Everything You Need To Know About Growing Cannabis In Soil
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What Is Recycled Organic Living Soil (ROLS) And How Do You Make It?

4 min

Recycled Organic Living Soil (ROLS) is one of the best ways you can guarantee yourself healthy plants. Further, you will quickly find that this technique costs less, saves time and water, and lowers incidences of plant disease. Learn how to make your own. It is super easy.

Healthy soils are not all created equal. That said, they all have certain characteristics. A healthy soil has a billion bacteria, huge amounts of fungal hyphae, thousands of protozoa, and many nematodes. All of these organisms make up the complex ecosystem of top-quality soil.

These soils can break down organic matter and make it chemically conducive to support plant life. In turn, plants exude proteins and carbohydrates. The proteins and carbs then chemically manipulate the microbial community in the soil. This symbiotic process creates the natural fertiliser that plants need, when they need it.

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Microbial organisms also create the right soil structure for plant roots. Bacteria covers the soil particles with a kind of slime that holds the soil together. Worms and other insects then eat these microbes.

The end result is a rich environment where living and recently dead plant matter is churned together to perpetuate a healthy, living environment. A soil where the microbial environment is healthy also makes it harder for pathogens and pests to establish a presence. Most pathogens cannot compete with a healthy probiotic environment.

But how can cultivators recreate this environment for their cannabis plants?

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Recycled Organic Living Soil (ROLS) - Cannabis

Up until the middle of the 20th century, all agriculture was actually “organic.” That means it was produced without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The “Green Revolution” was able to double agricultural production. However, when you feed plants with chemically-processed fertiliser, you bypass the natural soil food web. Plants no longer form symbiotic relationships with surrounding microorganisms. And modern agricultural practices actually reduce soil diversity.

In this environment, plant pathogens can thrive. And more and more man-made nutrients and pesticides are needed to maintain crops.

The answer many have turned to is Recycled Organic Living Soil - or ROLS. The idea is an old one; but like the soil it references, the process is now being recycled to create healthier grow environments.

Using ROLS, cultivators can return to more sustainable agricultural practices that are also much better for plants - not to mention cheaper for you. Furthermore, ROLS is capable of sustaining healthy growth without the use of so much water.

As farmers began to reclaim “organic” or traditional cultivation techniques, the movement formed its own distinct philosophies on how to create the perfect organic environment. These include the biodynamic, permaculture, no-till, and supersoil methods of creating ROLS. The techniques are all a bit different. However, they all focus on recycling waste to feed plants in soil that is active and alive with microorganisms.


The Four ROLS Techniques  - Cannabis

There are four basic approaches to organic farming and the use of ROLS.

  1. The first is the biodynamic method. This was introduced in the 1920s as the first “organic farming movement.” It is often derided as a kind of pseudo-science due to its focus on seasonal timing, but also because of its references to both spiritual and mystic forces. The practice is rooted in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, a German architect and philosopher.

  2. Permaculture is another popular organic farming method. It is heavily influenced by ecology. This is a branch of biology that addresses the interaction of organisms and their environment. It is an idea that is focussed on long-term sustainability. Permaculture philosophy says that agriculture should integrate with the natural world, not cause stress on it. Everyone deserves a fair share. And excess should be recycled back into the ecosystem for other life to use.

  3. Supersoil is the first organic cultivation technique developed specifically for cannabis. Supersoil is store-bought potting soil with dry, organic additives. This “hot soil” is then composted for up to two months to pre-digest all the additives. Supersoil is easy to make, reusable, and produces great results. Plants do not need anything but plain water. No additional fertilisers are necessary. There is also no need to adjust pH.

  4. No-till is another form of organic farming. Plowing the earth is one way to clear the land and prepare soil for planting. However, tilling kills worms and microbes. It can also cause erosion and soil compaction. In this form of organic farming, the farmer adds layers of mulch between harvests.

    No-till was originally developed for outdoor grows. However, the idea has been adapted for indoor cultivation too. After harvest, the root bulb is removed, but the soil is otherwise left undisturbed. New plants are transported to the same pot with additional mulch and top dressing. No-till is also very similar to supersoil techniques, except without the batch processing.


Advantages Of Using ROLS - Cannabis

There are many advantages to using one of these techniques when cultivating your own cannabis crop. Cannabis is like a sponge. It will absorb any impurities in the soil around it. For that very reason, organic farming techniques are critical in the production of consumable plants.

Using a ROLS method will save you time, money, and water.

Not only will you produce healthier plants more easily, but you will not have to feed and water them as much - if at all. Do it right, and you can easily grow cannabis without any additional plant food. You do not even have to check the soil pH. Why not? The soil creates a natural balance all on its own.

Other advantages? Outbreaks of certain plant diseases will be dramatically reduced. How? You have created a healthy, infection-preventing environment where your cannabis babies can flourish.

You can also continually re-use your own soil.

If this were not all convincing enough, here is the last reason. ROLS uses nature’s best techniques to create the dankest buds. Weed grown from ROLS media typically creates much more heady highs.

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How To Make Your Own ROLS - Cannabis

While there are not any hard and fast rules to making the perfect ROLS, here are some tips. Remember that specific strains may require slight modifications.

  1. Obtain good soil: You can buy this from any home and garden shop. However, this is not ROLS. You must now add ingredients to turn this into a lively ecosystem.

  2. Aerate your soil: You need something in the mix that will absorb water and keep air flowing through it. Humus is the perfect product. Some growers use rice hulls or lava rock. Coconut husks (coco coir) and peat work well. Don’t be afraid of using all of these ingredients at the same time in different ratios. Experiment.

  3. Add natural fertilisers: Think bat guano, leaf mould, earthworm waste, or bone meal. Manure works too, and will provide valuable nitrogen through multiple growth cycles. Natural charcoal from burned wood is also great. It is also a good idea to use more than one. Nature does, and so should you.

  4. Mix in a few natural protectors: While ROLS is a natural grow technique, not all nature is benevolent. You have to protect your plants from pests and contamination. The addition of stinging nettles, orange and lemon peels, and even onions is the perfect ticket. This combination will repel the wrong invaders and invite in the right companion insects.

  5. Make your compost tea: This is a liquid mix you will add to your soil to keep it alive and bustling. You can make this “tea” out of coffee beans, aloe, straw, and egg shells. In other words, normal kitchen waste.

Ultimately, the more diverse the ingredients, the more diverse your ROLS. Experimentation, including with your specific grows, is also important. By using a variety of ingredients, the microorganisms in your soil will do most of the work for you.

Miguel Antonio Ordoñez
Miguel Antonio Ordoñez
With an AB Mass Media and Communications degree, Miguel Ordoñez is a veteran writer of 13 years and counting and has been covering cannabis-related content since 2017. Continuous, meticulous research along with personal experience has helped him build a deep well of knowledge on the subject.
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