Coconut coir (pronounced as “core”) is a material obtained from coconut processing that has been used over the years for different things. Coconut coir is a by-product of coconut husk, slowly gaining ground in gardening. Some of its earlier uses include lining for baskets, ropes, and fibers.
With time – people started observing their usefulness in the garden, slowly integrating coco coir into some of our garden mixes. But unfortunately, they did it without so much fanfare that many people who use these products daily do not know they’ve been making use of coco coir in their garden.
Coco coir is inexpensive and effective as a mulch, especially for desert landscapes that see a lot of heat and little rainfall. Aside from being a major ingredient in potting mixes and being used as mulch in your garden, there are several other benefits you can derive from coco coir.
Here, we’ll see everything about Coco coir, how it can help your garden, and steps to use it properly in your garden.
How is Coco Coir Made?
Coconut husk is removed from the coconut, often before it gets to the market. The husk is processed and turned into fibers through a process of defibering. The husk is soaked in saltwater or freshwater and allowed for some time, and because of the nature of coconut coir, water does not ruin it. Rather, it soaks in a lot of sodium when it is soaked in saltwater which might not be ideal for people looking to use their coir for things like hydroponics gardening. Coconut coir soaked in freshwater will be the best option here.
White coir required a longer period for its processing than brown coir. Coir can be stored for up to five years, extending its shelf life. However, this also comes with some disadvantages. One reason is that it can easily become disease and pest-infested, which will not bode well for your crops. Some companies use chemicals or steam to prevent the growth of these harmful organisms. While it is an effective method of keeping the coir free, it reduces the overall quality of the coir.
For a healthy garden and quality coir, get your coir from companies that use proper storage for their coir instead of chemical, saltwater, or steam.
Types of Coconut Coir
There are three major things in coconut coir that make it good for potting mixes and general gardening.
- Coconut coir fiber
- Pith or peat
#1. Coconut Chips
These are materials that work like clay pellets. They can absorb and hold water extremely well, creating tiny pockets for air in your soil. They are the same as the coir fiber. They combine the properties of both – the coir fiber and pith.
Of all the properties of coconut coir, this is the type with the highest air-to-water ratio. They can also act as a barrier preventing the growth of weeds in your garden.
#2. Coconut Coir Fibre
They are air pockets to the soil and bring oxygen closer to the plant roots, where they are needed. Coconut coir fiber is not absorbent, which boosts its oxygen holding capabilities. However, the fiber is made of cellulose which causes the fast breakdown of the material and, ultimately, the collapse of these air spaces.
Coir fibers can come in loose or compact bundles for your convenience. They are also chemically neutral with a neutral pH of 7.
#3. Pith or Peat
This is a popular material used in container gardening because it retains moisture and reduces the frequency of watering your container garden. Pith is processed from the husk closest to the inside of the coconut.
The spongy part of the coir is called the pith or peat. It can absorb a massive amount of water which helps to provide water to the soil. It looks like loose tea leaves, with small and fine particles, making it difficult to hold air. Pitch’s decomposition is slow. It slowly accumulates sodium and potassium over time, which is replaced by calcium when adding fertilizer.
How to Use Coconut Coir in Your Garden?
Coconut coir is a natural medium for growing plants. It possibly provides water and oxygen to the root of your plant. Also, suppress the growth of weeds, and protect the plants from unwanted bacteria and fungi. Learning how to use coir in your garden will help you use this natural material and improve your gardening experience.
Coconut Coir Starter Pack
This starter pack can be in the form of a traditional Coco coir starter pack for planting seeds or coir discs and bricks. Gardeners who decide to form their starting mix may find the Coco pith really valuable as it deals with water levels excellently. You’ll also need to add nutrients in their right proportions if you’re making your mix. However, nutrients in their right quantities are already added to premade starter packs.
Things You Will Need
To start using Coco coir to plant, here are some of the things you’ll need:
- Coco coir variety of your choice
- Biodegradable pot
- Watering can
- Small bowl
- Pot/seed tray or coco coir seed pod
Steps to Using Coco Coir
Here’s how to start using coco coir:
- Soak the Coir in Water
The coir might come compact or loose, but it is always dry. Before you can use it in your garden, you need to soak it in water to make it fluffy. Depending on the size of the coir you want to use, you can make use of a bowl or a wheelbarrow if you’re dealing with a larger quantity.
Put the coir in the container and slowly add water. Allow it to soak in the water before adding more water. Do this till it becomes fluffy. It’ll typically take 24 hours to soak properly.
- Break the Coir
After soaking the coir, it’ll be easier to break it up into smaller pieces. Then, you’ll put these pieces into your seed tray, pot, or coco coir biodegradable pod. Leaving a small portion that you can use to cover the seeds is vital.
- Add Nutrient Mix
If you’re making your starter pack against using the traditional starter pack, you’ll have to add nutrients manually. You can add these nutrients to the coir base. The type and quantity of nutrients you need will depend on the type of plant you’re growing.
Coir tends to be high in sodium nitrate, which can harm plants. It’s especially true when the husk is soaked in saltwater during its processing. So, ensure to check the salt content in the park.
You can add premade nutrients or make yours by adding organic compost, perlite, and manure pellets to the coir base. You can also add nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and phosphorus or simply use a fertilizer mix with all the necessary nutrients.
- Drop Your Seed and Cover
After filling the container with coir and the necessary nutrients, drop your seed on the coir and cover with the remaining coir you’ve kept aside. Bear in mind that different seeds have varying light, shade, and water requirements to determine the amount of coir you should place on top.
- Water Your Garden
Different plants require varying amounts of water, but with coir as a base, it’ll hold enough water for long for the plant. However, you may need to increase the frequency of water if you’re growing crops that require a lot of water or you’re in dry regions that see minimal rainfall.
If you’re practicing hydroponics, you’ll need to flood the plant every three to five hours. After that, you can pick up your container to weigh the size and determine if you need to water more.
- Clean the Coir and Reuse
After the planting season is over, you can clean and reuse the coir. Before doing this, you have to properly clean the core after harvesting or removing the plant in it. You also need to remove root strands and flush the coir with distilled water to remove salts and minerals in it.
You can use the sensizym enzyme to break down any remaining part of the older plant in the coir. Then, after the cleaning process, you can keep the coir for the next planting season.
Benefits of Using Coir
Coco coir has become quite important in gardening, amongst other things, and it’s easy to see why due to the vast advantages they provide. Here are some of these benefits:
1. Aerates Soil
Plant roots need oxygen to grow, and coir leaves air spaces in the soil for the plant root. However, they break down fast but still provide the air spaces necessary to aerate the soil.
2. Provides Moisture
Coir soaks up water and slowly but consistently provides this moisture when the plants need it. This will prevent the crops from drying up and eventually dying from drought. This benefit is even more essential in areas with little rainfall. It absorbs up to 10 times its weight and thus holds enough water for your plant roots.
3. Good Seed Starting medium
You can sterilize your soil or use it alone to grow from seed because coirs have great sterility.
4. Slow Decomposition
Coir takes a long time to decompose, so your plants can enjoy it for a long.
5. Difficult to Overwater
Coir has an excellent draining ability, so it won’t be easy to overwater a plant grown in coir. Many gardeners make the mistake of overwatering their crops, thereby causing damage. With coir, the issue of overwatering will be difficult to come by.
Coir is obtained from coconut husk and is renewable. You can wash and reuse the same coir in the next planting season. The husk is an often neglected part of the coconut, and coir makes great use of it thus helping the environment.
Compared to peat, coir is inexpensive, and you wouldn’t have to break a bank to purchase it.
8. Neutral pH
Coir will not have a significant pH influence on your plant as it is neutral. On the other hand, Peat Moss is acidic and will affect the pH of your plant.
9. Pest and Disease Free
Coir is free from pests and diseases. It is clear and does not encourage the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi.
Drawbacks of Using Coir
There are some disadvantages of using coir, and we’ll look at some of the most significant ones now:
1. Lacks Nutrients
Coir lacks essential nutrients in it. However, you’ll find micronutrients and potassium.
2. Salt and Mineral Build up
As coir holds a lot of water, over time – it encourages the build-up of salt and minerals, which may affect plants.
3. Inferior Products Contain too much Dust
Dusty particles can cause it to decompose quickly. Inferior coir tends to be dusty and too fine.
Coconut coir has become quite useful in gardening. It can be used to grow plants, serve as mulch, and can be used to make pots, among other things.