Living soil for growing cannabis

There are many different ways to cultivate cannabis plants, each with pros and cons. You must consider them when choosing your best style. Personally, my favorite method is living soil. At first glance, it may sound daunting and super scientific with big words like rhizosphere, biodynamic, and flocculation, but rest assured, living soil is as easy, if not easier, than any other cultivation method. 

This article will answer all your questions about living soil, like how to make it, the difference between living soil and super soil, and how to use it to grow auto flowers. But we’ll start with the most important question: Why should you grow in living soil?

What is living soil?

Living soil has gained popularity in the past decade as part of modern agriculture’s organic and regenerative movements. Living soil for cannabis is a biodynamic medium that takes philosophies from microbiology and nature to produce a sustainable and cost-effective way to cultivate cannabis.

Organic living soil is special because it is bursting with billions of living beings, such as an array of bacteria, endo and ectomycorrhizae, trichoderma, protozoa, nematodes, and more. These organisms create a healthy soil food web which helps with decomposing organic matter into food for your plants.

Add natural amendments and different types of bacteria and fungi to your existing soil to start formulating your own living soil. The different life forms make a microscopic self-sustaining community in the soil.

If you want to learn more about the best soil to grow your cannabis with as well as how to grow cannabis from seed to harvest, checkout our legendary Grow Bible.

Why choose living soil

Living soil for weed is a great choice for cultivating. The soil is reusable, making it very cost-effective, and the amendments used to fertilize the soil are relatively inexpensive compared to most salt or mineral-based fertilizers. 

Live soil also produces cannabis plants with higher terpene contents, leading to flowers with potent aromas and flavors. The microbiology in living soil also helps the cannabis plant naturally fight off disease and pests, so you won’t have to use as many pesticides while you grow.

Living soil is also extremely simple to grow in since you won’t need hundreds of bottles of various fertilizers to irrigate with. You can basically get away with irrigating with plain water or compost tea for added nutritional and biological benefits.

How does living soil work?

Living soil provides nutrients to your plants by breaking down amendments in the soil and turning them into food. Hundreds of different organic amendments, such as kelp, worm castings, and alfalfa meal, can be added to any type of soil. They all bring different nutritional compositions to your medium to be broken down by your microbiology. 

Different bacteria and fungi help break down these different types of organic matter and turn them into food for your plants. So, by consistently feeding this microbiology in your soil, you feed your plants while feeding the microbes. This creates a self-sustaining ecosystem of life that helps bring life to your garden. Pretty cool, right?!

living soil, an introduction for new marijuana growers


Bacteria play a huge role in living soil for cannabis. They provide a type of reserve for the plant by eating up the decaying matter and metabolizing it into plant-available nutrients stored in their cellular structure. This helps keep nutrients in the soil. Since the bacteria are bound to the soil particles, stored nutrients are not leached out of the soil during watering.

The beneficial bacteria also help keep the plant healthy because they outcompete bad bacteria in the root zone allowing their populations to remain almost nonexistent. 


Fungi play one of the biggest roles in living soil. Beneficial fungi, like bacteria, outcompete bad fungi, such as fusarium and pythium, which can devastate plants. Beneficial fungi also help break down amendments and create food reserves called exudates, where the plant roots can tap into plant-available forms of nutrients. 

Mycorrhizae is a very popular class of fungi that help boost root health, have a symbiotic relationship with the plant, and help boost overall health as well. Forms of fungi such as glomus and trichoderma are the most common fungi inoculated in living soils.


Other common biology for living soils are nematodes and worms. Nematodes are basically microscopic worms that mainly help with pest control. They will eat away at larvae and eggs of pests in the plant’s root zone and also help mineralize nutrients found in the beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil. 

Worms are the most important life forms in living soil for multiple reasons. They help aerate the soil by burrowing around the soil, looking for food, and the food (e.g. dead plant material, food scraps) they eat turns into a biodynamic compost known as worm castings. These castings (worm poop) add microbiology and nutrition back into the soil and helps build soil structure and improve the texture of the soil. 

Worm castings are one of the most essential elements to any living soil; the proof is in the poop! 

The best worms for living soil are red wigglers and European nightcrawlers. Red wigglers are small worms that move fast. They are also the fastest at making worm castings. European nightcrawlers are larger and slower moving, but they help aerate soils faster due to their larger size. 

Difference in the most common worms

By adding different amendments and compost, these different types of microbiology create a vast community that works symbiotically to keep your plants healthy and ensure all of their needs are met.

What is the difference between super soil and living soil?

Growers sometimes use living soil and super soil synonymously, but there are a few differences. You can use the same ingredients to make a living soil, but the main difference between super soil and live soil is longevity.  

Many super soil recipes published over the years, such as Coots Mix and SubCools super soil, are made by layering different amendments at varying horizons. This is an attempt to make a medium that will provide proper nutrition from the vegetative stage through flowering. You only use Super Soil once since it only contains enough nutrition for one cannabis lifecycle. 

With living soil, you minimally add amendments to your soil and water with biological inputs, like compost. This adds bacteria and fungi and helps maintain a healthy and balanced ecosystem in your soil mix. This additional work keeps your soil perpetually healthy, while a super soil mix will be barren and used up at the end of a grow. 

The difference between Super Soil and LIving Soil

What is the best medium for living soil?

Living soil for weed is best made with loamy soil and pumice for aeration (oxygen pockets in your soil). The soil texture should be in the middle of fluffy and dense but leaning towards the fluffier side. I like to use pumice instead of perlite in my living soils because it is more environmentally friendly and provides low levels of nutrients such as silica. 

Is living soil better for outdoor or indoor?

Living soil works perfectly well for outdoor and indoor cannabis cultivation. However, it is a little easier and more forgiving running plants outdoors in living soil. In an outdoor setting, there is already a variety of microbiology living in your soil that can be used as a jumping-off point. Plants are also much hardier outside and can survive off whatever minerals are available in a good native soil. 

In an indoor setting, you have to start from the ground up with living soil since you are starting in a sterile environment. You’ll need to put much more thought into creating your medium, but many soil manufacturers, such as SoHumm Living Soil, provide soils that can be used as a good base.

The downside to living soil for indoor grows is a potentially lower yield due to the inability to aggressively feed (like in a hydroponic system). There’s also low yield due to size constraints. Since indoor spaces are usually smaller, you can’t grow bigger plants to compensate for the smaller yield.

Looking to start your grow in a small space? Check out our guide on growing marijuana in small indoor spaces!

In terms of quality, though, living soil is great both inside and outside just because of the natural availability of nutrients. Whether you grow indoors or outdoors, living soil will create beautiful flowers that smell and taste amazing.

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What is the best pH for Living Soil?

For those not familiar, pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline something is. Many growers check the pH of the irrigation water and medium religiously, while some may have never checked either. In living soil, pH is not a huge factor if you have proper pH regulators like dolomitic limestone and gypsum to keep your soil pH within range. You should shoot for a pH of 6.5, which is slightly acidic. This pH provides the best availability for nutrient uptake in soil. 

Is living soil better than hydroponics?

Living soil is my preferred cultivation method, but that does not necessarily mean it is the best. In my opinion, it produces plants with better aromas and flavors than hydroponics and is much more environmentally friendly compared to using salt-based fertilizers. However, hydroponics provides a system for growing plants faster and with a typically higher yield. I would rather take quality over quantity, but everyone has their own motives.

Is living soil better than coco?

Again, to each their own, I would still choose living soil over cannabis grown in coco. Coco is a good medium but tends to be pretty salty and contaminated with pathogens and heavy metals. Coco provides the benefits of faster plant growth and larger yields and is more forgiving than most hydroponic cultivation methods. However, I would still choose living soil as a better medium.

Example of coco grow medium soil
Coco might be a good medium for fast and larger yields, but it can’t beat the end quality of buds grown with living soil

Is living soil good for autoflowers?

Living soil is a good medium to grow autoflowers because of how nutrients are stored. Living soil lets autoflowers pick and choose the nutrients they need at different life stages. This takes some of the guesswork out of how to nutritionally steer your autoflower since its life cycle is not cut and dry like a photoperiod plant. Keep in mind you would want to create a specific living soil recipe for autoflowers instead of one for photoperiod plants.

Have you found the soil you want to use for your grow? Pair it with ILGM’s autoflowering seeds today!

Bergman relaxing while plant grows

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How much should I water my cannabis in living soil?

Watering living soil can be a little tricky at first. You should start with clean water and make sure not to let your soil become too dry. Too-dry soil will harm the bacteria and fungal colonies you have worked hard to cultivate (and are working hard for you). When watering inside, you should water until you get some water coming out the bottom of your pot. Keep this runoff to a minimum so you don’t flush out any nutrients your microbiology has not metabolized.

Run-off example for growing marijuana plants
When watering plants in living soil, make sure you don’t overwater and flush out all the natural nutrients.

How to make Living Soil?

There are many different living soil recipes to choose from when crafting your soil. I recommend looking at various manufacturers’ recipes for their living soils and breaking them down to create your own, such as Gaia Green, Nature’s Living Soil, and SoHumm Living Soil. Any living soil recipe relies mainly on a good source of compost, so do your due diligence and research good compost sources when choosing your compost for a living soil. 

Final Thoughts on Living Soil

Living soil is an excellent medium for cannabis cultivation. It is economical, environmentally friendly, and produces high-quality buds. It is also a fascinating method of cultivation. I find it fun learning and implementing different types of microbiology and natural inputs when growing cannabis. 

Living soil is versatile since it can be implemented in an indoor or outdoor garden and is very easy to start compared to other cultivation methods. The quality of the final product speaks for itself. Every grower should do at least one living soil garden in their life just to experience this fantastic growing method.

Keep learning to keep your garden greener, Spenser

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Cannabis Cultivation Expert

Spenser has grown cannabis in every state on the west coast of the USA but has primarily been in Oregon. He's currently the a ... See profile

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