This article follows my previous blogs on soil-less growing media and Peat moss. After Peat Moss, now it is time for its alternative, Coconut Coir or coco coir. Nowadays many of us are trying coconut coir as an alternative to peat moss due to several reasons. Most important of which is that coir is much more environment-friendly than peat moss. For an organic gardener, it is crucial to make use of the things which are renewable.
Origin of Coco Coir
The English word “coir” comes from the Tamil and Malayalam word “kayaru”, which mean cord, to be twisted. In a coconut, the place between the hard inner shell and the outer coat is called the husk. It is the place from where we extract coirs. These fibers make up about a third of the coconut husk, The rest, called peat, pith or dust.
Coir Fiber can be of two types: White fiber and Brown fiber. When the fibers are extracted from the green coconuts it is called white fibers. One of the amazing features of white fibers is that they are resistant to saltwater. Due to this, industries such as manufacturing rope, mats, and fishing nets use white fibers a lot.
Brown fibers are extracted from the fully matured coconuts. It is used to prepare doormats, brushes, and mattress. These fibers are also a good solution to insulation and packaging. The process of taking out the husk from the fruit is known as De-husking.
After the extraction of fibers, the remaining part is known as coconut Coir, (or coir) or Coco peat (cocopeat). It is the second part of the husk which covers the majority of the portion.Once considered as a waste product, this is now used as an alternative to peat moss in Gardening. People call this peat by various names. Coco coir, coco pith, coco peat, cocopeat, coir dust, coco soil or only coir are broadly the same thing. For simplicity, I will represent this by the single word “coir”.
Coir provides a suitable substrate for horticultural use. It is widely used as a soil-less potting media. As coir is high in sodium and potassium, it sometimes contains excess salt. So before using as a growth medium, this excess salt needs to be treated. To do this, it is first washed, and then screened and graded into various granularity and density.
India and Sri Lanka produces the bulk of the coir in the world. Other than that, Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam etc have also started producing it nowadays.
Types of coco coir:
Coir can be of two types: sterilized and unsterilized. In sterilized coir peat, the fungi Trichoderma is not present due to sterilization. Trichoderma works in symbiosis with plant roots. It protects the plant from harmful pathogenic fungi such as pythium. That is why people nowadays are shifting from using sterilized to unsterilized coir.
Coconut coir can be used almost anywhere you can use peat moss. So you can use coir in bedding, gardens, containers, as seed-starters etc. just like peat.
Coir is resistant to bacterial and fungal growth. It provides a whole lot of new opportunities to the potting mix suppliers, seedling nurseries, Hydro-phonic growers and greenhouse growers.
In horticulture and gardening, coconut coir is a strongly recommended substitute for Peat moss. Unlike peat moss, it is free of bacteria and fungal spores. As a substitute, it helps the slowing down of peat extraction from environmentally sensitive swamps worldwide. Coir also has a very good water retention and suitable aeration facility. It helps in faster growth of roots in plants.
The composition of coco coir:
Coco Coir contains a good amount of cellulose and lignin. As mushrooms thrive on Cellulose, coir is used as a substrate to cultivate Mushrooms. Coir generally has a pH level in the range of 6-6.5. which is very good pH level for most of the plants.
You can not use coir as a sole component in the medium to grow plants. Their nutrient content is very low. If you insist growing solely on coir, you need to add nutrients as per the need of the specific plants. Coir from countries like India and Sri Lanka also contains several macro and micro plant nutrients. This includes large quantities of potassium. This potassium interferes with the magnesium availability of the soil.
Generally, coir has a deficiency of Calcium and Magnesium. So adding a good amount of dolomite (which contains both of those elements) can be a very good idea.
Other Uses of coco coir:
Apart from agricultural usage, dry coir can be used as an oil absorbent especially on slippery floors. It has a very good absorbing ability. They are also used to absorb animal wastes.
Coir is hydrophilic in nature. Unlike peat moss, it can quickly re-absorb water even when completely dry. Coco peat is porous and cannot be over-watered easily. Coconut coir is not only a natural, organic product, but unlike peat moss a renewable one.