As cannabis legalization has proceeded in patchwork fashion across the US, in many states — where it's legal to purchase and consume cannabis — you still can't grow your own plants. For example, in some states like Colorado and California, adults are allowed to cultivate up to six of their own cannabis plants, but in the more recently legal Illinois, home grow is not allowed.
Outside of adult-use, many more states like Rhode Island and Arizona allow for medicinal home grows. While growing your own cannabis can be a money saver and fun opportunity to flex your green thumb, for some medical cannabis patients, having regular and reliable access to quality cannabis can be a literal life saver.
However, growing healthy, potent, and healing cannabis is not quite as simple as planting some seeds, praying for good weather, and hoping they sprout. The soil in which you place your cannabis seeds or clones may not necessarily be suitable for growing healthy plants. What you need is nutrient-rich soil that allows you to maintain proper drainage, nutrients, water retention, pH levels, and many other factors.
If you're a budding home grower, you could certainly buy some premade soil and take your chances. But what about “super soil” for cannabis? And what exactly is so super about it? Let's have a look.
Super soil, explained
Cannabis can be a demanding plant, especially for novice growers. For the healthiest grow, you need the appropriate ratios of nutrients, water, humidity, and other factors that are typically difficult to replicate outside of the great outdoors. In theory, super soil replicates the soil naturally found outdoors where cannabis plants have grown wild for millennia.
Super soil first came into cannabis nomenclature after its creation by legendary cannabis breeder Dave Bowman, more famously known as Subcool, who passed away in February after a long illness. Learned through many years of cultivation experience, Subcool was able to create a precisely composted soil that delivers the appropriate nutrients to cannabis at just the right time for each phase of growth.
Many home cultivators prefer super soil because it eliminates a lot of the growing guesswork, and can help sprout an all-natural plant that is superior in flavor, smoothness, and taste. Super soil can be purchased online (depending on your state) for about $30 for a bag containing 1.5 cubic feet of soil, but you can also make your own.
Pros and cons of making super soil
If you've never made super soil, you need to know the pros and cons before diving in.
For starters, you need to have quite a bit of space for mixing and storing large amounts of soil. There is also the upfront cost, the physical exertion of mixing large amounts of soil, slower plant growth when compared with liquid nutrients, and a long planning period (you'll need to begin hoarding kitchen scraps like coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, and fruit and vegetable peels to begin the composting process about 30-60 days ahead of time).
However, if your vision for a cannabis home grow more closely resembles a plant or two either indoors or outdoors, there are ways to make an average soil from the hardware store fertile ground for your plant.
How to hack your own super soil
By definition, soil is composed of five ingredients: minerals, soil organic matter (decomposed plant, animal, and microbial remnants), living organisms, gas, and water. These ingredients can be found in different proportions in the three different soil types suitable for different purposes: sand, silt, and clay.
While these three soil types have their separate pros and cons, they aren't a great fit for cannabis on their own. Instead, you'll want loam or a combination of all three. Though loam may be a bit more costly, it addresses some of cannabis' top needs: good drainage and water retention, excellent nutrient retention, high oxygen levels, supportive of microorganisms, and a nearly neutral pH (for cannabis, you'll want soil that's slightly more acidic, but not much).
There are many different kinds of soil available at your local hardware store or nursery, so to help narrow your search, keep an eye out for these soil amendments on the ingredient list to create an ideal growing environment for cannabis:
- Worm castings
- Bone meal
- Blood meal
- Rock phosphate
- Bat guano
- Peat moss
- Fish meal
These added ingredients will help form a soil that is rich in potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, and micronutrients — all of which are beneficial for healthy cannabis plants.
If you are a registered caretaker or medical cannabis patient, it may be wise to make your own large batch of super soil from scratch. However, unless you're planning on growing the legal limit at home, it may be easier to head to your local nursery or hardware store and find soil that is the closest fit.