How to Create a Living Soil:

Living soils are a very popular way to garden and are a hot topic on many gardening channels.  So what is a living soil? How do you create one? Let’s dive into it here.

What is Living Soil?

In its simplest form, a living soil is a soil that is centered around the beneficial microbes. The microbes in turn break down organic matter and organic fertilizers to become available to the plants.  Living soils do not use salt based fertilizers–liquid or granular. Living soils focus primarily on feeding the microbes with organic matter (compost, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, molasses,etc).  Living soils are also intended for use over and over again.  This does not mean that it is a ‘set it and forget it’ soil, though.  Nutrients and microbes will need to be added throughout the growing season and/or between crops.  In fact, most living soils actually improve over time as microbe colonies establish and mature. 

How to Create Living Soil?

There are many different ways to create a living soil base.  One could use a pre-made organic potting mix like Roots Organics 707 or KIS Organics BioChar Mix or one could gather components to mix their own.  If you are choosing to make your own living soil– PLAN AHEAD!!  Make your soil BEFORE you need to plant into it.  A minimum of two weeks should be budgeted for but a month is better.  The soil needs to ‘cook’–allowing the microbes to break down organic matter and cycle them into plant-available form.  Below is a basic living soil recipe:


Basic Living Soil Recipe:

  • ⅓ Sphagnum Peat Moss 
  • ⅓ Aeration (Pumice, perlite, lava rock, rice hulls or any combination)
  • ⅙ Compost (Malibu’s Compost or Oly Mountain Fish Compost, avoid municipal compost)
  • ⅙ Worm Castings (Roots Organics Big Worm or Gaia Green Worm Casting)

To this base, you will need to add the macronutrients and micronutrients to the soil, focusing mainly on nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulfur.  However, do not overlook the micronutrients found in products like kelp meal, glacial rock dust and basalt as they are as important to soil, microbe and plant health. 

Other additives:

Down to Earth Blood Meal

  • Reason for Being in Living Soil: Fast release nitrogen and iron source

Down to Earth Feather Meal

  • Reason for Being in Living Soil: Slow release nitrogen

Down to Earth Seabird Guano

  • Reason for Being in Living Soil: Phosphorus, Calcium, Beneficial Bacteria

Down to Earth Langbeinite

  • Reason for Being in Living Soil: Potassium, Sulfur, Magnesium

Down to Earth Kelp Meal

  • Reason for Being in Living Soil: Micronutrients, Plant growth promoting hormones

Down to Earth Oyster Shell

  • Reason for Being in Living Soil: Calcium

Mycorrhizal Products

    • There are a lot of options here! Choose one that suits your budget.

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