If you have purchased potting soil for your pot or garden before, then you must have noticed small white balls as part of the earth in the bag. What many growers don’t know is that those tiny balls are referred to as perlite and they have a major role to play in the growth of plants both in hydroponics and soil gardens. Is perlite organic, and what are its benefits to plant growth and development? Let’s find out below.
What is Perlite?
Perlite is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in nature. It is mined in large quantities in Turkey, Japan, Greece, and in the United States. The mineral is formed as a result of the saturation of volcanic glass by water over a long period of time. Perlite contains a lot of ingredients which includes iron Oxide, Sodium Oxide, Calcium Oxide, Magnesium Oxide, Aluminium Oxide, Silicon Dioxide, and water.
Perlite has a lot of industrial applications such as construction and in the manufacture of ceiling tiles, plasters, and masonry. Before perlite can be added to soil for use in gardening or hydroponics, the mineral glass will have to be processed to form the tiny white balls appearance that it is known for.
To answer the question whether perlite is organic or not, I think it is safe to say that since it doesn’t contain carbon, perlite is an inorganic substance. But it is important to mention that as a naturally occurring mineral, perlite is completely non-toxic and safe to use for both hydroponic systems and in soil gardening.
What Are the Benefits of Perlite to the Plant Soil?
Perlite is highly beneficial to garden and soilless systems and the secrets are in its distinct physical and chemical properties. The usefulness of perlite in the garden includes
- It has a neutral pH level which makes it able to balance the acid/base level of the soil.
- It is obtained from natural deposits in the soil and hence does not contain any toxic chemical compound.
- It is a physically stable mineral that has the ability to maintain its shape even under pressure in the ground.
- It is porous with tiny spaces which allows for easy aeration of roots for a stronger root system.
- It has the ability to retain the amount of water that is needed for plant growth while allowing the rest to run over; making it a great way to prevent drowning of plant roots due to erosion or over flooding.
How Should You Use Perlite in the Garden?
Perlite has a wide range of applications in the garden, you can include perlite in your soil mixes in combination with peat moss and loam in equal amounts. You can also keep them in your pots to provide the soil with more aeration to help loosen the earth for proper ventilation and drainage.
You can also spread perlite on the soil surface to help with the breakdown of tightly packed soil to allow for easy drainage and ventilation. You can also use perlite in hydroponic systems as part of a mixture in other growing media or as a standalone media. You should not use it for deepwater systems like the ebb and flow or deep water culture.