Using Rice Hulls for Gardening

What are rice hulls?

Rice hulls, also known as rice husks, are the by-products of rice. You may also know them as the seed coat or protective covering of rice grain.

But did you know you can use rice hulls for gardening?

Rice hulls are excellent soil amendment because they improve soil drainage and moisture-holding capacity.

Further, rice hulls provide good aeration to any grow medium [1]

Rice hulls are also used as a hydroponic media to improve plants’ growth.

Unlike perlite, rice hulls do not require mining or any manufacturing processes.

Rice hulls do not cause any harm to the environment (unlike peat moss) and are a very sustainable material for gardening.

Whereas peat moss takes thousands of years to form, and that’s why it is not environmentally friendly.

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First, the millers remove the hulls from the rice grains and then parboil to sterilize the materials at a higher heat.

This temperature ensures the destruction of diseases and weed seeds. Rice husks are regarded as non-toxic and organic amendments.

Furthermore, they break down easily, and due to their stability, they last for a longer duration.

This sustainable soil amendment is very cheap because it is considered a kind of waste. Hence, gardeners can easily buy them from rice mills. 

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What is the purpose of mixing rice hulls with garden soil?

Rice husks are biodegradable, and they improve the soil’s physical and chemical properties.

Hence, it would be best if you mixed them properly in your garden.

Due to its availability, many farmers and gardeners use it on farms or as potting soil.

Mixing rice hulls with gardens or using them as a hydroponic growing medium reduces the need for peat moss and other expensive amendments.

Gardeners in Southeast Asian countries use rice hulls and coco coir in their potting mixes instead of vermiculite, perlite, peat moss, and other materials.

Rice hulls are rich in silica (94% of the weight) [2]. Silica improves the drought tolerance limit of the plants by delaying the wilting point.

Also, it enhances the stability of the stem and helps the plant resist the toxic effects of micronutrients. [3]

In addition to this, rice hulls can increase the aeration capacity of the soil and reduce the risk of soil compaction.

Moreover, you can also use these materials as mulches to cover the surface.

How to Use Rice Hulls in Gardening

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Incorporating rice husks in gardens is quite easy. You can follow these steps to for using –

  • Spread hulls maintaining about 2-inches layer across the soil surface during the spring. 
  • You can also mix them into the top 6-inches layer of the soil. It will improve soil properties in the root zone. Also, mixing them with the surface increases aeration.
  • If you plan to use hulls for potted plants, you should use 10-50% husks in the mix.
  • You can also use hulls as mulching materials like straw.
  • Since these materials are extremely lightweight, wind can blow them away.

A gardener can also use this as a mulch. Mulching materials can retain moisture for a longer duration and eliminate weeds.

Rice hulls are considered an effective method to control weeds in the garden. You should use this material as a mulch and cover the soil surface.

Unlike perlite, vermiculite, perlite, and other minerals, rice hulls break down easily in one season. Thus, it is great for adding organic matter to the soil.

Comparison of Rice Hull with Other Soil Amendments

Rice hulls are almost similar to most sustainable soil amendments like coco coir, sphagnum peat moss, and sawdust.

But unlike them, husks are more sustainable and take time to decompose, though they are less effective in holding water for a longer period.

But the gardeners get a plethora of benefits from the silica content in the husks.

Here, we will briefly discuss the comparison of rice hulls with the two most sustainable soil amendments – moss and coco coir.

Peat Moss vs. Rice hulls

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  • Peat is mainly found in boggy areas. It takes thousands of years to form these mosses.

    It is not good to harvest these mosses as they are a limited resource in our environment.

    On the other hand, rice husks are easy to find. In fact, they are available for every rice mill.
  • Both moss and husks are sustainable soil amendments as they can improve soil health.

    Peat has a better capacity to absorb water, while hulls can make the soil airy and somewhat less capacity to retain moisture than peat.
  • They can improve the overall air and water holding capacity. As a result, root respiration is not hindered.

    You can use them in the garden or in potting soil.
  • Peat can affect the pH of the potting mixes as this material is acidic. In contrast, husks do not affect pH fluctuation.
    You can add rice hulls to the peat mix to maintain the balance.

Coco Coir vs. Rice Hulls

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  • Like rice husks, coco coir (or coco peat) is also considered a waste product of the coconut and is a renewable resource.

    Coco coir has a better water retention capacity than the hulls. And husks have a better air retention capacity than coco coir.
  • Both coco coir and the husks can be a great addition to the plants. And compared to the coco coir, the rice hull is cheaper.
  • Coconut coir is an inert substance that resists decomposition. Also, it does not supply any nutrients to the plants.
    At the same time, hulls contain silica that can strengthen the plants’ stems.
  • Coco coir can be added to both sandy and clayey soil. But it is better to avoid applying hulls in sandy soil.
  • Both of these substances have neutral pH

FAQ

How to Use Rice Hulls in Gardening?

Rice hulls should be mixed with the soil properly to improve the soil’s physical condition. Mix them with the top 6-12 inches layer. You may also spread them on the surface.

Do rice husks absorb water?

Yes, rice husks (or rice hulls) are a great water adsorbent material and help the soil retain moisture for a longer period of time. In fact, they can absorb various toxins and are considered inexpensive and renewable resources. When used as a mulch, or mixed into the soil, rice hulls offer protection to the topsoil, preventing weeds and trapping moisture in the soil.

What are rice hulls?

Rice hulls, also known as rice husks, are the by-products of rice. Specifically, they are the seed coating that covers the rice grain. Rice hulls are a great choice as a soil additive because they improve soil drainage and moisture-holding capacity.

Are rice hulls good for gardening?

Yes, rice hulls are good for gardening. Rice hulls are a popular gardening soil amendment since they absorb water and are an environmentally responsible drainage alternative. In addition, they are among the most sustainable soil additives accessible to gardeners due to their ability to enhance drainage, water retention, and aeration.

What is the purpose of mixing the Rice hull with garden soil?

The main purpose of mixing rice hulls is to increase water holding capacity, cation exchange capacity, and improve other soil properties. In addition, rice hulls can also help aerate compacted soils, similar to that of perlite or pumice.

Can I use rice hulls with peat moss?

Yes, you can mix rice hulls with peat moss. The benefit of this is to maintain a balanced pH level in the soil. Rice hulls are comparable to coco coir and sphagnum peat moss but the advantage is that rice hulls are more sustainable. In contrast to these common soil additions, rice hulls have a neutral pH, making them ideal for balancing pH in soils. Rice hulls can also be mixed with coconut coir.

Other Soil Amendments

Though rice hulls are a great choice as a soil amendment because they retain moisture in the soil and an environmentally friendly. There are other types of soil additives you can add to your soil.

Gypsum: Gypsum is a good source of essential nutrients, like calcium and sulfur. Sulfur remains in the soil as a sulfate ion, susceptible to leaching loss. It also eliminates mineral toxicity in the soil.

LECA (or Expanded Clay Pellets): Growing plants using LECA, especially in hydroponics helps the plants absorb water when they need it. Since LECA pellets have larger pores, they provide aeration helping to supply oxygen to the roots.

Rockwool: Rockwool is a great growing medium as it can absorb excess moisture and, provides aeration to keep the roots oxygenated. It is also a great medium to use if it is in a dry environment because rockwool does not dry out easily.

Conclusion

You can mix hulls, perlite, vermiculite, and other rock products to improve aeration in your potting soil to increase efficacy.

If you are thinking about hydroponic agriculture, you may also use the mixture of perlite and husks to improve the drainage condition of the medium.

A gardener can obtain the best result if he mixes hulls with other organic matter.

References

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