If there is one thing hydroponics can be associated with; it’s versatility. With hydroponics you have the ability to mix and match a wide range of growing techniques. The possibilities are virtually endless and hydroponic experts are coming up with new and effective growing methods all of the time. However, too much choice isn’t always a good thing. If you’re a novice to hydroponics, then having so many decisions at your fingertips can feel like more of a nightmare than a blessing – cue the head scratching. It’s our goal to equip keen gardeners like you with the knowledge that will enable you to get growing hydroponically. We’ve already gone over the many benefits of hydroponic gardening and at Garden Alchemy we’re sure many of you will want to get to grips with soilless cultivation. So, without further ado, let’s look at the most popular hydroponic substrates that are commonly used worldwide.
Most hydroponic growing methods require some sort of growing medium to support the weight of the plants and their root systems. Good hydroponic substrates will also retain moisture and aerate the root zone of your plants, leading to better nutrient uptake and more bountiful yields. The one thing hydroponic substrates don’t do is supply your plants with adequate nutrition. Generally, they are inert mediums and nutrients will need to be delivered by you in the form of a plant boosting nutrient solution (don’t worry though; there are many fantastic nutrient products out there).
There are a whole host of substrates that can be used for hydroponic growing, from sand and gravel to sheep’s wool. Each come with their own advantages and disadvantages. However, there are a few that have proven their worth time and time again and many growers tend to narrow down the options to these main substrates; clay pebbles, coco peat, rockwool, and perlite.
Commonly known as Hydrocorn or Hydroleca, clay pebbles are an organic growing media for hydroponics. They are made from clay that has been heated in a rotating kiln to 1100 – 1200 degrees Celsius. The result is a rough finished, highly porous medium that is brilliant at retaining moisture, trapping air, and oxygenating any nutrient solution which flows over it, which in turn provides plenty of aeration to the root zone. Clay pebbles support plants and the root system and as a non-degradable, PH neutral medium, they can be re-used providing they are properly sterilized before being used again. Overall, clay pebbles are an easy growing medium to work with, they can be used as a sole substrate in all hydroponics systems that require a growing medium, and the natural oxygenating potential to boost growth and produce excellent results, meaning they are popular with both novice and professional growers.