Some people associate coconut coir with hanging baskets. But any good gardener will list its benefits when it comes to gardening. Coconut coir is a popular hydroponic farming and potting mix as it significantly adds to the drainage and absorbency of the soil. As a farmer, you can use it on its own – without soil – to germinate seeds and support plants – hydroponic, of course.
Not so very long ago, coconut was considered good for its fleshy part and the juice – they sure are delicious! The outer harder cover was just a waste product. Thankfully, someone discovered that the husk has numerous applications, and among them is in gardening.
What is coconut coir?
Well, coconut coir is the stuff between the outer coating and the shell. The fibers making coconut coir are either white, coming from premature coconut or brown from the mature ones. The one from white coir is pretty flexible while the brown one is not. However, the brown coconut coir is sturdy but not very flexible.
There are basically three components making up coconut coir, and they are coconut fiber, chips, and pith. A mixture of these three elements makes for an ideal growing medium as each of them brings a wealth of benefits. That can only mean well for your plants.
The presence of coco fiber as a growing medium adds a fresh breath of air to the plants. It is not absorbent, and this ensures that there is an adequate flow of air to the roots. However, these fibers can easily break down since they are made of cellulose – that can mean the collapse of air pockets.
Coconut chips are good at absorbing and holding water. Furthermore, they help create air pockets and have the properties of coconut fiber.
Coconut peat is the spongy part of coir. It has the resemblance of loose tea leaves and has a high absorbent property. Pith is small and fine, and you cannot use it on its own – it does not have an air holding capacity. An appropriately-aged coco peat holds calcium considerably well for the nourishment of your plants.
Coconut coir has several uses which among them is making of doormats, upholstery stuffing, brushes, and ropes. This fibrous material is rot resistant, and durable making appropriate for making exposed to the elements – we are talking about the outdoors.
How is Coconut Coir used in Gardening?
In the majority of cases, you will find coconut coir in potting mixes. Some gardeners will also use it as a soil amendment medium and as a propagation medium.
Its popularity in hydroponic gardening is based on the fact that it is resistant to fungus.
Coconut coir has been a standard feature in the majority of greenhouses in the United States, Philippines, Mexico, and India. Coir dust is common for gardeners fond of growing exotic plants like orchids, ferns, anthuriums, and bromeliads among others.
It is always good to be conscious of a medium’s nutrient content so that you can make the necessary adjustments. Typically, coir has rich potassium content, but other minerals are negligible. Ideally, it would be better to choose another potting medium with low potassium content.
However, there are several nutrient-specific coir products in the market, and so it is up to you find out which among them is better for the plants you have on your hands.
How is Coconut Coir a better alternative to Peat Moss?
Choosing between coconut coir and peat moss is easy, as a gardener. For starters, peat moss is ecologically harmful. Mining it leads to the depletion of peat bogs – a non-renewable resource. Some environmentalists contend that the mined peatlands continue to give out carbon – a greenhouse gas. As gardeners, we are wary of anything that doesn’t mean well for the environment and the plants of course.
Coir, on its part, is a renewable product. It is a byproduct of coconut harvesting. What this means is that, you cannot wholly deplete it as coconut trees produce the fruit every year – the supply is pretty good.
Peat is slightly acidic, and only the acid-loving plants can thrive where it has been used as a potting mix. Coconut coir has a neutral PH, and so it is useful for a more extensive variety of plants – this saves you from the hassle of trying to find out whether your plant is acid-loving or not. If you have a vegetable garden, then you are better off with coconut coir than with peat moss.
When it comes to handling, coir is far better. Coir is far better at water absorption and retention than peat. It also wets better – you can think that it was waiting for you to quench its thirst. Those that have dealt with peat will tell you that it can sometimes be water resistant, especially when dry – this is not a good thing for a medium.
Coir is a better soil amendment medium than peat for a number of reasons. First, coir has a significantly better drainage than peat – up to 30% better. This means that it will not allow your plants to be waterlogged which may suffocate them. It also retains moisture better to the delight of your plants.
Downsides of Coconut Coir?
If you are finally convinced to ditch peat for coir, then you might, as well know some of its downsides. For starters, you should not over-rely on it as the sole source of plant nutrients – they will starve. Coir is lacking in essential nutrients such as calcium, and magnesium. The prepackaged mixes that contain everything plants may need are a bit expensive.
Using it in hydroponic gardening requires you to keep an eye on PH level. And its ability to retain water may encourage the buildup of minerals and salts in the soil – not a good thing. Coir can also compact easily.
Where to Buy
If you have never bought it, then there can sometimes be confusion on the different labels used. Some suppliers may refer to it as coir dust, others coir peat, and some others coir fiber among others.