Coco coir, also known as coconut coir, is a great 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 and improves the soil structure and helps in the management of sandy soils.
Furthermore, coco coir is beneficial when it comes to growing plants. Coco coir gained a huge market in the horticultural industry.
Coco coir became popular from its sustainability as a hydroponic growing medium, but also, from it being a soil amendment in organic gardening.
Table of Contents
- 1 Where Does Coco Coir Come From?
- 2 How Is Coir Produced?
- 3 Peat moss or Coco coir – which one should you choose?
- 4 Coco Coir Benefits As Hydroponic Medium
- 5 Advantages of using Coco coir
- 6 Downsides To Coco Coir
- 7 Different Forms Of Coco Coir
- 8 Using Coco Coir In Hydroponic Gardening
- 9 How To Select The Best Coco Coir
- 10 Best Coco Coir Products and Brands Of Choice
- 11 Nutrients to Add to Coco Coir To Make it Better
- 12 Conclusions
Where Does Coco Coir Come From?
Coconut coir is the fibrous husk part of the coconut seed and is found 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 un-ripened coconuts.
The white fibers, moreover, are flexible but the brown ones are strong.
Coco coir pith present in the husk is known as 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.
In the past, 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.
It was during the late 1980s and 1990s when coco coir began to be used as a common 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 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 decent time but the green ones are spread out before being hulled.
Retting: 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 10 months, and organized into bales. The bales are chopped and processed into several of the following forms:
- Coconut chips (or coco chips)
- Coco Peat
- Compressed brick of coco coir blocks
- Coconut fiber – not compressed
The leftover coconut peat is known as 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.
Peat moss or Coco coir – which one should you choose?
Coco coir and sphagnum peat moss are both great for improving soil conditions. Quality coco coir could be obtained from the coconut husks of a ripe coconut. 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 possess a pH value between 5.2 and 6.8 (natural pH), which is considered ideal.
Sphagnum moss, because of the acidic pH range, 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 make it an ideal root supporting structure. Both these substrates, in fact, can be an ideal medium for the fungus gnats to colonize.f
Secondly, coco coir has a lesser water retention capacity than most peat moss types, which retains water 20 times higher than its own weight.
In addition, the fibrous material of coir pith is made of lignin that slows down the decomposition process.
Both 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, being 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 the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil, and ensures a well-developed root system.
We recommend you use both of them in your garden.
Coco Coir Benefits As Hydroponic Medium
Coco coir reap multifarious 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 its 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
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 to facilitate the aeration process.
It is still best to avoid using peat moss because it is acidic and it will create 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.
Advantages of using Coco coir
Coco coir could be used as an alternative to peat moss, a fascinating soil conditioner. Coco coir decreases maintenance and running costs for home growers and for 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.
Downsides To 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 being inert 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 great 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.
Different Forms 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 to not 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 age them in the correct manner.
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. Coco coir pith is often considered a better addition than peat moss.
The pH of this coco coir type is neutral, which makes it more friendly to the plants to uptake the double critical element, phosphorus, which is available in 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 to them and facilitates aeration.
The decomposition rate in the substrate, however, is faster than other types of coco coir. The number of pores decrease 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, which is 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.
It is advised to use these coco chips with other coco coir and peat moss types to get the best result.
Using Coco Coir In Hydroponic Gardening
Coco coir contains almost all the essential macro and micro-nutrients. To use coconut coir, you’ll need to start with understanding the importance of adding nutrients. Please take note that this step is crucial.
It is best to not use peat moss as a hydroponic substrate. The material is acidic. It is for acid-loving plants and peat moss might be a more suitable option.
For this purpose, use brown coco coir to provide optimal support, since it poses less risk of introducing pathogenic organisms to your hydroponic plants.
Once your coco coir has been prepared with saltwater, make sure you washed out the salt before using the coconut coir, since low salt is better for your setup.
Once your coconut coir has been washed properly, it is now time to check the EC and pH of coco coir.
To test the EC and pH, collect some of the coco coir from different parts of the coconut coir block. Add six ounces of distilled water. Allow it to sit in there for several hours and strain it and extract the water.
Related post: How to Test Soil pH at Home without a Test Kit
Measure the EC and pH of the water where the EC should be around 1.0-1.3 and pH should be between 5.3 and 6.2.
How To Select The Best Coco Coir
You need to understand the process of making coconut coir to find the best one. You must investigate the manner in which the coir was harvested, stored, prepared, processed, packaged, and shipped.
Harvesting And Preparation
Coco coir pith holds the husk of the coconut coir together. These husks must be soaked, as mentioned earlier. The fiber must then be washed and dried for over 12 months.
You should get it in a dehydrated form. Don’t purchase the machine-dried stuff, purchase the sun-dried stuff.
The machine preparation breaks the fiber down and it might lead to premature decomposition of your coconut coir.
Processing And Packaging
The fibers, when dried, are sorted and baled or piled for storage. The storage lasts for years to make it to where pathogens aren’t a threat.
These bales or piles are chopped up and then processed for usage.
Some producers will sterilize the coco coir with chemicals to prevent pathogen contamination.
It, however, causes the breakdown of fibers and coir and converts nitrogen to nitrates, which might kill your plants if the concentration is too high.
A few companies will sterilize coir with steam. This is helpful because steam is natural and is meant to deal with pathogens.
For packaging, look for good quality packaging, one which doesn’t allow in contaminants or fluids.
Best Coco Coir Products and Brands Of Choice
There are many forms of coconut coir out there and some people might be confused. I compiled a simple list for you. These brands of coir are among the top recommended and are cost-effective.
You should avoid picking up cheaper and lesser-known brands because these products often contain high salt levels that need to be soaked and buffered again.
We also added a list of tried and tested nutrients suited for adding to coconut coir growing mediums.
Best Overall Coco Coir Products:
Best Coco Bricks:
Best Coconut Coir For Hydroponics
- Consists of three different types of compressed coco coir
- Low sodium content
- Alternative to sphagnum peat moss
Nutrients to Add to Coco Coir To Make it Better
Adding nutrients has never been easier than now. With the popularity of hydroponic gardening, the list of brands is overwhelming.
But we recommend keeping it simple and trying out this nutrient additive to your coco coir.
It’s simple to use as you don’t have to mess with the right pH balance and it contains all the essential nutrients for almost any kind of plants you’re growing.
- Formulated specifically for coco coir users
- Ph perfect technology eliminates troublesome ph-level issues
- 2-Part A&B combo pack
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.
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.