How To Use Leca For Houseplants

The most crucial aspect of growing your plants in Leca is that the roots are not allowed to sit in water, as I described in “How to avoid overwatering your plants.”

By using Leca, you may make a false bottom for your pot and elevate the roots of your plants.

While keeping the roots out of the water, your clay balls can begin to absorb the water in the pot.

The roots of your plant will take up moisture from the clay balls as they are not submerged in water.

Your plants can sip on the water that has been soaked into the clay balls because they aren’t always submerged in water, as is frequently the case with soil.

Your plants will begin to grow toward the water at the bottom of the pot if they are really thirsty and will then directly take moisture from there.

Putting your plants in charge

Plants growing in Leca have an advantage over those growing in soil because they are able to absorb moisture at a rate that is best for their wellbeing.

By using Leca, you give the plant the responsibility for taking care of itself.

You are exposing your plant to a lot of moisture if it is growing in soil, doesn’t like to be watered frequently, and the soil is quite moist.

The first time you use Leca, how do you do it?

Pre-treated clay is fired at high temperatures in a rotating kiln to create LECA, which is subsequently chilled. A light-weight expanded clay aggregate (LECA), which has grown five times in size as a result of this technique. Natural clay’s “pre-treatment” is a mystery, although it probably comprises chemicals and binding agents that, when in contact with heat, allow the clay to expand and form tiny balls. Even though some of the chemicals probably evaporated or became inactive during the fire process, these LECA balls undoubtedly include “stuff” or “crud.” Additionally, to lower the temperature once they are removed from the kiln, these balls are submerged in cool water, but what is in this water?

But my plants are fine—I just give it a rinse and use it!

many people on the internet claim. Yes, I can live in a house that is filled with garbage as well, but I won’t be happy about it!

It’s normally a good idea to treat LECA before using it to give your plant a healthy start in semi-hydroponics. A plant may grow much more slowly than it should if LECA is not properly hydrated. I’ve also observed that well-soaked LECA needs far less flushing than unsoaked LECA over the course of the past year of LECA growth. Make a decision on how you want to be lazy here if you use LECA and are inclined to be lazy. For me, a few more days of planning are well worth not having to flush every week.

Step 1: Rinse the LECA

Take the LECA out of the bag and thoroughly rinse it to remove any dirt or clay particles.

Pro tip: I perform this outside using a mesh laundry bag and my garden hose. Avoid pouring clay dust down the drain; it’s bad for the pipes.

Step 2: First Soak

Using hose water or tap water, soak the LECA for 24 hours. With this initial soak, the LECA will be cleared of the first wave of dirt.

You can use your LECA after letting the initial soak sit for at least two days if you’re feeling particularly indolent. (You must exercise patience if you want to be especially lazy.)

Pro tip: I place the LECA-filled wash bag in a big plastic container and soak it. I can fit the entire 50L of LECA into two mesh washing bags.

Science: After the initial soak, you can check the PPM of the soaking water. (See my nutrient solution tutorial for a PPM introduction.) My tap water has a PPM of about 150, and Hydroton LECA measured at 800 after soaking for 24 hours. That is a significant amount of more debris in the water compared to a fertiliser solution that is 300PPM. Imagine not soaking; your nutrient solution would make up 1/3 of the mixture, and the remaining 2/3 would be unidentified substances. Gross.

Step 3: Second Soak

Replace the soaking water with new tap or hose water after discarding the old water. Spend an additional day in the bath. You can use your LECA once you’ve soaked. However, keep reading if you want to know how to give high-value plants a strong start.

Science: After 24 hours, the second soak typically produces between 300 and 400PPM. Do you still recall learning about the Law of Chemical Equilibrium in high school science class? Yeah, I don’t either. The water and chemicals inside the LECA, however, need to be in balance with the water outside until they are equal inside and out when your LECA (product) is combined with water (reactant). If your water is 100PPM and your LECA is 800PPM, your water will gradually increase in PPM while your LECA will decrease in PPM over time. The second soak is done to expedite the procedure. If you soak LECA at 800 ppm in 100 ppm water as opposed to 400 ppm, the 100 ppm water will move much more quickly, and the equilibrium point will be lower.

Step 4: Dry and Store

If you won’t utilise the LECA right away, drying and storage are advised. The mesh washing bags are perfect for drying the LECA because they have such great ventilation! You can skip this step if you want to use the LECA right away.

Pro tip: For all the LECA I intend to use in the winter, I will complete Steps 1 through 4 outside in the summer. Additionally, if you leave your LECA outside and it rains, you win twice because nature will wash your LECA for you! But keep in mind to bring those mesh washing bags inside once you’re finished; the reason my bags are damaged is because animals tried to peek inside.

Step 5: Third Soak

A second soak is not a bad idea, particularly for expensive plants. When performing this step, I use distilled, reverse-osmosis, or filtered water at 0PPM.

Some people like to soak LECA for more than two weeks prior to use. If you’re utilising cleaned, dried LECA from earlier procedures, this is also a good idea. Never use LECA that is dry; always use LECA that has been soaked and wet.

Along with any rooting hormones like KLN, you can also add CalMag (a calcium magnesium supplement) to the soaking water. As the Ca and Mg ions replace the less desired soluble minerals in the LECA, these supplements can be added as early as the first soak.

I have two buckets that are constantly stocked with LECA that are located in CalMag and KLN. Before I use it up, they might occasionally soak for a few weeks.

Why shouldn’t you use dry LECA, according to science? The reason is that LECA wicks water very well. Roots may become desiccated if they come into contact with excessively dry LECA, which will draw water away from the roots. Prior to usage, always make sure they are thoroughly wet.

Can plants be grown in Leca alone?

growth environment Although it might sound absurd, LECA can be used to grow indoor plants in place of dirt. LECA is a fantastic substrate for indoor plants because it is naturally neutral and much less dirty than soil. Your indoor plants can benefit from the perfect balance of moisture, food, and air that these clay pebbles can offer.

What is required in Leca to grow plants?

When cultivating plants in Leca, you will need containers that can hold water. For your soil-grown plants, you presumably have a few pots with drainage holes. Although they work excellent with dirt, you can’t use these with Leca.

Because the clay balls in Leca need to absorb the moisture at the bottom of the pot, you’ll need pots that can hold water if you want to utilise it to grow your plants.

One of the most crucial components of a healthy plant in Leca is keeping soil away from your pots and cleaning them regularly.

How are plants nourished in LECA?

Since LECA is an inorganic medium, it lacks everything plants need. Soil is an organic medium that contains all the necessary components for plants to thrive. You will eventually need to refill the nutrients and make sure your plant can absorb them when you uproot a plant from its soil environment and place it in LECA.

If the following information overwhelms beginners, skip it! Add any fertiliser you presently use to a gallon jug of tap water, diluted to 1/4 to 1/2 of the suggested amount. Your vitamin solution is now that. If you wish to skip the technical information, scroll down to the bottom to see a list of components and measurements.

Long-term use of tap water is not sustainable, though. Purchase a reverse osmosis system or start using filtered water as soon as possible.

PPM Primer

An introduction to PPM is useful before we delve into any of the science or how to combine nutritional solutions. PPM, which stands for parts per million, is the unit used to measure the amount of “things” in water. TDS Meters are the tools used to measure PPM. Total Dissolved Solids is what the term means. Is this beginning to make sense? It counts how much material has been dissolved in water.

For instance, starting with distilled water will result in a TDS metre reading of 0PPM. The water might be at 200PPM after I dissolve a scoop of fertiliser in it. PPM will increase as you add additional items.

Only how much stuff is in the water can be determined by a TDS metre; it cannot tell you WHAT is there.

A TDS metre in the US could display a different reading than one in the UK. EC (electrical conductivity) is translated to PPM, and the conversion formula varies by location. You should actually press the mode button on your TDS metre and turn it to EC if you want to be completely on the same page.

Note 2: You’ll discover that a TDS metre doesn’t actually register anything when you measure your organic fertilisers with it. This is so that a TDS metre, which measures the electrical conductivity of water, may only be used with salt-based inorganic fertilisers.

Types of Water

Water that flows from your faucet is known as tap water. The majority of tap water contains fluoride, calcium, magnesium, and other “things in it. Depending on where you reside, this water is often 30 to 300PPM.

Filtered Water: There are numerous varieties of water purifiers available; I previously used a “Water filter: zero. Filtered water is produced when tap water is added. Water here has a PPM of 0. Your water could be of higher or poorer quality depending on where you are in the world. If you have extremely hard water, this alternative might not be financially feasible in the long run because you would use up these filters very quickly.

Reverse osmosis Water: A variety of reasonably priced reverse osmosis systems are also available. These devices plug into your hose or sink, and clean water starts to flow. Water here has a PPM of 0. This usually takes far less time than filtering your water pitcher by pitcher. Currently, I have a RO system installed, and it is AMAZING. Because the pure blue H20 system was on sale at Costco, I use it. If you can’t install one, these countertop ones are praised by many; they just take a little longer. I’ve been using one for 1.5 years and haven’t had to change the filters yet although consuming 5 to 10 gallons each week. These are definitely worth the cost.

The water sold in gallon containers at the grocery store is distilled water. Water here has a PPM of 0.

There are numerous additives in tap water “substances including calcium, magnesium, chlorine, and fluoride. When you water your plants and notice a white accumulation on top, the excess salts and minerals that the plant can’t absorb are to blame. Because some plants are extremely sensitive to too many minerals in tap water, I prefer to use filtered water. My water has been metered and is roughly 160PPM.

Any form of 0PPM water should be used while preparing your nutrient solution, in my opinion. It’s excellent if you want to utilise rainwater in its place, but be aware that occasionally rainwater has a lot of “pollution, for example, if you reside in a large city.

Save some gallon jugs and use your pitcher to fill them with filtered water to save time. I also prepare nutrient solution in batches of a few gallons and store it in gallon containers; it should last for a few weeks.

Calcium and Magnesium

This is very crucial if you use filtered water for your plants instead of tap water. Keep in mind that filtered water has 0 PPM, which indicates it is devoid of any remaining calcium or magnesium. That needs to be reincorporated into your nutrient solution.

Calcium: Calcium is necessary for plants’ cell walls to remain intact. Your plant may have malformed leaves if it lacks calcium.

Magnesium is crucial for photosynthesis. Your plant will display signs of browning leaves if it lacks magnesium.

You should check the label to see whether or not you need to supplement because some fertilisers include extra calcium and magnesium. For instance, K-Lite is designed with extra calcium so you won’t need a supplement. When I followed the instructions on General Hydroponics CalMagic, I discovered that the recommended dosage was 200PPM. For my orchids, I reduce that a little, but for everything else, I use the prescribed amount.

To avoid nutrient locking, calcium and magnesium supplements must first be incorporated into the water. The sequence of the elements you combine important because at this point in chemistry, one element bonds to another to form a new element.

Fertilizers and Other Additives

The houseplant community loves the General Hydroponics series of fertilisers (FloraMicro, FloraGrow, and FloraBloom). The MSU orchid fertiliser is again another one of my favourites (13-2-15). It has rather high levels of calcium and is designed for both houseplants and orchids, but I still use supplements. K-lite is one of my current favourites. As I already indicated, K-lite will receive its own section below. Fertilizer and CalMag are combined to save time; the breakdown is 12-1-1-10Ca-3Mg. Another hydroponics fertiliser by DynaGrow, Foliage Pro, has had great success with other people. These fertilisers, which we refer to as NPKs, supply the plant with macronutrients. the following macronutrients:

I’ve discovered the following ingredients to be helpful while growing in semi-hydroponics.

Rooting stimulants: Reduce transplant shock and encourage the development of robust roots. My favourites are RapidStart and Kelpmax. While Kelpmax works similarly to RapidStart, which is designed for root growth, it is very smooth and doesn’t have pieces like some other seaweed products on the market. Unlike some people, I don’t utilise Superthrive. Here’s why.

When combined with seaweed extract, fulmic acid or fulvic acid improves the plant’s capacity to absorb nutrients. Mr. Fulvic is my favourite. (Mr. Humic is the same product; I inquired; it has to do with branding and state law.)

Potassium Silicate: Strengthens cell walls and boosts pest resistance. Make careful to put it before Calmag if you plan to use it. I used to use robust stalk very frequently, but because the manner I mix now makes it more difficult to use, I haven’t used it for the past year.

Probiotics improve the environment for good bacteria in the root zone. In addition to using Quantum Orchid, I also started using Orca. Orca is distinctive in that it combines 11 extremely aggressive bacteria strains with 4 highly potent endo mycorrhiza species. (Leave it to the professionals; don’t attempt to combine mycorrhiza and healthy bacteria.) This highly rated hydroponics product will prevent root rot in your pots by eliminating harmful microorganisms.

To see the plant juice recipe and how much to add to a gallon of water, scroll down.

Adjusting the pH

It’s time to finally adjust the pH of the mixture once it has been blended and brought to the proper PPM. Because nutrients are taken by the plant at particular pH ranges, the pH needs to be adjusted. For instance, the pH of your soil should be between 4.0 and 6.0 if you’re growing potatoes, and between 6.0 and 8.0 if you’re growing mint. At various pH levels, different elements are also absorbed. For instance, iron, copper, and zinc are optimally absorbed better in acidic to neutral settings while calcium and magnesium are optimally absorbed better in neutral to alkaline conditions. Most hydroponic gardeners will aim for a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5 to accommodate a wide range of plants and nutrient requirements.

The pH up and pH down products from General Hydroponics are the ones that hydroponic growers use the most frequently. To determine the pH of your solution, you will also need a pH metre or pH strips. After doing it a few times, it becomes fairly simple. To achieve the appropriate pH level, place the pH metre in the solution and add or subtract pH as necessary. I aim for a pH of around 5.7 or 5.8, as I’ve noticed that the nutrient solution’s pH will rise over time.

After pH has been adjusted, simply add the nutrient water to your plant’s water reservoir, and you’re done!

However, current research comparing the pH of the root zone to that of the reservoir water has revealed that in semi-hydroponics, adjusting the pH of the reservoir water is not necessary. You should conduct your own research in this area and try both pHing and non pHing. I no longer pH because I typically end up in the 5.0-6.0pH range with my regular nutrient mix. But keep in mind that it can take anywhere between 6 and 12 months to notice the effectiveness or adverse effects of this.

Origin: First Rays Ray has long used semi-hydroponic growth techniques (I believe he actually coined the phrase semi-hydroponics.) I urge you to carry out his pH measurement experiment on your own. His research shows that the pH of the pot varies with the time of day, so all of the time and effort you spend into pHing your nutrition solution may not be worthwhile.