The Shocking Facts About Hydroponic Growing Medium Alternatives

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Marco C.

Do you know about all the hydroponic growing medium alternatives?  Read this article now to understand all the different mediums you can use in hydroponics!

Hydroponics gives you a lot of freedom to grow how you like best.  One of those options you have to choose is which growing medium you will use.

Hydroponics is the act of growing plants without using any soil!  Instead, the roots sink down directly into the water which is full of nutrients.  The plants get all they need directly from the water.

According to the University of Nevada, “Hydroponics can be a viable option to reliably grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs, regardless of climate, soil availability of space.”  If you do not have a lot of outdoor space, you can still produce high amounts of vegetables.  

Hydroponics is considered to be a very favorable option for future food production solutions. Much of the Earth’s soil has been destroyed by chemical use for agriculture.  If we do not work to restore these soils, humans will be forced to use hydroponics to grow food.

In hydroponics, you need to use a growing medium that helps support the plant from sinking into the water.  There are many options as to which things you can use as your growing medium.

We have created this article to overview detailed knowledge for you to understand about hydroponic growing medium alternatives.  Continue reading now to become an expert! 

Soil Alternatives For Hydroponics

In hydroponics, we typically do not use soil because it can easily fall through your net pots and make the water dirty.  A net pot is simply a plastic cup that has holes in it for plant roots to sink through.  These holes are too big to hold soil.

This is why we use different hydroponic growing medium alternatives.  These can range from clay balls, perlite, pea gravel, coconut coir, and more.  

Each specific growing medium has its advantages and disadvantages.  You can make your decision based on the following factors.

The first thing you can consider is how much maintenance you want to do for your system.  If you use a growing medium that is too lightweight or small it can wash into your system from time to time.  

This means you will have to make sure you are cleaning and filtering your water more often.  Certain grow mediums like perlite are very light and make for a very nice growth.  But, they may wash into your water.

So you will have to weigh the pros and cons of all the hydroponic growing medium alternatives.  

Clay pellets, also called expanded clay, are a very low-maintenance option.  These porous balls are about ¼ inch in diameter and actually very light.   However, if you use a lot of them in one of your pots, it can start to get heavy.  

Also, some people have complained that the clay pellets do not retain water for long amounts of time.  This means you will have to be flooding your beds more frequently.  

Let’s explore more hydroponic growing medium alternatives based on cost.

Cheapest Hydroponic Growing Medium

If you have the energy and resources, you can sometimes harvest your growing medium from your land.  Finding gravel on your land is by far the cheapest option because it is free! 

When you use gravel make sure you rinse them off thoroughly to ensure they are safe to use in your system.   Any gravel type and size is suitable for hydroponics.  However, gravel tends to dry out quickly which is a risk for your plants.  

Any gravel type and size is suitable for hydroponics

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Another cheap option is coconut coir.  If you live in a tropical country where coconuts are in abundance, this is a very sustainable choice. 

Coconut coir is the byproduct of coconuts when they are harvested to drink or make other products.  It is the fibrous hair that is on the husk of the coconut.  

Coconut coir is the byproduct of coconuts

Another word for it is coco peat.  It can be found in most stores in America.  The nice thing about coco coir is that it is 100% organic.  When you are done using it in your hydroponics system you can compost it outdoors.

It also holds water quite well, but sometimes too much.  You can mix it with another medium like perlite or clay pellets.  

The only other thing to consider when choosing coconut coir as your growing medium is that it naturally will break down.  This means that you cannot use it for too many growth cycles.  After 2 or 3 times of use, you will have to replace it.  

You can also look into using rice husks as one of your hydroponic growing medium alternatives.  Rice husk is a byproduct of growing rice.  It is the outer shell of the rice.  

It can stack well in your growing cups and drains nicely.

More Alternative Hydroponics Mediums

Another medium you can consider is peat moss.  Peat moss is a dead material harvested from swamp areas.

It is known for holding water and nutrients very well.  This is why it is a favorable choice for hydroponics owners.  

Since it is a dead material, it cannot regrow once harvested.  This makes it a less sustainable choice and more expensive.

Sometimes peat moss can alter the PH of your water.  So be sure to pay attention to your PH levels when using this growing medium.  

Peat moss is a dead material harvested from swamp areas

As you can see, there are tons of options for your hydroponics system.  Hopefully, you now understand the facts about hydroponics growing medium alternatives. With this information, you should be able to make your final decision.

Have fun with your hydroponics system! If you have multiple grow beds, you can experiment with different growing mediums in each bed.  Find which one works best for you and your plants.

Certain growing mediums may fit better with certain plants.  Also, choose your medium based on your hydroponics system design.  There are so many different approaches to hydroponics. 

Let us know if you try something and how it goes!  Feel free to comment and ask questions below!  We love to help! 

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