This Pool Noodle Seed Starting Hack Is A Plant Lover's Dream

Hydroponic gardeners know that gardening without soil has one obvious drawback that you might not be thinking about: without soil, plants will need something to support them. A healthy plant's roots normally support the entire mature plant (vining plants excepted, of course), but a container of nutrient solution won't give your pak choi or arugula much support. YouTube gardener @KeepOnGrowin has a solution that's quick, easy, cheap, and effective: Support your hydroponic seedlings in pool noodles.

The pool noodles are cut into rounds, perhaps 1 inch thick. The seedlings –- leafy greens, in this case -– are nestled inside the pool noodle's center hole. When the little assemblies are inserted into the holes in @KeepOnGrowin's hydroponic rail system, the noodle compresses against the stems just enough to support, but not damage, the seedlings. The same approach would also work in the Kratky Method, Dutch bucket, deep-water-culture, and other hydroponics approaches. Pool noodles come in different sizes, as do the holes in hydroponics equipment. It's important to match them up so you're not squeezing your plants too much or leaving them unsupported by a loose fit.

A great alternative to expensive products

When hydroponics setups are funded by lottery winnings or by growing extremely expensive herbs, there are several products on the market designed to fill this need, like net cups. Net cups fit in the rail holes and are filled with a medium like perlite for support. Rockwool cubes in net cups can often support seedlings in their early stages, and other common substrates for container gardening have been used. For a shoestring farmer, someone seeking food independence, or anyone else dealing with a lot of seedlings, this can be an expensive proposition. This pool noodle hack is a boon to anyone with lots of seedlings to nurture.

There is one thing to be on guard for if you try this hack: less expensive pool noodles can leach or break down into undesirable or even dangerous chemicals that you don't want in your hydroponics system. Some pool noodles contain PVC which is problematic as PVC products often contain dangerous plasticizers called phthalates and can release carcinogenic dioxin. (This is a real issue for hydroponic growers in other ways since vinyl gutters and drain pipes used for many rail systems are made of PVC). If a pool noodle contains polystyrene, it can leach a neurotoxin called styrene into the water. You'll also want a guarantee that your pool noodles are lead-free.  Your best bet is to use PVC-free pool noodles made with ethylene vinyl acetate, or EVA, which is thought to be safe.