As the price of produce rises, many are skipping the middle man and growing their own. From window boxes to hydroponics, home gardens can sprout up just about anywhere.
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel, mineral wool, or coconut husk.
Perlite is an amorphous volcanic glass that has a relatively high water content, typically formed by the hydration of obsidian. It occurs naturally and has the unusual property of greatly expanding when heated sufficiently. Perlite is an industrial mineral and a commercial product useful for its light weight after processing.
Perlite can be used as a soil amendment or alone as a medium for hydroponics or for starting cuttings. When perlite is used as an amendment to soil, it helps prevent water loss and soil compaction.
Hydroponics has the following advantages for food production:
No soil is needed
The water stays in the system and can be reused – thus, lower water costs
It is possible to control the nutrition levels in their entirety – thus, lower nutrition costs
No nutrition pollution is released into the environment because of the controlled system
Stable and high yields
Pests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of the container’s mobility
Hydroponics systems are easier to harvest
No pesticide damage