Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 What Is Coco Coir?
- 3 What Is Peat Moss?
- 4 Peat Moss vs. Coconut Coir
- 5 FAQ
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 References
Many gardeners use soil conditioners to improve their soil quality.
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 and coco coir in the context of gardening.
Hopefully, we can provide gardeners with more information and insight into which growing medium or soil amendment to use in their garden.
Used as a growing medium, both coco coir and peat moss are very good at water retention, meaning that plants can draw water from them.
As a soil amendment, it both improves the airflow and resolves drainage issues in most types of soil.
Related post: Types of Growing Mediums in Hydroponics Gardening
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 .
Moreover, the neutral pH between 5.2 and 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 cannot 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 be toxic to them.
This is why you should always soak it with fresh water for 1 to 2 days to remove excess salt. Tap water is fine to use.
The salt content may vary depending on where the raw coconuts were sourced.
One thing you should note about coconut coir is that 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?
Peat moss forms when living materials are trapped in marshy areas and decompose.
It is fibrous and 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.
As such, 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).
Since the pH of 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.
- Gardeners can use them as growing mediums.
- They can retain soil moisture for a longer period.
- Coconut fiber and sphagnum moss can improve soil structure.
- 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:
- Peat moss has a higher water retention capacity than coco coir.
- 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).
- Sphagnum moss is a non-renewable resource, but coco peat is renewable and eco-friendly.
- 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.
- Coconut coir wets easily and thus it can shed water more effectively than peat moss.
Which One Is the Winner?
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 and the positive addition it has on the ecosystem.
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. Do not forget to use alkaline materials to balance the pH of the growing medium.
Is 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.
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.
-  Urayama, H.; Takama, H. and Maruyama, S. 2017. Economic Feasibility of Coconut Coir-Based Hydroponics as an Alternative System for Crop Management in Thailand. Journal of Developments in Sustainable Agriculture, 12(1): 45-51.
- Holman, J.; Bugbee, B.; and Chard, J K., 2005. A Comparison of Coconut Coir and Sphagnum Peat as Soil-less Media Components for Plant Growth. Hydroponics/Soilless Media. Paper 1.
- Xiong, J., Tian, Y., Wang, J., Liu, W., & Chen, Q. 2017. Comparison of Coconut Coir, Rockwool, and Peat Cultivations for Tomato Production: Nutrient Balance, Plant Growth and Fruit Quality. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8, 1327.
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.