Perlite and its Uses

Perlite and its Uses

It is easy to grow plants in perlite or in perlite mixed soil. Perlite soil is the best growing medium for new growers. If you want to grow plants with fewer efforts then you should use it for growing plants.

You can mix it in container potting soil and add it as a soil amendment in your raised bed garden soil.

But do you know how to use perlite in your garden, what it is and pros and cons, etc?

In this perlite guide, you will learn everything about this easy to use a growing medium.

What is perlite or perlite soil?

It is a non-crystalline solid volcanic glass that is derived from the cooled magma. Natural perlite has a dark black or grey color but after the heat treatment, it gets its brilliant white color. When you look closely at perlite you will see tiny pores in it. These pores make it better than other lightweight growing mediums.

Because perlite store nutrients in these pores and drain out the excess water. Moreover, tiny pores increase air circulation and reduce the chances of root fungus.

The good news is it is a disease-free, toxin-free, clean material that is good for growing vegetables, herbs, and houseplants.

Perlite is a famous industrial mineral. It is used in ceiling tiles, roof plasters, masonry due to its lightweight. Nowadays it is the most widely used as the soil amendment in horticulture.

How they make perlite?

Perlite glass is a solid material that contains a high percentage of water. It needs to be treated in the industries to make it ready for our use. The manufacturers of perlite buy volcanic glass in tonnes. Then they crush the glass to make tiny pieces of it. These small pieces are further sent to the industrial oven section for the heat treatment.

Where they put them in the industrial ovens at the temperature of 900 degrees C. Due to high heat the water content evaporates quickly. The tiny solid pieces of volcanic glass popup like popcorn and we get ready to use white color perlite.

Volcanic glass has the ability to expand up to 15 times its size after the heat treatment.

This high heat treatment also kills the toxins and harmful bacteria and give use clean and sterile perlite for use.

The chemical composition of perlite is depending upon the chemical composition of volcanic glass. Generally, it consists of 70 to 74% silicon dioxide.

The final product gets cavities in it and we call them holes. These holes help perlite to hold nutrients and water content. You can crush perlite soil particles by applying medium force. But when they get mixed in the soil, they do not get crushed. Because the weight of your garden soil is not enough to crush them and they remain in their shape.

aluminum oxide (12-15%)

sodium oxide (3-4%)

potassium oxide (3-5%)

iron oxide (0.5-2%)

magnesium oxide (0.2-0.7%)

How to use perlite in your garden?

You can use perlite in various ways in indoor and outdoor gardens. Some of the basic uses are

Mixing in raised bed soil:

Mix the perlite in raised bed soil to make it loose and lightweight. In some parts of the country, we have tightly packed soil that is not useful for plants. The soil should be loose enough so that the plant roots can develop easily.

Also, dense soil reduces the nutrient absorption rate that directly affects plant growth and health. To make heavy soil lightweight you need to mix perlite in it.

This also improves the aeration and save your plant roots from root rot like conditions.

Add in Container soil:

If the container soil of your garden holds the water for a long time and you are facing root fungus problems. Add perlite to your container soil and make it well-drained soil. Plants need water and carbon dioxide to make their food. But they do not like excess water. Overwatering can damage your plants and they do not grow properly.

For root cuttings:

When we grow plants from cuttings, they need light soil to grow. Perlite gives enough room for new roots to expand to their full natural size. Healthy plant roots mean healthy plants and more yield in the case of vegetable plants.

Types of perlite soil for growing plants

Perlite is mainly of 2 types one is Coarse perlite and the second is fine perlite. Some garden stores sell a third type of perlite that they called medium-grade perlite. But in Actual this is their home-made product. Because the industries only made 2 types of perlite soil.

Coarse perlite soil has high aeration properties and also has good draining properties than another medium grade or fine perlite. If you are growing plants in pots and containers then you should use Coarse perlite. Because it increases the aeration and your plant get enough amount of fresh air. Also, it has good draining capabilities. We all know to save container plants from overwatering we need soil with good draining properties. By adding Coarse perlite to your normal container soil, you can increase its draining power up to 10 times.

 The fine grade perlite material is best for starting seeds and growing plants from cuttings. A germinating seed needs a loosely packed growing medium to expand roots. New roots are soft and delicate if they do not get space easily, they will not grow. As a result, your seeds stop sprouting.

If you want to make potting soil for your container plants by yourself. Then the most important ingredient that you need to add is perlite. It is cheap and easily available. You cannot add perlite and compost in same potting soil. Compost also increases the water retention power of soil and make it lose.

If you are using compost do not use perlite or Vice versa.

Perlite Soil Vs Vermiculite Soil

The main difference is Vermiculite holds a high amount of water and nutrients in it. Vermiculite is suitable for plants that required a high amount of water to grow. Because it helps the soil to absorb and hold the nutrients for a long time. This ensures the continuous supply chain of nutrients to heavy feeder plants.

When we grow plants that required a high amount of nutrients, we use vermiculite + Soil. This combination release nutrient at a slow rate. This reduces the wastage of nutrients and also saves your money.

Do not mix perlite and vermiculite together. This will become a useless mixture and a total wastage of money. Both these are soil amendments, add one at a time in your garden soil and make it the best soil for your plants.

Using perlite in hydroponic systems

There is no doubt that perlite is perfect to use for growing plants when mixed with soil. But you can also use it in hydroponics especially when you have plant cuttings. Coarse perlite holds the plant cuttings firmly. Its well-draining nature encourages the roots to develop fast so that roots can touch the nutritional water and absorb nutrients. In hydroponics, water is the main source of nutrients.

Pros and cons of using perlite in your garden

Pros

Excellent drainage and aeration properties

Stable structure

Easily available

Lightweight

Cheap to buy

Useful in hydroponics

Cons

Fine grade perlite can be affected by strong airflow

Contains no nutrients

Do not retain much water

Not suitable for growing tropical plants

Best place to buy Perlite

You can buy the perlite from your local garden store. There you can feel the difference between the three types of perlite. But before that check the price of branded perlite on Amazon. Sometimes there is a huge difference in price.

You can also check the difference in local stores and buy the same quality product Online.

Is perlite Organic growing medium?

If you see through the chemistry perspective then perlite is not an organic substance. Because chemistry says any compound found on earth can only be called organic if it contains carbon. If the substance does not contain a single carbon particle then it cannot be called an organic substance.

 On the other hand, in the agricultural field, a substance that is naturally extracted or found on earth is called organic. So, for the farming sector perlite is 100% organic and is safe to grow plants. Make perlite soil by using perlite in your garden.

Difference between potting soil and potting mix

Difference between potting soil and potting mix

If you grow your plants in the best soil, they will give you the best food to eat.

There is confusion between potting soil and potting mix. Which is good for your plants?

If you know the answer it’s good but if you want the correct answer read till the end. This article will tell you the difference between potting soil and potting mixture. Also, you will learn the Pros and Cons of each of them.

This will make it easy for you to choose the best soil for your indoor and outdoor plants.

If you are doing container gardening or have a plan to start growing plants in containers then you can’t miss this post. You cannot use any garden soil in the containers.

What is potting soil?

Any type of garden soil that you use to grow plants is called potting soil. But if you take samples of different potting soils and test them in the lab. You will see their results are different from one another. This is due to the different ingredient concentration of potting soil. Actually, potting soil can have one or more organic matter in it.

One form of potting soil is 100% normal soil, you have in your outdoor garden. The second form of potting soil is altered or high nutritional soil. This type of growing soil has decaying organic matter in it with many other minerals.  The organic soil that we see in the garden stores is a good example of high nutritional garden soil.

This type of soil is best to use in the outdoor garden, not in indoor gardening. Don’t even think that you can use it in containers. If you use it in indoor containers it releases a very unpleasant smell because the organic material in the soil has to be decayed or breakdown by the bacteria. This makes the nutrients available for the plants. The process of breaking down the organic matter into nutritional particles releases a bad smell and nobody wants a container full of bacteria inside their home.

Later in this post, I will tell you which type of soil is best for your containers. and how to choose it.

What is a potting Mixture?

The potting mixture does not contain regular dirt and soil. This makes it different than the traditional garden potting soil. Potting mixtures are specially prepared for some specific plants. But nowadays we have universal potting mixtures that you can use to grow fruits and vegetables at home.

Potting soil can be rich in minerals as well as rich in both micro and macronutrients. Whereas in the case of potting mix the substances that are used to make it does not have any nutritional benefits for the plant.

We need potting soil when we want to grow plants that are not native to our living land. In simple words, if you want to grow a plant that is a resident of a tropical rain forest you need to give it the same environmental conditions. You can control the temperature and increase the humidity level by watering it frequently but what about the soil (growing medium). You can’t bring rain forest soil at home. Therefore, our garden nurseries develop a potting mix.

The potting mix has large particles than the granules. Coco coir, peat, perlite, etc can be added in different quantities to make the potting mix at home. But for new growers, it is best to use a pre-mixed potting mix. It is cheap to buy a good potting mix from the market rather than making it at home.

Different types of potting mixtures are available in the market. You can choose according to your plant’s requirements. Before choosing any plant to grow at home check the requirements of it. I mean its basic needs like what kind of soil it needs to grow healthy. Water, Temperature, Humidity, pH range, Nutritional requirements, etc all these things give an idea of what you need to do in the next few months to grow it from a seed to a big healthy plant.

Some of the best potting mix manufacturers are

Pros and Cons of Potting soil

PROS

If you are the one who likes to eat organic food then it is best for you to grow vegetables in potting soil. Because it contains all organic particles and the plants grown in it get organic nutrients from the organic particles present in the soil. This way you get 100% organic fruits and vegetables. It does not matter if it has plant products, fungi, or any other organic matter. The best part is it is mostly used to grow organic vegetables and herbs.

Potting soil is Eco-friendly than potting mix because potting mix contains all man-made materials. But potting soil is pure organic soil.

Potting soil contains many nutrients in it and you don’t need to buy nutrients for your plants from the market. Best potting soil has everything to grow a plant from seeds to big plants.

Potting soil has a high fertility rate than the potting mix and other forms of garden soils.

Add potting soil to your outdoor garden to make it best suitable for your outdoor plants.

CONS

potting soil is not good for container gardening because it is closely packed and container plants need soil that is loosely packed.

Container plants need fresh air to breathe whereas potting soil makes it difficult for them to get oxygen from the surrounding. Roots absorb oxygen and when the soil particles are tightly packed roots cannot get fresh air.

This also increases the chances of root rot because this kind of soil holds the water content for a longer time.

Do not use potting soil for germination because it is hard for a seed to sprout in it.

The pros and cons of potting mix

PROS

Potting mix is equally effective for all plants. When you grow plants at home in pots and containers potting mix is best to use.

It is loosely packed means it has air pockets in it

Roots can easily get fresh air through these air pockets.

This type of mixture is ideal for the germination process. But most of the time growers prefer rockwool, peat pellets, and other growing mediums for germination.

The potting mix has excellent drainage qualities. This prevents root rot and saves your plants from excess water.

CONS

Potting mix is not a natural soil and does not contain organic material.

You cannot say that you are growing organic plants in a potting mix.

The lightweight and fluffy nature of it has many problems with it. Like your plants can easily displace if it is a heavy and bushy plant.

It is not best for plants that need a high humid condition to grow, yet there are potting mixes that claim to contain water content for a longer time than the traditional soil can hold. So, they are not 100% original potting mixtures.

You need to give all the nutrients separately whereas potting soil naturally has many nutrients in it.

Every grower has unique Garden and Gardening aims

Therefore, you need to do your research to find out which type of soil is good for the plants that you want to grow.

If you found this article helpful please leave us comments

How to make Compost heap at Home for your Garden

How to make Compost heap at Home for your Garden

If you don’t want to use chemical fertilizers or pesticides on your garden plants. Then you need a strong natural material for your soil to increase its fertility.

Compost is the product you need to grow vegetables, herbs, and other plants organically.

Home-made compost helps you to save our environment by keeping food waste out of the landfill.

It will add more nutrients to your soil and improve its fertility

No need to use harmful chemical contained fertilizers

Increase the moisture-holding capacity of the soil.

It ensures the regular nutrient supply to plant roots.

In this post, you will learn everything about compost, how to make compost at home, the various types, etc.

Let’s start from the introduction

What is a homemade compost?

Compost is a brown soil-like substance derived from the decomposition of kitchen and garden waste. You need to make compost heap for making compost at home. Composting is the process that we use to make compost at home. In this process, we collect all the food waste of our kitchen along with the garden waste. Put this waste together in a clean place and left for decomposing.

After the decomposition, we get the final product called compost. Because compost is derived from food waste. It has many nutrients that are essential for plants.

It is better to use the food scrap and other organic waste for your growing plants rather than just throw them in a bin.

The time it takes to convert organic waste into compost depends on the type and amount of organic waste that you want to convert into compost.

It can take anywhere from a few weeks to months to turn a compost heap of organic waste into useful compost.

Why do you need to use compost?

You should use compost in your garden to give your soil extra nourishment. Compost increases the moisture-retaining abilities of soil. It reduces the most common issue that is weeds. By using it in your garden and flower pots. You will get a heavy harvest, tasty vegetables, prettier flowers, and a healthy disease-free garden.

To make compost at home you need a large amount of food scrap. This means you send no or less water food particles to landfill. It is good for our environment because in landfills food scraps are left to decompose anaerobically. This process releases methane and it is not good for the ozone layer.

Less food in landfills is equal to less methane release.

Different types of Composts for home gardens

Mainly there are 2 types of composts one is Aerobic and the second is Anaerobic.

Aerobic composting is the process where compost is aerated. When we turn the compost pile it increases the aeration and the fresh air speed up the decomposing process.

In the Anaerobic method, the material is left alone and there is no role of oxygen in this process. This is the reason the decomposing material releases methane and other bad smells.

Following are the main types of garden compost heaps

Hot Compost

The fresh air that compost gets keeps the bacteria alive. These bacteria come into action mode and break down the material at a faster rate. The temperature of compost goes above 50 degrees C. This high temperature makes food and organic waste soft. This helps bacteria in breaking the food particle faster. And you get ready to use compost in just a few days.

If you want to compost as quickly as possible then hot composting is the method for you. Hot compost kills harmful bacteria, pathogens, insects, and weeds. Whenever you feel your compost decomposes at a slower rate turn with the garden fork to increase aeration. You can also use compost accelerators.

Cold compost heap

This is a simple process all you need to do is throw the scraps in a pile in a clean container. Or you can throw it in a wooden cabin and wait. This process takes more than 300 days to decompose organic material. The drawback is it releases a bad smell and you cannot do anything about it.

Vermicompost

If you don’t have enough space in your garden to make compost piles. Then you can use the vermicomposting technique. In this method, you need to feed the food scraps to your worms and they will convert it into compost.

For vermicompost, you need to have worms bin in your garden. It is best for you to buy worm composting kits from the local store or online. The main benefit of this method is no bad smell, big size container is enough for making compost.

Things you need for composting

The very first thing is which type of composting you want for your growing plants.

Then you need to decide how you collect food waste. Whether you want to use prebuilt wooden containers or you just want to throw scraps in a corner of your garden.

The third step is space, whichever method you like you need to have at least a square meter of free space.

You need to find a shady place in your garden. Because bacteria and fungus speed up the composting process. Avoid making compost in sunlight because sunlight kills the bacteria and prevents fungus.

If you decide to use special compost tumblers then you can place them anywhere. They don’t allow the smell to come out and spread in the area. Also compost tumblers comes in many designing shapes and look great in gardens.

The size of the wooden container or tumbler is your personal choice. It depends on your needs if you want to compost a large area then choose a big size (waist height) container. But if you just want to compost few flower beds and few plant containers then medium size compost tumbler is best.

Remember good draining is a must to save your composting material. On rainy days move your compost bin to safe place to protect it from rainwater. Excess water disturbs the moisture level of the pile and slows down the process. In some cases, you need to use compost accelerators or add some brown leaves or shredded newspaper to balance the moisture content.

How to set up a hot compost heap?

For hot compost heap, you need to have a meter squared of free space. If you use a bigger space than a meter squared then it will be difficult for you to make the correct balance of nutrients and moisture.

Set up 2 wooden bays, the benefits of 2 bays is you can turn the pile easily from one bay to other bay.

 The first step is adding 6 inches of dry brown leaves, wood chips, brown branches of trees at the bottom of the bay. Then add 3 inches of green means green leaves, manure, or other organic sources of nitrogen.

Keep in mind that the green and brown should be in the same quantity for best compost. After you add greens and browns add water and a thin layer of dirt.

Leave this material for 48 days and then turn it over to mix everything perfectly. Use pitchfork to tilt the material. It is necessary for the aeration

Once you turn the pile you will feel that your composting material is getting hot. After few days the material starts decomposing itself.

Frequent turning of the pile makes it easy for the bacteria to break down the soft and hard organic material.

Collect your kitchen waste into the garbage container. Once it gets completely full add it to the compost. Kitchen food waste has many nutrients in it and these nutrients go to into the compost when we add kitchen waste to the compost pile.

Use stainless steel containers to collect kitchen waste. It is easy to wash such containers and they also don’t retain the smell.

How to set up cold compost heap?

In this technique you don’t need to turn the pile frequently. Just collect all the kitchen waste and garden at single place. And leave this mixture as it is. For better results you should turn the compost occasionally. Because it is cold compost so do not add water to it. Due to low temperature, this method of making compost cannot kill the seeds and pathogens.

What things you can put into your compost pile?

You will be happy to know that you can almost put anything in your compost heap. Following are the best things to add to the pile of compost.

Vegetable peels and scraps

Fruit skin and scraps

Plant cuttings and pruning

Teabags

Green and brown leaves

Tree branches

Eggshells

Hair

Lawn Grass cuttings

Shredded newspaper

Toothpick

Adding Nonorganic material like paper and egg boxes is beneficial because they will increase the aeration. Add them in less quantity because they decompose slowly.

Eggshells are also a good source of nutrients. It is best if you crush them before adding them to the compost.

If you are making hot compost you can add anything even the disease-affected leaves and branches. Because the temperature goes so high that it can kill all of them.

Normally hot composting is the best process to make high-quality nutrient-rich compost at home. To make your work easy you can use compost tumblers or making hot or any other compost.

Remember that too much green and disturb the balance of the material. So, add brown and greens in an equal amount.

What to avoid in the compost pile?

To prevent pest attacks and bad smells one should avoid adding the following things to the compost heap.

Meat

Fish

Oil

Dairy products

Plastic

Animal waste

Or anything that is not good for human or plant health

You can only add horse manure in compost.

Compost pile and pest problem

Do not drop the idea because you are worried about the pest attack like rats. To protect your compost from rats and other rodents follow this tip.

These rodents get attracted to the smell of food. Your aim is to reduce the smell and save your pile of compost.

Do not add meat, dairy, and animal bones. The smell of these ingredients attracts pests. Pests don’t like their food to be disturbed regularly. If you turn the compost material regularly. They will not come close to and look for their food somewhere else.

Moist your compost this will also help to prevent pests because they don’t like decomposing food.

Basic composting rules

If you feel compost id too dry add some greens

If you think your compost is wet add some browns.

Green things contain a good amount of moisture whereas brown things are dry and do not contain any moisture content.

Final Words

Composting is a good idea for reusing garden and kitchen waste. These organic wastes have many nutrients. Every plant needs a good quality of nutrients to grow. When they are supplied with organic home-made compost, they get everything need to grow healthy. Compost strengthen the crops and reduces the risk of plant infections.

Compost also helps your garden soil to retain its fertility. It improves the health of your plants as well as the soil of your garden. You can add it to your plant containers. If you live in an apartment you can use small size compost making drums.