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What is Coco Coir and How to Use Coir in Gardening

coco coir in gardening

Coconut coir or coco coir is nowadays a popular choice for growing plants. It has certainly replaced peat moss as growing medium in many cases and rightly so. Coir has several advantages over peat moss which we will discuss in this article.

This is a follow-up article from our earlier ones on soil-less growing media and Peat moss. If you haven’t read them yet, go visit the articles first.

What is Coco Coir?

Coir, (pronounced COY-er) is extracted from coconuts. It is basically a natural fiber extract from a coconut husk of the inner shell of the coconut. It is used for all sorts of products, from doormats to hanging baskets. One of the most undervalued uses of coir which is becoming increasingly popular is as a potting mix and organic soil amendment.

The coir we use in gardening and agriculture is more like a substance. It is made from the pith found between the fibers.

 

coco coir gardening

The composition of coco coir:

Coco Coir contains a good amount of cellulose and lignin. As mushrooms thrive on Cellulose, coir is a very good substrate to cultivate Mushrooms. Coir generally has a pH level in the range of 6-6.5. which is a very good pH level for plant growth in most of the cases.

You should not use coir as a sole growing media for growing plants. The nutrient content in coir is very low. If you insist growing solely on coir, add some nutrient solutions as per the need of the specific plants. Coir from countries like India and Sri Lanka contains several and micro plant nutrients including a large quantity of potassium. This potassium interferes with the magnesium availability of the soil.

Generally, coir has a deficiency of Calcium and Magnesium. To remove this problem add a good amount of dolomite to your coir. The Dolomites contain both calcium and magnesium and can be a solution to the problem.

How coir is extracted?

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 coir. These fibers make up about a third of the coconut husk, The rest, called peat, pith or dust.

Coconut Fibers or Coir Fibers:

coconut coir

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 coconut fibers a lot.

Brown fibers are extracted from the fully matured coconuts. It is a key ingredient in making doormats, brushes, and mattresses. These fibers are also a good solution to insulation and packaging.

The process of taking out the husk of the fruit is known as De-husking.

Coir Peat:

coco pith

Once we extract the coco fibers, we are left with coconut Coir, (or coir) or Coco peat (cocopeat). It is the second part of the husk that covers most of the portion. Coir was earlier thought of as a waste product, but now this is more of an alternative to peat moss in Gardening.

People call this peat by various names. Coco coir, coco pith, coco peat, cocopeat, coir dust, 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.

Once considered as a waste product, coco coir is now used as the best alternative to peat moss Click To Tweet

How To Prepare A Coir Brick?

You can buy coco coir in compressed blocks. It’s easy to transport and store. But you can not use this coir block directly in gardening. You have to soak it in water and convert it into a loamy texture.

Place a brick in a large container. The brick can increase about 5-6 times in volume; make sure your container is large enough to hold it.

A standard 5 kg brick (about 12.5 x 12.5 8 in. or 32 x 32 x 20 cm) will be able to make approximately 60 liters of coir.

Types of Coco Coir:

Coir can be of two types:

  • sterilized coco coir and
  • unsterilized coco coir.

In sterilized coir peat, the fungi Trichoderma is not present due to sterilization.

Trichoderma works in symbiosis with plant roots. It protects plants from harmful pathogenic fungi such as Pythium. This is why people nowadays are shifting from using sterilized to unsterilized coir.

How is Coir Used in Gardening?

  • Coir is a very good growing media for plants. It can be a good component for a high-quality potting mix.
  • Most of the potting mixes available in the market still use peat moss as the base component. if you make your own potting soil, you can replace peat moss with a greener alternative the coir.
  • Coir is also a great choice as seed starters due to its organic and sterile nature.
  • You can use coco coir to amend garden soil quality. Coir has an amazing water retention capacity. They can absorb more water than peat and is far easier to re-wet. Mixing coir with soil works great because:
  1. Coir improves the soil aeration and moisture retention.
  2. It loosens the texture of clay soil and improves drainage.
  3. And, it allows the sandy soil to hold on to water longer.
  • Coir is resistant to bacterial and fungal growth. It provides a lot of new opportunities to the potting mix suppliers, seedling nurseries, Hydroponic growers and greenhouse growers.
Reconstituting a Coir Brick:

Please read the label, it generally informs you how much water you need to convert the coir brick into loamy usable form. Add water per the label’s instructions.

Help it reconstitute. The outer portion of the coco coir brick will first start to soften. Break and crumble the soften portion it will speed up the process. Don’t worry if it seems like all you have is a muddy mess. If you expose the entire brick, it will absorb the water.

Once the whole brick has crumbled, you can use the coir for growing plants. It will remain loose, even when dry, and will last for years.

What are the Advantages of Using Coir over Sphagnum Peat Moss?

  • Although many firms in the peat industry are trying to harvest and manage peat bogs in a responsible, sustainable rate, demand is so high, it is safe to say peat is more of a non-renewable source. Coconut coir is not only a natural, organic product, but unlike peat moss a renewable one.
  • Coir is hydrophilic. Unlike peat moss, it can quickly re-absorb water even when completely dry. Coco peat is porous you cannot over-water it easily.
  • Coir is slow to decompose and lasts longer in the soil.
  • It is both sterile and free of weed seeds.
  • The coir pH is far less acidic (5.8 – 6.8 range) than that of the peat moss (3.5 – 4.5 range).
  • Coco coir Improves aeration and moisture retention qualities of the soil.
  • Coir also provides resistance to pythium and other root diseases.
Unlike peat moss, coconut coir is free of bacteria and fungal spores Click To Tweet
 
Disadvantages Of Using Coir:
  • The downside of using coir is that coir has a very little amount of calcium or any other nutrients. Sometimes they are rich in potassium and a few micronutrients.
  • Coir tends to compact, you might have witnessed this by yourself if you have handled a coir brick before.
  • Because it retains water, there is a chance of salt build-up.
  • Depending upon your location coir can be a more expensive than sphagnum peat moss.
plants in coco coir

Other Uses of Coco Coir:

Apart from agricultural usage, you can use dry coir as an oil absorbent especially on slippery floors. It has a very good absorbing ability. People also use it to absorb animal wastes.

Readers Comments (43)

  1. Coir has really great qualities and usages for seed starters, bedding, gardens…. all agriculture needs. Great!!!!!!!……

  2. Thanx and you are absolutely right. 🙂

  3. Thanks a lot , you are absolutely right.

  4. But there is availablity issue atleast in north !!!!!

  5. I use cocopeat in my garden alongwith regular soil and sand and has a very good effect on plant growth. Of course, I add some nutrients regularly. — r.k.rajagopalan.

  6. I hope you can also feature self-irrigating planters in your next post.

  7. if i have a fresh coir, how do i prepare it to be suitable for vegetable gardening? do i need to have it sun-dried or can i mix it the regular plot soil immediately?

  8. Its nice that you mentioned about adding nutrients. Cocopeat doesn't contain any nutrients for the nutrition of a fully grown plant. So adding nutrients is a must. Try not to add any chemical though. Compost is a very good option.

  9. Things will change very shortly. Some companies have started the whole India distribution channel.

  10. Thanks for the suggestion. I will definitely give it a thought.

  11. Fresh coir contains high amount of electrolytes. This needs to be washed out and sun dried several times before using. It can be a tedious job.

  12. I use about 1 part in 3 coconut coir in my seedling germination mixes with compost, soil and a bit of charcoal. It's great stuff and I highly recommend it.

  13. Yes Coconut Coir and its use as a Soil-less Growth Media Plant..I agree with Your Article.

    Thanks & Regards Coco peat supplier

  14. We are taking commercial crop on cocopeat slab under strict IPM measures in Saudi Arabia. Quite promising results.

  15. We are commercial vegetable producer in Saudi Arabia. Growing cucumber, tomatoes on cocopeat slab very healthy without prblem – quality, bumper harvest with color, taste n flavor.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Does the ph of coconut coir reduce over a period of time (like 6 months)? I have been using soilless media having coconut coir, vermiculite, humic acids main ingredients. I didn't check ph initially but when yield was not good, I checked the ph and found it to be 4.5. Please let me know your opinion.

  18. One more query please, should the loose coco coir available in bags at gardening shop also be washed and sun dried before using as plant media?

  19. 4.5 is very acidic for plants to grow. Try adding some lime to increase the pH level.

  20. Loose cocopeat is generally the sterilized one. You don't need to wash and sundry it. But check the EC level before purchasing. Low EC is better for the plants.

  21. Dear Sir

    Kindly Explain the Process of Making Coco Peat ( Washed & Unwashed).

  22. Dear Sir

    Do Have any idea that how much Quantity of Fiber & Coco Peat can be Produced per Husk on an Average?

  23. Dear Sir

    What is shelf life of coco peat ?

  24. Mr. Azimi,
    Where can I find Coco peat in Saudi Arabia?

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Agrihypermart As per the Coir Board it is 600kg of peat and 150 kg of fibre for 1000 husk. I am starting a composite unit for cocopeat and fibre very soon i will let you know exactly

  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  28. Padmakar Shetty June 11, 2015 @ 9:47 am

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  29. Your composing is purely awe-inspiring that I desired to read such high quality material…The Tree Center

  30. Can I add Coco Peat to soil in the field for planting tomato? It's summer here and adding coco peth so that it can hold water. What is the standard process of adding to soil in the field? What's ratio?

    Thanks.

  31. Great sharing! It is truly essential that knowing the health benefits of coconut and coconut oil. Everyone should aware of its benefits and important functional advantages.
    http://vashiniexports.com/

  32. Mr. Akram,

    In my opinion you need to Import it from other countries like India , Sri Lanka etc…

  33. Can coir can be used as a material for concrete to have additional strength??

  34. Can anyone help me out with the process of making Coco peat,i am planning to start this as a business so what sort, of machines i need and where can i buy and someone pls advice me.Thanks

  35. Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 vfyes

  36. Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 1f5bw

  37. Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 a2ooj

  38. thanks for sharing your thoughts

  39. I am in fact glad to glance at this website posts which consists of lots of useful information, thanks for providing these kinds of data.

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