Many growers prefer coco coir for a variety of reasons, however you need to keep track of important details such as how the medium is made, its general properties, and what coco coir nutrients are needed. Managing nutrients is particularly important when working with coir and is one of the main reasons it’s favoured by so many.
We’ve listed all the facts when it comes to using Coco to help you make an informed decision
What is Coco Coir and how is it made?
Coco coir is a byproduct of coconut production, first used in the 19th century, the low-quality coco coir available at the time degraded quickly and as a result soon fell out of fasion, however towards the end of the 20th century it was rediscovered as an organic, enrivonmentally friendly substrate when greater production methods made it possible to create higher and hardier yields.
The coir is manufactured by tearing the fibers from coconut shells, previously done by hand after a long curing time to naturally degrade the fibers but now large machinery controls the operation due to the massive demand. Once the fibers are removed from the coconut shells tiny grains of coir are extracted and pulverized into the familiar growing substrate we see today. Traditionally, coconuts would have been submersed under water for 6 to 12 months but today, the process can be completed in a little over a week using modern mechanical techniques.
Finally, the coconut fiber is removed from the shells by steel combs, in a process known as defibering.
The Benefits Of Using Coconut Coir
- Plenty of room for root growth: Coco Coir offers an excellent but rare combination of reliable drainage, super water retention and perfect aeration. Because Coco Coir is so fine there is plenty of space available for roots allowing optimum oxygen exposure.
- It’s pH-neutral: With a natural pH range of 5.2 – 6.8, you will need still need to supplement the coir with nutrients because the pH levels will fluctuate. You can learn more about getting the pH right here. It’s not complicated or expensive.
- Keeps the pests away: Coco Coir is often blended with beneficial mycorrhizal fungi for the anti-fungal properties which as well as keeping critters away, keeps the roots extremely happy, the mycorrhizal creates a symbiotic relationship with the plants roots helping them to explode in growth. I’ve gained a lot of pest prevention experience over the years, you can read my recommendations here.
- Reusable: When properly treated, Coco Coir can and should be reused, if you want more information on recycling your coir, check this out.
- Save the trees, man: On average, a coconut tree will drop 150 coconuts a year. The coir is used from the part of the fruit that would usually go to waste
The Downside To Using Coconut Coir
- Calcium and Magnesium lockout: Make sure that you take a look at our recommended nutrients for growing in coco, as many growers face issues with Calcium and Magnesium deficiencies, these can be easily remedied by adjusting your feed.
- Salt and Chemical treatment: Often during the manufacturing process, the husks will be soaked in salt water and/or various chemicals to make separating the fibers easier. I like to flush the coco coir by filling a 50L container and running pH 5.5 water through until it runs clear. I usually flush the coco coir with around a water:coco ratio of 4:1.