What is Coconut Coir, and Why Should You Use It?


Picture of coconut coir

Owing to its fibrous, tough texture, coconut coir has endless uses. Coconut fruit also remains a great fruit option for a significant number of people. I particularly like the nutritious water with lots of potassium and the delicious flesh. However, many people don’t pay so much attention to the outside husk despite its many benefits.

The coconut husk was considered a waste product. This includes all materials from the coconut’s inner shell to the husk. However, people have now realized the benefits of these materials. Everything from the shell to the seed in the coconut makes up the coconut coir.

The fibers that make up the coconut coir can either be white or brown. White fibers are from a pre-ripe coconut and are less strong but more flexible. Mature and ripe coconuts have brown coir that is less flexible but much stronger. Many gardeners have started using coconut coir because:

  • It helps in moisture retention, absorbing up to ten times its weight while in water. This means that it keeps your plant roots hydrated every time.
  • The coconut fibers also provide adequate growing media for plant roots to work through that helps promote healthy root development. Many gardeners are now turning to coir since it’s a greener alternative instead of peat moss for water retention. Besides, peat moss takes several years to form, and harvest rates are lower. Since coconuts are available commercially in the food industry, we can easily access short coconut fibers.

Still, unlike peat moss, coir breaks down slowly, so you’ll enjoy the benefits of aeration and water retention for extended periods. In this guide, we’ll go into the details about coconut coir, the reasons why people use it, and more. Keep reading to learn more.

Types of Coconut Coir

When planning to use coconut coir fibers in your garden, it is important first to know the different types of processed coir available that you can use. Besides, utilizing various types of coconut coir also avails more benefits since they provide a more powerful growing medium to the plants. Below are the three basic coconut coir types.

Coco fibers

Picture of coconut fiber

You can notice coco fiber by its stingy bundle appearance. This type of coir helps improve aeration by adding air pockets in the medium, allowing oxygen to penetrate a plant’s root system. I like the fact that this type is handy enough so I can still reuse it. Besides, green gardening is all about recycling and reusing. Also, coco fibers are very absorbent, good quality since the growing media needs air pockets for proper aeration.

Coco Pith or Coco Peat

picture of container with coco peat and a plant

Coco pith looks somewhat similar to peat moss or finely grounded coconut. The only noticeable difference is the rich brown color. Due to the density of the coco pith, it has outstanding water retention capabilities. As a result, we should avoid using plants prone to root rot and those sensitive to overwatering. This is because coco pith retains water exponentially well, and this quality can easily swamp plant roots.

Also, it’s too small such that if you were to use it as the only growing medium, you might end up drowning out all the roots of your plant. If you want to use it as a growing media, you must age it properly because it can easily let out salts that can kill plants if you aren’t cautious enough.

Coco Chips

picture of coconut chips

Typically, coco chips are a natural type of expanded clay pellet. They consist of small chunks or coco coir that mix the best properties of fiber and peat into one product. Coco chips are good water retainers and are also large enough to have air pockets that improve aeration. With coco chips, your plants will not dehydrate entirely.

If you are a gardener, it’s essential to use the right mixture of these three types of coconut coir for the best results. For experienced growers, you know what’s suitable for your plants’ growth. You can make a mixture out of these coir types or go for the premixed products.

Where Can You Use Coconut Coir?

Typically, coconut coir is available in different forms and textures, each serving a particular purpose for gardening. Below are several areas where you can use coconut coir.

Biodegradable Pots

Today, coconut coir has become popular in molded pots due to its biodegradable properties. A close look into several shops, and you will notice that most of the stores or local nurseries sell plants that come packaged in a coconut coir plant.

In fact, we have discovered that coir fibers are so beneficial for transplants that’s why most of the coir molded pots are already seedling sized. As a result, you can easily transplant the disc-started seedlings onto the coconut coir pots without interfering with the growth of the plants. Once the plants are ready for the outdoors when the weather warms up, you only need to place the coir pot and the plant on the flower bed or garden.

You don’t have to worry about the new root since the coconut coir pot protects them as they expand and hold the moisture, making it perfect for plant growth.

Hanging Baskets and Planters

For people who love hanging window box planters and baskets, coconut coir is the perfect blend for these items. The main advantage of using coir to hang planters is that plants will not grow directly on the fibers. Instead, the coir lines the planter or basket, thereby creating an attractive, breathable, and naturally-looking pot that weighs much less than ceramic options that we would otherwise use.

Better yet, the fibers usually hold the potting medium tightly in place and retain water and release it slowly to the plants. Also, the porous nature of the coconut coir, when used as a basket liner, enables the plants to receive enough oxygen. Therefore, with the coir fiber, you can water your planters and leave the plants to grow. You need to watch out for the soil not to dry since coir fibers are porous than traditional pots, so they might allow excess water to escape.

Flower Beds and Vegetable Gardens

Many people have learned the benefits that coir brings to their vegetable gardens and flower beds. Incorporating coconut coir in your gardens helps to improve the soil naturally. Besides, this is a less expensive option than going for the ready-to-use coir mix.

Hydroponic Systems

Due to the several qualities that coconut coir offers, they are a good option for hydroponic systems. Notably, coconut coir is suitable for water retention, is antifungal, has a neutral pH, slow to decompose, and assists in transferring nutrients to plants’ root systems. These qualities are a perfect recipe for healthy and happy indoor plants. Depending on the plants you choose to grow in the hydroponics, you can add some nutrients at least once a month.

Although coir has many phosphorus and potassium, it still lacks vital nutrients such as copper, chlorine, iron, magnesium, calcium, nitrogen, and manganese. Still, you can enrich the growing medium with additional worm castings and microorganisms.

Container Plants

We can choose to use coconut coir fibers either as a soil topper or at the bottom of the pots. The fibers provide lots of benefits to the plants regardless of where you place them. When used at the top as a soil cover, the coir helps to prevent evaporation.

On the other hand, the coir fibers help maintain moist conditions and prevent water from dripping out. Therefore, when used on the bottom, you won’t have to worry about watering your plants as often. You only need to place a few inches of the coir fibers at the bottom of the planting pot, then add potting mix or choose to cover the top by fitting the fiber around the plant’s base.

Climbing Plants

Coconut coir poles offer immense benefits to climbing plants such as roses and vines. These poles usually have coir fibers wrapped around them. If you want to use one, push the pole into the center of the container you intend to use for seed planting, then plant the seeds at the base of the coir pole. As the plant grows, it will wind its way around the pole.

The coconut coir avails more moisture and support while also giving the entire set-up an appealing look.

Pros and Cons of Using Coconut Coir

As we’ve seen, there are amazing benefits of using coconut coir. However, like any other growing media, there are some disadvantages that you need to be aware of before making your purchase.

Pros

Sustainable

Unlike other planting media such as peat moss, coconut coir allows for reuse. Moreover, you harvest peat moss from a gradually declining bog, whereas coir results from a coconut husk, which is a repurposed waste. Yet, we can get multiple nuts per year from an average mature coconut palm.

While the clean coconuts find their way into stores, modern methods take care of the shaggy coir that was usually burned or discarded in the past, increasing carbon problems.

Improves soil conditions

When we add coconut coir to the soil while planting, it helps improve drainage, aeration, and water retention.

Has a neutral pH level

The pH level of coir is almost neutral, unlike highly acidic peat moss. The majority of flowers and vegetables thrive in neutral to slightly alkaline conditions.

Free of fungi and bacteria

One thing that I like about coconut coir is that it’s free of diseases or pests. There will be no harm to your plants while using coir.

Environmentally safe

If you have previously used peat moss, then you know it possesses environmental concerns. However, you can use coir more than once since it doesn’t break down as fast as peat moss.

Reasonably priced

You can purchase coconut coir at a relatively affordable price, especially when it comes in compressed forms. This also makes it possible to transport since it’s lightweight, although it can expand to nearly double its size after soaking it in water.

Different types

There are three types of coconut coir, so you can choose the one that best suits your plants or even mix them.

Cons

Requires rehydration

Many coconut coir products come dry or are in the form of compressed bricks. This means you have to rehydrate them before using them in your garden. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be a complicated process.

May need extra supplements

If you have plants that require nutrients that aren’t available in coco coir, you may have to add supplements or use fertilizers.

Conclusion on what is coconut coir

In a nutshell, coconut coir is a wonderful gardening medium when used right. Its outstanding traits, such as improved water and moisture retention, sustainability, and eco-friendly nature, make it a versatile gardening addition among many other uses. Incorporate coconut coir in your garden today and get creative.

Suppose you are wondering if coconut coir is an alternative to peat moss. I wrote an article about coconut coir as a natural alternative to peat moss. You can read it here.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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