Earth Dust and its Variant Uses
Earth Dust is a blend of organic nutrients and microbial life forms. In nature, the nutrition and viability of soil is dependent upon armies of beneficial bacteria and fungi breaking down the nutrients to make them available to the roots of plants.
When we grow plants in pots, greenhouses, or gardens, the soil we buy from the store, while nicely composted and mixed, is lacking in those microbial life forms. This is why you often are compelled to keep up a taxing regimen of mixing and adding nutrients throughout the grow cycle.
Because Earth Dust includes microbes in the mix, you don’t need to worry about synthesizing a nutritional availability for your plants. It rejuvenates and replenishes the soil so those nutrients are continually being fed to the roots. Living soil keeps your plants well fed without the need for amending.
Cultivating a Living Soil
To give the microbes time to break down a good amount of the soil, we recommend mixing Earth Dust Base with your soil 2-4 weeks before transplanting your starts into the pots. Cooking your soil in this way allows the bacteria and fungi to work their way through the soil and transmute enough of the medium to be readily available for the roots to start soaking up nutrients right away.
When your plants are about to move into the flowering stage, a top dressing of Earth Dust Boost will supply the nutrients necessary for cultivation of flowers and the strengthening of structure as it grows. A second top dressing should be applied about 30 days later. Each of these applications are adding more microbiotics to the soil to multiply the army working for the benefit of your plants.
These feedings are the only nutritional amendments you need throughout the life of your plants. Water is all they need now. We recommend using filtered water to keep out any heavy metals that may be in your water. Balancing the pH of your water is not strictly necessary as the microbes in living soil naturally balance the pH as a byproduct of their work in breaking down the medium, and the filtering of your water will help to regulate it as well. If you are finding your water is grossly unbalanced (either very acidic or very alkaline), then treating it before watering the soil may be beneficial.
On the other hand, checking the initial pH of your soil is a good idea, to ensure your plants and the microbes are going into a medium that is well balanced. The microbes in your living soil as well as the components of the soil itself will regulate your pH naturally, but if you are experiencing a drastically unbalanced soil (Say pH of 8 or higher, 4 or lower) there are simple, natural amendments you can add to bring it back. To bring your soil pH up add a little limestone; to bring your pH down try biochar, coffee grounds, or peat moss.
For a more in depth look at using Earth Dust in traditional soil, check out our video series here.
You can get you own Earth Dust here.
What Makes Good Soil?
Dirt is dirt, right?
Like most things in life, it’s far more complicated than that. Even in nature, the composition of soil will dictate where and how well plants grow. When you go to the garden supply store, you see a host of different items for sale all boasting they are the best soil for you. But what does that mean? How can you tell what is the best soil for you?
To begin with, a good soil to use if you are planning on utilizing Earth Dust products should meet all of these requirements:
- a good mix (aged forest products, worm casting, organic compost, peat moss, coco coir, and perlite or vermiculite)
- well aerated soil
- good moisture retention
- organic ingredients
- no pre-mixed additives
That last item is an important one to keep in mind. Some potting soils sold in stores come with additives and amendments already mixed in. Like coffee beans sold with flavor roasted in, you will likely find that these products are lacking in quality and performance. But most especially, you will find that using Earth Dust with these products will burn your plants out like a kid eating too many Flintstones vitamins. (NOT recommended!)
Lightly charged mediums (soils sold with wording like “soil conditioners” or “lightly amended”) are an option for those seeking easy grows without doctoring. Lightly charged soils contain simple ingredients to give your plants a head start at receiving bioavailable nutrients. This is actually helpful when using Earth Dust as is creates a soil that is already equipped with the tools to create nutrient conversions, so the microbes can start their job full pace. You can also add soil conditioners yourself. Worm castings are a great way to inoculate your soil with mire microbes either as an additive in the initial cook or a top dress throughout your grow. Neem seed meal is an effective, organic strategy for building your soil’s resistance to pests. And biochar is a superpower of nutrient bonding and pH balancing.
Good soil mixtures are always a smart purchase when gardening, and when using Earth Dust, a diverse and complete soil medium will allow the microbes to work throughout a variety of materials offering different nutrition for the microbes to transmute. The soil’s capacity to retain water is very important because microbes need a constantly moist environment to continue working. If the soil becomes too dry, not only will the medium itself become hydrophobic, but the bacteria and fungi will create protective shells and go into stasis to protect themselves from dying of dehydration. Your microbiome will want around 80% moisture content to be at peak performance.
What About Different Mediums?
While Earth Dust can be used in any growing medium, its agency and effectiveness is different when not using soil. Microbes work by breaking down plant matter in the medium, so it’s recommended you use mediums with at least some organic compounds. Look for soils that include things like aged forest products and compost in the labeled ingredients. There are, of course, many different mediums and methods of growing and they are only becoming more numerous as growers branch out and science gains understanding.
Growing in 100% coco coir is an increasingly popular method many gardeners are trying out. This is considered a soilless method, and the medium does not contain composted plant matter that the microbes can easily transmute. Since the matrix of the medium is less dense, and is not composed of a variety of organic composts, it has a low cation exchange capacity(aka: CEC). This basically means it doesn’t have the ability in its structure to hold onto positively charged ions and exchange them readily with plant roots. This is exactly why coco coir has become popular: the lower CEC allows the grower to control the nutrient content of the soil by adding synthetic nutrients in a constant regimen.
For Earth Dust users, however, this is less than ideal. Earth Dust is designed to simulate nature in that it uses readily available organic matter in the medium. This is not to say it’s impossible. If you are using coco coir, we suggest you start with 3-5 tablespoons of Base and 1 tablespoon of Boost for every gallon of coco coir. Blending in some additional organic material such as peat moss may prove helpful as well. Paying attention to the pH of your water is more important with coco coir as well, since the low CEC limits the relative amount of ionic exchange, which in turn limits the microbial capacity to regulate pH. A good range to aim for in the pH of your water when using coco is 5.8 – 6.5. Coco coir is also not very good at retaining water, so a much more rigorous schedule will be in order.
Peat moss is slightly more compatible as an Earth Dust medium because while coco is only the husk of a seed of a plant, peat moss is the entire plant. This provide a more complete source for the microbiotics to break down and convert to food for your plants. Since peat moss is not already broken down, however, you may find greater success with a longer cooking time before transplanting.
Some growers are averse to peat moss’ tendency to grow and shrink a lot when watering, leaving many to believe the medium does not hold water well. The opposite is true, in fact. Peat moss expands when wet because it absorbs water, and shrinks down when the water is absorbed by your plant’s roots. However, because peat moss is not a humus, that is, not a mixture of organic compounds making up a soil, you may want to control the pH of your water as with coco coir. Peat moss has a much higher CEC than coco, but still less than a full mixture of humic elements.
Aeroponic and Hydroponic Systems
As far as growing with Earth Dust dry amendments is concerned, the issue with any hydroponic or aeroponic setup is that by definition these do not use soil to feed the plant roots. Earth Dust is designed to reflect nature’s processes in soil. In short, the further your grow medium strays from natural, the less effective Earth Dust will be.
Another method on the rise is clay pellets, also known as expanded clay pebbles or expanded clay aggregate. The use of these lightweight, baked balls of clay is generally considered a hydroponic grow method because the clay pellets have been baked to maintain their shape. The baking of the clay changes the organic compatibility such that the microbes in Earth Dust are not able to readily consume and convert whatever nutritional elements may have been available in the clay. Because of this, we do not recommend in a purely clay pellet medium.
Rock wool is a medium that has a solid history of being loved by aeroponic and hydroponic growers for its stability and aeration. This airy, fibrous medium is designed to allow water to pass through quickly without holding the water like soil. With virtually no nutritional availability in rock wool, and the structure not allowing for mixing, Earth Dust is not recommended in conjunction with rock wool.
Finally, when we look at hanging methods of aeroponics and hydroponics, where the roots are suspended in the air or a water tank, there is obviously no structure at all in which Earth Dust can work.
So What Have We Learned?
A quality humus is the best and most ideal environment for using Earth Dust dry amendments. With nature in mind during the development of our amendments, the natural method of growing in soil is highly recommended. Balance and diversity are of utmost importance when growing to provide a wide range of nutrients. Water retention is extremely important, since you don’t want you microbes to shut down and stop working. The goal is to build a comfortable home in which the microbial life forms can thrive.
With this in mind you can see that although mediums like coco coir and peat moss can conceivably be used with Earth Dust, you can’t expect the microbiological workers to be as effective or efficient in these less nutritional environments. Hydroponics and Aeroponics, while perfectly viable options for growing, are systems that inherently reject natural processes in favor of the grower having total control of nutrition. If you are wanting to grow in these more human-made environs, Earth Dust will not help you.
A Final Note on Recommendations and Compatibility With Other Products
For good potting soil, we recommend Sunshine #4, Pro-mix, or Root Organic potting soil. These are each widely available, good solid soils to build the foundation of your medium.
For space, we recommend using at least a five gallon pot. If you can go bigger, then all the better. If it helps, you can think of you pot size as your plant’s nutrient bank account. The bigger the bank account, that is, the bigger the pot size, the more soil will be used to fill the pot, and more soil means more bioavailable nutrients that the microbes can convert to food for your plant.
Lastly, it is worth noting the microbes may want some boosting if your cooking time was not sufficient or you are not seeing results of organic breakdown. Adding other microbes to keep the biome pumping may be helpful. Our gurus suggest Recharge from Real Growers as their preferred inoculant, but there are many microbial organic inoculants available on the market today.
Ultimately, when growing in soil, as long as you’ve given the Base enough time to cook, you should see stellar, high quality results. Remember, the aim and function of Earth Dust is to create a natural biome of synergetic organics, so your grows can be naturally replete and productive.
If growing naturally appeals to you, click here to order your own Earth Dust.