Rice hulls are one of the most sustainable soil amendments available to gardeners. When properly applied, they improve soil drainage, water-holding capacity, and aeration. Unlike perlite and other rock products, however, rice hulls do not require mining. Unlike peat, their production does not require the disruption of ecosystems in bogs, swamps, and mangrove forests. Like coco coir, they are a byproduct of agriculture that would otherwise be considered waste.
Rice hulls are the thin husks that act as a protective covering for rice grains. Millers remove them after harvest. They are non-toxic and biodegradable and feed the soil as they break down.
Rice Hulls as Sustainable Soil Amendment
That’s why more and more gardeners and companies in the commercial potting industry supplement their peat mix with rice hulls. In so doing, they reduce their need for peat – which we use faster than nature can produce. In Southeast Asia, in fact, many gardeners use rice hulls instead of peat, perlite, and vermiculite for their potting mixes.
Here’s how you can use rice hulls as a soil amendment in your garden this spring.
How to Use Rice Hulls in the Garden
For your garden, spread about a two-inch layer of rice hulls across the surface of when you fertilize your plots in the spring. Mix it into the top 6 to 12 inches of the soil. For potted plants, a 10 to 50 percent ratio of rice hulls in your potting soil is adequate.
You can also use rice hulls as a mulch, just like you use straw to retain moisture and fend off weeds. Research has found that rice hulls provide effective weed control when mixed into the top ½ to 1-inch of soil.
Rice hulls are extremely lightweight. This makes them especially ideal for making soil loose and airy, which helps plants draw the oxygen they need through their roots.
Reducing Pressure on Limited Resources
Rice hulls are similar to coco coir and sphagnum peat moss but are more sustainable, according to Grow Organic. Unlike these typical soil amendments, rice hulls also boast a neutral pH, making them excellent for balanced soils that require a boost in organic matter.
There’s something to be said for gardening products that not only help you, the gardener, in your backyard, but also help to reduce pressure on limited resources.
Sustainability is a major global concern. What is true for oil and water is true for any other thing in limited reserve. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Our natural environment is one such resource, as well. The more sustainable materials we use in our gardens, the better for our planet.