Must replace all soil each year!

WHOA WHOA FOLKS!!! RE-CHARGING SOIL IS DETRIMENTAL TO ITS ABILITY TO DRAIN PROPERLY. This is news to me but it comes from FoxFarm’s own soil scientists as well as a confirmation from a friend who is also a soil scientist. (Professor of Soil Sciences) I am spreading the news around the site as it is SO important to get out. I lost 56 successfully germinated seeds this year due to a hydrophilic soil condition brought on thru re-charging and sanitizing efforts that slowly drowned all my plants this season. Here’s the stuff from THEM; THEY CONFIRM MY SUSPICION THAT THE SOIL WAS TOO DENSE AND HYDROPHILIC. The raking I had done to “sanitize” the soil after the 1st round of failures exacerbated the problem, breaking soil and all the leftover hyphae into dust. The mycorrhizal supplementation leaves quite a bit of hyphae, when broken up form blockages in the soil.
Periodically fresh potting soil is really the best choice
From FoxFarm; “We do not recommend reusing FoxFarm soil, and we agree that the recharged soil should be disposed of…” !! MUST DISPOSE OF ALL SOIL ANNUALLY!!! SAY WHAT!!

I also have the advantage of a friend who is a Professor of Soil Sciences. His response:" THE ANSWER; your ‘potting mix’, ‘potting soil’, ‘rootzone media’ etc. is likely dominated with an organic fraction such as sphagnum peat moss (my preferred choice), or some kind of composted forested waste which I avoid as much as possible. With time the organic material in pots decomposes slowly leaving behind finer organic particles which are capable of greater water adsorption due to greater surface area. We use the term hydrophilic primarily to describe compounds that are attracted to water and do not repel it as hydrophobic compounds do. Hydrophobic compounds such as waxes, silicones, and such do not dissolve in water but actually repel it. Solarization can be used to sanitize but not completely sterilize soil, but it takes prescribed lengths of time and temperatures to be successful. Growing successive crops of the same species can, of course, result in a buildup of rhizoctonia, phytophora etc. root or seedling diseases, and along with poorer drainage, you are fighting a losing battle. Also, air/sun drying of organic potting soil is notorious for becoming hydrophobic and actually will repel water for a while until it reverts back to being able to adsorb (surface phenomena not absorption). Fungal hyphae are also hydrophobic resulting in water-repelling and thus the floating of the hyphae as you described. The clogging of pores is very real and most likely just the finely divided organic and inorganic particles filling the aeration/drainage pores which are critical for aeration of a soil. Bottom line as my wife started expressing to me many years ago that her houseplants ‘needed a soil change’. This is a typical progression of using potting media. natural soil has much less organic matter and through time develops a structure that balances macropore (aeration) to micropore (water adsorption) spaces. Although removing the potting soil and mixing and aerating and making an effort to enhance drainage and aeration characteristics by adding more sand, perlite, or vermiculite is seems like a noble cause the fact of the matter is you are working with a ‘muckier’ organic fraction. Organic materials as they decompose progress from a lighter fluffier material and browner in color to a blacker more finely divided material which is denser with greater water holding capacity but yet it is muckier. You can look up naturally occurring histosols being from fibric, to hemic to sapric and for example, in Florida, they are referred to as ‘Muck’ soils."
THANK YOU PROFESSOR AND FOXFARM FOR YOUR TIME, STUDY AND RESPONSE. IT WILL COME AS A SHOCK TO MANY GROWERS TO HEAR THAT SOIL RE-CHARGING IS LESS EFFECTIVE THAN RE=TREADING RACE CAR TIRES!! THAT WE MUST BUY NEW SOIL EACH SEASON!!! WOW!! I GROW IN BIG BUCKETS, THAT WILL BE A LOT OF SOIL!!$$$
Sorry for the bad news, but I HAD to share it with you. I’m thinking of changing to a substrate without lots of organic material, just coco coir and perlite, then add what I want according to the plants needs and time of seasonl. Surely this mix could be washed and recycled!? GDub

Sorry about your problems with the bagged soil. I’ve been making my own blend with coco/perlite/worm castings. I do add in the extra mycorrhizae, didn’t really know if it was necessary though.

I reclaimed all of it that I could. Hopefully I don’t run into problems. Im going to be reusing some of it soon either way, so we’ll see how it goes.

@CurrDogg420, I have been amending used bag soil with compost ingredients to sit/ferment for a year (that’s the plan). Do you think I should just pitch the used soil instead of composting it to bypass these possible issues?

My neighbor grows lots of leafy cover plants along his walkways and foundation. That greenery seems to like the occasional stump and root ball and attached soil. It disappears below the canopy and the rain melts it down. I put too much time into my girls to not provide new soil.

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I’m not ready to pitch mine. I’m at least going to compost it - in fact I’m planning to build a worm bin and use my reclaimed soil as a base.

But I’m also planning to reuse some of it right away. Not until it’s all legal for me to do so of course…. :innocent: I’ll let you know how I make out.

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I plan to put my used soil/compost around my more natural garden and peach/apple trees. Think it will still work great.

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I get two grows from each bucket before recharging with compost been doing it for year’s

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No matter what brand or what you put in it. Old soil will begin to grow more hydrophilic with each re-charge. There is no arguing this fact. IF you don’t stir too much (no raking in the sun like I did to “sterilize”) perhaps you can get by for a few years, as I have until this year it reached total hydrophilia. Roots must breath, the easier the better. With each re-charge we are filling all these air gaps. Perlite, vermiculite etc. help drainage of VIRGIN soil. Yet they eventually contribute to the problem, clogging air passages in older soil. It doesn’t matter what brand, although heavily amended soils, especially with mycorrhizae will clog up the fastest! Only with fresh new soil can one get the best air passage and hence the best grow. I’m considering not using ANY SOIL in my blend. A 70/30 blend of coco coir and perlite seems like a good “empty” substrate I can fortify to my heart’s content depending on the species, time of year, and any special needs. I’m more of a hands-on farmer, chasing delivery quality cannot be done without changing the plant’s feed with its needs for the time of year! Goodbye soil!

It may work OK, but there is no doubting your “air passage” grade is slipping along with your quality. Each successive use exacerbates the issue. So how much deterioration are you willing to accept VS. the cost of new soil or changing to a soilless substrate. I’m voting for the soilless substrate so I can supplement my plants feedings according to their needs. I guess you can’t call me a “dirt farmer” anymore!

One thing that I did to my recycled mix, is rinse it in a cal-mag solution. I do that to my coco to begin with. It did rinse out a lot of the fines. So far no hydrophobic issues.

Let me get this straight…a soil manufacturer recommends new soil every year?
Go Figure…
Actually I go new every year for the ladies (2 bags Fox OF/ 1 bag VermiFire) mix.
With a core of OF so the seedlings don’t hit the fire for a few weeks (20-40g Bags).
I rotate the old soil into the raised beds, veggies don’t seem to mind.

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ONE of the replies came from a soil manufacturer, but if you had read it, the second and more detailed position is outlined by a personal friend who happens to be a soil scientist. He has nothing to gain from what he tells me. The supplementation with mycorrhizae hastened the demise of the soil by further clogging it up with dead hyphae. So if you supplement with mycorrhizae, I would follow directions and change the soil. BUT I’m working on the answer; the use of a substrate without soil, a 70/30 blend of coco coir and perlite. Then I can add what I want and flush it all out at the end of the season. Best of both worlds!!

You mention Coco not soil so you have nothing to worry about. NO MATTER what the substrate, I think a thorough rinsing, flushing is necessary at the end of each season now. I don’t want any useless leftovers clogging up my pores. Looking forward to a fresh start next year. I do have one Bruce Banner Fast in brand new soil that is growing fine. It helped to restore my sanity after losing 56 germinated seeds this season to clogging hypophilia.

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I have thought about you and your problem a lot. Have you ever tried making your own mix.? Rather than amending the FF OF. It sounds like you were close to making your own mix with all the drainage amendments anyway.

What I mean is at the end of the season I dump all my pots into my raised beds and all winter I amend it with char and homemade table scrap compost. Then in the spring before planting I fill all my pots first with the garden mix love. I do not get bagged soil for initial planting unless I get a gift cut randomly mid season or need to top some pots. I have done this for 16years in a row to these particular raised beds and never had anything close to like what you experienced. My native soil is hard glacial deposit clay with occasional palm sized rock. I love hitting the clay bed so I can back mix it into my grow soil. My grow soil is about 4’ deep in most places now.

You could try something like this for science sake. Do you have any other garden beds without the clay affliction? You could try 1 pot at the end of this season and mix it into the garden. Add whatever leaves table scraps and coffee grounds you have randomly around. And a few handfuls of the worst example of your clumping clay old FF OF. Mix it all in. Then see how it is/looks in the spring and then actually grow in it.

Sorry I am having a hard time organizing this (my thoughts) in a sensible way. I cannot help but going back to the fact that clay (small particle) soils are some of the richest for growing once you get past the water clog properties of clay. Everything broken down into small particles makes it easy for plants to pick up what it needs, especially for trace minerals. It seems to me that your problem at some point could be a benefit again as a rich source for minerals and nutrients. And maybe not have to $$ soil for you 5gal buckets.

Or if your are using coco now, for science. Try adding a 50% mix to one of your worst old soil piles. Then a 25% coco mix to another. Put a tomatoe in it if you don’t want to waste a seed or clone. See if that helps. Even coco breaks down like peat in a few years.

I wonder if your soil has a abnormally high level of trichoderma in it.? It is great at breaking down organic molecules. Especially all the fungal hyphae you mentioned. That is not the usual even with multiple applications of mycoboost. I read a story about when it was first identified (trichoderma) by us soldiers in ww2. Their waxed canvas tents started melting and falling apart in the rain after 3 days. They discovered the soil there was unusually high in trichoderma. And what trichoderma fungi are.

Anyway, that would not be the last word for me. Buying new soil every year. Maybe for next year, but there has to be a way around your problem. I feel so bad for you I would gladly give you fresh clones if you were close enough.

Do worms avoid the sticky clay soil? Have you ever tried larger wood chips? Or char? You could easily mix them into the pile of “useless” soil. Let it age a year and see if it resolves? Or in a pot or 2 for science. Sorry to ramble but I would have at least 4 short term and 4 long term experiments going in pots to see if a 25-50% blend of coco or chips or char would help with the drainage. Hell I would even try marbles or pea gravel too. Go big on drains then mix finer.

I would love to see an up close look at your worst soil example if you are willing to post a pic.? I am so intrigued by your problem.

If anyone builds compost you are making topsoil just like mother nature

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That statement will sell a lot of soil for them or not personally thanks for the warnings on ff I won’t buy it