Prior to last summer, I had a little experience using coco coir, but it wasn’t something I applied heavily to my garden. I then removed all the weeds and overgrowth from the beds right in front of my house and planted some perennials that thrive in drought conditions.
After selecting drought-resistant plants for the area, I was caught by surprise when the summer temperatures spiked. Knowing how scorching the temperatures can get in our otherwise cold region, I had not anticipated the scorching sun in the area. When I watched my newly planted perennials deaden in the heat, I realized I would have to find a way to keep the rest of the bunch alive without having to water multiple times a day.
The sun was oppressive, so I wanted to find a way to conserve moisture while cooling the ground. I decided on coco coir mulch.
Since coco coir is an inexpensive and easy-to-handle natural material, it seemed the most suitable option for my situation, and I liked it so much that I began using it to mulch my garden as well. I was impressed with how well my plants fared under the intense heat of last summer. I now use coco coir as my primary mulching medium.
What is Coco Coir?
Coco coir is made from the outer husk of coconuts, which is the part between the seed and the shell. It can be processed in several different ways to produce a growing and mulching medium.
Types of Coco Coir
The three main ways of processing and producing coco coir have each different advantages and disadvantages.
- Fibers. In addition to being long-lasting and easily recyclable, coco fibers require very little water, so they’re great for promoting root growth. Although this medium is not as absorbent as other types, it’s ideal for promoting root growth.
- Pith. Coco coir or peat resembles peat moss. This soil holds onto the most water out of all the three options. It makes a good potting medium but degrades more quickly than peat.
- Chips. Chips are larger chunks of coco coir that help to retain moisture and aerate soil. As much as I enjoy using coco chips for mulching out my garden, I find the chunkier form less appealing for potting purposes.
Benefits of Coco Coir
You may be wondering, what is so special about coco coir? Why is this growing medium being embraced by gardeners? It turns out there are a number of good reasons for this. Peat moss offers great benefits, but with such a good alternative readily available, it can be hard to make a case for it.
The water-retentive properties of coir also enable proper drainage and prevent root rot, enabling plants to grow without fretting about root rot. In addition to its value as potting soil, coir is also great for seed starting.
Hard to Overwater
Plants that are housed in coir drain well, so it’s difficult to overwater them, a common mistake made by gardeners and plant enthusiasts. However, with a durable product like coir, you can’t drown roots or suffocate plants.
Coco coir is packed with air as fluffy as peat moss, which allows plants to breathe well. But it does break down more quickly, so overall it provides enough air pockets for roots to thrive.
Promotes Root Growth
Coco coir, a nutrient-rich product that is moist and favorable for plant roots, provides them with the ideal conditions for growth and expansion. Roots require room, air, water, and nutrients for well-being.
The advantage of coconut coir is that it is renewable, as it is derived from coconut trees. This means that the coconut coir can be replanted and continually harvested. It’s true that coconut trees produce an abundance of coconuts each year, and recent technological advances have further simplified the process of transforming it and manufacturing coco coir, making it more readily available.
In contrast, peat comes from bogs. These bogs are vitally important habitats for many species. Peat takes thousands of years to form, making it a non-renewable resource. Furthermore, its harvest threatens local species and ecosystems.
Peat moss, on the other hand, has a somewhat acidic pH, whereas coco coir has a neutral pH. Using coir as a potting soil or mulch won’t significantly change the pH of your soil.
Contains Useful Micronutrients
Coir is not just an inert growing medium. It contains helpful micronutrients such as magnesium and calcium, which are direct benefits to plants.
It is important not to walk on your garden soil. If you do, you can actually harm the plants and hinder their root growth. Some growing media compact too easily. Pressing and compacting soil can prevent air pockets from forming and can result in soil that is hard and clumpy. Plants prefer a well-aerated surface that is light and fluffy.
Peat moss and coco coir are comparable in price and cost; peat moss has a slightly higher density.
Easy to Transport
The blocks of Coco Coir are usually sold as compacted blocks, which are lightweight and easy to transport. The weight of this medium makes it easy to take home from the nursery without worrying about damaging your vehicle’s suspension. The fact that you can order coir bricks online means that shipping costs will not crush your budget. It is also easy to store the bricks if you have a limited amount of space.
Handles Better than Peat
I’ve used peat moss in the garden before, and it tends to be very dry out of the bag, so rehydrating it is tough. Although peat retains moisture, rehydrating it takes some time. On the other hand, coco coir offers better moisture absorption and requires far less time to rehydrate.
Coco coir is pest- and disease-free, so you won’t have to worry about weeds or diseases when you use it to start seedlings or mulch plants.
Can be Recycled
You may remember that we talked about how coir is an eco-friendly resource because it comes from trees? That’s not the only reason, though. It is possible to reuse this medium. Did you use it for seedlings this spring? Don’t throw it away, just use it as mulch for your transplants this autumn.
Drawbacks of Coir
Coco coir is a growing medium that has its own set of drawbacks. These drawbacks include issues of convenience or environmental concerns. When it comes to overall benefits, I believe that coir outpaces peat moss.
First off, some coir products can contain harmful chemicals due to the treatment process used to make them. You should always read the labels on products to understand how coir has been treated and to avoid products that have been heavily processed. Those who garden organically should look for OMRI-listed coir products for their garden.
Finally, while coco coir may have a favorable effect on nutrient absorption, it’s important to note that certain nutrients are drawn to coir fibers, which may affect the availability of these nutrients to your plants. In addition, gardeners can use special fertilizers and amendments for coir-based growing mediums.
Ways to Use It
Here are a few examples of how to use this growing medium:
- Hydroponic growing. This medium is both hygienic and disease-free, making it the perfect medium for growing in this manner.
- Potting soil medium. The ability of coco coir to retain moisture makes it ideal for indoor plant potting. You’ll kill fewer plants because you won’t need to water as frequently.
- Mulch. Use as a mulch on outdoor beds to help conserve moisture.
- Seed starting. The use of coir is a healthy way to start seedlings that promotes strong root growth.
How to Use Coco Coir
Let’s say you’ve ordered online several coco coir bricks, and they’ve arrived on your doorstep. You will need to rehydrate it in order for it to become a fluffy substrate. I recommend using a large bucket or wheelbarrow to rehydrate the coir material, which gives you plenty of room to add water. Once it’s sufficiently fluffed, you can transport it to wherever you need it in your garden.
You will still need some patience while rehydrating coir since it re-hydrates faster than peat. Pour warm water over your brick gradually. Add a little water at a time. Ideally, you should not over-hydrate the coco coir bricks. It will take some time for the bricks to soften up and for the fibers to expand.
If you do not intend on using the rehydrated coir immediately, store it in a sealable container for later.
Where to Buy It
The coco coir to use in your garden can be bought at your local nursery, and it can also be purchased online.
Let us know in the comments below whether you use coco coir for your garden and whether you have felt success using it in place of peat moss.