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I have been using straight perlite in plastic totes as a wicking media for about a year now, and have had some success with root crops, such as beets, radishes, carrots, and we even grew celery, all from seed. I use them now for propagation of seed and cuttings. The cuttings I put in generally have roots within a week. I then transplant some of them into containers with my organic quasi-soil mix, consisting of peat moss, perlite, and organic compost. I recently have put some of the new seedlings into my AP gravel bed. I have bak choy, arugula, swiss chard, tomato clones, tomatillos, chocolate habaneros, garlic, ginger, and lemon cukes on the way. 

Has anyone else tried straight perlite? It works.

This is ginger from the grocery store that had sprouted.

Garlic at 1 week.

Squash.

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Perlite works great as a wicking medium, but gets EVERYWHERE. It's best to use it outside. In fact, it's great to use it, outside.

Trick is keeping the small bits of perlite from escaping into the rest of the system.  If you can figure that part out then you are set.

Always handle it wet.  The dust from the dry stuff is really bad for the lungs.

I agree, TC. I rinse all of it before it goes in and the net pot riser I have keeps all of the perlite contained. Every once in a while the flow slows, so I need to crank up the flow at the valve and blast it out a bit. It's mostly dust and sludge that clogs it up and it rarely lets any perlite through. These setups are all outdoors and fed from the fish. Any that spills out there is no biggy. I also use it in my potting mix, so it gets recycled again. 

The water floods the bins to a desired(valved)height for the 15 minutes on the timer, then siphons back through the pump which is in the FT. Eventually the perlite gets saturated and settles into place. Complete flooding is not recommended, as it can cave in the middle after settling due to the water draining.

I have been trying to grow garlic in my wicking bed, and having mixed results. I plant a clove that is starting to sprout, and in three days it has roots 1-2" long. If I leave it in the system for a week it will start the greens, then it rots. It is too wet for it. Maybe if I try one of the deeper bins that stays drier on top, I can get it to take. Does anyone know what kind of moisture content garlic enjoys?

Garlic likes cooler weather.

Ahhh! Learning things all the time. Thanks again, TC!

TCLynx, I use perlite in my hydro dutch bucket system.  Bottom of the bucket, I use rock or gravel, then a 5 gal paint strainer, and put the perlite in the strainer.  I followed instructions from MHPGardener on youtube.  No problem with it getting out of the bucket so far and it cleans up pretty good when you pull out the root mass. 

I've been toying with the idea of replacing one of my grow beds (its in a tight spot) with dutch buckets configured the same way.  I use shale and hydroton in my horizontal beds.  The bed i'm looking to replace is just too shallow for its purpose (a briliant, not so much, idea I had).  I'm thinking if I use the shale from the bed, and add more, then setup the strainer and perlite I can get a series of small but deep grow beds and save my bacteria that's already grown on the shale.

I'd love your thoughts on this idea...

TCLynx said:

Trick is keeping the small bits of perlite from escaping into the rest of the system.  If you can figure that part out then you are set.

Always handle it wet.  The dust from the dry stuff is really bad for the lungs.

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