The Best Ways to Use Vermiculite in Your Garden
Vermiculite is an excellent gardening product that can make a remarkable difference to the growth, health, and performance of your planting systems – and is also often underutilised.
While soil types vary, the right combination of drainage, moisture and aeration is essential to strong growth, and many sandy or clay-based soils are less than optimal for a green garden or thriving veg plot.
Here we explain how this product works, which gardens it is best suited to, and why it may be the ideal product to transform your garden into a flourishing outdoor space.
What Is Vermiculite?
There are several variations, and we will provide some quick links to top-selling products shortly. Still, you can purchase it in a pre-blended soil mix or as an additive to add to your planting trays or pots.
Vermiculite is made from a natural mineral, which expands rapidly when warmed, and has a brown colour, ranging from a sandy hue to a darker grey. If you buy standalone vermiculite, it will look like pellets or tiny flakes.
This material is highly absorbent and is safe for use in any planting environment, with mould and rot resistance and zero odour or toxicity.
Mixing it into your soil boosts moisture retention, ensures the earth is better aerated and has the right properties to encourage faster root development.
What are the Benefits of Using Vermiculite in Your Garden?
Like all soil additives, the right application depends on the moisture content in your soil, which will naturally differentiate between regions. It is a superior option to perlite if you need to maximise the moisture in your soil.
Gardeners add it to the soil when sowing new seeds or growing young plants, as the mineral retains nutrients and water, releasing them back into the ground slowly over time.
It is also fantastic for bulb storage over the winter, preventing decay and soaking up moisture that could cause bulbs to rot. There are multiple other uses, such as avoiding grass seeds from becoming too dry when germinating or improving composting by adding texture to waste green materials.
Other advantages of using vermiculite, either in a soil mix or as an additive, include the following:
- Accelerated root growth for seedlings – the added properties in your growing medium help young plants absorb important minerals such as calcium and potassium from the soil.
- Improved cutting growth, using a medium-grade additive as part of your substrate, providing conditions for cuttings to take root.
- Addressing overly alkaline or acidic soils with pH-neutral properties that create a balanced growing environment.
Plants prone to drying out, such as seedlings, benefit from a vermiculite soil mix because this ensures they have access to sufficient water. The small particles do not obstruct root growth, and a finer-grade additive is superb for seeds.
More delicate flowers also work well with it because it is sterile and safeguards against common issues such as fungal infestations or bacteria that can decimate more vulnerable plant species.
Are There Alternatives to Vermiculite?
It is great at retaining water but is not relevant to all soils. For example, gardens naturally rich in clay can become heavily saturated, reducing the airflow to the roots and creating overly damp conditions. Aerated composts and soil mixtures such as coconut peat do not generally require vermiculite.
It is perfect for warmer weather and ensures your flowerbeds, pots and seed trays remain moist and healthy without continual watering. Still, perlite may be a more suitable soil conditioner if you need aeration as a priority over moisture retention.
Perlite is preferable if you are repotting plants that prefer dryer conditions, such as succulents, and if your garden has heavier clay soil that needs to be loosened to prevent compaction.
However, vermiculite remains the better option for starting new seeds, repotting container plants outdoors, or gardens exposed to drier soil where the additive conserves moisture and encourages faster, healthier growth.
What Is the Best Vermiculite Product to Use?
As we mentioned earlier, there are two primary ways to introduce this product to your garden: by opting for a pre-mixed compost or growing medium or by adding flakes or pellets to existing soil.
Much also depends on where you wish to use it and why because fine or medium-grade conditioners are best for seeds and seedlings, whereas a coarser mixture is better for established plants.
Below we have listed some of our most popular vermiculite gardening products to showcase some alternatives.
The Seed Sowing Compost with Vermiculite comes in a 75-litre size and is free-flowing to make it easier to fill seed trays with a fine-grade mixture and high nutrition levels for flowers, herbs, cuttings and vegetables.
If you wish to add it to existing soil or pots, we’d recommend a finer-grade option for younger plants or seeds, advancing to a coarser compound for older plants:
- Sinclair Vermiculite Fine 100 Litre is best for water management and aeration.
- Sinclair Vermiculite Medium 100 Litre protects against temperature fluctuations, with between two and five mm particles.
- Sinclair Vermiculite Coarse Plant Compost is a pre-mixed option with larger flakes for established roots.
You can read full product details and specifications by following the quick links above.
The 10-litre Vitax Vermiculite is a compost additive with lightweight flakes, designed either for use on its own as a growing medium or as an additive to mix 50/50 with your preferred compost.
This product is a good choice for potting on and can improve the water retention and overall weight of larger pots for easier garden management.
We hope this guide illustrates the many benefits and uses of vermiculite, as well as some of the products currently available to introduce this valuable mineral to your garden.
If you would like further advice about the best substrate or mixture for your gardening products, please contact AK Kin for additional guidance.