Hydroponics perlite growing medium: In a hydroponics system, the growing medium takes the place of the dirt or soil. Not to provide nutrients, but the roots can support the plant’s weight and also hold it upright. Hydroponic growing media is simply a soil-less material that is normally porous so it can hold the moisture and oxygen that the root system requires to grow. Nonporous materials can be used as well, but using no growing medium at all watering cycles could need to be more frequent so the roots don’t dry out between waterings. Perlite was one of the first reliable hydroponic growing mediums obtainable to the horticulture market. What are we waiting for? Let’s get into the details of hydroponics perlite growing medium, it’s advantages and disadvantages.
A step by step guide to hydroponics perlite growing medium
Hydroponic gardening offers growers several options for growing in a controlled environment. You have a wide range of systems, artificial lighting, nutrients, and fertilizers, and also grow mediums. Perlite is a popular selection for hydroponic gardens. Perlite makes a great hydroponic planting medium due to its lightweight, porosity, and also inert nature. In this article we also discussed the following topics;
- Is perlite harmful to fish
- The pH of perlite in hydroponics
- Advantages of perlite
- Importance of perlite in hydroponics
- Disadvantages of perlite
- Does perlite absorb water
- Perlite as a Hydroponic Grow Media
- Can you reuse perlite in hydroponics
Several hydroponic growers use perlite as their primary medium. Perlite is the best hydroponic growing medium around. Perlite used by itself or as a mixture with other mediums. Perlite is generally used with vermiculite and is also one of the major ingredients of soilless mixes. Perlite has good wicking action which makes it a good choice for wick-type hydroponic systems and it is also relatively inexpensive.
Perlite as a grow medium
Perlite is mainly composed of minerals that are subjected to high heat, which then expand so it becomes a lightweight, porous and absorbent. Perlite has a neutral pH level, excellent wicking action, and is very porous. Perlite can be used by it or mixed with other types of growing media. However, perlite is so light that it floats, depending on how you designed your hydroponic system, perlite by itself could not be the best choice of growing media for flood and drain systems.
Perlite is widely used in potting soils, and any nursery must carry bags of it. However, perlite is sometimes used as an additive added to the cement. You may find it for a better price with the building supplies, and at places that sell concrete mixes and mixing supplies. When working with perlite is careful not to get any of the dust in your eyes. Since it off to wash out the dust, and wet it down before working with it to keep the dust from going airborne.
Perlite is an inert, porous, and lightweight substance used as a hydroponic substrate. And perlite as a growing medium is most recognizable as little white rocks. It is a type of volcanic glass that, when heated to a certain temperature, expands to several times its size. As perlite is inexpensive and easy to use, it’s a popular option for a growing medium among growers.
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It’s worth mentioning that perlite is a non-renewable resource that will have some impact on the decision making procedure for some growers. Though, there is a vast global supply of perlite in existence. Perlite as a growing medium is easy to reuse therefore its longer life cycle is a great benefit when considering environmental impact.
To see why perlite is important for hydroponic gardens, it’s helpful to take a look at the advantages of horticultural perlite. Horticultural perlite is useful for hydroponic gardens. In hydroponic systems, roots are grown in troughs of perlite which are supplied with a fertilizer or nutrient solution. This allows the right amount of water and oxygen to get to the plant roots. Plants grown hydroponically with perlite produce a heavier plant for space, providing a better quality product. In addition to the benefit of increasing crop, perlite does not attract pests or diseases and easily be replaced. Its pH level provides the ideal zone for most plants to absorb nutrients that can be added to the water mixture.
This mineral is a lightweight, non-organic, soil substrate that provides a number of important advantages, including;
Inorganic – Perlite is stable and doesn’t decompose or break down. It doesn’t transfer disease.
Neutral pH – Perlite pH range is 6.5 to 7.5 and the ideal zone for most plants to absorb nutrients.
Light Weight – Perlite is lighter than grit or sharp sand, pumice, or other aggregates that can be used to improve drainage in a garden bed. It is easier to handle products for manufacturers and makes it simple for home gardeners to work with.
Rich in Nutrients – Perlite supplies iron, sodium, calcium, and also other trace elements.
The benefits of perlite for hydroponic gardens
Some of the benefits of Perlite for hydroponic gardens can be given below;
Perlite is a porous substance it offers excellent water retention and drainage capabilities both important in hydroponic gardening. Perlite is an inert and sterile medium which means it’s safe to use without the fear of tracking in pests, and which is always the risk with soil. Perlite has a neutral pH but will take on the acidity or alkalinity of the nutrient solution it’s placed in. Perlite can be washed and dried to be restored back to its 7.0 pH range.
While perlite is the perfect substrate to re-use by washing, it is also a medium that will not decompose so it’s guaranteed to last for years. In terms of plant health, perlite as a grow medium strengthens root growth and acts as a terrific insulator to protect plants from temperature changes.
The coarse, porous texture of perlite allows it to hold air very well and the large size of the particles provides natural air pockets while preventing compaction. This helps to reduce anaerobic conditions in the growing system and a lack of oxygen in the growing medium, whether it is water or soil that can allow the growth of anaerobic bacteria.
Like other hydroponic growing mediums, perlite can be reused. As it doesn’t hold on to nutrients, perlite can be cleaned in just a few moments; and it can be shaken away from the root balls and rinsed until the runoff has less than 150 ppm of particles.
If the perlite has been infected by diseased plans, it is relatively easy to sterilize. It could be rinsed with a hydrogen peroxide solution or a bleach solution; remember to rinse well with water if you’ve used bleach. Perlite doesn’t hold onto nutrients the same way as soil, rock wool, coco coir, or clay pebbles. When removing root balls, the medium falls away with a shake.
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The biggest cons of using perlite are that it can’t be used with fish and dust can be dangerous if inhaled. Finally, perlite is more coarse than a substrate like sand, it is still granular enough that solids loading and even plant roots can cause clogging.
Plants are grown hydroponics perlite growing medium
Common plants grown hydroponically with perlite consist of;
- Tomatoes are less prone to splitting when grown hydroponically with perlite than if tomatoes are grown in soil.
- Lettuce is grown hydroponically with perlite results in larger and better-shaped heads and nearly always in a lower incidence of tip burn.
- Strawberries need a large amount of oxygen in the root zone, and perlite’s high porosity helps maintain that ideal environment.
Using perlite in hydroponics
Perlite is equally useful in the hydroponics system and soil-less horticulture;
The fact that perlite doesn’t hold water is why it is so useful in hydroponics, as the air held within its pores helps keep the system oxygenated. Perlite has a neutral pH level, so it won’t affect or interact with the water or liquid nutrients used within the system. You will, though, need to occasionally replace the perlite used for hydroponics because the pores can become clogged with nutrients, algae, and plant roots, reducing its effectiveness.
Because perlite doesn’t hold water, it is important to use it within a hydroponic system in which the plant roots continually stay wet. If you use perlite as the sole growing medium, drip systems and bucket systems will work better than ebb-and-flow systems. Never use perlite in aquaponics, as the fish can breathe in the small particles, leading to clogged gills.
Perlite will absorb water and nutrients and keep them in the soil, which makes it perfect for seed starting blends or for plants that prefer lots of water. In conjunction with perlite, the vermiculite will absorb water and nutrients to feed plants, while the perlite will help drain the excess water away.
Propagation of plant cuttings – Perlite stimulates root growth and prevents drowning by helping drain excess water away from the plant cuttings. It could be used with rooting compounds.
Standalone Growing Media – Perlite is a decent selection in some instances as a hydroponic medium. But it is not suitable for high water settings, such as deep water culture, or ebb and flow systems.
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In mixture with other growing media – Perlite is mixed with vermiculite in equal amounts (50-50). This greatly solves the water-retaining issue of Perlite as improving the water-holding capacity of vermiculite, making it able to use in the water-rich systems stated above.
Dutch bucket or Bato bucket systems –
A series of buckets can be filled with perlite and assembled along an irrigation system line then that nutrient solution can be circulated by a pump from a reservoir located below the level of the buckets and added to the bucket with a drip emitter. Each bucket is attached to the return line, allowing the solution to return to the reservoir after use.
Propagating plants by cuttings –
A well-draining medium that is perlite provokes cutting to root rapidly as they search out the small pockets of nutrients and moisture within the medium; it prevents root rot.
Combining mediums –
Perlite can be a stand-alone growing medium, in high-water settings such as deep water culture or ebb-and-flow hydroponic systems, the small size and low density of perlite means that it tends to float. It does, combine well with many other hydroponic substrates which are larger, heavier, or denser. It is mixed with vermiculite or coco coir to prevent it from shifting.
Perlite culture is easily managed, increases the overall plant yield, and has the fastest growth rate of any hydroponic technique. In fact, tomatoes grown in perlite have produced plant yields that are 7% higher than crops grown in rock wool.
Use of Perlite in growing seeds and nodes
Fine Perlite can be used alone as a seed- starting medium or can be mixed half-and-half with shredded sphagnum moss or shredded peat moss. Several seeds have limited” pushing- up” power. Perlite alone or Perlite mixes are ideal for seed starting as they are light in weight. Moisten the medium thoroughly, and then sow the seeds on top. Very fine seeds could be atomized and left to settle into crevices be sure the medium does not dry.
Advantages of using Perlite in growing seeds
- To provide the needs of plant seeds of water and fertilizers.
- Balances between water and air so it gives a fast and strong growth.
- Perlite is easy to be penetrated by the roots of the plant when it emerges until it becomes a strong root so as to give strong seedlings that assure obtaining high productivity.
Significance of perlite for gardening
There are many reasons why perlite is such a useful additive to gardens and hydroponic system setups. They mainly stem from their unique physical properties and chemical properties:
- It is physically stable and retains its shape even when pressed into the soil.
- It has a neutral pH level.
- It contains no toxic chemicals and is made from naturally occurring compounds that are found in soil.
- It is incredibly porous and having pockets of space inside for air.
- It can retain some amount of water as allowing the rest to drain away.
Disadvantages of hydroponics perlite growing medium
- The biggest drawback to perlite is that it doesn’t retain water well that it will dry out quickly between watering. The dust from perlite is bad for health so you should wear a dust mask when handling it.
- Perlite dust is fine enough to cause damage to pumps and tubing, so it must be rinsed thoroughly before being used in a hydroponic system to prevent dust from damaging it.
- In systems using an organic hydroponic solution, or in dirty systems, the air pores in perlite are more susceptible to capturing solids such as biofilm, algae or other debris.
- As perlite is composed of smaller particles than other growing mediums that are hydroton, plants with an aggressive root system can cause the pore spaces between the particles to block up with root formations, which can lead to clogging, debris build-up.
That’s all folks about hydroponics perlite growing medium and it’s benefits and disadvantages. You might be interested in Horticulture Cultivation Practices in Summer.