Hydroponics with Hydroton Expanded Clay Balls

Hydroton AKA expanded clay pebbles, are
little brown balls that can be used ashydroponic growing media– that is a
replacement for soil, or as a potting mixamendment to increase overall drainage.
They’re made from naturally sourced claypellets– the purer, the better, and heated in a kiln to well over 2,000degrees Fahrenheit. Each one wit aerated,
porous cores. Hydrogen is pH neutral,reusable, and most importantly, it’s super
easy to use once you understand itsbasic properties, which I’ll get onto in
just a second. First things first: alwaysrinse your balls thoroughly before you
put them to work, even if themanufacturer claims that they’re already
washed, or even double washed, they willinevitably rub together during transport,
and all that friction between the balls–ouch– creates dust in the sack, and risks
clogging your pumps, my friends. Mytechnique is to sit the bag in the sink,
or the bathtub, stab the bottom abunch of times with a screwdriver!
Once all of your stress has dissipated,open up the top of the bag, and run tap
water through until the runoff is clear. Be sure that the balls get wet. A hose, or
a pipe, or a jug can help, too. After rinsing,some folks soak their clay balls in pH
5. 5 water. Personally, I don’t see theneed: they’re pH neutral, and absorb very
little water anyway, so you’re not goingto change that. Being clay, hydroton has a
high cat-ion exchange capacity, whichmeans it clings on to positively charged
ions, but I just see this as a reason toirrigate frequently, rather than to
pre-soak. However, if you do want to giveyour balls of soap before use, then no harm
done, amigos. To understand how toirrigate hydroton properly, the simple
experiment is quite informative. Take5 grams of dry clay balls. . . or 4. 998 grams. . or yes, close enough. Next, putthem in some water. As you can see, some
float, some don’t. Don’t worry about it!It’s all good! Now, weigh the wet balls at
5. 38 grams; an increaseof around 7 1/2%.
Interestingly, letting the balls soakfor 8 hours increase their way to
around 5. 7 grams. Anincrease of around 15% from
dry. So yes, a long soak does increasewater content, but if you want to go that
route, I think it would make more senseto soak in a mild vegetative nutrient solution at
around pH 6, rather than plain water atpH 5. 5.
Anyway, soak, or no soak, compare hydrotonwith this Grodan A-OK stonewool
cube. It weighs just 3. 1 grams. Ah, but submerge this puppy in water, giveit a shake, and re-weigh it, and it’s
too heavy for my jeweler’s scales! I haveto weigh it in parts. Altogether it
weighs around 40 grams,an increase of over 1100%,
people! Unsurprisingly then, hydroton needs to be
irrigated in a very different waycompared to stonewool, coco coir, peat-based potting mixes, or soil for thatmatter. And this is precisely what I love
about hydroton– you really can’toverwater it. Growers tend to irrigate in
two ways: top dripper feed usually via adripper ring, or in an ebb and flow table.
In either case, you’re going to need touse hydroponic mineral nutrients. Here’s
an example of top feeding with a dripperring: a Waterfarm by General Hydroponics.
A classic self-contained hydroponicsystem. Fill it with clay balls, insert
your plants, switch on the pump, and letit drip– constantly, 24/7. No need to dial
in any irrigation cycles whatsoever. Thelittle air gaps between the spherical
balls, as well as the pore’s cores, ensurethat the roots are never starved of
oxygen. It is genius, my friends, genius. Ebb and flow: basically, you can fill pots
with hydroton, and then sit them in it, oryou can fill the whole tray with
hydroton. Here, as you can see, I’ve done thelatter. The grow tray in this system by
General Hydroponics Europe canaccommodate up to a 6 inch depth of
hydroton. Although, I’ve got about 4inches here. I started out with just 2
inches of hydroton for my Thai basilseedlings, but you can see that’s just
not sufficient. The roots have barelyexplored more than a few inches away
from the plant when. I bury my GoProcamera with its lens facing upwards in
the clay balls, you can see the lightgets in, and that will discourage the
roots from spreading out. 4 inches isyour minimum depth of hydroton if
filling the hole grow tray. Better to gofor 5 or more if growing for bigger
plants. Hydroton anchors them really well,and some folks cover the tray with the
sheet of black out plastic, and cutlittle holes for the plants to grow
through in an effort to black out thelight, and encourage the roots to explore
the upper layer of the clay balls. You’llnotice some surface imperfections on the
clay balls; this isn’t a bad thing as itlets more water into the porous core. As
for irrigating, go regular! Timing exactlyhow long it takes to flood the tray. It
shouldn’t take more than a minute perinch of depth. My tray floods in 3
minutes. I use a digital timer like anApollo 11 to flood every hour for 3
minutes, each time during the light cycle. That’s 18 on/off schedules per day; it
can handle up to 20, and I promise youthis is not too much. Big, thirsty,
flowering plants can take floods everyhalf an hour, or more, in straight
hydroton. Like I said, this is not stonewool,or cocoa coir, or soil. You have to
treat it differently. Now, some growersmix in 10 to 20% Grodan mini cubes to
provide for more of a moisture bufferjust in case a pump or timer should fail.
It also affords less regular irrigation. Other growers mix in Diahydro, rocks of
diatomaceous earth, at similar ratios toprovide a source of silicon, and a little
more absorbency. You can use hydroton asa propagation media, but I prefer to
start with stonewool. If you’re using anaerocloner, I recommend inserting your
rooted cuttings into a net pot, backfilling with hydroton, and then inserting
the pot into your hydroton bed. Forleafy crops like my Thai basil, you can
pull out the plants when you’re done, andsimply replant with new ones. Use an
enzyme product to help digest anyremaining roots. You can reuse hydroton
if you pull out any old roots, andsterilize it in hydrogen peroxide
solution. I’ll go through that in aseparate video, if you’re interested. Okay,
thanks for watching, questions andcomments below, as always. See you again soon!Bye-bye– oh, don’t squeeze too tight!