The successful production of crops in greenhouses depends on many different inputs, with the most important of these being the growing media used.
Most greenhouse containers are relatively shallow and have a limited volume, meaning the type of growing media used has to be chosen carefully based on the appropriate chemical and physical properties it provides for plant growth.
Soil is the least likely successful growing media when it comes to growing plants in containers, as it does not provide the necessary aeration, drainage and water-holding capacity.
To resolve this problem, several soilless growing materials have been developed for the production of greenhouse crops, and the most common ones in use at the moment are:
Peat is the name given to the dark brown fibrous product of sphagnum moss that has been left to decompose in a bog for thousands of years. It is rich in carbon and has become popular as a soil amendment and soilless mix for horticulture.
One of the best features of peat is its sterility, as it doesn’t contain any bacteria, fungus, harmful chemicals or weed seeds. It is also suitable for acid craving plants such as blueberries and strawberries.
There are downsides to peat, though, inducing the fact it is virtually devoid of nutrients, it has an issue with dryness, and most of all, it is a non-renewable and not eco-friendly resource.
Coco coir, or coconut coir, comes from the outer husk or shell of coconuts. It is available in many different forms and textures, each of which has a specific gardening purpose. It is incredibly durable and rot-resistant, making it ideal for use in products that have to withstand plenty of water exposure.
More people are starting to move away from using peat towards using coco coir. It is felt to be a more eco-friendly option as it is a renewable resource – coconut trees produce new crops every year.
Coco coir is also more hospitable to many more plants than peat and is easier to amend with nutrients.
Again, there are downsides associated with coco coir, such as it lacks some essential nutrients such as calcium and magnesium, so you will need to add these in. The increase in water retention may also allow salt and minerals to build up, which can be detrimental to plant health.
Another popular growth media is stone wool. Stone wool is a lightweight substrate made from spinning basaltic stone into fine fibres. These fibres are then formed into a range of blocks, cubes, growing slabs and granular products.
One of the essential characteristics of stone wool for horticultural use is that plants can extract the water they need for growth from a very low moisture tension in the media.
Stone wool is also considered a sterile product as it does not contain any naturally occurring beneficial microbial populations directly after production. However, microbial life does develop in stone wool substrates, similar to in peat and coco coir.
Stone wool has several disadvantages as well, such as it needs to be placed on a fully levelled surface to ensure the moisture gradient is even, it can irritate human skin with prolonged use, and it contains no naturally occurring nutrients or growth stimulants.
So, with all this said, why do we believe that GelPonics is an innovative greenhouse technology?
Our GelPonics product has been developed as a carbon and nitrogen-rich hydrogel product line. It was created using an eco-friendly, super-absorbent polymer, algal biostimulants and soil amender biochar.
GelPonics improves the plant’s moisture-holding capacity and stabilises moisture for a better yield. It also helps to increase the carbon and nitrogen content of the soil.
GelPonics is made from renewable and eco-friendly materials, making it a sustainable alternative to peat, coco coir and stone wool.
If you have any questions or comments about our work or our innovative greenhouse technology Gelponic, please contact us via phone or email.