Takeaway: If you care about the environment and your soil, coconut coir will give you big, healthy plants while helping enrich the soil by providing a platform for nutrient assimilation.
Coconut Coir is a renewable media for your organic and hydroponic gardens. Like the name suggests, it comes from coconut. It has natural pest-deterrent qualities, is easy to work with, and has many other great qualities as you’ll find out below. Luckily, there are many good sellers, as well, that produce pathogen-free product.
What is Coconut Coir?
Coconut Coir or Coco Coir is a growing medium for hydroponic growers. It comes from the husk of the inner shell of a coconut. It’s literally everything between the shell and outer part of the coconut seed. It’s made of brown fibers from mature coconuts and white fibers from pre-ripe coconuts. The white fibers are more flexible. The brown fibers are stronger.
Coir is used to improve absorbency and drainage of potting soil, plus it’s great for enriching garden soil. It can be used to sprout seeds, propagate plants and support roots of hydroponic plants.
How Coco Coir Produced?
Do you just shred up a coconut and that’s it? Not quite. It goes through quite a bit of processing. Initially, the coir is removed from coconuts by soaking husks in water to loosen it up and soften the coconuts. Traditionally, this is performed in tidal waters where salt must be flushed out or in freshwater.
After that, the coir is removed from the water and dried for more than a year followed by organization into bales. These bales are chopped and processed in many forms: chips, “croutons,” and classic ground coconut coir.
At this point, the coconut coir is almost ready to use. It still needs to be made safe and good for use.
Pros and Cons of Coconut Coir
Benefits of Coco Coir
Coco Coir has many benefits in both soil gardens and hydroponic systems. In your hydroponics system, coco coir feels like soil, so this helps plants make the transition from the soil to your hydroponic garden. The main difference is that you are no longer watering them; rather, you are feeding a constant stream of nutrient-rich water to them.
On the topic of moisture, Coco Coir is quite efficient for water retention. It absorbs up to ten times its weight in water. In other words, your plants won’t get dehydrated. Plus, there’s a lot of growing media in this moisture for the roots to grow.
For those of you concerned with environmental conservation, Coconut Coir is great for the environment. It can be used multiple times because it doesn’t break down as quickly as other things like peat mosses.
Worried about insects? Forget the pesticides. Garden pests don’t typically like to hang out on the coconut coir. In other words, bugs are going to stay away from your plants.
Finally, Coconut Coir is a good starter medium for the beginner hydroponic gardener. You can grow easily on it without worrying about a high tech hydroponic system and all the maintenance.
Downsides to Coco Coir
Although it may seem perfect, Coco Coir, like anything else, has its drawbacks. First of all, coconut coir is inert. This means that it doesn’t actually have any nutrients. So, you need to add hydroponic nutrients and watch the pH.
Another drawback is that you’ll need supplementation. Your plants may be low on calcium and magnesium, so you will have to use something called Cal-Mag. With Cal-Mag, you can make up for this deficit.
While we are on the subject, yes this can be expensive. The mixes of Coco coir themselves can be expensive but with the nutrients on top of it, it’s even more expensive.
Finally, rehydration may be a problem. A lot of coco coir products come in dehydrated blocks that you need to rehydrate. It’s not hard to do, but it’s another annoying step to do before using.
Types of Coco Coir
Coco Pith vs Peat
This type of Coco Coir comes in a finely ground form or peat moss. It’s small and absorbent. Therefore, it cannot be used alone or it will drown the roots of your plants. Also, it can let out salts that can kill your plants, unless you age them correctly where the salt and potassium can be displaced for calcium to be held in place to nourish plants. The texture is spongy and looks like loose tea leaves. It’s very woody and it decomposes slowly .
Pith is regarded as better than peat for your plants. First of all, it’s renewable and better for the environment. Peat comes from decomposed plant matter, but it’s not easily renewed because it takes centuries to re-create. It is also pH neutral which makes it more friendly to plants and easier for them to use nutrients.
Coco fiber adds air pockets which is fantastic for roots because it provides oxygen to them. However, this medium does decay pretty quickly so their air pockets will decrease over time.
Coconut chips are a natural form of clay pellet made from plant matter. They are a form that is in between fiber and peat. They create air pockets but do absorb water so that your plants will not become dehydrated.
Using Coconut Coir In Hydroponic Gardening
To use coconut coir, you’ll have to start by understanding the importance of adding nutrients to it. Coir has manganese, potassium, copper, iron, and zinc. It is pH neutral so not all your plants will love it if they prefer acidic soil. For those plants, peat moss may be a better option. There are nutrient products specific for coconut coir that have all the nutrients your plants will need.
In hydroponic gardening, coir makes the transition from soil to hydroponics easier. For this purpose, use brown coir because it acts as better support and poses less risk of introducing bad organisms to your hydroponic plants. If your coir has been prepared with salt water, make sure to wash out the salt before use because low salt is better for your setup. Your coir should wash through clear. Once you think it’s ok, test the water for EC and pH then adjust as necessary.
To test, collect some of this coconut coir from different parts of your block, about a cups worth. Add around six ounces of distilled water. Allow it to sit in there for several hours then strain it, and keep the water. 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 Coconut Coir
You have to understand the process of making coconut coir to find the best one. Consider how it was harvested, stored, prepared, processed, packaged, and shipped.
Harvesting and Preparation
Pith holds the husk of the coconut together. These husks must be soaked, as mentioned earlier. After this, the fiber must be washed and dried for over 12 months. You get it in a dehydrated form. Rather than buying the machine-dried stuff, buy the coir that has been sun dried because the machine preparation breaks the fiber down which will lead to early decomposition of your coconut coir.
Processing and Packaging
After drying, the fibers are typically sorted and baled or piled for storage. This storage typically lasts many years to make it so that it cannot take up pathogens. These bales or piles are chopped up then processed for usage. Eventually, some producers will sterilize the coir with chemicals to prevent pathogen contamination. Sadly, this causes breakdown of fibers and converts nitrogen to nitrates which will kill your plants.
Other companies will sterilize their coir with steam which is natural and deals with the pathogens.
For packaging, look for good quality packaging that wouldn’t have allowed in any contaminants or fluids.
Best Coco Coir For Your organic Garden
There are quite a few options on the market, but buying the wrong one will destroy your organic garden. Here are a few good options.
CANNA Coco or FoxFarm Coco Loco
These two brands are fantastic, in general, and are known for their good quality products. They closely monitor the production of their coconut coir which is important, remember, because you don’t want possible pathogen contamination and improper aging.
CANNA, specifically, sells 40L expandable bricks or 50L expanded bags. You choose which one fits your wallet and needs. Fox Farm sells 2 cu ft expanded bags if you don’t want the bricks. Beginners typically go for the compressed bricks because they are cheaper. If you know for a fact this is what you want, try the General Hydroponics CocoTek Bale.
If you want bags and looser product, try B’Cuzz Coco 50L bags. These are a great option. They are from a Sri Lankan coir producer who has full control over production process. The quality is rated.
What Nutrients Do You Need for Coconut Coir?
Again, Coco Coir is an inert growing media that you will have to supplement. A couple good options include the following.
Advanced Nutrients pH Perfect Sensi Grow Coco Part A + B Soil Amendments
This formula is made specifically for coco coir and is meant to balance pH. You can buy it as 2 x 1 liter bottles.
This can be bought as two different formulas that have chelaters, humours, and fulvic acids that help the plant absorb nutrients.
If a renewable media for your hydroponic or organic garden is what you’re looking for, coconut coir may be for you. It comes in a variety of forms to give you options. Choose what works best for you, and don’t forget to pick some supplements. This media gives you a lot of options and will provide you with strong, healthy plants. Give it a shot and let us know how it worked out for you, below!