Coco coir - What is it? A step by step guide to growing in Coco Coir

Coco coir is widely used as a sustainable resource for planting, hydroponics, and material use. Historically, it is the part of a coconut that has been utilized for creating functional products that include sewing together boards for boats, buildings, and tools.
Back in 1894, coir was highly sought after despite the process taking over ten months for harvesters to husk and soak the coconut to yield the coir. Depending on the resource available, harvesters would soak coconuts in fresh or saltwater to produce roughly around a pound of yarn per individual batch.

By 1950, the process changed drastically with the onset of mechanical processing that could manage over 200 coconuts in an hour. Coir is widely regarded as a previously unsung resource that gardeners, manufacturers, and ecological managers have repurposed to invest in environmentally friendly endeavours and gardening practices.

In this guide, we will go through what coco coir is and how it can be a beneficial aspect for your garden. When making the choice to use coco coir, there are a few steps to consider in the process to ensure you have a happy, healthy, and fulfilled garden that lasts through the years.

Step 1: Know What Coco Coir Is

While the history explains what coco coir was used for, it comes down to the fact that coco coir is considered a byproduct of a coconut that starts its journey on a coconut palm. The product is natural, sustainable, and is pulled from the husk of a coconut.
Coir is now popularly used for gardening, managing soil erosion, and within modern day products like an outdoor coir doormat. Coir comes in two different colors, brown or white. Brown coir is predominately used because of its strength that is yielded from mature coconuts.

White coir is predominately pulled from green coconuts that are younger and more commonly used for netting or lighter materials. Brown coir is used more widely for the integrity of a material or garden, depending on the age of the coconut it comes from. With both colors used across different aspects, each can play a role in a home or industrial garden setting.

Step 2: Learn How Using Coco Coir Gives Back To Your Space

Coco coir is an expert medium for gardening due to its ability to retain moisture while simultaneously letting fresh air pass through its fibers. Its built-in natural form allows for plants to stay hydrated without the concern for too much moisture retention that creates issues with rot or fungus growth. Without moisture ridden conditions, coco coir is considered a preventative method for unwanted insects from infiltrating your garden, as it is not ideal for most pests to settle into.

Coco coir is also seen as a more sustainable resource than peat moss. Peat moss is commonly used for gardens, but it is not a resource that grows quickly or abundantly. With growing climate concerns, coco coir is a beneficial resource that ensures you are taking the right steps in your garden for it to be healthy and sustainable.
The downside to using coco coir, is that it does not offer nutrients like other soil alternatives. Utilizing coco coir means looking at the nutrients necessary for your garden and including vital nutrient mixes for the ideal growing environment. Depending on what you plan on growing, the recipe for nutrients may vary.

Step 3: Choose The Type of Coco Coir You Need

Coco coir comes in different types that can be utilized within the garden. From fiber mediums to compact discs designed for raising healthy seeds, there are a variety of versions that coco coir appears in to suit every gardener’s need.

Coco Coir Fiber

Coco fiber is more commonly known, but is not as absorbent as other mediums available. The air pockets within the fibers allow for more oxygen flow across the soil base and keeps roots healthy and abundant underneath. Keep in mind that fiber breaks down quicker than other mediums, which means it will need to be monitored to ensure the oxygen levels do not decrease to worrying levels.

Coco Coir Chips
Coco chips nearly explain themselves, as they are a plant matter that is a gentle mix between peat and fiber alternatives. Chips are usually large enough to allow for oxygen flow that also increase absorbency for plants to breathe and stay hydrated better.

Coco Coir Pith

Coco pith or coco peat is a finely ground version of coco coir. Coco pith needs to be aged properly, which is why it is important to consider the process the supplier manages to ensure it is aged properly to be placed within your garden. Be careful when using coco pith, as it may drown the plant if it is not mixed with other soil types and nutrient mixes.

Coco Coir Discs

Coco coir discs are ideal for seed planting and present an eco-friendly alternative to peat pellets. For avid gardeners interested in the story from the beginning of a seed to the end product for a plant, then coir discs give a better start by protecting the plant from infection. With the perfect combination of moisture, light, and nutrients, discs give the ideal environment for starting from scratch.

Coco Coir Brick

Coco coir bricks are an easy form that can be directly shipped to your home for long-term storage or for immediate use. Bricks are compressed versions of coco coir and come from husks that are soaked enough to loosen fibers and then dried out for over a year for shipping purposes.

Bricks are ideal for hydroponic growing, organic gardening, and composting. Keep in mind that bricks do need to be mixed with other nutrients in order to be effective for plant growth and may take some time to soak and break up the fibers for use. Soaking a coco coir brick may also require a larger bucket or tub to ensure all the fibers are broken apart properly for planting,
Loose Coco Coir

Loose coco coir can also be purchased. Loose coco coir is a type of coco coir that is ready for immediate use without the need for soaking. Loose versions are often more expensive due to the extra process that suppliers take in order for the coco coir to be rehydrated for use. Without the extra step of having to hydrate the loose coco coir, you can begin your garden faster.

Step 4: How to Grow Plants in Coco Coir

Coco coir is an ideal medium for growing plants due to its ability to naturally aerate the roots of a plant. It protects plants from unwanted bacteria, careless weeds, and other fungal issues.

Starter Pack For Coco Coir

When it comes to starting seeds in coco coir, many gardeners choose to start with coco coir bricks or discs that are easily transportable for a small garden. In some areas, you can also purchase a coco coir seed starter pack that makes it easy to mix together the coco coir and the needed nutrients for plant growth.

If you create your own seed starting mix, you may want to use coco coir pith, as it helps manage water levels when just starting out. If you are using a premade mix, then finer varieties of coco coir may be used within the kit. Any variety you choose will still give your seeds the best chance for optimal growth.

How To Start Growing Seeds

To start growing seeds, you will first need the supplies of a watering can, coco coir variety of your choice, a small bowl, seeds you want to grow, and a biodegradable pot. You can also use a coco coir seed pod instead of a pot or seed tray.

To begin the process, put your coco coir of choice in the small bowl and pour water over it. For coco coir bricks or discs, it is important to add enough water for it to expand. From there, you can break up the coco coir to place in the biodegradable pot or seed tray. Make sure to save a small amount of coco coir to place over the seed itself.
If you are concerned about the nutrient levels when first growing seeds, make sure to add a nutrient mix to the coco coir base. If you are using a starter pack, it should come with the correct nutrients for growing seeds.

From there, you can place the seed on top of the coco coir and then place the remaining amount of coco coir on top of the seed. Depending on the type of seed you plant, it will require varying needs for sunlight, shade, and moisture levels.

Once your seed is popping up, you can place the biodegradable pot or coco coir pod right where you need it within your garden setting. Alongside your dream garden, you can include an outdoor coir doormat that matches your backyard aesthetic and fits within your sustainable approach to gardening.

Nutrients That Are Needed In Addition to Coco Coir

Coco coir soil on its own only has a pH level that is neutral. The pH levels range between 5.2 to 6.8 and is considered less acidic than peat moss options. Coco coir has the hindrance of being high in sodium nitrate and chlorine, which can potentially harm plant growth. To ensure your coco coir does not have high levels of sodium nitrate, you can check for salt levels on the label of the product.

In order to develop optimal plant growth, the coco coir base needs added nutrients to provide the best environment for a seedling. There are premade nutrient soil mixes available at the store or online, but you also can create your own. Adding organic compost, manure pellets, and perlite give a greater chance for the right nutrients to support your garden.

For ideal nutrients, you can include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, and nitrogen. The easiest way to achieve all nutrients for a plant is to purchase a fertilizer mix or a nutrient kit that is made for growing alongside a coco coir base.

When To Water Your Garden

Knowing when to water your garden depends on the type of plants you have decided to grow, but there are a few things to keep in mind. With coco coir as a base, the plant cannot fully dry out. In order to keep the plant from drying out, the amount of watering may need to be increased or regularly monitored.
If you are growing from seedlings, then you may need to water every day, or every other day. Intervals may increase, depending on the size and need of the plant. If you are using a hydroponics system, then your plants will need to be flooded every three to five hours to ensure the flood cycle is optimal for the plants.

Watering should be monitored to ensure your garden has the best chance for ideal growth. If you are uncertain whether the coco coir base is watered enough, simply pick up your plant to see if it feels heavy. If the planter feels light, then the coco coir is too dry and should be watered more frequently. There are also smart devices available that can assist with alerting you to what the water levels are and what is optimal for various plants.

Step 5: How To Clean and Reuse Coco Coir

Coco coir is unique in the fact it can be cleaned and reused again for other plants. Once you have harvested your last garden, simply gather up the coco coir and remove any plant matter that may be weaved into it.

Once any roots are removed from it, you can wash the coco coir with distilled water. By washing it, you ensure any extra salts or unwanted additives are flushed out for a clean slate in the next batch of plants.

If you are concerned the coco coir is still not flushed through enough, you can also use sensizym enzymes to break down any small remnants of the older plants. After you complete the process, the coco coir will be ready for use in the next planting season.

Step 6: Places For Coco Coir To Be Used Indoors and Outdoors

Coco coir does not have to be exclusively used for growing plants from seeds. It also has great potential for planting outdoors for tree rings landscaping, indoor succulent gardens, or a full hydroponic system.

Indoor Garden

For an indoor garden, coco coir pith or peat is more commonly used. The variety of pith gives indoor plants the highest chance for moisture retention without compromising oxygen levels or risking rot. Indoor gardens are ideal for those who do not have the yard space for a larger garden, or want a manageable amount of plants from the convenience of the indoors.

Outdoor Garden

Outdoor gardens have an endless amount of possibilities, but it is also important to consider what is within the soil outside when you are planting. Coco coir is often used for an outdoor tree ring to keep weeds out, along with a coir mat that can trap unwanted insects from infiltrating initial plant growth.

Outdoor gardens require more careful attention to the environment surrounding plants and what may be needed for varying weather conditions.

Succulent Garden

While many succulent gardens do not require a lot of watering, utilizing coco coir helps ensure the plants get enough water without intensive monitoring over time. Succulents also require a different type of soil supplement added to the coco coir to ensure it matches what it would need in its natural habitat.
Pumice, perlite, or sand are more commonly used as alternatives to where succulents would normally grow in a native environment. Make sure to know what type of succulent you are growing and what it may need.

Hydroponic Garden

A hydroponic gardening system relies on water to be cycled through for optimal growth. The system needs to be rinsed thoroughly and the coco coir needs to be checked for salt levels.

Salt levels can damage a hydroponic system, which can be avoided by checking how the coco coir was rinsed during the manufacturing process. Hydroponic gardens are increasingly popular inside and outside homes, as well as industrial contexts.

Step 7: Take a Step Back and Enjoy Your Garden

Using coco coir requires a few extra steps in preparation, but taking a step back to enjoy your garden makes it all worthwhile.

Coco coir options give plants extra space to breathe that keeps your garden healthier and more in tune with the environment surrounding it. Find what plants you want to grow this season and pair it with the perfect coco coir for plants.