Single Source vs. Commercial Living Soil - The Whys & Why Nots

Viviane Schute        

Cannabis enthusiast and student of the art of solventless extraction


Living soil epitomizes the cleanest, most sustainable, and purest way to grow cannabis. Living soil is the most natural and holistic substrate available, abundant in organic elements, minerals from the earth, and various compounds that allow microorganisms to thrive. Inside living soil is an entire universe of all kinds of minute life forms. 

This fertile environment, bustling with microbes, holds immense potential for enhancing cannabis cultivation. Within living soil, cannabis roots can efficiently uptake essential nutrients vital not only for robust growth but also for yielding top-tier resin quality. Living soil allows the fullest expression of each cannabis cultivar, providing the best flavor, effect, and overall experience of the cannabis resin grown there. 

Living soil is much more than mere 'dirt'. Think of living soil as the premier medium for growing cannabis, distinguished by its lush biodiversity and vibrant microbial community. Essentially, the soil blanketing the earth naturally embodies living soil until external contaminants or pollutants disrupt the delicate balance, effectively eradicating the thriving microorganisms within. To cultivate living soil for cannabis, growers primarily need to facilitate the ideal conditions, allowing nature to orchestrate its inherent processes.

The vitality of living soil hinges on excluding certain components; their presence could render the soil devoid of its life-sustaining properties. Hence, understanding the precise combination of ingredients essential for nurturing living soil is equally crucial as discerning which additives to keep out of the garden.

Unadulterated soil covering the most fertile places on earth would make a great basis for living soil in cannabis gardens, but it’s not feasible for most farmers to retrieve this soil and bring it on-site or into the greenhouse. Most cannabis farmers need to cultivate living soil themselves. 



Living soil needs to be “grown” with intention. Farmers can gather the right components, facilitate the right conditions, then allow nature to run its course to create the living soil. 

So if living soil comes from a natural process, and it’s a superior growing medium, then why aren’t more large cannabis companies using living soil? The truth is, living soil is difficult to implement on a large scale. It’s not ideal for commercial growers who are managing expansive gardens.

However, living soil is ideal for home growers, hobbyists, and even novice growers. Why is this? Because living soil is easiest to make in small batches. And, it’s more “forgiving” than other growing mediums. Living soil provides a solid baseline of nutrients, ideal uptake for the plants, and is a relatively low maintenance way to grow. Once living soil is properly made, it generally takes care of itself and the cannabis plants. 

The inputs don’t have to be as precise with living soil as with other mediums like coco for example. Hence, living soil can act as a buffer for some mistakes that novice growers make when finding out the ideal feeding regiment for their plants. Not only is it easier to manage an organic home grow with living soil, but the resin it yields has the potential to be top-notch. Quality from living soil is truly superb. 

The Downsides of Living Soil


 Implementing living soil in a commercial facility requires significant upfront costs. The soil is expensive, yes, but there are also other costs involved, such as custom raised beds, bed inserts, and other structural requirements. In order to pull off an efficient grow with living soil, growers really need to think about first growing the soil, then growing the plants. 

It’s a mindset shift and an adjustment of priorities. And it comes at a steep cost, relative to growing with other mediums. 

After the costs of the infrastructure and the actual soil, hiring a very knowledgeable team is another task. And the more skilled the staff, the more you’ll need to pay them. Irrigation is not automated with living soil, it’s all manual. And this takes experts to properly manage. 

Soil testing and analysis, troubleshooting, and nuanced adjustments to nutrient inputs are also key factors involved with living oil. It’s no easy task to maintain the vitality and robustness of a thriving biodiversity within the soil. 

Speaking of biodiversity, beneficial microbes aren’t the only organisms that thrive in this environment. An elevated risk of pest infestations also exists with living soil gardens, especially indoors. Incessant diligence is required to keep this in check and prevent significant losses to the operation. 

The truth is, living soil adds extra layers of complexity to a garden. There are more variables to consider, more decisions to weigh, and a different set of downstream effects than in conventional gardens. 

Learn more about gardening with living soil in our article What Is Living Soil?



Living soil embodies a natural and holistic approach, offering a fertile environment teeming with microbial life essential for optimal plant growth and resin production. While ideal for home growers due to its forgiving nature and potential for top-notch resin quality, implementing living soil on a commercial scale presents considerable challenges. The upfront costs, infrastructure requirements, and need for expert management pose significant barriers, making it less feasible for large-scale operations.

Despite its downsides, the allure of living soil lies in its unparalleled potential to produce high-quality cannabis while minimizing environmental impact. However, it requires a shift in mindset, meticulous attention to detail, and a willingness to navigate the complexities inherent in nurturing a thriving microbial ecosystem. As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, striking a balance between the benefits of living soil and the practical considerations of commercial cultivation will remain a crucial endeavor for growers seeking sustainability, economic viability, and top quality.

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