Hydroponics is picking up steam as a way to carefully cultivate a wide range of plants both indoors and outdoors.
If you’re challenged by poor soil, poor lighting, or a lack of outdoor growing space, hydroponics can mean the difference between enjoying fresh, juicy homegrown tomatoes year-round and subsisting on the mealy, flavorless versions available at the store.
If you’ve been thinking about sticking your toe into the hydroponics water, there are certain products no hydro store should be without and neither should you. Here are the top 10, all conveniently available from Mother Earth®.
1. Coco Coir
Many hydroponics systems require a growing medium (the soil-less substance in which the plants grow), and coco coir is one of the most popular types.
Ideal for hydroponic gardens, Mother Earth® Coco is a light, loose growing medium made from the husks of coconut palms. It’s relatively neutral in pH (so it won’t affect nutrient absorption), holds water well, and is slow to decompose three important things to look for in a growing medium.
Two important notes about coco coir: It’s best for use in lower-water systems, and plants growing in coco coir need to be fed with coco-specific nutrients.
Now that you’ve asked the right questions and know what needs to be adjusted in your soil, here’s how to do it:
2. Bulk Coco Bales
Mother Earth® Coco Bales are made of the same high-quality coco coir as the loose materials, but are in compressed bulk form for less expensive shipping when you need a large quantity.
To use bulk coco, soak the bale in water, drain, then use your hands to break it up. Once this is done, the coco from the bales will be similar in texture to Mother Earth® Coco. Don’t forget to use with nutrient mixes designed for growing with coco.
3. Charged Coco Coir
Mother Earth® Charged Coco® has all of the same qualities as the Mother Earth® Coco but is charged with nutrients to both jump-start plant growth and cut down on transplant stress. Growers love this medium because it retains water well, maintains its structure for a long time, and has a neutral pH. Choose a nutrient mix meant for growing in coco.
4. Coco Coir + Perlite Blend
Coco coir is often mixed with perlite to provide aeration around the roots of the growing plants. Mother Earth® Coco + Perlite Mix is a blend of 70 percent coco coir and 30 percent perlite, so the root zone is surrounded by a well-balanced mixture of water and oxygen. This is an excellent choice for new hydroponics gardeners. As with other coco products, be sure to feed your plants with coco-specific nutrient mixes.
Perlite can also be purchased independently from coco to be used in other soil and soil-less mixes. Mother Earth® Perlite & Coarse Perlite is made from naturally occurring silica rock that is heated, causing it to expand like popcorn. After the expansion, the perlite retains the air pockets that make it so good at improving the available air around plant roots. (Plants need oxygen around their roots so that they can break down the sugars created through photosynthesis.) Perlite granules range from aquarium gravel-sized up to an inch the larger sizes tend to work best in hydroponic systems. Perlite is pH neutral, so won’t affect the nutrient solution you use.
Another very popular growing medium is Hydroton®, or expanded clay pebbles. Mother Earth® Hydroton® is made from a naturally occurring clay that is formed into tiny balls and fired in a kiln. During firing, the clay expands into tough, larger, lightweight balls that will stay in place quite well in a hydroponics growing container. What’s more, clay is semi-porous, allowing for easy distribution of the nutrient solution to the plant roots.
Pumice is a very light volcanic rock that can be used by itself or in mixtures with other types of media. On its own, Mother Earth® Volcanite™ Premium Pumice is a wonderful blend of some of the characteristics shared by perlite and coco coir. It holds water, but also has air pores, so it stays nicely aerated regardless of how much water is used in the hydroponic system. Like perlite, Mother Earth® Volcanite™ Premium Pumice has a neutral pH. Pumice is denser than perlite, though, so it has an easier time staying in place in the container.
8. Basket Liners
While some hydroponic growers use basket liners just as their name suggests, others use them as stand-alone containers. Either way, their purpose is contain the growing medium that would otherwise wash away. Using Mother Earth® Coco Basket Liners can help maintain plenty of moisture around the root zone between waterings and feedings. Using coco basket liners can also cut down on the growth of algae on the growing media.
9. Container Covers
When algae grows on the surface of a growing medium, it can restrict nutrient flow throughout the pot or basket. One way to help stop this from happening is to use a cover. Mother Earth® Coco Covers are made from coco coir compressed into a square mats (with holes for plants) and work especially well with rockwool blocks. Simply place the cover on top of the growing medium to block sunlight, which in turn will help prevent algae growth.
10. Container Mats
Mother Earth® Coco Mats are also made from coco coir, and are most often used with flood-and-drain or ebb-and-flow hydroponics systems. Placed under the pots, the mats retain water, allowing the roots that grow into them to stay moist. Again, because coco coir is pH-neutral, it won’t affect the makeup of the nutrient solution.
When it comes to hydroponics, quality matters. These 10 premium hydroponics products will help keep your system will run smoothly so you can enjoy thriving, productive plants.