Toil
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Soil Foodweb in soilless media?

I have some containers, in which I've always used soilless media (peat, perlite, etc...). Usually I mix in some blood meal and some bone, and let it sit for a while. However, I'd really like to make it more or less self sustaining, rather than having to fertilize when the amendments run out.

So is this possible? Or do I need to start over with mineral soil?

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applestar
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I'm sure some others can give you a much more scientific answer, but I remember a discussion regarding perlite in which it was described as porous media that provides a lovely habitat for microbes. Peat is a kind of humus isn't it? So it seems to me that watering with ACT (Aerated Compost Tea) or Worm Tea would be a good way to get the microbes going in there. I'd mix in some used coffee grounds and compost too. And there's always my "Worm in Every Pot" method -- I try to put a live earthworm in every container. They do their thing, leaving castings everywhere -- love those "Worm Signs" :wink: I dump used coffee grounds in my watering can and water with that so that a bit of UCG gets added to the containers (in case the worms aren't getting enough -- if they're unhappy with the container they're in, they'll migrate to another one in search of better home :roll: ). I add ground up eggshells too.

Top_dollar_bread described a way to revitalize used container soil somewhere. I'll post the link to the thread when I find it.

BTW, I recommend switching from peat moss to coir :mrgreen:

serial_killer
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What are you growing? How long does it grow for?

If you mix in some worm castings and/or bat guano it should sustain your crop unless its really long term.

Molasses works great as a fert.

Applestar what kind of worms are you using? Regular earthworms like to be about 5 feet underground so they arnt the best for containers, they will just borrow down to the bottom and hang out. I recommend Red Wigglers, they are much more active and like the top foot or two of soil so are a lot better for use in pots.
USDA zone 5b, Sunset zone 35

Toil
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I don't add worms, per se, but my wormcastings are loaded with cocoons. Sometimes I put a tray underneath to water or go on a trip, and if I put too much water I will find a worm in the pebbles. It's about 20% castings in there. I don't have a proper brewer, so I just quintuple the compost, throw it in water, stir, and pour.

The plant I'm staring at is a relative of papyrus that I took over from my mom. It's perennial, and very happy now that I removed the citronella that was taking over, but continues to show little brown tips. Then I have the chinese perfume plant I rescued.

I'm also looking for good tomatoes like everyone else in the NE that had next to none last season. Also ornamental grasses, which look just great. The creeping jenny in baskets I don't worry about, as I shouldn't even be growing it. That stuff is invincible.

It's the idea of not adding manures (esp. manure from far, far away) and such that appeals to me, and the elegance of an efficient nutrient cycle. I've been taking Dr. Ingham's advice as much as possible outside, but I haven't seen this question answered.

I'm not sure if peat is humus - mine just looks like old peat moss in very small pieces. I think it's alive, actually. In one of my drosera containers, it sprang to life, and is growing quite well. Maybe there is an occasional viable spore?

serial_killer
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Its easy to make a simple brewer. You just need a old nylon sock and a small water pump and of course a watering can. Fill the nylon with the guano / manure and hang it above the container filled with water, put the pump in the water and direct the flow at the sock, let it run for a while, I've ran it as long as 48 hours but I think 12 is plenty.

I guess you wouldnt even need the pump, you could just dangle the filled sock in the water like a tea bag.

This way you don't have to end up with wet guano/manure sitting on top of your pots.

There isnt much to worry about using guano, especially the higher end stuff you can get at your more advanced plant stores, such as indoor grow shops or locally owned nurseries. Plus its pretty clean stuff, not like one would expect. The kind I use come in a little paper bag like coffee and are like little flat pellets, kind of coin shaped. I use them both ways, mixed in my soil and as a tea I water with. There is a slight smell while your making tea and it but it doesnt linger after you water and if you can stomach using the fish emulsion ferts you can handle the guano tea.

I've gotten away from Guano though, now that I grow some hydro and have all the hydro chemicals I save the used nutes when I change the system to water all my soil plants, even though its not good enough for the hydro plants to live in anymore the soil plants absolutely thrive from it.

What kind of grasses are you growing? Something large or just some smaller stuff like wheat grass and such?
USDA zone 5b, Sunset zone 35

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applestar
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My worms? They usually come along with the compost or the "Good Under the Woodpile Soil" or the "Composted Leaf Top Soil Under the Oak Tree" when I mix up my container mix, so they're probably red wrigglers. :wink:

We did briefly talk about soil foodweb in containers this topic in this thread:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=94576

and THIS is the mega-thread/sticky on ACT 8):
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=17097

If you moss is growing, then it's probably Sphagnum moss. Peat Moss, by definition, is quite dead.

Ah! Found TDB's container soil recycling post: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=102236#102236

Toil
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the sphagnum growth was slow at first, then slowly spread. It's peat. Big bag of compressed peat. and it was a singular event. All my other sundews have dead peat as normal. I do use the long fibre stuff as well, but only in the bottom of the pot.

In french, we call peat "tourbe de sphaigne". So I assumed peat in english is sphagnum as in french. Anybody know for sure?

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