly this translates to one gallon of container space for each foot of plant height.
So for example, if your plant is two feet high, it should be in a two-gallon container.
However, it’s better to transplant from smaller to larger containers than to go straight
into a large container from the start, the reason being that transplanting provides for a
fuller, more robust root mass and root distribution within the container. If a plant is started
in a large container to begin with, it will shoot out a “tap root” down to the bottom and only fill
the bottom of the container up with roots, instead of filling in all the soil in the larger container.

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How many bags of soil will I need for my garden?
Approximately four liters of soil per gallon of container space. So, for a three-gallon container
you’d need 12 liters of soil. Just multiply this number by your number of containers to find the total (i.e. 20 three-gallon containers would equal 240 liters of soil). Then check the number of liters contained in the bag of the soil product you wish to use (this varies by bag size) and do the math. For example, a bag of Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest contains 43 liters, so you’d need roughly five bags of Ocean Forest to fill those 20 three-gallon pots. If you are blending the soil with perlite, as most people do, add up the amount of perlite and soil then do the math again. Simple!

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How often should I water?
A common mistake made by new growers is overwatering. Here’s the rule of (green) thumb: when watering, always make sure that your medium goes from wet to barely moist before watering again. This can take 3-4 days for young plants or plants in larger containers. By doing this you ensure that the soil will contain adequate amounts of oxygen for healthy root growth. The more water in the soil, the less air their will be, and vice versa. Too much water drowns the roots! On the other hand, at no time should you wait until the plants are wilting from lack of water.

A good way for beginners to get the hang of proper watering technique is to fill up a container with soil and never water it; this will give you a good idea of how much a container weighs when it is dry. You can then use this to compare with other containers (containing plants) that have been watered and are drying out. Lift both containers (the dry and the wet) and feel how light the “wet” one is; you want it to be pretty close to the dry one before watering again. Another way to be precise is to get a deep penetrating moisture meter.

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How often should I flush?
Every time you use the toilet of course! But seriously, flushing is an integral part of growing healthy happy plants, removing any excess salts that have built up over time. Flushing will also help restore an even CEC (Cation Exchange Capability) balance to the soil. Unflushed soil can hold onto salts and release them back into the root zone over time, or attract more salts to the salts that have already begun to form, promoting an ever-downward spiral towards “nutrient lockout.” Lockout can easily be avoided by flushing from time to time. Usually, the method of “Feed, Feed, then Flush” is applicable for soil growers. This breaks down to weekly flushing, because most soils need water every other day as the plants start growing faster and faster.

For even more efficient flushing, you may choose to use any of several flushing solutions, such as Clearex or Final Phase, which are designed to wash away excess nutrient salts and (if you’re nearing harvest time) to allow a clean and clear flavor to come through. Many people use these either once a month or just during the transition from vegetative to the bloom phase.

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What is the best nutrient to use?
There are no hard and fast rules on what is the “best” nutrient for soil growing, but we have our favorites and can recommend several. There are a lot of good nutrients out there, some organic, some mineral-based.  The more mineral-based ones generally give you more yield and faster growth, while the more organic ones will give more flavor and aroma in your final product. We personally recommend a mix of both. 

Fox Farm is great for beginners.  It is a combination of organic and natural minerals, and is easy to use and easily produces good yields.  BioBizz, Earth Juice, and BioCanna are our organic Flavor Makers!  These will give your fruits and flowers the most taste and aroma. Advanced Nutrients line is a blend of minerals and organics which will give the largest yield of the bunch. . ..

If you like ease of use, go for a single-part nutrient system; for greater flexibility in tweaking your nutrients to various types of plants and stages of growth, two- or three-part nutrient systems are the ticket.

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What should the pH be in my soil?
pH (potential of Hydrogen) is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. The pH scale ranges from 0 pH (very acidic) to 14 pH (highly alkaline). A basic, neutral solution is numerically equal to 7, as does pure water, indicating that it is neither alkaline nor acidic, but neutral. Different nutrients may be absorbed by plants at different pH levels.

The ideal pH range is different for different plants, but the general range for plant survival is between 5.0 and 7.5. Any lower and delicate plant tissues can be burned; higher and some nutrients may precipitate out of solution, making them unavailable for uptake. It is also important to consider the fact that different nutrients can only be absorbed at certain pH levels. The optimum pH range seems to be between 5.8 and 6.5. If you want to get real fancy, tweak the pH of your solution to allow more nitrogen in the growth phases and then readjust during the bloom phase for more phosphorous uptake.

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I have been hearing a lot about “beneficial organisms.” What are these?
There are countless beneficial microscopic organisms which perform a vast variety of functions, ranging from the breakdown of nitrogen into useable forms, to cleaning the roots, to warding off destructive microbial pathogens. These good microbes also activate, enrich and stimulate the roots, helping to create beautiful fuzzy white root growth like you have never seen before and thus increasing your overall yield. We feel that when growing plants in soil it’s absolutely essential to colonize the roots with a wide variety of beneficial microbes. Towards that end, we sell products that we have personal experience with and really believe in.

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My plants are falling over, how do I hold them
In soil, you sometimes have the option of using stakes driven down into the soil to support your plants, but that depends on the size of the container; for smaller containers, this is impractical. Depending on your growing setup, we can recommend trellis netting, stretched across the canopy (top) of the plants, or yo-yos, which are little spirals of spring-tensioned fish line with hooks on both ends; secure the top hook to an overhead trellis or hook attached to the ceiling, pull the yo-yo down and attach the lower hook to your plant. The spring tension will hold up the sagging branches!

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What does perlite do, and why do I need it?
Perlite looks like tiny, white, crystallized popcorn kernels. Perlite is not a trade name but a generic term for naturally occurring siliceous rock. When quickly heated to above 1600°F (871°C), the crude rock pops in a manner similar to popcorn as the water inside vaporizes and creates countless tiny bubbles which account for its amazing light weight and other exceptional physical properties. Perlite combines well with almost any base soil mix. It will help aerate the soil and improves drainage and oxygen content; mix at a 50-50 perlite to soil ratio.

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What makes Fox Farm / Ocean Forest so special?
Fox Farm products have been known as the "Microbrewery" of premium plant foods and soil mixes. Their fertilizers are built around the use of proprietary earthworm castings, nature’s finest soil amendment. They also add fish meal, crab meal, shrimp meal, calcium carbonate, rock phosphate, kelp and more to create a well-balanced diet for plants. Although not entirely “organic,” Fox Farm soils are mostly organic with no chemicals added. Anything that is not technically organic is at least ALL NATURAL. For example even though rock phosphate comes from pure mineral sources (shaved from a mined “rock”), it is still not technically “organic” because it is not carbon based (from life); however we still consider it as organic. Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest soil mix is a nutritious blend of Pacific Northwest fish, crab meal, shrimp meal, and plenty of those awesome earthworm castings. It is light in texture and well-aerated. Fox Farm has also added composted forest humus and selected peat mosses to create the optimum organic medium for your babies. Ocean Forest is ideal for greenhouse applications, as well as indoor/outdoor plantings.

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Why should I grow with organics?
While organic fertilizers and soils deliver their nutrients to plants much slower than mineral-based fertilizers, there are some definite benefits of going “natural” (even though mineral nutes are also made from natural materials). Plants grown with organics tend to deliver a richer taste and aroma due to the extremely complex proteins and microbial organisms living in the rhizosphere (root zone). And, if you’re into the Vegan thing, organic nutes will satisfy your Green ideals!

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What is the main difference between soil and hydro? Will I get the same yield?
Soil versus hydro, the eternal debate rages on! It’s been said that when growing hydroponically, one must feed the plant, and with soil growing one must feed the soil. For the most part, hydroponics growers use “neutral” growing media; that is, media that contains zero nutrients and is mainly there for supporting the plants’ root systems. With these media, the grower must supply all the nutrients the plants require, via a liquid solution. In soil, there are built-in nutrients that the plants can use, which can be supplemented by the grower. Generally, plants grown hydroponically will grow much faster and yield heavier than those grown in soil, simply because the nutrients are delivered directly to the roots in a very efficient manner, whereas the soil-grown plants’ roots must search out the nutrients contained in the soil the old-school way. But, soil can be a bit less maintenance-intensive and more “user-friendly” than hydro, especially for new growers.

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What is your favorite soil to use?
See the above section on Fox Farm soils. Some other good ready-to-use ones are Roots Organics, a yummy blend of coco fiber and bat guano, earthworm castings, fish bone meal, mycorrhizae bacteria, and other stuff plants love. You can even grow your plants right in the bag; simply poke holes in the bottom , cut open the top, and insert plant! Also we like BioCanna Earth Mix, which is a coco and peat blend supplemented with earthworm castings.

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I have water leaking from the bottoms of my pots and making a mess…what can I do?
1) get vinyl saucers to put under each pot, or
2) get a big grow tray with all containers sitting inside.

Have water drain from tray back to central reservoir.

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