Coco coir, also known as coconut coir, is an excellent addition to the soil since it contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Trace elements such as zinc, copper, manganese, and iron are found too.
Coco coir is best because of its high water retention capacity.
It should be used in hydroponic farms because of its higher total porosity and good moisture-holding capacity.
The substrate, in general, ensures a better respiration condition in the hydroponic system.
Coco coir is a good source of organic matter, improves the soil structure, and helps manage sandy soils.
Furthermore, coco coir is beneficial when it comes to growing plants. Coco coir gained a considerable market share in the horticultural industry.
Coco coir became famous for its sustainability as a hydroponic growing medium and a soil amendment in organic gardening.
- Other Types of Soil and Non-Soil Growing Mediums for Gardening
- Other Types of Growing Mediums to Use in Hydroponics
Table of Contents
- 1 Where Does Coco Coir Come From?
- 2 Types of Coco Coir
- 3 Pros and Cons of Coco Coir
- 4 Peat moss vs. Coco coir
- 5 Conclusions
- 6 References
Where Does Coco Coir Come From?
Coconut coir is the fibrous husk part of the coconut seed between the outer and inner coconut shells.
The husk is also made up of 1/3 fiber content and 2/3 pith or dust.
Coco coir fiber is present in two types, brown coir, and white coir.
The brown fiber is harvested from ripe coconuts and the white from unripened coconuts.
The white fibers, moreover, are flexible, but the brown ones are strong.
Coco coir pith present in the husk is called coco peat, used in garden soils to grow plants.
Fibrous materials are used to make the high-end potting mix, and plants grow well in it.
Countries used leftover coco coir fiber to make several products, from mats and brushes to twine.
The salt-resistant properties make it a good choice for marine applications.
Coconut coir was even used in the geotextile industry for controlling soil erosion and stabilizing slopes.
Coco coir is favored for its potential to biodegrade. Coco coir is turned into humus or compost and will enrich the soil.
Once the coconuts were hulled and the fiber used for other products, Coco coir pith was discarded and left in huge piles.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, coco coir began to be used as a typical growing medium.
The century-old stockpiles have now been used up, and coco peat must be processed from fresh stock.
Coconut coir comes from South East Asia, and countries like India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Indonesia produce 90% of the world’s coconut coir supply.
How Is Coconut Coir Produced?
Do you shred up a coconut, and that’s it? Not quite. It goes through a bit of processing to obtain high-quality coco coir.
Harvesting and Husking
The coconuts are picked and dehusked or hulled. The ripe ones are done in a decent time, but the green ones are spread out before being hulled.
Retting (Separating the fiber and pith)
The husks are cured and prepared to separate into fiber and pith. Once the husks have been separated, it is soaked.
The retting of white fiber is done in salt water, and the brown fiber is soaked and rinsed in fresh water.
Last but not least, coco coir is removed from the water, dried for at least ten months, and organized into bales.
The bales are chopped and processed into several of the following forms:
- Coconut chips (or coco chips)
- Coco Bricks
- Coco Peat
- Compressed brick of coco coir blocks
- Coconut fiber – not compressed
The leftover coconut peat is the waste product, which has high salt content, which explains the need to introduce buffering.
This is done when pith is treated in a calcium nitrate solution.
Buffering works to remove high sodium nitrate levels.
Coir is naturally high in potassium; therefore, use coco coir with calcium and magnesium nutrients.
Types of Coco Coir
The coco coir above comes in a finely ground form and looks like peat moss.
It is small and absorbent. It is advised not to use this type of coco coir alone because it cannot be used alone.
Also, the development of salts in the coco might kill your plants unless you correctly age them.
The salt and potassium can be displaced for calcium to be held in place to nourish plants.
The texture, moreover, is spongy and looks like loose tea leaves.
It’s woody, and it decomposes at a snail’s pace. According to Oregon State University Extension, coco coir pith is often considered a better addition than peat moss.
The pH of this coco coir type is neutral, making it more friendly to the plants to uptake the double critical element, phosphorus, which is available at a neutral pH.
The coco coir is renewable and can be obtained from coconuts, while peat moss comes from decomposed plant matter, and it cannot be renewed with ease, as it takes centuries to re-create
Coco coir fiber increases the total porosity, which is fantastic for roots because it provides oxygen and facilitates aeration.
The decomposition rate in the substrate, however, is faster than other types of coco coir.
The number of pores decreases as a result.
Coconut Chips (Coco Chips)
Coconut chips (or Coco chips) are a natural form of clay pellet made from plant matter.
Some people think of them as an intermediate or hybrid form of coco fiber and coco peat, in-between fiber, and peat.
Coco chips create large air pockets but absorb water as well. In short, your plants will not become dehydrated at all.
Using these coco chips with other coco coir and peat moss types are advised to get the best result.
These bricks are made from coco peat or the ground material of coco coir. Let us discuss this in brief.
The ground materials of coco coir are known as the pith or peat. Coco coir bricks are the compressed forms of these ground and fine materials.
In this compressed form, these coir products become easier to carry and transport. They are widely used in container gardening.
To make a coco brick, coco pith, dust, and tiny fibers are collected together and soaked in water.
For more in-depth, please see our post on coco coir bricks.
Pros and Cons of Coco Coir
Coco coir reaps various benefits in soil gardens and hydroponic systems.
Coconut coir is 100% natural and safe and works wonders in the environment.
Coco fibers are used in hydroponic systems, in part, because of their numerous advantages.
Using coco coir in the hydroponic farm offers you the following benefits:
- High moisture retention capacity
- Slow to break down due to high lignin to cellulose ratio
- Good drainage
- Good aeration
- Good plant growth
- Good for starting seeds germination
- Poor decomposition rate
The higher moisture-holding capacity allows you to water coco coir less often.
Farmers use coco chips, or more perlite minerals, to develop a healthy root system and facilitate the aeration process.
It is still best to avoid using peat moss because it is acidic, creating an acidic environment for the plants.
There are many types of plants you can grow with coco coir.
Plants such as cannabis, vegetables, and even fruits such as strawberries grow well in coco coir, according to the University of Arizona.
Advantages of using Coco coir
According to Oregon State University, when conditioning soil, coco coir could be used as an alternative to peat moss.
Coco coir decreases maintenance and running costs for home growers and commercial horticulturists.
For example, coco coir has a slower drying process, meaning you don’t have to pay an extra water bill for irrigation.
Moreover, even if you use coco chips or the waste product in place of mulches, it will reduce evaporation.
Nutrients present in the coco coir might also boost the growth of the plants.
Without these, you will get the following advantages:
- 100% natural
- Highly absorbent, expanding up to 10 times its weight
- Renewable resource
- Neutral pH
- Higher porosity (air pockets
- Uniformity of the materials
- Higher cation exchange capacity (CEC)
In addition to this, coco coir is an inert substance, and it will act as a defense against the invasion of pests.
Disadvantages of Using Coco Coir
The advantages of coco coir outweigh the disadvantages. Still, unfortunately, some drawbacks of using the coco coir exist.
We benefit from the coco coir because it’s an inert substance, but inactive means it needs additional supplements while adding in soils.
The supplements should be calcium and magnesium.
High demand for coco coir might sometimes facilitate the production of poor-quality material in the coco coir market.
Commercially prepared coco coir contains a neutral pH, but salts build up, and the potassium levels might get too high.
This means you will need to use other amendments with it.
Some brands, fortunately, developed excellent nutrients and mixed coco coir.
Coco coir breaks down in due time, which is excellent as a soil amendment, but it means you will need to replace it once a year in a hydroponic system.
Also, coco coir could clog up the irrigation or pipes in hydroponic systems.
Precautions must be to be taken to prevent bits from ending up in pipes and nozzles.
Peat moss vs. Coco coir
Coco coir and sphagnum peat moss are both great for improving soil conditions.
But to obtain peat moss, you need to visit peat bogs.
The soil amendments should improve the quality of heavy clay soil, which contains a lower infiltration rate.
Water struggles to move through the soil, and plant roots cannot take water.
These materials, however, encourage the growth of microorganisms, and each of them is different due to unique characteristics.
First of all, coco coir is not like sphagnum peat moss, which is acidic as the pH range is between 3.3 to 4.
Due to its acidic nature, it attracts snails.
Also, the overuses of peat contaminate plants with bacterial or fungal attacks.
On the other hand, coconut fiber possesses a pH value between 5.2 and 6.8 (natural pH), considered ideal.
Because of the acidic pH range, Sphagnum moss cannot be used directly for potting soil, but coco coir can be used.
Gardeners mix coco coir and sphagnum moss (or peat moss) with the potting soil to form an ideal root supporting structure.
Both these substrates can be an ideal medium for the fungus gnats to colonize.f
Secondly, coco coir has less water retention capacity than most peat moss types, which retains water 20 times higher than its weight.
In addition, the fibrous material of coir pith is made of lignin that slows down the decomposition process.
These materials can be used in sandy soil to increase the cation exchange capacity and water holding capacity of the soil.
Thirdly, the decomposition rate of peat moss is quicker than the coco coir since the coco has higher lignin content.
The substance is generally avoided in hydroponic farms, and it’s because of its fast decomposition rate.
It is indeed tough to declare the winner.
Coco coir and peat moss are great for improving soil’s physical, chemical, and biological properties and ensuring a well-developed root system.
We recommend you use both of them in your garden.
For further reading on comparing coco coir to peat moss, read our post comparing and contrasting peat moss vs. coco coir.
To sum up, if you are looking for the most reliable soilless substrate to use in the hydroponic system or garden, coconut coir might be the best option.
Of course, you should choose what works best for you, but don’t forget to pick some supplements.
Coco coir is a growing medium and will provide you with a lot of benefits – especially if you want to use coco coir to grow plants organically.
Due to coconut coir’s unique properties, plants also grow much faster in this substrate.
Give it a shot. Take the leap of faith. Let us know below how it works for you.
- Maher, M., Prasad, M. & Raviv. M. (2008). Organic Soilless Media Components. Soilless Culture. 459-504.
- Vavrina, C.S.. Armbrester, K., Arenas, M & Pena, M. (1998). Coconut Coir as an Alternative to Peat Media for Vegetable Transplant Production. SWFREC Station Report – VEG 96.7, University of Florida, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.
- McMahan, L. (2006). Coir is sustainable alternative to peat moss in the garden. Oregon State University Extension Service.
- College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. (2013). Substrate basics. The University of Arizona.
EDITOR’S #1 CHOICE
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She continued her gardening education by working on organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to share gardening tips and tactics. She’s happy to talk about succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs – or just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden.