Have you ever heard about the word hydroton clay pebbles? It is nothing but small pieces of clay that are processed at extremely high temperatures. Today, it has become a go-to-grow medium for many hydro growers offering several advantages to gardeners when used properly.
Expanded clay pebbles also known as hydroton clay pebbles resembles oddly shaped, semi-rounded pieces of clay-colored popcorn. They are compared with popcorn because the clay pebbles pop like popcorn because of high-heat during the manufacturing process. This gives them a large, airy macro-pores in addition to its micro-pores which are contained within each piece of expanded clay.
Hydroton clay pebbles can be used to provide plants with hefty amounts of oxygen for fast-growing roots and also holds enough moisture within its micro-pores which allows healthy water and nutrient retention from the roots all the way to the top nodes. Moreover, the spacing also allows for excellent drainage when using top drip or ebb and flow growing methods while still allowing roots to draw water out of the clay’s pores.
So, if you want to use this hydroton clay pebbles then here are some major do’s and don’ts that you need to do.
Major do’s for expanded clay pebbles
Rinse and soak before use
People who are familiar with these will usually rinse the pebbles before using it to remove the debris and dust from the factory. Rinsing will provide a clean start to these pebbles and it won’t cause murky problems in your reservoir. Along with that, there is a lesser-known process of soaking the pebbles.
You should soak it at least 6-24 hours before planting. This allows the water to percolate through the clay’s micro-pores thus completely saturating the media. This is done to ensure that the roots don’t have to travel too far to find water.
As a simple rule of thumb is to make sure a 3-inch of a radius of pebbles around your plants is fully saturated.
Add a small number of nutrients
After rinsing the pebbles, place them in a container and fill it with a nutrient solution with an electrical conductivity of no more than 0.4. Moreover, you can also choose to use a hydroponic plant enzyme to ensure a clean transition when you transplant.
Mister and cycle timer method
If you want to start seedlings using only expanded clay then obtain small starter net pots which are about 1.5 to 2.5 inch in diameter. Fill it with pre-soaked pebbles and place seeds on the top and cover it with one or two loose pebbles. After that, place the pots in a humidity dome with a spaghetti line affixed to mister fittings.
The next step is to pump feeding the misters connected to a cycle timer. Aim for short bursts of mist lasting 4-10 seconds depending on the head shape and size of the mister. Have these bursts occur every 2-3 hours. So, this pre-soaked medium in conjunction with humidity in the air from misting will easily force germination.
Although, if you don’t have this equipment then you can manually top and bottom feed every day until it starts germinating. You just need to make sure that the media does not dry out until you are moving plants to the final system.
Major don’ts for expanded clay pebbles
- Don’t allow the pebbles to every dry.
- Don’t use the pebbles in a regular pot without a dedicated source of water.
- Don’t ever use reuse the pebbles without properly sterilizing with peroxide or isopropyl alcohol.
- Don’t use the pebbles in substitute to soil outdoors.
These are some of the major do’s and don’ts that you can try out with the hydroton clay pebbles. Apart from just growing plants, these clay pebbles are used in many applications. These clay pebbles are mixed with concrete to get a lightweight concrete mix design which can be further used in the construction of buildings.