Verti-Gro uses hydroponics or “soilless” gardening and this basically means gardening without soil. Hydroponics is not limited to growing in water. “Soilless” medias that support the plant include such products as perlite, coconut fiber, vermiculite, rice hulls, peat moss mixes and sometimes bark or lava rock. The right combination is important for proper drainage and root development.
Verti-Gro spends a considerable amount of time studying and testing lightweight hydroponic and organic growing medias. Capillary action and porosity (water and air holding capacity) are the primary requirements of a good synthetic soil. In hydroponics, particularly in greenhouses, perlite or perlite and vermiculite are still popular. Adding perlite to coconut coir or to a ready mix such as a Peat-lite mix are also options. The cost of the growing materials plus freight is of prime importance to the economics of a vertical growing or organic growing system. Disposal or reuse are also critical issues and can have a major cost effect on annual operating costs. Coarse perlite and vermiculite are used in many inside Verti-Gro systems. This is okay for indoor operations where wind can be a factor outdoors. Outdoors is a different situation, particularly in a Verti-Gro system with drip irrigation. The objective for the growing media is
- It must do the job of good substitute soil and be easy to handle.
- Porosity (air and water holding capacity) is essential.
- It must have good capillary characteristics.
- It must have good pH buffering characteristics.
- It should be available locally or shipped in at a reasonable price.
- It can be used for many crops with slight modifications.
- It can be re-used for the same crop, re-used for other crops, composted or resold.
- Disposal must be considered as an expense.
- It must hold together in the pot outdoors in windy conditions.
- Mixing must be kept to a minimum due to high labor costs.
- The crop requirements must be taken into account
Perlite and vermiculite have become a standard in the hydroponic industry along with coconut fiber and coconut fiber blends but peat-lite mixes have been used for many, many years as a soilless media and not necessarily as a hydroponic media. Some Peat-Lite mixes work very well in hydroponics and need no additives or mixing. Compressed peat-lite mixes save a little on freight but increase labor. Coconut fiber is inexpensive when purchased in pallet lots but takes time to expand and rinse. Perlite and Vermiculite are expensive and costly to blend on a large scale. Multiple layers of synthetic growing medias are also now being used successfully. These various mixes can be custom formulated or mixed on site. Please contact Verti-Gro for further instructions on mixing and fertilization. Fertilizers may be reduced by nearly half if the right media is selected.