Do you know that you can use Coconut Coir as a different type of medium for growing your plants?
Coconut Coir is an increasingly popular type of hydroponic growing medium and is a sustainable pest moss alternative.
It is beneficial for your plants as it retains water and breaks up soil just like peat moss.
However, unlike it, coconut coir is a renewable by-product, has a more balanced pH, and does not break down as quickly.
Thus, if you are looking for ways to improve your gardening game, learn how to use the different forms of coconut coir in your soil planters, hydroponic systems, and more in this guide.
We will also discuss where it comes from and its benefits and drawbacks.
It is important to understand where coconut coir comes from.
In the past, coconuts were harvested for their delicious meals and juice, and their out layer was wasted.
All of the material from the husk to the inner shell of the coconut was discarded until people realized the applications in gardening and home products.
Moreover, everything in between the shell and the outer coating of the coconut seed is coconut coir.
Brown coir comes from mature, ripe coconuts, and is a lot stronger, but less flexible,
On the other hand, white fibers come from pre-ripe coconuts and are more flexible, however, much less strong.
Types of Coconut Coir
When you go to a nearby nursery to buy coconut coir, you come up with three different options.
- the pith or coconut peat
- coco chips.
Together these provide a powerful growing medium, however, they have very specific benefits.
Here’s a look that the types of coconut coir:
The “peat” of coconut coir looks like finely ground coconut or peat moss.
It is small and absorbent that if we’re only to use it as the growing medium, the root of your plant might drown.
Moreover, you must age this one properly so that you can use it as a growing media, as it can let out salts that will kill your plant.
Choosing a coconut coir manufacturer is also crucial for good growth.
Coconut fiber adds air pockets to your medium, however, it is not very absorbent.
This type is good as your growing media needs air pockets in order to provide oxygen to the root zone of your plants.
Moreover, coconut fibers don break down rather quickly, which means that the air pockets they create will also decrease with time.
These are basically a natural type of extended clay pellet and are made from plant matter instead of clay.
They are best as a hybrid between coco peat and fiber and are large enough to create air pockets.
Furthermore, they also absorb water so that your plants do not have to dehydrate completely.
While using coconut coir in your garden, it is important that you use the right mixture for optimal results.
Choosing High-Quality Coco Coir
One of the most important factors that determine that high-quality coconut coir is the process of harvesting, preparation, and processing.
As none of these factors are in your control, you have to pick suppliers that follow the best practices for coco coir production.
After the separation of coir from coconuts, you can store them in piles for a few years. This puts it at risk for pathogens due to its natural pH.
On the other hand, most producers that experience this will chemically sterilize the coir so it is ready to use in the garden.
However, this has its risk as well, as it can prematurely break down the fibers and peat.
The best manufacturer will have an iron grip on their product from harvest to shipping.
Moreover, they will:
- avoid situations that can induce the growth of pathogens
- have a dedicated system to control the aging process of coir
- rinse and wash the coir to flush out salts
- create the right blend of pith, fibers, and chips
- package and store their product correctly.
Now, let’s discuss the situations where you can use coconut coir.
Coconut Coir for Hanging Planters and Baskets
Hanging baskets and window box planters love coconut coir. Plants do not grow directly in the coir, rather it lines the basket or planter, thus creating a breathable, attractive, and natural pot.
Moreover, this fiber holds the potting medium in place, while retaining water and slowly releasing it to the plants.
Coconut coir as a basket line also makes it easy for your plants to receive oxygen due to its porous nature.
You can use the coconut coir in your hanging plants and baskets as:
Start by lining the basket or planter with coir fiber, and then add your growing medium, which should be a 50/50 mix of rehydrated coir and perlite.
In the next step, add your plant, keeping its roots below the surface.
In the last step, water your planter and watch your plants grow.
As coir fiber is naturally porous, it allows more water to ease and as your soil tends to dry more quickly, then this allows water retention for later use.
Using Coconut Coir for Hydroponic Systems
One of the best qualities of coconut coir is that it makes a good medium for hydroponics.
It decomposes slowly, retains water, as well as pH, and helps to transfer nutrients to the root system of your plants.
Thus, it is a recipe for healthy and happy indoor plants.
To use coconut coir for your hydroponic system, follow the steps below:
Hydrate and wash the coir to remove any salt that may be present from commercial processing.
Keep rinsing all of it, as the chemical that makes the water look like ice tea are washed out.
Mix the coco coir with an equal amount of clay stones to create your growing medium.
Depending on what you are growing in your hydroponic system, it is important to add nutrients to the plant at least once a month.
It is enough potassium and phosphorus, however, lacks other essential nutrients like calcium, chlorine, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and nitrogen.
Therefore, do your research to make sure your nutrient mix works week with coir.
On the other hand, you can enrich your growing medium by adding microorganisms and worm castings.
Vegetable Gardens and Flower Beds
With the help of coconut coir, you can improve the soil for both your flowers and vegetable garden.
Moreover, for a less expensive option than ready-to-use coir mix, try to purchase and prepare a coco coir brick.
To prepare a coir brick follow the steps:
Place the brick in a large plastic tub or wheelbarrow, while leaving room for it to expand after adding water.
You can grow coir bricks up to 15 times the size of their original form.
Furthermore, add 6 parts water to 1 part coir brick and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Continue adding water, about 1 cup at a time, until it is broken up. It will feel most and like soil.
Break any chunks with your hands or shovel, add nutrients that are appropriate for the plants you need to plant.
Then spade the prepared coir into your soil to a depth of one to two feet, and store whatever you have leftover properly.
You can also use coconut coir for starting seeds, container plants, climbing plants, and biodegradable pots.
Now let’s discuss the benefits and drawbacks of coconut coir.
Benefits of Coconut Coir
Some of the benefits of coconut coir are:
The transition from Soil Gardening: Growing your plants in coco coir feels like growing in the soil as both the media look similar.
Retains Moisture: Coir is one of the most effective growing media for water retention.
It is important to note that it can absorb up to 10 times its weight in water, which means that the roots of your plants will not be dehydrated.
Environmentally Safe: Coconut coir does not pose the same threat to the environment, just like peat moss.
It is a repurposed waste product from a renewable source, unlike peat bogs where you get peat moss.
Insect Neutral: Most garden pests do not enjoy settling in coconut coir thus making it yet another line of defense in your pest management system for your garden.
Downsides to using Coconut Coir
Some of the downsides to using coco coir are:
Inert: Coconut coir is inert, which means that it lacks nutrients. It may look like soil, however, it is not soil.
This means that you will need to add nutrients and control the pH when using coco coir.
However, growing in soil is not so different, as in most cases, you will need to amend the soil constantly throughout the growing seasons.
Additional Supplementation: You may find your plants short on calcium and magnesium when using coir.
Therefore, you will need to add both these nutrients when using coir.
Other fertilizers can also be helpful as coir as low NPK levels.
Needs Rehydration: When you buy coconut coir, it will be dry.
While this may save shipping costs, it, however, adds labor to the growing processes you will need to rehydrate them before using them in the garden.
Though it is not that much hard as it sounds.
Can be Expensive: It can be sometimes annoying to work with coconut coir.
Thus, you can choose to use coco coir mixes This saves time, however, is pretty expensive, however, making your own mix is not too difficult.
After learning about these uses of coconut coir, you can easily use it in your garden for different purposes.
However, as it is low in nutrients, thus, you will need to add important nutrients to use it. It is a great medium for water retention and air pockets are beneficial for your plants.