Contributed by: Leaf
Perlite and vermiculite (sometimes I use Sunshine Mix #1 or #4 instead, if I feel the original dirt it is lacking in rich topsoil)
A lot of the times I turn the existing soil without adding much to it, and have an excellent crop, but some sites need soil improvements. This FAQ will outline how to prepare and enrich your outdoor site.
It is best to prepare your area(s) in the fall for planting the following spring. Doing this will allow the soil additives to break down, releasing their nutrients into the soil. Simply turn the top layer of your previously prepared plots before planting at the beginning of the season. If you cannot prep your locations ahead of time, prepare them as soon as possible.
Clearing the area:
The fall is the best time to clean an area of brush and fallen trees/branches. I personally wouldn't fall a tree in the middle of nowhere.
The size of plot depends on how many plants you have. Planting in natural clumps or singularly is also dependant on preference.
The expected yield varies greatly, depending on conditions, strain and TLC.
How do I prepare the site?
I unfold a small tarp on the ground at the spot that I want to amend. Then I dig a 2' x 2' (minimum) hole, placing all the material I remove onto the tarp. I keep digging down until I reach the clay layer. I will remove the clay separately, in a 5 gallon bucket, and move it into a secluded location near by (Try to fill a natural depression with the clay, then cover with leaves and twigs).
I usually dig the hole to a depth of about 2.5 3 feet; little if any material needs to be removed from the hole once I have removed the clay. Once completed, I loosen and break up the clay layer to a loose consistency so the roots can penetrate deeper.
I mix the soil layers on the tarp together, breaking up large chunks with my shovel. I then return about one third of the soil from the tarp back into the hole. Then the remaining soil is mixing in with some soil conditioners, depending on how fertile the original soil is and what I feel the soil needs.
Once I have added all the ingredients I feel the particular area requires, I then blend this material on the tarp and fill the hole with the mix. Loosely compact the mix by patting it down with a shovel, stepping on it, etc. A slight depression usually remains, naturally trapping water when it rains or when watering/feeding.
Soil conditioners: (A list of some of the components I add).
dolomite or hydrated lime
blood meal / bone meal
glacial rock dust
pre-composted manure (chicken, rabbit, cow, bat guano, seabird, etc)
fish (Dice the entire fish into 2 cubes so it will decompose at a quicker rate)
I feel the lime and compost are important ingredients because they react together, rapidly breaking down the nutrients to an available form to the roots, as well as creating heat while decomposing.
Blood meal and bone meal are excellent additions; ensure that you also use lime to mask the smell from bears and other animals.
Perlite and vermiculite plots stand out in the wilderness, especially if youve prepared your spot(s) the previous fall. Make sure you have 3+ inches of soil covering these little white pebbles. Watering tends to make these little white buggers float and settle to the top, so make sure they are buried good.
An alternative to Perlite, vermiculite, or Sunshine Mix soils is coco-fibers. These fibers are shredded coco husks, and are excellent for providing aeration and water absorption. These fibers also seem to promote vigorous root growth, as the roots shoot along the fibers as opposed to grinding through dirt. Coco fibers are brown, so the plots look natural.
Dry/remote area tips:
Polymer crystals can be added to the mixture; they are great for absorbing and slowly releasing water. I recommend pre-expanding the crystals overnight in a bucket of water before using them at your site. They work great in grow bags too.
Another tip is to line the outside edges and bottom of your hole with plastic. This will trap all the moisture inside your hole. Just ensure to perforate the plastic at the bottom of the hole, because your plants will drown if the roots are left in water.
The site has been prepared! Now pack up everything and leave without making a trace. How much site prep and what conditioners to add depends on how remote your area is, how much enrichment is needed, and whether or not you are willing to pack all these ingredients to the area(s).