There isn’t a good, comprehensive guide to coconut coir out there… until now.
Coir is an essential growing medium in hydroponic gardening and soil growers. Still, knowing all the details about it is necessary to maintain healthy plant growth.
There are a whole host of benefits to growing with coco coir. It retains water and breaks up the soil. It’s a renewable by-product that has a more balanced pH and doesn’t break down as quickly.
Here are all the facts you need to know about coco coir, how the medium is made, and its use in your indoor garden.
What is Coconut Coir, And How Is It Made?
It’s easy to guess what coconut coir is, thanks to its self-explanatory name. This organic product is derived from the tough, dense husk that coconuts are famous for. It is basically the waste product of coconut farming.
Coconut coir is a by-product with many uses, and it’s been used in the horticultural industry for decades. It was first used in the 19th century but fell out of favor because of low-quality coconut that degraded. It was rediscovered as an organic, environmentally sustainable substrate in the 20th century when new production methods made it possible to create hardier coco.
To make it safe for garden use, the coconut husks must be soaked in water and dried for over a year. This is done by soaking the husks in water to soften them. After the drying process, the coir is pressed into coir bricks, discs, and coir pots or bagged as a loose mulch. In this dried, processed state, the coir is ready to sell and use.
There’s a lot more that goes into the coco coir manufacturing process, which you can see in the video below.
Almost all coconut coir used for hydroponic gardening is brown, as it’s processed even more after initial harvesting. Brown coir is firmer but softer than white coir and less flexible. White coir comes from mature, ripe coconut, as the coir tends to be processed more slowly after harvesting.
The Benefits of Using Coconut Coir
Organic coconut coir provides a wide range of benefits that make eco-friendly gardening easier. Here are the pros of using the organic plant to make your garden growable.
- Coconut coir is a renewable resource that comes from the husks of matured coconuts. It’s also environmentally friendly, as it decomposes at an average rate and has higher water retention than other materials such as peat moss or perlite.
- It provides better air circulation to plants due to its low weight and can help drainage of clay soils. Coconut coir fiber will break up the soil, so you don’t need to worry about a hard layer on top when planting.
- The material is resistant to root rot and fungus and can be used for gardening. It’s also used to make ropes, rugs, brushes, mattress stuffing, and upholstery.
- The best way to combat weeds and plant compactions is by using coco coir. The medium breaks down organic matter through microbial activity, reducing the amount of work needed for inexperienced gardeners.
- Coconut coir can be used as a hydroponic growing medium or garden soil cultivation, and it’s safe for use with vegetable gardens.
- Coconut coir has higher water retention than peat moss, so you may need to monitor the amount of watering required.
- It’s a pH-neutral growing medium with a pH range between 5.2–6.8.
In its various forms, the long fibers make excellent hanging basket liners and potting mixes. The pith can also be used on its own as an ongoing growth medium and should only contain a maximum of 40% percent of coir in potting soil or garden soil.
No matter what soil type you have, adding coir will loosen the texture and improve drainage. If you have heavy clay soil or sandy soil, you need coir to lighten it, or if you have sandy soil, it will help it retain water for a more extended period.
Are There Any Cons In Using Coconut Coir?
Despite its benefits, coconut coir contains some noticeable flaws. There are also a few drawbacks.
- Coconut coir is not as simple to work with as other grow media because it’s a loose fiber rather than chunks or pellets.
- It can also be more expensive than peat moss, which will have higher water retention and may need more frequent watering.
- Coir husks can lock out calcium, magnesium, and iron because it stores and releases nutrients as needed. That means you must be careful if you’re only using coir, as you’ll need to add these nutrients to your water or soil.
- At the end of the drying process, coir bales might be treated with chemical agents to ensure pathogens don’t bloom inside. This could affect plant growth.
Coconut fiber quality varies depending on factors like the regions where they were harvested (particularly in Sri Lanka and India) and the seasons when they were collected. Also, how often manufacturers soak the harvest, whether was it chemically processed beforehand, and how long it has been stored.
If husks were soaked in salt water, confirm it was rinsed with fresh water during the manufacturing process, or learn how to do it yourself.
Read the product label and refer to the manufacturer’s website to learn more about your specific coco coir.
Types of Coconut Coir
When you buy coconut coir, you’re purchasing three types: fiber, the pith, or the coco chips. They are a mixture of coco coir that keeps the water well at the roots.
It’s essential to have a proper balance of these three elements for suitability to your purpose. Together, they provide a powerful growing medium. Separately, these elements convey individual benefits and need to be considered independently.
The right mixture of coco peat and coco fiber for coco coir is essential in the garden. If you’re an experienced grower, you can make your own mixtures from these different products to avoid all the hassle.
Coir fiber is made from coconut processing by-product, which produces long strands that are soft to touch but not so stringy as they can be easily broken up.
By themselves, fibers are stringy bundles that allow oxygen to easily penetrate the root system. Coconut fibers add air pockets to your growing medium which are found to provide oxygen to your root zone.
They’re also chemically neutral and have a neutral pH level of about seven.
Coconut fibers come in compressed blocks or loose bundles for your convenience.
Coco Pith or Coco Peat
Coconut peat is a popular material for container gardening because it retains water well while keeping the roots moist so they don’t dry out.
Coco piths are processed pieces from the inside wall of coco pods after harvesting cocos meat and milk. This layer has traditionally been used to make mattresses mixed with cotton fillers.
The fruit peel may be dried into chips (like hay), shredded into small square flakes, or even left raw if it’s meant for mulch.
You can actually do it yourself. See how:
These all work well as potting soil, substrates, and plant-growing mediums.
However, remember that they need to be adequately aged for good growing, as they can let out salts that will kill your plant if you’re not careful.
Choosing a coco coir manufacturer that ages properly is crucial for good growth. The product must be carefully aging correctly to be used as a growing media.
Coconut chips are extended coco pellets made from plant matter. Coconut chips in soil (coconut soil) function like clay pellets. They help increase the air-holding properties of soil as well as water-holding properties.
Of the three parts of coconut coir, this component has the highest air-to-water ratio. As such, they combine the properties of both pith and fiber. They can absorb and hold water efficiently and help create air pockets in the soil, making it easier to store water in the air and create an air pocket.
They also provide an excellent physical barrier to weed seeds. Coconut chips can be used as a soil amendment for any type of plant-based potting mix or substrate. Still, they work exceptionally well with hydro and coco coir, which already have air pockets in them from the pith part.
What edible plants can grow in coconut coir?
Coconut coir works well with a variety of plants, particularly vegetables.
Coconut coir is best for plants without deep roots, like tomatoes and peppers. It also works well with herbs with delicate root systems.
Plants that do not grow well in coconut coir include root vegetables like potatoes, radishes, and carrots.
As you have seen above, the benefits of using coconut coir are significant, though not perfect.
Coconut coir moisture retention is better than other materials like peat moss, so your plants will need less watering. It breaks down slowly, which means you won’t have to replace them often, compared to those made from peat that decomposes in around 6-12 months if left outside.
How do you use coconut coir in gardening?
The best way to use the coconut coir products is by soaking them in water for at least 24 hours before planting.
Coconut coir is heavier than other mediums. This means you may need to place them on top of your planter and slowly fill around the coconut mats with soil or perlite until they’re completely covered.
You can use coconut coir as a top dressing for your potting soil. Coconut mats make excellent mulch in gardens and greenhouses because of their water retention and protection against weeds, and break down slowly to feed the plants over time.
Can you use coco coir as soil mix?
It’s recommended to start your plants in coco coir when they’re seedlings, as it has shallow nutrient levels that can’t be easily supplemented by fertilizers.
However, it is not recommended to use coco coir as potting soil because it does not promote aeration for the roots of your plants. Coconut coir can be used with other media, but they should never replace any of them.
How to Choose High-Quality Coco Coir
The best manufacturers of coconut coir have an iron grip on their products from harvest to shipping.
These manufacturers use a technique called “dewatering” to remove all the water from their coco coir. Coconut Coir that has not been dewatered will start to break down as soon as they get wet, which can decrease your yield and create a mess in your garden.
The best coconut coir is harvested after 12 months of growth, so you know it’s fresh.
Coconut coir is also available pre-packaged at most major nurseries or hydroponic stores.
The bagged varieties typically do not have instructions on how much water should be added before it is hydrated. Coconut coir is so absorbent that if you add too much water, it will turn into soup.
Coconut Coir should not smell like ammonia or rot; this is a sign of low quality.
The best coco coir products for indoor gardeners
ok, so now that you know how to pick the best coconut coir mixes, take a look at our recommendations:
1. Plantonix Coco Coir Brick, OMRI Listed for Organic Use
Plantonix coco bliss is a leading grow medium and is the best natural alternative to peat moss with a neutral pH. Their coco peat is free of any dirt, foreign material, and weed seeds because they screen their washed raw materials to remove these items from the mix
Used as a growing medium, coco peat outperforms most of the popular brands of peat and sphagnum peat. 78% of this product’s purchasers have rated this product as 5 stars.
Coco Bliss Properties:
- Freshwater processed
- Super washed
- Stable pH: 5.8-6.8
- Ec 0.3-0.9 mS.cm (1:1.5 v/v)
- Moisture Content: 10-15%
- Compression ration 5:1
2. Burpee Organic Coconut Coir Bricks
Compressed organic seed starting and potting soil made from 100% natural & sustainable coconut coir. This is a sustainable compressed coir soil derived from coconut husks.
The dehydrated bricks expand to 8 quarts of soil by simply adding water. With excellent water retention, it is ideal for seed starting. This product is also OMRI listed assures the suitability of products for organic gardening
3. Perfect Plants Organic Garden Coir
Perfect plants Coconut Garden Coir makes for the perfect seed starting medium for its resistance to Breaking down and its low acidity.
Most plants grown from seeds, such as vegetable plants, prefer to grow in more neutral to basic pH soils. Coconut husk is not easily compacted and retains the perfect amount of nutrients and moisture for a new seedling to sprout and thrive.
Organic Coconut Coir creates the perfect environment for new seeds and, in addition to all the positive attributes, is more sustainable than Peat Moss!
How Is Coco Coir Better Than Peat Moss?
There is a growing concern about peat bogs in Canada and the U.S.
Peatlands store a significant percentage of carbon – about 10% of our earth’s fixed carbon. When peat bogs are harvested, this carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. The destruction of a peat bog can happen in weeks and will not renew itself for many lifetimes. Coconut trees produce a new crop each year.
On the other hand, coconut coir is a suitable alternative, considering it is a renewable resource. An added bonus is that it helps reduce the amount of waste generated by coconut harvesting and the manufacturing process.
Similar to peat moss, coco coir is a natural, organic product. Coconut coir has the added benefit of not leaching any chemicals into your nutrient solution. However, peat has no place in hydroponic gardening but is an excellent way to keep your plants growing.
Coconut coir is an excellent soil amendment for all types of soils as it absorbs more water than peat. Coir is tolerant to various plants and easier to amend with nutrients. The neutral pH of coco coir in your garden is neutral and alkaline. More fruits and veggies prefer more alkaline soil than peat moss in waterlogged soil….
Coconut coir products are much more environmentally friendly than peat moss, so it’s a good idea to use them in your garden.
Coconut coir is available online and at some nurseries for purchase.
The best thing about coconut coir is that you can reuse it repeatedly without worrying about it breaking down like other soil amendments, making the cost of using coco coir work out cheaper in the long run!
Hope you enjoyed this article. Happy planting!