Hydroponics - Hydroponics Growing Media
Hydroponically-grown plants – like those grown in more traditional settings – require water and support. The name itself can be somewhat deceptive, as it implies that these plants are always grown in water. Certainly this is done (and often), but there are also several other media options. Essentially, hydroponics really just refers to plants not grown in soil, with another substance providing support and nutrients fed in varying ways which do not involve the earth. Here are some of those mediums:
Gravel: Aquarium gravel is sometimes used, providing a solid, clean and attractive support. However, it does tend to crumble, so it must be cleaned and filtered long before use. In addition, because it is so heavy, a powerful pump is required to keep air and water flowing properly and avoid roots drying out.
Perlite: A popular alternative, this is a kind of volcanic rock which is heated to form small, lightweight pebbles resembling glass beads. It has a remarkable ability to retain air, and help your pump keep the water oxygenated.
Rockwool: Among the most popular of choices, this is a type of specially processed basalt, which provides a strong and porous base. It does not decay or leach compounds as it is mostly inert, offers excellent drainage, and it is also lightweight yet sturdy and inexpensive.
Sand: Another common medium is ordinary beach sand, which drains better than clay-infused soil, but does not perform as well as most other media in a hydroponic setting. It is, however, very easy to use and certain plants (specifically certain wild orchid species among a few others), naturally thrive in wet sand.
Vermiculite: This is actually quite similar to perlite, and is also made into small pebbles, providing a flexible support medium. It absorbs water from passive systems by capillary action, helping to automate nutrient feeding and watering tasks. It should be used in moderation though, as it holds even more water than perlite, and thus a mixture of the two is often used for that reason.
At the end of the day, you need to choose the medium you feel will work best for you and your garden. Do your research, look at your costs, and know your plants. In this way, you will be able to choose wisely and create the perfect atmosphere to grow lush, beautiful flowers, fruits and vegetables.