What Is Coco Peat?
Coco peat is a type of soil made from organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings, wood chips or other materials. It’s used in many types of gardening including roses. It has been widely used for centuries in tropical climates where it provides a stable base for growing plants without needing heavy fertilizers or pesticides.
The term “peat” comes from the Portuguese word for “moss”. The name was originally applied to a type of moss found in tropical regions, but today it refers to any kind of soil with a porous structure that retains water well. It’s often referred to as a ‘soil’ because it resembles one when viewed through a microscope.
In its natural state, peat tends to be sandy and loose in texture. However, it can be compacted by adding clay particles or sand. When mixed with water, peat becomes a hard, dense material that holds moisture very well. It’s usually not recommended to grow plants in peat because it requires frequent watering and regular attention to aeration.
Coco peat is different than most soils because it contains a mixture of organic matter such as leaf mold and decaying vegetation such as leaves and branches. It’s usually grown in a sterile environment so that other fungal or bacterial contaminants are not present.
Coco peat is similar to the commercial product, “peat pellets” which are small, hard clumps of peat that can be used for rooting cuttings.
Is it Good to Use in the Garden?
Coco peat is an excellent choice for gardeners everywhere. Many people have started using it because it’s a renewable resource and can be used with many types of plants. It holds moisture well, but also allows air to circulate around the roots. This helps to prevent many fungal root problems which often occur with other types of soil.
Coco peat is sterile when it’s packaged, but can quickly be contaminated by bacteria or fungus if proper handling practices are not followed. Always make sure to keep it dry and cool (between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit) and never allow roots to come in direct contact with it.
Get a good gardening soil and mix in 50% peat for a healthy growing plant. You can also use 100% peat moss, but you’ll need to add more fertilizer to the soil since plants aren’t getting nutrients from organic matter like wood chips or leaf mold.
How to Use Coco Coir in Pots
If you’re using a soilless mix for your potted plants, you can substitute coco coir for part of the mix. Here’s what you need to do:
Use a ratio of 50% coco fiber with 20-10-10 fertilizer and water
Stop using fertilizer after the first two months. Continue to water as needed.
Add 5% perlite or Leca to improve aeration and drainage.
Manufacturing Process for Coco Coir
The Manufacturing Process for coco coir starts with harvesting the outer shell of the coconut, which is known as the husk. The texture of this husk can be described as a fiberous form of card board.
Once the shells have been collected, they are then shredded and put through a process of heat and pressure to turn it into coco peat. This material is then ready to be packaged and sent to distributors all over the world for use as a plant medium or grow media.
3 Types of Coco Coir
When one pictures coco coir, they often imagine stones and bits of wood in a bag of brownish fiber. While this is a type of coco coir, there are actually three kinds:
The first type of coco coir is referred to as unwashed or raw. This type has not been treated or processed in any way other than being shredded and packaged. This makes it suitable for certain types of orchids.
Washed coco coir has been treated with enzymes to remove allergens and dust. It’s sometimes called nursery grade. This is the type you want to use when growing for soil amendment or growing seedlings because it’s sterile and free of pests, fungal diseases and other contaminants.
The third type is known as saltwater coco coir. As the name implies, this type is taken from coconut husks that have been soaked in sea water. This type tends to be more expensive but has a higher ion content which can be beneficial to certain types of plants.
Proper Coco Coir Uses
Coco coir is a universal growing media that can be used for everything from seeding to germinating seeds, growing young plants, rooting cuttings or taking cuttings yourself and even as a soil amendment for potted plants.
It typically comes in bricks that are broken up and have lots of little bits and pieces of wood and shells in it. These pieces will eventually decay in your soil over time and can cause problems if you’re growing in a soilless mix, so it’s best to run it through a screen to catch the pieces before using it.
If you want to grow seedlings in coco coir, all you need to do is pour some through a screen to catch the big pieces of wood and shells, and then mix it 1:1 with your soilless growing mix. This will act as a soilless growing medium and provide both water retention and aeration.
Soilless Mix vs. Coco Coir
Coco coir is often used as a substitute for peat moss or soilless mix. It’s sometimes used by growers who want to grow organically since it’s a byproduct of the coconut industry and not an herbicide-laden moss like peat.
Peat moss is only half as effective as coco coir when it comes to water and nutrient holding abilities. This means that you use twice as much peat moss in your containers to get the same effect as coco coir.
It also doesn’t break down in soil which can lead to an accumulation of salts over time and isn’t as effective at mitigating pH swings.
Is Coco Coir Compatible with Soil?
Contrary to popular belief, coco coir can be used in growing plants in soil as long as the soil isn’t too heavy. This is because coconut coir is hydrophilic, which means it sucks up water and can hold a lot of it.
This can be a problem if you’re growing in heavy soils since the coco coir will hold so much water that it won’t allow air in, which is essential for root health. The coco coir will also cause the soil to become more alkaline.
If you’re growing in a soilless mix, there’s less worry about the pH, but you can still get the problem of the coco coir holding onto a lot of water, causing the mix to be too wet. This is why it’s best to use less coco coir when substituting in soilless mix.
Although there are several different ratios you can use when substituting coco coir for soil, most people use a 1:1 ratio, which is also what I recommend.
However, if you’re growing in soil, I’d use a 1:2 ratio. This will help prevent the soil from becoming too wet and will help alleviate the problem of having the soil become more alkaline.
Some growers don’t like to use coco coir or peat moss because they believe it locks out nitrogen. This is only partly true. It’s not the coco coir that locks out nitrogen, it’s how the coco coir is used in an aquatic environment that causes the nitrogen to not be absorbed by the plant.
Coco coir holds a lot of water, which is what causes the nitrogen problem in the first place. When coco coir is used in soils, it retains less water. This means that fertilizer is able to be absorbed by the plant rather than being trapped by the coco coir.
Coco Coir vs. Peat Moss
Coco coir is a great growing medium and is actually a lot better than peat moss. It holds less water, doesn’t trap as much fertilizer, and doesn’t have any negative effects on the pH.
Although some growers are trying to make peat moss obsolete by saying it’s an unsustainable resource, it’s still a great growing media that can be used for many years as long as it’s cared for properly.
My only complaint with peat moss is it can be a bit difficult to find in some areas. That’s the only reason why I grow with coco coir instead.
Next, you’ll need to decide what size containers you’d like to grow your plants in. Growing in containers is very popular because it’s a great way to control the nutrient levels and water of the plant. It also allows you to move your plants around a bit easier and prevents them from becoming root-bound.
Containers also ensure that you don’t have to tend to your plants as much since you can easily regulate the amount of water, nutrients, light, and air they receive.
Pots should have drainage holes at the bottom, otherwise, the soil will become waterlogged and not allow oxygen to reach the plant’s roots.
Forget to poke holes in the bottom of the pot?
No problem, just take a nail and hammer and punch a few holes in the bottom.
You can use any type of pot that you want, however glazed ceramic pots are probably the easiest to work with since they are porous. Pots can be found at most garden centers and sometimes even the big chain home stores.
It’s best to start with a pot that is at least a gallon in size, but larger is always better. Some growers use containers that are as large as 200 gallons! However, for your first time growing, a simple pot will do. Remember to pick one that has a drainage hole in the bottom.
Now you’re ready to get your hands dirty! Well, not really. There’s no need to get the dirt (or coco fiber) all over yourself. This is a great time to open up that bag of coco fiber you’ve had sitting around for so long!
If you don’t happen to have a bag of coco fiber, then it’s off to the garden center to buy some. You can also get coco fiber online, but make sure you buy enough to fill up your potting containers.
How much coco fiber you’ll need to fill up each pot depends entirely on the size of the pot. In my examples below, I’m using a 10″ X 20″ X 2.
Sources & references used in this article:
Coir-a XXIst Century sustainable growing medium by MA Nichols – VIII International Symposium on Protected Cultivation …, 2006 – actahort.org
Coco peat as a substitute for peat moss in the production of cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana L.) seedlings. by LA Díaz, G Fischer, SP Pulido – Revista Colombiana de Ciencias …, 2010 – cabdirect.org
Effect of nitrogen levels and growing media on growth, flowering and bulb production of Lilium cultivars by N Rani, R Kumar, KK Dhatt – Journal of Ornamental Horticulture, 2005 – indianjournals.com
Effect of coco peat medium and electrical conductivity on production of gerbera by C Aswath, P Pillai – Journal of Ornamental Horticulture, 2004 – indianjournals.com
Recent advances in coir as a growing medium by MA Nichols, NA Savidov – … on Soilless Culture and Hydroponics 843, 2008 – actahort.org
Effect of media on hardening of in vitro multiplied plantlets of gloxinia and saintpaulia under low cost polytunnels by B Kashyap, SR Dhiman – International Journal of Farm Sciences, 2011 – indianjournals.com
The effect of biochar on plant diseases: what should we learn while designing biochar substrates? by O Frenkel, AK Jaiswal, Y Elad, B Lew… – Journal of …, 2017 – Taylor & Francis
Effect of different potting media on growth of a hanging ornamental plant (Tradescantia sp.) by MH Khelikuzzaman – Journal of Tropical Agriculture and Food …, 2007 – jtafs.mardi.gov.my