This is a detailed walk through created by one of our clients for small and indoor garden enthusiasts. While we cannot take responsibility for the results of following the methods contained within this document, we think it's an excellent guide for new growers mixing their own soil.
More from KIS Organics:
This does seem to us to be the most thorough mix guide we’ve seen for small home gardens. The concepts and methods are solid and following these instructions should result in a thriving organic living soil (OLS) that can be used for most crops.
Recently I’ve become aware of a trend in home gardening and small organic farming towards mixing an organic living soil (OLS) to create a soil food web (SFW) Link. It allows a farmer or home gardener to use nature to feed their plants and prevent pests. It is the cleanest, most Earth friendly farming method on the planet. This document is not about the details of an SFW, it’s about creating one. I encourage you to read and learn about the ecosystem of your living soil. It will change everything you thought you knew about gardening and hopefully help you take the leap to build your very own SFW. Tad Hussey from KIS Organics has offered some tips and expanded on some concepts. Thanks Tad!
I settled on the KIS Organics Nutrient Pack based on friend’s recommendations and the customer service I received when I called them to ask questions. I ultimately realized how little I actually knew about mixing and cooking OLS. KIS Organics provide a good guideline for people who are already familiar with creating and maintain an SFW, but not for someone like me who had no idea where to start. The more I searched the internet for instructions, the more misinformation and conflicting methodology I found. I did what any gardener does; I played it by ear and did the best I could. I learned some great lessons and I’m sharing them with you in the instructions below.
While trying to source, mix, and cook my soil, I ran into a few issues that I was able to overcome. Here’s what I learned:
Through trial and error I found an easy method that works for me. I’ve documented my method and I encourage you to try it and improve on it. It’s really easy as long as you have the space, time, and energy.
This is where I get real. If you are not a gardening enthusiast and you shudder at the thought of a little manual labor, building an SFW may not be the method for you. Then again, maybe building and maintaining an SFW will turn you in to a gardening enthusiast that “is” willing to do a little manual labor.
The steps and pictures below will walk you through the process I use to mix and cook my own OLS. I will break down the steps of the KIS Organics suggested recipe and give a detailed explanation of how I do that step. Use what you have available and make your own compost/castings whenever possible.
Note: This recipe is great for a few outdoor containers, but KIS Organics does have their soil mixes available bagged or in yard quantities for those in WA State.
KIS Tip: A lot of our customers use the following recipe for larger quantities. This recipe will make a ½ yard of OLS.
KIS Organics Recipe from their Nutrient Pack Label:
“WATER ONLY SOIL RECIPE: (This makes a little over 30 gallons or 4 cubic ft of soil)
15 gallons sphagnum peat moss
10 gallons aeration amendment (pumice, perlite, lava rock, etc...)
5 gallons high quality compost or earthworm castings (very important for proper nutrient cycling)
Add KIS Nutrient Pack and mix thoroughly then water to field capacity. Turn the soil the following day then every other day for 7-14 days. When the soil has cooled to ambient temperature it is ready to plant in. It’s easiest to mix on a slab, tarp, or kiddie pool as not to lose any ingredients when adding water.”
Here Are The Instructions:
For 30 Gallons of Soil (double the ingredients for a 60 gallon batch):
KIS tip: “A 3.8 cu ft bale of peat moss expands to 6 cubic feet.”
KIS tip: “In the KIS Water Only Super Soil, we use 1/3 large pumice and 2/3 medium pumice.”
Here is a picture of some ingredients I’ve had great success using – This kiddie pool is a little too small to mix a batch of soil in. That’s why I use a tarp.
KIS Tip: “This is tricky because many people don’t know how to compost properly and aren’t making good thermal compost. If not properly composted, you could be bringing in various weed seeds (that you do not want in your garden) or even diseases. I typically only recommend using homemade earthworm castings because the worms will take care of composting the material for you, but even then it won’t remove weed seeds or disease issues. For example, most “flower” material in the Pacific NW will get botrytis in the fall, meaning any old buds or flowers that you threw into your outdoor compost bin will most likely harbor this pathogen and it’s not something you want to be putting back into your indoor environment.”
Here’s a picture of the dry ingredients mixed and ready for compost and/or organic earthworm castings.
Add Water and Mix to Field Capacity
KIS Tip: “Take a handful of soil and squeeze it firmly, if only a drop or two of water comes out, the soil is at field capacity.” If you have a moisture meter, aim for 80-120 mbar.
It takes me about an hour to wet and mix it thoroughly.
Cook Your Soil for 10 – 14 days
Here are some tips to help you cook your soil correctly and start growing your favorite crops.
Here’s Some KIS Tips:
From the Author: I’ve found 10 gallon fabric pots are the best for me.
From the Author: “I’ve found 60 gallons per 16 sq.ft. optimum.”
From the Author: “If using the (container) method below let it cook for 30+ days.”
Alternative soil cooking method:
There are many reasons why a person would not want to have a garage full of soil for 2+ weeks. I figured out a way to cook my soil without taking up the whole garage floor. It’s clean but it takes a little longer to cook your soil. With that said, these DIY containers are awesome and I use them to cook all my soil now.
What you’ll need:
I drilled a bunch of holes in the tote. I made sure not to drill holes in the corners or wedges, staying away from anything but a flat surface (places that bear weight should be avoided). I opted not to drill any holes in the bottom. I didn't want any moisture to bleed through. To drill the holes I used a 3/8” inch drill bit.
There was quite a bit of material sticking out of the holes I drilled so I took my pocket knife and quickly knocked those off (a sharp knife is the key here).
Here is the tote after I cleaned the 3/9” holes with my knife.
Fill the tote with soil and leave it uncovered. Check the temp and moisture level daily. If the soil sits for 48 hours without heating up above ambient temperature it is ready to plant in. Approximately 30 days for the tote method. From here, all you “have” to do add water.