Types of mediums that are used for hydroponic gardening
Hydroponics by definition does not use any soil, soil which has traditionally been one of the core components of farming/gardening was the best format for nutrient delivery. The soil plays 2 important functions, the first it breaks down the fertilizing agents so that the plant can absorb the same via its roots, second, it also supports the plants so that they can stand upright. Hydroponics omits the use of soil altogether. They instead use different media for different purposes, techniques, systems etc. A “medium” refers to the substance that is used to replace the soil and provide support to the plant. This medium can be made from different materials, either man made of synthetic in nature. Coco peat is a natural material that is made using crushed coconut, it has very high wicking ability and water retention property thus allowing it to retain a significant amount of water this allows the root zone to be kept cool in hot climate zones. Another example is rock wool which is a man-made material that.
It’s created from rocks that have been melted and spun until it’s become fiber much like fiberglass. They are fashioned into cube-like shapes and are preferred in commercial farming as they can be used directly from the seeding stage and no transplanting is required thus reducing the labor required. The ultimately the choice of media for NFT hydroponic systems is one that has a high wicking ability and is easily available for large-scale consumption as this is essential for commercial hydroponic farming. Some of the most popular choices for mediums are as follows. LECA or lightly expanded clay aggregate these are clay balls that are very light, nontoxic and infinitely reusable. This is preferred by a commercial farming as unlike a lot of other media options this one is reusable, hence this is good for commercial farming. Rockwool is another popular medium choice, the advantage is that they come in slabs and are very easy to work with, they can be seeded very easily and the same plug can be used right from the nursery till harvest, eliminating the need for transplanting. The drawback with rock wool is that it is not reusable and they are not biodegradable this is a concern for some growers, the plugs are also expensive and in some cases may increase the cost of production. Cocopeat is a low-cost option that can be used, they have superior wicking ability and great water retention ability this helps cool plants while growing in higher temperature zones.
Other options included sand, perlite, vermiculite etc there are so many grow mediums to choose from, each with their own unique characteristics. Choosing the right to grow medium can make the difference between success and failure in the commercial farming. While making the right choice for you, always look for consistent supply, low cost and wicking ability, retention ability and aeration.