When using this medium, it is recommended to wear gloves and avoid creating dust. Prepare your vermiculite in a well-ventilated, outdoor area and avoid bringing dust particles into your home. Many people think of perlite as a form of styrofoam but it is actually a form of intensely heated volcanic glass. Once it is mined, it is heated until it pops into the small, round, white balls that we recognise throughout the horticultural industry.
We commonly use Perlite to lighten soils. It allows more air to gather in the soil, aids in the soils water retention capabilites, reduces compaction and improves drainage properties. Being a lightweight material which is cheap to produce, buy and transport, it is no surprise that we see alot of Perlite added to compost mixes.
There are a few negatives of this product though.
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When watering, the perlite balls do have a tendency to float up through the soil to the top of your pot, which is not helpful. Perlite can also be quite messy to work with and may be more susceptible to growing mold and moss when used for root cutting practices and seed starting. Pumice is a mined, lightweight volvanic rock which is a natural and unprocessed product. They also release moisture slowly into the growing medium and are naturally rich in micronutrients. In horticulture Pumice is commonly used as a suitable substrate for growing cacti and succulent plants.
Coconut Fibre or Coco Coir, as it is sometimes known, is a completely natural product consisting of course coconut husk fibres. It is produced as a by-product in the coconut harvesting industry and is a very recommended organic medium to use for soil amendment. The course husk fibres are super-absorbant with great drainage abilities.
Unlike Peat, which we spoke about earlier, this coconut fibre material easily accepts water when it is very dry, which is a perfect quality for a succulent and cacti planting medium. Being course in nature, the product also lasts for a long time, compared to Peat which will disintergrate quite quickly. I give coir thumbs up for all eager plant enthusaists out there! I have been making alot of plant terrariums lately and have been getting through quite a hefty amount of fine horticultural gravel.