You might have noticed white things in potting soil or at garden centers and wondered what it was. These small white pebble things can have a dramatic effect on your garden’s performance.
Although they don’t appear to do much, their uses and benefits rank highly among one of the best things you can use in your garden.
Perlite and What is it?
What is perlite made of? Well, natural perlite is a dark black or gray amorphous glass (no definite shape). It is naturally formed and therefore answers all the questions of is perlite organic?
Like many other volcanic rocks from where it was created, in its natural, it is heavy and dense and full of the following ingredients.
• Up to 75% silicon dioxide
• Aluminum oxides and Sodium oxides
• Potassium oxide and Iron oxide
• Magnesium oxide and Calcium oxide
• 3-5% Water
To make it suitable for gardening for beginners, the dark material goes through processing which changes it into the light colored material gardens are familiar with. To reach this stage, it is crushed and baked at high temperatures where it pops like popcorn.
What is Perlite Good For in Gardens?
There are many reasons this expanded perlite is beneficial to any garden, and this isn’t only limited to conventional gardening. Perlite hydroponics is also very popular where vegetables are grown without the use of soil.
Benefits of perlite in a natural garden:
• Perlite is a very stable material and will retain shape when pressed into the soil
• It contains a neutral pH level, so there is no fluctuation of a gardens pH levels
• Perlite contains no toxic chemicals and comes from naturally occurring compounds
• It is very porous and includes air pockets
• It retains water while allowing excess to drain away
With all of these, there are two areas which gain the most benefit and where perlite for plants can be vital.
Perlite soil will be full of oxygen, and as this is vital for plants to have healthy roots, it is easy to see why horticultural perlite can help gardeners if they have soil which is claylike and restricts the amount of air flow.
We all know that nothing can survive without water. Although too much is just as bad in the case of vegetables.
This excess water is another area where plants become starved of their vital oxygen. Now with the introduction of coarse perlite the water is able to drain away more natural, and thus allowing oxygen to the roots.
How to use Pearlite
When you are looking at perlite uses in your garden, you can see there are several depending on the type of gardening you are performing. There are three primary perlite gardening uses which can all benefit your plants and vegetables.
Garden Surfaces – A straightforward method of applying perlite to your garden is by scattering it around your vegetable patch. Over time it will sink into the soil and improve your soil’s drainage naturally.
Root Cuttings – What is perlite use for in regards to cuttings? In this scenario where you would generally only grow root from cuttings in water.
Perlite will encourage better root growth. One easy method of doing this is to take a Ziploc bag with some water and your seeds or cuttings.
When the air-filled bag is sealed, it will act like a small greenhouse or incubator where your shoots can grow over the following couple of weeks.
Soil Mixes and Containers – If you build raised beds or containers for your container gardening, you might ask what does perlite do to give a benefit?
First up, it gives you the opportunity to consider making your own perlite potting soil rather than buying bags from the garden center.
This is very simple to do, and all you need is a combination of peat moss, loam, and perlite in measures of an equal proportion.
This brings with it two benefits. If you are using containers and you need to move them, they are not as heavy, this also works with hanging baskets where you can grow bush variety tomatoes.
The second largest benefit is back to irrigation and aeration. When you use pots, containers or raised beds. This type of soil lets water drain quickly while the perlite retains enough for your vegetables.
Oxygen is also introduced, and your crops will be all the better for it. Along with fertilizer, manure or compost. Perlite is one more thing that your gardens can benefit from with no adverse effects.
Perlite does come in three varieties fine perlite, medium grade and the coarse variety which was mentioned earlier. Each has their uses and benefits, and this again will depend on the type of your garden.