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Grow Hack: Plant-Based Permaculture Layering for Healthy Soils

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‘Plants feeding plants’ is the basic idea behind plant-based permaculture layering for healthy soils. You can create layers anywhere, even in your houseplant pots. Layering not only creates beneficial microbes, it creates more soil! More soil without hauling wheelbarrows or bags is always a goal when gardening. If you have poor soil with too much clay or sand, this naturally-inexpensive technique offers great results for outdoor growing. Scientists have shown that beneficial bacteria help plants fend off attacks from fungus and other diseases.

Plant-based farming practices have had a long history in human agricultural practices, while synthetic nutrients and pesticides are only a recent phenomenon in farming. It has been proven that as soon as chemicals are added to the soil system, the fragile rhizosphere, the region where microbes and plant roots interact, will get destroyed within one season. Microbial life can take hundreds of years to remediate to make soil fertile and healthy again, while adding chemicals for only one season might destroy it. If we want to have a healthier world, we need to put our beneficial microbes first.

So how do we help beneficial microbes take over our soils? Layering plant materials on top of your soil can remediate unhealthy soil and add beneficial colonies of bacteria, yeasts and fungi. The top layer of soil has the most microbial activity. So microbes will eat up at the new material as it gets layered, while secreting nutrients for plants into the soil. Aerobic microbes are near the surface and the anaerobic microbes burrow deep into the earth allowing plant roots and fungi to follow.

You can find things to layer everywhere! Just make sure that you know that the area you are gathering from has not been sprayed with chemicals. The deluge of fall’s deciduous leaves makes a great layer of important carbohydrates, lignins, humates and proteins for beneficial fungi. Grass clippings from the summer are another awesome nutrient-rich layer with a plethora of beneficial bacteria that go to work when layered on top of your soil. Using your “weeds” as another layer in the summer months offers more nutrients for your rhizosphere.

You can start layering right on top of the grass in normal yard. The grass dies from lack of light but insects, worms and microbes come through and decompose the organic matter you’ve added. If you keep the soil fed and don’t till it, beneficial fungus will create a network around the roots of your plants providing just the right nutrients for any grow cycle.

Instead of putting the weeds into the compost pile put them into your grow beds so they break down right there and feed the microbial life. Organic bales of hay, straw and grass are a wonderful way to pile on lots of organic matter into your garden beds, and offer a huge amount of food for worms and other microbes. Also add organic kitchen food scraps from your compost pile or use compost directly from the counter bucket. Clean cardboard (no ink, plastic or wax) can be used as another layer. Easy to grow perennials like alfalfa and comfrey can be cut continuously and put back into the soil through simple layering.

Ganja farmers can always lay fan leaves down continuously around the base of your plants. Soil microbes break down all the layers and provides easy to uptake food for your garden plants, like on a forest floor.

Cannabis plants respond positively to healthy soil. We at Dragonfly Earth Medicine consult for more and more commercial marijuana facilities and encourage the use of soil layering; and those who follow our techniques are seeing great success. Reusing leaves, stalks and roots provides the majority of what a healthy soil food web needs to thrive. Layering continuously insures the microbiology gets all it needs nutritionally so the microbes can, in turn, help grow healthy plants.

Some growers say pot plants grown in organic, living soil develop fuller trichomes compared to those grown using synthetic fertilizer. For an easy, fun and cost effective method of making a self-fertilizing garden that repels diseases and fungus, try soil layering.

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