Let there be life

We’ll, I had nearly given up on these. I have been away for five days as well so they weren’t watered in that time. I honestly thought I would have to scrap this experiment.Then this morning I notice this

This is the vermiculite which is the one that i thought would work, if it was going to. Then I looked at the perlite pot and..

As you can see there is some mould (I’m guessing) on the surface but a single shoot has managed to grow directly in the perlite. How amazing is that. Then when you look from another angle,

You can see another shoot in the centre about to come through the surface and another just to the right of the first one. I honestly didn’t think they would grow in the perlite. And admittedly it has not performed as well as the vermiculite but that’s not to say there are other seeds that may prefer the environment that the perlite offers. I wish I did a control with compost to see how they compare. But now I know it works. 

Perlite/Vermiculite Experiment

In a previous post I talked about the benefits of using perlite and vermiculite in your potting compost. One of the things I had learned was that you can grow seeds directly in either of them without the need for any compost. So I decided to test the theory by trying just that. So, here are my pots, one of each, and in each are 4 seeds each of tomatoes. I know it’s to late in the season, I am not expecting them to produce me any tomatoes. I just want to see if the seeds will grow till their first true leaves appear. 

I have my doubts, my guess is perlite won’t do anything and vermiculite, if one does germinate will not last very long. 

I’ll post again if and when I see any little shoots coming up.

Perlite or Vermiculite

When I started my garden I got all excited and got loads of stuff without really knowing what it was or why I needed it. You know how it is you go to the garden centre to get yourself a bag of compost, the next minute your leaving with 3 bags of compost, 10 packs of seeds, a new hose attachment, a cold frame, a new pair of gloves, 6 packs of bulbs and a bug house made of bamboo. Well on one of these trips I bought a bag each of perlite and vermiculite. I was going to get one but after about 20 minutes of going back and forth I just surrendered to the inevitable and bought both.

For a while I have put both into my pots and to be honest can’t say I have seen any difference. So I decided to actually do a little research and what I found shocked me to my very core… Not really but it was quite interesting… Ok this may not be that interesting but it will help me growing a few better plants. Now I know that they each work differently for different plants so you cannot actually compare the two.

Perlite for instance is a porous volcanic rock, it absorbs a lot of water due to its large surface area but allows excess water to drain. Being porous Perlite also holds air which helps aerate the soil.


Vermiculite on the other hand is an aluminium-iron-magnesium silicate “silicate minerals are rock-forming minerals, constituting approximately 90 percent of the crust of the Earth”.- Wikipedia. It can absorb up to 4 times its volume in water as well as attracting plant nutrients. It acts like a sponge and holds much more water than perlite but allows less aeration. It holds this moisture longer than perlite and keeps it close to the roots. It also means it absorbs excess moisture from around the root to stop mildew. Less watering is needed the more vermiculite you use.

You can actually grow most plants from seed in just perlite or vermiculite. Both holds enough moisture and allows in enough air to be used as a potting medium. They don’t provide any nutrients though so some form of fertiliser will be needed to be added once the plants start their first true leaves. It looks like vermiculite would be better for this as it holds onto the water longer. Perlite would dry out a lot quicker and need much more attention. I think I may give this a go I might pick some seeds and grow them; one in just perlite, one in just vermiculite, one in perlite-compost mix and one in vermiculite-compost mix.

From what I have learned I think vermiculite is better for plants as it holds water and nutrients close to the roots. Perlite is good for the soil\compost as it would help drainage and allow more air into it.

I will post my little experiment later.