Ponic systems are an efficient way to grow vegetables and herbs faster and in denser space arrangements.
Pumice is one of Mother Nature's unique and widely useful creations.
Born of earth and fire, pumice is essentially a whipped foam of volcanic glass—each stone made up of highly vesicular strands permeated with tiny air bubbles.
The physical and elemental properties of pumice give it its unique and infinitely useful qualities—qualities that are welcomed in a wide range of industrial and practical applications. That includes horticulture.
Pumice is used widely to improve the growability of soils—combating compaction and runoff, improving friability and aeration, and holding moisture and nutrients in the root zone.
With the rising popularity of high-efficiency growth systems, especially aquaponic systems, pumice provides many advantages as a soilless grow media.
When considering which grow media to use, these key points should be considered:
Nutrient Holding Capacity—an effective grow media must have the ability to retain that nutrient-rich water for a time, making it continuously available to the roots between watering cycles. Hess 'Ponics grow media is entirely made up of pure, natural pumice. This foamed stone is riven with countless tiny pores that function as microscopic reservoirs to capture and store nutrient-rich moisture and give it back to the root system as needed. That allows for less frequent watering cycles and avoids problems like algae growth. That also saves energy and reduces the wear and tear on the system.
The porous, foamy nature of pumice also makes for an ideal environment for beneficial microbes to thrive.
Drainage—Balance is so important: a grow media must be able to shed water quickly to allow air into the root zone, yet retain enough nutrient-rich moisture between irrigation cycles to fuel rapid growth. The pores that perforate the pumice stones in the Hess 'Ponics Grow Media are (naturally) not the same size—and it is this natural variety in pore size and shape that provide the needed balance. The tiny, microscopic pore sizes hold water and make it available as demanded by the root system. The large pores drain quickly, shedding water and taking in air.
Gas Exchange—a grow media must allow free-flowing exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the root zone. The highly porous, low-bulk nature of Hess pumice facilitates an effective and positive exchange of gases between the root zone and the environment.
Stability—the grow media must be substantial enough to support a plant's root system, as it is the root system that support the plant and the fruit it bears. Pumice grow media is lightweight, yet substantial enough not to float away. The grippy surface of the little pumice stones form a stable bedding matrix to support thriving plants.
Weight—Grow beds tend to be positioned above ground/floor level to allow a sump tank underneath and to provide easy access when planting and harvesting, and that means grow-media weight is an issue. Since pumice is essentially a foamed glass stone, it is less dense and weighty than gravel or sand. A 43-liter bag (1.5 cubic feet) of Hess 'Ponics Grow Media weighs in at approx. 75 lbs.
Crop Balance—As a grow media, pumice provides good drainage, excellent moisture retention, and increased gas exchange necessary for both vegetative and reproductive (fruit) growth.
Media Particle Sizes—The Hess 'Ponics Grow Media stones are not man-made, but rather natural pumice crushed and screened to specific sizes.
• LARGE (1" - 3/4"): Ideal for use as a bottom layer in Ponic beds. For flood-and-drain grow beds, a layer of large pumice stone in the bottom increases grow bed drainage by creating larger voids for the water to flow through quickly as the grow bed drains. For wicking beds, a bottom layer of large pumice stone will readily transfer moisture up into the soft media in the top of a wicking bed without making it soggy.
• MEDIUM (3/4" - 5/16") All-Purpose pumice media for ponic media beds and net pots in DWC and NFT growing systems. Medium pumice stone provides good drainage and germination.
• SMALL (3/8" - #8) Soil Amendment. Due to the small particle size, 3/8"-#8 is recommended for soil amendment only and is not for use in aquaponic systems. It is effectively used as top dressing/mulch that retains moisture while blocking pests. When tilled into the soil, it aids in drainage and aeration and adds essential nutrients back into soils.
• PREMIUM (5/16" C) Net Pot Media. Won't float away or stick to everything like perlite can. Premium pumice shows increased germination rates when sown directly in top dressed media beds and filled net pots for DWC and NFT systems. This is the perfect media for shallow micro green beds.
Long Life—To be able to continually replant in the same grow media saves time and money. Pumice grow media is enduring—lasting years in a properly designed and maintained system.
Nutrient Value Contributed by the Grow Media—Hess 'Ponics Grow Media is slowly broken down over the months and years by microbial action, providing an ongoing supply of important nutrients to the system, as detailed in the table below.
While pumice is found abundantly across the globe, Mother Nature did not create all pumice as equal—the physical characteristics, chemical makeup, purity, and color vary widely.
In the Southeast corner of Idaho lies a commercial pumice deposit that enjoys a world-wide reputation for purity, ideal elemental composition, and whiteness. From this deposit comes the pumice for our Hess 'Ponics Grow Media.
Pumice is more than an inert bedding media, rather, through the activity of microbes, it is slowly broken down on a molecular level, contributing valuable nutrients to a ponics system.
|Present in Hess Pumice||Nutritional Contribution|
|Silicon Dioxide||Essential for water use efficiency and drought resistance as well as strong cellular growth that prevents disease and insect damage while allowing increased nutrient absorption.|
|Aluminum Oxide||Inert in neutral pH, can react in acidic conditions, but aquaponics and hydroponics only function in a pH range of 6.2 to 8, so it is not an issue here.|
|Iron, Ferric Oxide, Ferrous Oxide||Essential for chlorophyll synthesis. In mature aquaponic systems, natural chelation occurs as organic molecules (chelating agents) within the root zone bond with iron to form a soluble nutrient and thereby increase Iron availability to plants.|
|Sodium||A micro-nutrient that helps to regulate gas exchange, metabolism and the generation of chlorophyll.|
|Potassium||An essential nutrient important to root growth, gas exchange and photosynthesis while increasing drought and disease resistance.|
|Calcium||A macro-nutrient that strengthens cell walls and increases stress tolerance.|
|Magnesium Oxide||A trace element essential for many plant functions including photosynthesis, nutrient uptake and nitrogen fixation.|
|Titanium Dioxide||Improves germination, seedling growth and photosynthesis.|
Since the entire suite of pumice's useful properties are bestowed by nature, the process to prepare pumice for market is simple, sustainable, and green.
Our pumice grow media is not manufactured—it is simply scraped from the deposit, crushed, dried, and screened to size.
• No heating is necessary, which means lower carbon production emissions than any other media on the market.
• No chemicals are used.
• No water is needed. Even the pumice dust that clings to the particles is useful—providing readily soluble trace minerals and nutrients to the system.
• Hess uses a low-impact, surface mining process to acquire the pumice. The soil (overburden) is set aside and used to reclaim and replant the mined area, returning the land to its natural state of high-desert grassland.
• Packaged in biodegradable brown paper bags.
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