Peat Moss vs Coco Coir: What Growing Medium is Better in Hydroponics?

Introduction

Many gardeners use soil conditioners to improve their soil qualities.

Some of the top-rated soil conditioners include coconut coir, peat moss, rice husk, sawdust, straw, rock wool, pumice, perlite, vermiculite, and other organic amendments.

You can use them in the garden soil to develop its physical condition.

In this blog post, we compare and contrast the differences between Peat Moss vs Coco Coir in the context of gardening.

Hopefully, we can give gardeners better insight and knowledge on which growing medium/soil amendment to use in their garden.

Coconut coir (also known as coco coir or coco peat) and peat moss are very popular materials among gardeners.

Used as a growing media, both are very good at water retention that plants can draw from.

As a soil amendment, both improve the airflow and resolve drainage issues in most types of soil.

Related post: Types of Growing Mediums in Hydroponics Gardening

What Is Coco Coir?

what-is-coco-coir

Coconut coir is the byproduct of coconut shells and fibers. Coco coir is often used as a growing medium in hydroponics.

Coco coir is a great soil additive because it can deter fungus gnats and provide an excellent structure that supports root growth.

Because it is cheap, using coconut coir as a hydroponic medium to grow crops can be profitable [1].

Moreover, the neutral pH (5.2-6.3) of coco coir ensures the availability of almost all the essential nutrients.

Its high water retention capacity makes it a great soil amendment.

Coco peat manufacturers separate the coconut fiber from the coconut husks (or outer husks) through a coconut processing system.

The waste by-product actually helps improve soil structure by enhancing aeration.

However, coco coir can not be used without first being processed because, in its raw form, it is high in salt content.

The high salt content may harm your plants or can be toxic to your plants.

This is why you should always soak it with fresh water for 1-2 days to remove excess salts – tap water is fine to use.

The salt content may vary depending on where the raw coconuts were sourced.

One thing to note about coconut coir. Coconut fiber contains a high amount of potassium, which inhibits calcium uptake by plants.

Hence, applying some calcium to the coco fiber will neutralize this effect.

Coco coir is then processed into coco pellets or coco bricks so you can easily handle it in your garden.

What Is Peat Moss?

what-is-peat-moss

Peat moss forms when living materials are trapped in marshy areas and decompose.

It is fibrous, and it can be obtained from peat bogs, swamps, or marshlands.

These lands contain decomposed sphagnum moss, which takes thousands of years to form.

Most peat moss in the USA comes from Canadian bogs.

The decomposition rate is slower in bogs than in upland areas, and this is why it takes thousands of years to form peat.

Hence, harvesting peat moss from bogs is not considered eco-friendly.

Peat moss has a greater water holding capacity than coco fiber. Peat can absorb 20 times more water than its dry weight.

Due to its high moisture retention capacity, it is used with other alkaline substances in sandy soils.

Sphagnum peat moss also provides a root supporting structure. It is suitable mainly for acid-loving plants as moss is naturally acidic (i.e. low pH).

Because pH peat moss is acidic, it can acidify soils and be used directly in a garden.

Peat moss can also be used with lime materials to prepare the potting soil.

Peat Moss vs. Coconut Coir

Similarities of Peat Moss and Coconut Coir

Gardeners can get almost similar benefits from them.

Let’s discuss the benefits that one can have from them.

  1. Gardeners can use them as growing mediums.
  2. They can retain soil moisture for a longer period.
  3. Coconut fiber and sphagnum moss can improve soil structure.
  4. They are less expensive and widely available.

Contrasting Peat Moss versus Coco Coir

Some major differences between peat moss and coconut coir are as follows:

  1. Peat moss has a higher water retention capacity than coco coir.
  2. Coconut fiber or coco coir can be solely used as the growing medium in hydroponics.
    But, you can not use sphagnum peat moss as the sole medium alone due to its lower pH level (less than 5.5).
  3. Sphagnum moss is a non-renewable resource, but coco peat is renewable and eco-friendly.
  4. Coco coir can be reused if it is dried out; in contrast, it is nearly impossible to rehydrate peat moss once it has dried out.
  5. Coconut coir wets easily and thus it can shed water more effectively than peat moss.

Which One Is the Winner?

coconut-vs.-peat-moss

Both of them are great soil additives, but there is certainly a winner.

First of all, coco peat is a more sustainable resource and environmentally friendlier than peat moss.

Also, the coconut coir pH range is neutral indicating a favorable growing medium for most plants.

Furthermore, you can rehydrate coco and reuse it. Gardeners can use it to grow plants in their garden soils.

On the other hand, peat moss has acidic pH making it unfavorable for plant growth. Besides, it is not sustainable to use.

Moreover, once this material dries, it becomes hydrophobic.

So, we declare coconut fiber as the winner because of its superior advantages.

FAQ

Is coco coir better than peat moss?

Yes and no. Both coco coir and peat moss serve as great soil amendments and as growing media.

But, coco coir can be used alone in hydroponics, whereas peat moss cannot.

Further, peat moss is very non-eco-friendly, as such coco coir may be better than peat moss.

Can I mix peat moss with coco coir?

Yes, you can mix them with other materials. But, do not forget to use alkaline materials to balance the pH of the growing medium.

Are coconut coir and peat moss the same?

No. Although coco coir and peat moss have similarities such as good moisture retention capacity, they are completely different materials.

Coconut coir is made from coconut fibers, while peat moss is harvested from sphagnum peat that grows on trees in the forest.

Is peat moss cheaper than coconut coir?

Yes and no.

Peat moss is generally cheaper as there are fewer processing costs, whereas you need to process coconuts to process the coir and fibrous husks.

However, it all depends on where you buy the soil amendments from.

Conclusion

Coco peat and sphagnum peat moss are not only soil conditioners but also are excellent growing media for the hydroponic system.

These two materials improve the structure of the soil by supplying more airflow.

Also, plants that prefer growing in moist soil can be grown using coco coir or peat moss as a soil conditioner.

Lastly, remember that you must disturb the peat bogs to get peat moss, which can be environmentally harmful.

Also, do not apply the harvested coco coir to the soil because it can cause toxicity and kill the plants.

Though coco coir is better than peat moss, it does not mean that moss is entirely useless.

Peat can be an excellent medium if you can use tap water or mix any alkaline substances.

References

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