Why Coco Coir is Better Than Peat Moss
Peat moss is promoted as a powerful growing medium for gardening, but advocacy groups have raised concerns about its environmental impact. When peat moss is in the ground with your plants, it's a powerful organic soil enhancer that can promote root growth and soil biodiversity.
However, the process of harvesting peat moss releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. If you’re looking for a growing medium that has less of a carbon impact than peat moss while retaining many of the benefits, we recommend checking out coconut coir, commonly shortened to coco coir.
What is Coco Coir Anyway? 🤔
We covered what coco coir is in a previous blog post, but here is a quick reminder.
Coir refers to the husk of the coconut, so you’ll sometimes hear it referred to as coconut fibers. Originally, coconut husk was regarded as an unfortunate byproduct that had to be disposed of when harvesting coconuts as food. Today, these fibers are used in brushes, doormats, and some types of rope, but they’ve also found use as a grow medium.
When purchased as a grow medium, coco coir is packaged either as a solid dehydrated brick or as loose particles. We recommend purchasing a dehydrated brick if you’re ordering online—it’s much more economical to ship a brick to your greenhouse rather than a bulky bag of hydrated particles.
The Why and How of Coco Coir
Coco coir dominates other growing mediums when it comes to water retention, absorbing up to 10 times its weight in water. Once a plant establishes roots in coconut coir, it’s going to be a challenge for the plant to become dehydrated; though it can happen if you do not provide the plant with regular water.
However, the high level of water retention does mean that a brick of coco coir takes some time to rehydrate and be ready for potting. To rehydrate a brick of coco coir, grab a bucket, add a gallon of water per kilo of coir, then place the brick in the water. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then check on the coco coir. If it appears to be akin to a slurry, you’re at the right consistency.
One helpful tip for draining the remaining water from the coir is to use a two-bucket setup. Drill drainage holes into one bucket, then stack the bucket in an unmodified bucket. When the coir becomes a slurry-like mix, lift the first bucket, empty the second bucket, then walk away for a couple of hours to let the unabsorbed water evaporate.
To Buffer or Not to Buffer...
After the coir is rehydrated and in a fluffy, soil-like consistency, many coco products need to be buffered (though some do ship pre-buffered, typically for a higher cost). If coir is not buffered, the coir will end up absorbing some of the nutrients you are trying to get to your plants.
To briefly step into the science behind this process, coco coir will naturally absorb calcium and magnesium. By soaking the coir in water containing calcium and magnesium, you can supply the coir with enough of these elements to render it inert, which then allows your plants to receive the proper amount of nutrients.
How To Hydrate Coco Coir?
Prepare Your Workspace: Choose a clean container that's large enough to accommodate the coir brick's expansion. A bucket or tub works well.
Break Up the Brick: Gently break apart the dry coco coir brick into smaller pieces. This will help the water penetrate evenly and speed up the rehydration process.
Add Water: Gradually add water to the container. The general rule is around 5 parts water to 1 part dry coir. Start by adding a portion of the water and mix it with the coir. Keep adding water and mixing until the coir is fully saturated.
Let It Expand: Allow the coir to absorb the water for a few hours. You'll notice it expanding and becoming softer as it soaks up the moisture.
Fluff and Mix: Once the coir is fully expanded, use your hands or a tool to fluff and mix it. This breaks up any remaining clumps and ensures an even distribution of moisture.
Test the Moisture: Squeeze a handful of the hydrated coir to check the moisture level. It should feel damp but not overly soggy.
Use as Needed: Your hydrated coco coir is now ready to use! Whether you're using it for potting plants, as a hydroponic medium, or in the garden, it will provide excellent water retention and aeration properties.
Some Final Thoughts On Using Coco Coir
While coco coir is a good growing medium, several things set coconut coir apart from peat moss. First, coco coir is inert, which means that it has no bionutrients in it. If you’re growing hydroponically or already incorporating nutrient-infused water, this isn’t a big deal. However, you will have a bunch of dead plants on your hands if you swap from 100% soil to 100% coco coir without adding any nutrients.
This lack of nutrients can become a benefit. Many experienced growers prefer growing in coco coir because it allows them to understand exactly what nutrients are going into their plants. The only nutrients your plants receive when they’re grown in coco coir is what you provide them with.
Coco coir is also pH neutral, which again lends itself well to hydroponic growing. When using coconut coir as a soil additive, be sure to monitor your pH levels if growing plants that prefer acidic or basic soil.
You can use one of our 3-in-1 Soil Meters to measure the pH.
Coco coir is a prime growing material that retains water at an incredible rate and is incredibly environmentally friendly. If you’re interested in trying coco coir in your greenhouse, follow this link to see some of the coco bricks we have in stock.