Soilless Media Options
Soilless mixtures provide the advantages of allowing the grower to prepare a media tailored for their plants and grow room. That media does not come with unknown nutrients and additives, and you can develop a mix with the moisture holding and drainage characteristics that you want. Additionally, and perhaps most important, since there are no nutrients in the mix you are able to add the nutrients you want at the growth phase appropriate for your plants needs.
There are three options for soilless mixes, Coco Coir, L.E.C.A., and perlite. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages:
With inert characteristics and superior moisture holding ability, coco coir makes a superb growing medium for your hydroponic gardens. Coco coir is robust enough to surpass the lifetime of peat moss up to 300 percent more!
Coco coir initially appears as small compressed bricks and expands up to 8 times its original volume once you put water.
Composed of millions of little micro-sponges, coco coir comes from the surrounding brown husk of the coconut shell. These micro-sponges are responsible for absorbing and is also capable of holding water up to eight times its own weight!
- Pros: Great hydroponic growing medium due to its excellent water retention and aeration.
- Cons: Doesn’t drain quite well.
Note: Drainage can be improved when it is fused with other media. For instance, you can have 50 percent coco coir and another 50 percent perlite. Another option is to have a bottom layer of perlite and cover with coco coir layer on top.
Short for Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate, L.E.C.A is another good medium for hydroponics gardening due to its porosity and light weight attributes.
L.E.C.A is produced by applying extreme high temperatures to clay and continuing the application of heat until a puffing sensation similar to popcorn occurs. With balls having a size of about ¼ inch across each, a very coarse growing medium is produced.
- Pros: They have supreme drainage capabilities; stays put; holds a lot of moisture despite being light; can be reused many times after sterilizing.
- Cons: It cannot hold moisture well unlike coco coir.
Note: Fuse them with grow rocks as a solution to moisture problem.
The last option on our list is perlite.
Perlite is produced by heating flakes of glass particularly silica and undergo a process with the same concept like popping pop corns. Additionally, perlites are also used in ceiling tiles, insulation, and lightweight mortars & plasters.
This growing medium is perfect for horticulture, thanks to its small nodules that can deliver outstanding drainage and can hold water well.
Perlites have a good water retention ability and it maintains the plants to have more contact with air, making it ideal for any hydroponic gardens especially for cannabis. Matter of fact, you can develop your very own bucket system for your hydroponic plants with nothing but perlite!
Moreover, it can be mixed with other media to further enhance drainage.
- Pros: Light weight, inexpensive, reusable.
- Cons: During the flood cycle, it tends to move or float away, which makes it not suitable to be used unaccompanied for ebb & flow.
Which Among The Three Is The Best Growing Medium?
All of the three options are good and you are free to choose which ones suits your preferences best. However, Coco coir provides several advantages over the other two.
Coco does not come from coca plants, but from the husk of coconuts.
Figure 9. A coconut husk.
Here are the benefits of using coconut husk or coco coir as a medium of growing plants.
- It absorbs more water, maintaining wetness.
- The plant’s roots will not rot as they get enough oxygen supply due to its highly porous materials.
- Resistant to fungal and bacterial growth, thanks to its high lignin content.
- Can be used for more than a decade.
- PH levels can be maintained.
- The plant will not be exposed to soil borne pests.
- Coco coir can distribute necessary nutrients equally.
- Reduces garden maintenance.
- Control over plant pests and diseases along with other weed problems.
- Inexpensive and not complicated to set up.
People who want to grow plants in a different environment, not familiar to the plants, can do so by using hydroponic systems which enables you to grow plants in a very controlled environment.
There are actually six types of hydroponic systems. They are the following:
- Ebb and Flow (Flood & Drain)
- Drip System
- Water Culture
- F.T. (Nutrient Film Technique)
- Wick System
The plant generally require three things: oxygen, nutrients, and water/moisture. The six types of hydroponic systems differ on one thing: how they deliver these three elements to the roots of the plant. For more information on hydroponic systems see our hydroponics category of our website.