How to use coconut coir in gardening

Coconut is a wonderful tree. Almost all parts of the plant are useful in some capacity or the other. This being said there the coir is particularly useful while gardening. It is the fibrous husk and dust that makes up the outer layer of ripe coconuts. Most of us don’t see this part as it is cleaned off before it arrives at grocery stores. this article speaks in detail about coir and how to use coconut coir in gardening

What is coconut coir used for in gardening?

As we know it coconut coir is the husk that covers the inner membrane of a ripe coconut. We don’t see this on the fruit when we purchase it at stores as the husk is generally taken off to make the shipment compact and at the same time, the husks themselves can be used for a number of things.

One of the uses is in gardens to either plant seeds or use along with a potting mix.

How To Use Coconut Coir In Gardening
How To Use Coconut Coir In Gardening

Coconut coir is normally used as a substitute for peat moss. This is an economic choice as coconut coir is way cheaper than most.

At the same time, it looks and feels a lot like soil and hence does not have a strange laboratory look to it when used in planters or your garden. It is used in both hydroponics systems as well as container gardening.

Most gardeners believe that unlike peat moss coconut coir is a renewable resource, this is due to the high rate at which peat moss is depleting. It is not because of the unavailability of peat moss or the disability of it to replenish resources but the sheer volume in which it is being used. 

Secondly, coconut coir has a more neutral pH which makes managing the nutrients in hydroponics systems easier. It also decomposes a lot slower as compared to peat moss. A slower decomposition rate means that it releases fewer nutrients into the soil while in it.

This means that there are few to almost zero chances of the nutritive balance of the soil going off. This is more important for hydroponics as compared to other plants as their growing success depends a lot on the makeup of the nutrient solution.

There are a number of variants of coconut coir. To make things easier we have put together a list or variants or forms of coconut coir.

What are the different forms of coconut coir used in gardening?

Coconut coir is available in several formats the application depends on your garden the soil you have and the plants you are planning to grow. 

#1 Loose media

Loose media is available almost in all stores selling plants and plant material across the US. You can also opt to purchase it online. This can easily be used either alone or with other amendments like perlite. Mother Earth® Coco, Burpee are popular brands we recommend. 

#2 Compressed blocks of bulk coconut coir

This is our opinion is the most economical form of coconut coir. It can increase to about 10 times its size when packed. It comes in a brick-like consistency and needs to be soaked before use.

While rehydrating the block make sure you use a bigger container and at the same time went only the required amount or you will need to find a container big enough to store the excess. Mother Earth® Coco Bale and Mountain Valley – minute soil are brands we recommend. 

#3 Shaped coconut coir products

These are liners and other products that have become popular in the recent past. They are not only convenient but also good for plants as well as the environment.

The Mother Earth®, Coco Basket Liners, and Mother Earth® Coco Mats are made specifically for hydroponic uses like lining baskets, placing under pots, etc. you could also use the G-LEAF’s Garden Hanging Planter Baskets, these come in various sizes making it convenient for all types of plants. 

#4 Charged coconut coir

This is coconut coir that has been pre-treated with a nutrient mix to make it easier for new plants. You can also use this while transplanting plants, it helps plants anchor faster and grows well.

#5 Coconut coir mixes

You can not only find coco coir as a lone ingredient but also as part of mixes. These pre-made mixes are good as you do not need to invest in too many products for your garden. This way you can not only help plants grow well but also provide essential nutrients and airflow in case of mixes that include Perlite.

We recommend Mother Earth® Coco + Perlite Mix, it is the best when it comes to improving the airflow to roots of the plants growing in the coco coir mix. 

#5 Seed starter discs 

These coco peat discs are the best for seed starting. All you need to do is get the discs and let your plants grow in a soilless medium. It supports healthy growth and it also retains moisture and provides good air circulation.

We suggest the Netted coir pellets via burpee. You can start seeds both indoors as well as outdoors and then plant them directly into soil once they are big enough or when the seedlings are ready. They come in various sizes depending on the plants you are planning to grow and the pots or the garden space they are going to be replanted on. 

#6 Mulch chips

These are coarser in texture and bigger as compared to coco peat powder. They look like chips and are generally used for mulching. They increase moisture retention, inhibit weed growth and provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance to your plants, pots or garden as a whole.

These chips are also used to support the roots of tropical plants like orchids as they drain well and allow ample air circulation. You can use the Fibre dust – coco mulch, they are available both locally as well as on e-commerce websites. Shipping these can be expensive so it is better to look for local options or wait for sales online. 

#7 Moulded pots 

Like peat pots you also have pot variants that are made of fibres. These are pressed into flower pot shapes and can be used as starter containers. They are perfect for plants as they retain moisture drain well and also allow air circulation.

different forms of coconut coir used in gardening
different forms of coconut coir used in gardening

Coco Fiber Seed Starter Biodegradable Pots are available on amazon at decent prices. They can be used on their own or as liners to ceramic pots. You can use these pots as liners in the soil as well where they will eventually biodegrade. 

These are the best option when it comes to hotter climates when you have terracotta or ceramic pots and a lot of moisture loss. Another option is the Self-Watering Planter Pots with Coconut Coir Fiber these are available in stores across the US and also over Amazon.

They come with coir discs and in different colour variants. They also have an indicator that helps monitor the moisture level from time to time.

#8 Climbing poles

Most gardeners swear by moss climbing poles for vines and climbers. This is a cost-effective and a slightly better variant of the same. Coco climbing poles consist of twine-wrapped fibres on a stick these are ready to use. All you need to do is stick them in a planter, water it and you are good to go. 

How to use coconut fibre for planting?

Coconut peat or fibres are a by-product of the coconut industry that is widely used in gardens all over the US and the world at large.

There have been a number of proven benefits when it comes to the use of coco peat it can not only be used on an already planted garden but also used as a seed starter and a planting medium. Here is all you need to know about how to use coconut fibre for planting.

How to use coconut fibre for planting
How to use coconut fibre for planting

Step-1: Acquiring

Coconut fibre is generally available in local stores and off the internet in various forms. But broadly classifying them you can get them as a compressed dehydrated disc or brick and as tiny pieces or dust. Once you purchase the coconut fibre read the instructions carefully.

Look for the proportion you need to add to the soil. If you are using the brick variant look for the final product quantity and plan how much you will require beforehand.

Step-2: Proportions are key

As with all that you do in gardening, proportion is the key to planting using coconut fiber. Start by breaking apart the brick into a large bucket. Use only as much as you require at that moment. Each one-third cubic foot brick or coco peat makes about 4 to 5 quarters of planting material. Use a big container so that you have enough room for mixing.

Add one-gallon warm water to the broken coco peat brick and let it stay. The coco peat will absorb the water in about two hours or more depending on the brand you use. 

Tip: If you do not like the wait, leave the coco peat in water overnight. This way you can start mixing and planting in the morning.

Step-3: Combining 

The next day or whenever you have your rehydrated coco peat you can start combining it to prepare a potting mix. You will need to add in a few other minerals and additives as coco peat is not only neutral when it comes to pH it is also void of nutrients and minerals.

Step-4: Planting 

Generally, a potting mix will contain soil about one-third of coco peat other additives, and a draining agent. You can also use coco peat as it is as a starter and then add soil and a draining agent.

As coca peat retains moisture it is imperative to add a draining agent as it will help prevent root rot. Pay attention to the water requirements of the plant.

In most cases, you will need to water the plant only two to three times a week as the coco peat will retain moisture for the plant to use. In hotter months you will need to water the plant about three to four times a week depending on where the plants are kept.

Step-5: Mulching

This is an optional step that you can use during hotter months to protect your plants. All you need to do is spread two to three inches of coco peat as a mulch around your plants in the garden. This deters weeds in the summer and helps the plant retain moisture.

In winter you can spread about one to two inches of mulch, this acts as an insulator to retain heat. 

Tip: you can reuse coco peat for about 4 years. When done you can add it to the compost pile.   

Now that we have looked into how to use coconut fibre for planting it is important to look at the nutrients that need to be added to coconut to make a healthy mix for plants to grow in

What nutrients do you need for coconut coir?

Coconut coir as discussed earlier is an excellent growing agent but at the same time, it has no nutrients and supplements for your plants.

This is still hydroponic growing if you are using only coconut coir. Contrary to beliefs you can still grow seedlings in only coconut coir, this again depends on the plants and your beliefs as a gardener. 

If you do need a start-up kit that includes all the basic nutrients you can go in for the general hydroponics flora series a pH testing kit to check the pH of the soil and the mixture to be sure of what needs to be added and the plants that will grow well in the soil.

You will also need Calimagic calcium + magnesium supplement pair this with any good brand of coconut coir available and you are good to go. 

There are two brands that have gained popularity over the years for being the most wholesome mixes for plants with coco peat they are:

Both these brands are available online as well as in gardening stores in the US. In other parts of the globe, there are other brands available that have a similar constitution. 

Along with the various applications of coco peat in gardens it can also be used specifically for growing vegetables. Here is all about growing vegetables in coco coir

Growing vegetables in coco coir

When it comes to growing vegetables, there are different mediums in which they can be grown. The most eco-friendly and organic of them all is coco coir. This is a concept that became popular when urban gardening came into being.

Growing vegetables in coco coir
Growing vegetables in coco coir

Gardeners used coco coir prior to this as well but more and more people got to try this after they realized that urban gardens need mediums that are not as heavy as regular potting mixes. 

Using coconut coir in container gardening as it helps plants retain moisture as compared to other mediums. It is great when mixed with other potting mixes and a draining agent. The right balance of all the components is key to growing vegetables and other plants well in containers.

Whether used in hydroponic systems or in containers coconut coir is a great medium to provide the ideal growing environment for plants. 

Here are a few vegetables that you can grow easily in cocopeat or coco coir. Most of them are grown in combined soil but you can also use coir as the primary ingredient in the potting mix. 

This section speaks in detail about how to use coconut coir in gardening vegetables.

#1 Chillies

To use coconut coir in gardening chilies mix equal amounts of cocopeat, compost, and perlite, you can also use a combination of coco peat and perlite. The potting mix needs to be left in a small with and soaked with ample water overnight.

The next day drains the excess water and adds the seeds gently into the mix. You can then cover this with either mulch or hay.

Water the seeds regularly until they germinate and grow into tiny saplings. When they are about 20 inches tall and you see leaves you can transfer the saplings to individual pots. Water the plant regularly until you see buds.

Once the plant starts to flower reduce the frequency at what you water and let the plant mature.

You can harvest fresh chillies as and when they mature. 

#2 Tomatoes

Don’t we all love tomatoes in some form or the other? Here is how you can grow tomatoes at home using coconut coir. 

The potting mix required for tomatoes to grow well includes sand, red soil, compost, cocopeat in the ratio 30:20:20:20. You can also use coco peat along with any potting mix you have available. Sow the tomato seeds in the potting mix and sprinkle water.

Mulch the seeds or cover the pot with hay or a plastic or glass lid to give it a semi – greenhouse effect. 

Continue watering the seeds for about 2 to 3 days until they sprout. Let the plants grow a little before you transplant them to individual containers.

For tomatoes to grow well, add a handful of compost while replanting the saplings. In about 4 weeks the plants will flower and bear fruit.

Tip: Tomatoes are vulnerable to bugs and pests hence it is important to use an organic insecticide at the beginning itself to keep bugs at bay. 

#3 Cucumber 

Another favorite is cucumber and growing these vegetables in coco coir is not a difficult task.

All you need to do is soak cucumber seeds overnight. Use a potting mix readily available and mix in a part each of coco coir and perlite. You can also add compost to make the mix rich in nutrients and minerals.

Using your fingers make about 5mm depressions and sow the seeds. Cover the seeds with loose soil and water. The soil needs to be kept moist at all times. This being said make sure you do not overwater the seeds as they will drown and not germinate.

They need about 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day. If this is not possible you can use artificial or LED lighting.

Tip: Manual pollination might be required to ensure fruiting.

#4 Mint 

Here is how to use coconut coir in gardening mint

Mint is the easiest to multiply, all you need are a few springs of mint from a fresh bunch and you are good to go. Take a healthy-looking stem and remove the leaves gently. You then need to leave this in a glass for a few days until they root.

Another option is to use coco coir in a pot and wait for the plant to root. This should take a few days. After this add potting mix and the plant will multiply.

Tip: be sure to have a separate container for mint as they tend to overpower other plants and take over all the space.

#5 Capsicum

Capsicum is another easy vegetable that can be grown easily in coco coir. Here is how to use coconut coir in gardening while growing capsicum.

Prepare a potting mix with soil, compost, coir, and vermiculite. You can also use a ready potting mix with coco coir and perlite. Then sow in the seeds carefully and water the tray.

As capsicum thrives in warmer conditions you can plant them in spring or summer. Place the tray in a warm spot to aid in germination. If planting indoors you can leave it over the fridge or close to a window.

They take about 60 to 90 days to grow. To germinate the seeds the seed tray needs to be covered and left in a sunlit spot for about 10 to 15 days.

Tip: Use plastic or glass covering to ensure that heat is retained.

When it comes to using coconut fibre for planting or growing vegetables in coco coir you can use it as a medium to germinate almost all types of seeds. You will need to add a potting mix to ensure the plants receive the required nutrients unless you are planning to use hydroponic systems.

After understanding how to use coconut coir in gardening and exploring the ways in which coco coir can be used; we need to check out the pros and cons. This is especially necessary in order to make an informed choice of whether it is a good choice or not.

Pros and cons of using coconut coir in gardening

Coconut coir is a great medium while gardening but alongside the numerous advantages it also comes laced with disadvantages here is a list.

coconut coir in gardening
coconut coir in gardening

Pros

Good transition from soil gardening.

The best thing about coconut coir is that it looks a lot like soil. If you are planning to have a hydroponic garden all you need to do is get some coco coir and get started.

They only difference here is that when you use coco coir instead of soil you will need to water it with nutrient-rich water as coco coir does not come with nutrients or minerals required for plants to grow. 

Retains moisture

Coconut coir is great as it retains moisture. You can not only use it while out on vacation but also make it a part of your regular potting mix. This will reduce the number of times you need to water the plants in a week.

This being said a flipside to this is that at the time you could have too much water in the pot which can cause root rot. Hence it is necessary to monitor the moisture content of your potting mix before the next watering session.

Safe for the environment

Coconut coir is a great organic resource. Peat moss has a number of environmental implications associated with it and hence coco coir is an excellent alternative. It can be used in more ways as compared to peat moss and it also takes longer to break down.

Insect neutral

Garden Insects and bugs are not fans of coco coir. By using coir in your garden you can be sure of fewer insects and pests.

Cons 

No nutrients 

The major downside when it comes to the use of coconut coir in gardens is that it is completely void of nutrients and minerals. It is also pH neutral. This makes it an excellent additive to potting mixes but not so great when used alone.

You will always need to add nutrient-rich supplements and pH balancers when using coco coir for gardening. 

Needs rehydration

Coco coir is shipped dry to reduce shipping weight. This way you cannot use it as it is, prep before using becomes necessary. This adds to the amount of time you will spend in your garden. 

Mixes are expensive. 

You can also find coco coir mixed with other minerals and nutrients that can be added to the soil as it is but these pre-mixed bags are way more expensive as compared to normal potting mixes.

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In conclusion, we can say that there are clearly more pluses when it comes to growing vegetables and other plants in coco coir. There are numerous ways in which coconut coir is available. It is not difficult to understand how to use coconut coir in gardening all you need to do is take the first step and try it out.