Coco coir for hydroponics is made out of the husks of coconuts. It’s an environmentally friendly growing medium that has excellent moisture retention. Coco coir comes as coco peat/pith, fibers, or chips. Each has its own pros and cons. Ultimately, coco coir will increase your yields and create bountiful harvests.
Keep reading to learn more about coco coir!
What Is Coco Coir And How Is It Made?
Coco coir is made from coconut husks and is a hydroponic growing medium. It was originally used in the 1800s for gardening in the west. It became less popular over time as only low-quality coco was available.
By the end of the 1900s, it resurfaced again to be used as an environmentally friendly, organic substrate.
Coco coir is made from fiber torn off of coconut shells. These tiny coir grains are pulverized until they’re a usable substrate.
First the coconuts go through a process called “retting”, which is a way to cure the coconut fibers and naturally decompose the pulp of the husk. Traditionally the husks of coconuts were kept in water for up to half a year to decompose, but now it can take about a week thanks to modern technology.
Next, steel combs defiber the coconut fiber from the shells.
Once the coir is collected from the husks of coconuts, it gets dried and processed into whatever form it’s going to be sold as. Now it’s ready to use!
Advantages of Coco Coir as Hydroponic Growing Medium
Let’s go over some of the pros of coco.
- Big plant yields and fast harvests. When coco coir is used in drain-to-waste growing, it excels beyond other mediums. Using the correct coco coir nutrient content, your plants will spend less energy looking for food and put more energy into plant growth.
- Room for the root system. Coco coir is great at retaining water, draining, and aerating. The roots have lots of room to grow, resulting in great air pockets and air exposure.
- pH neutral. Coco coir has a pH ranging between 5.2-6.8. However, this pH will still fluctuate so it will still require hydroponic nutrient supplements.
- Minimizes pathogens and plant pests. Coco coir is antifungal, effectively protecting the roots. It even has the ability to repel certain pests.
- Environmentally friendly. Hydroponic coco coir can be reused and is fully natural.
- Simple to use. Coco coir for hydroponics is perfect for beginners because you don’t have to monitor your garden as much thanks to its water retention.
Disadvantages of Coco Coir as Hydroponic Growing Medium
Now let’s talk about some of the cons of coco.
- High in salt content. Be sure to research how your coco coir is produced. Sometimes the husks are soaked in salt water and may not be properly rinsed off.
- Chemical treatment. After drying, coir bales are sometimes treated with chemicals to make sure pathogens didn’t make a home in the coir.
- Can lock out iron, magnesium, and calcium. Due to coco coir’s high cation exchange rate, it stores and releases nutrients when it’s required to. But it likes to hold onto Fe, Mg, and Ca. You may need to add more of these nutrients to your nutrient-rich water or get a nutrient solution that’s specific to coco coir to offset this effect.
- Price. Coco coir can tend to be more pricey and is also hard to find in small quantities.
- Hard for roots to penetrate. Sometimes the roots of your plants may have trouble breaking through the wet coco coir so they won’t get as much oxygenated nutrients as needed.
How Do I Use Coco Coir?
First, you need to know that there are three different kinds of processed coco coir- pith, fiber, and chips.
Peat (coco coir pith) looks a lot like peat moss but it’s a deep brown color. Its density retains water very well. Because of this, you probably don’t want to use coco peat/pith on its own because it could drown your plant roots. Those are the main properties of coco pith.
Coco fibers are more like stringy bundles and they easily let oxygen get into the root systems of your plants. On its own, the fiber isn’t very absorbent. In addition, over time it will break down. But it’s strong enough to be reused.
Lastly, coco chips are little chunks and are the best of both worlds. They retain moisture well but also let in enough air.
If you have enough experience, you can create individualized mixtures out of these three kinds of coconut coir for hydroponics. If you don’t have the experience or just don’t feel like doing so, you can buy a blend of coco products.
Now back to how to use hydroponic coco coir!
Fill buckets up with coco coir and rinse it thoroughly with clean water. If you’re using coco in brick form, soak the bricks to help break them down. Then let them dry and soak them again before using them.
After all this, you can add your coco coir to your setup and use it like you would any other grow medium!
What Nutrients Will I Need?
Coco coir needs extra calcium, magnesium, and iron. This is because the coir chemically binds to all of these plant nutrients. It hog the nutrients and doesn’t let the plants soak them up.
You can find coco-specific nutrients to account for this. These additional nutrients will help provide the plants nutrients needed for optimal growth. Just add the nutrients to your nutrient-rich water and you’ll be all set!
Growing with Coco Coir
To grow with hydroponic coco coir you need plants, a container, plants nutrients, coco coir, and a light source.
You can grow hydroponic vegetables both indoors and outdoors.
There are plenty of different hydroponic gardens like the ebb and flow system or deep water culture. Choose the hydroponic garden setup that best matches your skill level and available resources.
Use the hydroponic coco coir as your substrate and follow the steps described earlier to grow with coco coir!
Let’s answer some frequently asked questions.
Can you use coco coir in aquaponics?
You can use coco coir in aquaponics. One of the benefits of using coco coir in aquaponics is its excellent water retention. This will keep your crops from becoming dehydrated. It’s also environmentally friendly and reusable.
However, it has a tendency to carry too much moisture if not used correctly. Be sure to monitor your pH levels when using coco coir!
Can I use coco coir instead of soil?
You can use coco coir instead of soil. It can be used as a soil substitute or mixed in with soil as additional organic matter.
Coco coir is a great hydroponic growing medium for beginners and veterans alike. While it holds onto moisture well, it also allows oxygen to reach the roots. You get the best of both worlds! Coconut coir for hydroponics works well with many different growing methods and will create quick, high yields.
Check out the rest of our blog to learn more about hydroponic gardening!