Growing Mix Root Aeration

growing mix root aeration

Growing Mix Root Aeration

How To Get More Root Oxygen

Getting good growing mix root aeration makes for healthier plants that can grow faster and yield more beautiful flowers and fruits in your garden.  When growing for higher yields in less space, it’s a critical not to overlook growing mix root aeration using soilless or hydroponic growing medias or mixes like sphagnum peat moss, coco coir or others. Aeration is important in any garden. In outdoor beds or plots it helps to reduce the negative effects that compaction can create overtime as soils are worked and weathered.

improving drainage propagation

ABOVE: Start healthier crops by improving drainage and aeration at propagation

kale drainage

ABOVE: Aeration reduces the negative effects of soil compaction over time

What is Aeration?

Aeration is a process or situation where higher levels of air, usually through more air space, ie macro and micro pores is increased in the plants root zone when speaking in terms of gardening and growing crops. This allows more oxygen for plants to breathe in through the roots, and provides faster drainage so plants don’t sit in stagnant water logged environments.  Oxygen availability in the root zone can have a profound impact on plant health and performance.  In natural soil settings, it dictates whether you will have more harmful (ie crop disease) or more friendly (ie symbiotic) micro organisms colonizing the soil and roots to cycle fertility and perform other vital functions for growing plants.

  • Aerobic conditions occur when there is adequate dissolved oxygen and ambient oxygen in the root zone; this creates biological life that stimulates good plant health
  • Anaerobic conditions occur when there is inadequate or reduced dissolved oxygen and ambient oxygen in the root zone; this creates biological life that stimulates conditions that lead to problems in plants.


ABOVE: Natural Soil Horizon, note the drainage layer nature provides

Some Examples of Aeration:

-adding granular or coarser material to growing medias

-creating a drainage layer below the root zones

-bubbling air through water via air pumps

-venturi adaptors in irrigation lines

-recirculating nutrient solutions

hydroponics nutrient injection lines

ABOVE: Aerating your water or nutrient solution adds Dissolved Oxygen

Why Add Growing Mix Root Aeration?

Faster Drainage-this allows roots to breathe more freely after watering, and encourages ambient air to get drawn into the growing media as water drains away.  Experienced growers know that more frequent watering stimulate stronger growth when drainage is adequate.  This helps reduce chances of overwatering, a common mistake with growers trying to push the crop along

More Air at Roots-this stimulates the Aerobic Conditions that we talked about earlier, so beneficial organisms and biological reactions will occur at the roots.  A lack of air at crop roots contributes to slow and lower yielding growth and in some instances may be a vector or entry point for crop diseases such as root rot.

Less Nutrient Build Up-when watering more frequently due to improved drainage, growers can apply irrigations or waterings that allow 15% or greater run off from containers or beds.  This helps leech or wash away any fertilizer residues that may accumulate overtime.  Fertilizer build up can hurt growth, and if left unchecked can cause serious harm to crops including nutrient lock outs due to imbalances of fertility that result.  Keeping the media free of residue build up also allows easier and better reuse of growing medias from crop to crop.

tomatoes better drainage

Above: Healthier Roots Yield More Fruits

How To Get Growing Mix Root Aeration

A lot of experienced greenhouse and indoor growers looking to push plant performance add materials like growstone, perlite, and pumice to their soilless potting or grow bed mixes to improve growing mix aeration. This adds “Porosity”, which means that there is a higher degree in the frequency of small air spaces in the growing media that surrounds the roots.  The benefits are numerous, as we have briefly discussed above.

While soilless coco-mixes and peat mixes for professional and hobby growers are available in HP (high porosity) formulations and blends, most of the Pros (and we agree) will modify their grow mix to suit the needs of their cropping program better.

Rule of Thumb-Add 1/3rd to original growing blend volume of drainage material like GS-1, GS-2 or large diameter perlite or pumice to growing mixes.

An easier solution is to use a growing mix that has you the yield savvy gardener in mind, that is, one that contains lots of drainage and aeration already.  Note that the two mixes mentioned below can also be a great addition to traditional soil gardens when worked in as a top dressing, greatly reducing the negative effects compaction has on you soil properties over time.

Here are a couple of great examples:

 Growstone GS-3, blended professional quality coco coir growing mix, aeration formula for faster drainage

Growstone GS-4, blended professional quality coco coir growing mix, moisture retention formula for less watering

coco mix gs4

Growing Mix Root Aeration Put to the TEST

Stay tuned, we’ll be adding a link here very shortly that will direct you to our Grow Trial intended to test, measure and prove the effects of aeration on identical crops using a variety of professional growing substrates.  Growing mix root aeration testing will allow all to see firsthand in real world growing conditions just how profound these effects may or may not be, and can show you which blends perform best for modern growing purposes.

growstone drainage aeration qualities

Put Aeration to Work for You RIGHT NOW:

Adding a drainage layer to your containers and beds is one of the easiest ways to improve growth rates, plant health and to potentiate your yields.

potting drainage

Layering the bottom 1/5th of your containers or beds with a porous and lightweight fast draining material that won’t have negative effects on pH or nutrient balance will make very big differences you can start to see right away.

Drainage Layer Benefits
  • Plant roots will not sit in stagnant solution, which chokes them of air and can create anaerobic (harmful) soil conditions, ie root rot
  • Faster draining beds and containers draw more oxygen via ambient air into the growing media when you water or irrigate
  • With faster drainage, you can water more frequently which keeps the roots charged with fresh oxygen levels, water and nutrients—more time in the sweet spot for growth versus waiting days to water again as plants go from very wet to dry.  Keeping optimal air to water rations has profound effects on growth, which we aim to document in our aforementioned pending Grow Trial
  • Less compaction will occur in the media, as the drainage layer helps to prevent your growing media or soil from running out the drainage holes in your containers or beds.  If this happens, you soil or media will compact overtime, strangling the roots of much needed air for healthy growth.

drainage potting aeration

About Erik Biksa 247 Articles
Erik Biksa has been writing about and discussing hydroponics growing, related technologies and cropping methods since 1999 in a variety of professional publications and platforms globally Erik has travelled the world learning and teaching modern growing techniques and technologies and is appreciated by many growers for his informative yet hands on approaches. Presently, he is the Editor at Grozine Hydroponics Mag.