Making a Right Decision about the Growing Medium that best suits your Hydroponics
In hydroponics, the growing medium takes the place of the dirt/soil. Not to provide nutrients, but so the roots can support the plant’s weight and hold it upright. Just about any inert material can be used as a growing media. Inert meaning that it can’t/won’t decay or break down quickly, thus providing nutrients to the plants. Hydroponic growing media is simply a soil-less material that is generally 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 would need to be more frequent, so the roots don’t dry out between waterings. Please see the List below of different types of growing media for hydroponics
The growing medium won’t be able to grow anything on its own. If you placed plants in hydroponic growing media and watered it with plain water, the plants would starve from nutrient deficiency. It’s simply there to help support the plant’s weight as well as the moisture and oxygen the roots need. The nutrients the plants need are provided by the nutrient solution and is what the growing media is watered and moistened with.
Some of the most widely used growing media’s include Rockwool, Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate (called, ECA®, LECA, CLAY PEBBLES), Coconut Fiber/Coconut chips, and Perlite or Vermiculite. While there are a lot of materials that can be used as growing media in hydroponics, they can all have very different properties than another type of media. We have even seen the use of hay bales as growing medium to grow tomatoes, using drip lines on top to drip the nutrient solution onto the hay bales and tomato plant roots.
There aren’t one growing media that is better than the rest. Especially with so many different hydroponic system designs possible. However, many growers eventually favor one type over others. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing what to use as a growing media. The type of system your growing in, and how you design and build that system is the biggest factor.
While there is no one best growing media for all situations, some growing media’s work better than others in different systems. With any hydroponic system, and/or any type of growing media, the goal is still the same. You just need the roots to be moist, not soggy and saturated. If the growing media is saturated and soggy, the roots will suffocate from lack of oxygen. That situation can easily lead to roots dying, and root rot.
Light Expanded Clay Aggregate – OUR PRODUCT - ECA ®
EXPANDED CLAY AGGREGATE or ECA® is a Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate (E.C.A. or LECA), That is a type of clay which is super-fired to create a porous texture. It’s heavy enough to provide secure support for your plant’s but still lightweight. ECA® are a 100 % Inert, non-degradable, sterile growing medium that holds moisture, has a safe pH, and also will wick up a nutrient solution to the root systems of your plants. Expanded Clay Aggregate, ECA® growing media is reusable, it can be cleaned, sterilized, then reused again. Although on a large scale, cleaning and sterilizing large amounts of grow rocks can be quite time-consuming. ECA® is one of the most popular growing medium used for hydroponics WORLDWIDE, and just about every store selling hydroponics supplies carries it.
Benefits of Expanded Clay Aggregates for Hydroponics and Aquaponics
These porous Expanded Clay Aggregates absorb moisture and allow for fantastic drainage of water from the roots of the plant.
- Not only do they absorb moisture, but they’ll also absorb any nutrient solution you choose to add.
- The pores in the aggregates, the space between them, and their superior drainage function keeps air circulating, so roots get plenty of oxygen.
- They can last a long time. Just wash and reuse as many times as you need. You don’t have to worry about losing nutrients through numerous washes because there aren’t any, to begin with. If they lose their usefulness, you can add them to the soil of your outdoor gardens to increase aeration and organic content.
- They’re pH safe and rather inhospitable to bugs.
- You can crush them to increase water retention for use in the germination stage of growing. ( We also supply crushed Expanded Clay Aggregates)
- They’re inexpensive since they are cheap to make and can save you money reusing them over the years.
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