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What is Coconut Coir? How to Use it for Gardening

Coconut Coir is an excellent growing medium and a sustainable option for gardening. Here's everything you need to know!
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When you are growing green stuff, it simply makes sense to “stay green” all the way. Today, more than ever before, it’s important for gardeners to use ecologically sustainable materials to protect better and preserve our planet’s resources and its fragile ecosystems.

And this is when coconut coir comes into the scene. It is both an excellent growing medium and a sustainable option for gardening. This naturally occurring byproduct of coconuts is available for use in gardens in an array of forms, from chips to bricks, pith, compressed discs, grow bags, and poles.

This article will guide you through everything you need to know about coco coir, from what it is to what the pros and cons of using it are, how to prepare it, and more. Keep reading to find out more!

What Is Coconut Coir?

It’s easy to guess what coconut coir is, thanks to its self-explanatory name. This organic product is derived from the coconut tree. More specifically, coconut coir is a fiber that comes from the tough, dense husk that coconuts are famous for.

The chances are that you had used coconut coir before, even if you didn’t know what it is or you simply weren’t aware that it had a name. Gardeners around the world often use coconut coir in potting soil mixes. If you take a closer look at the potting mix you use for your plants, you’d probably see that there are some brown, very fibrous-looking particles in it. Those particles are fragments of coconut coir! So, if you’ve used such mixes before in your garden, it is safe to say you’re already familiar with coconut coir.

Coco Coir Block of Soiless Growing Media, From Amazon

An interesting fact about coconut coir is that it has been used in Asia for thousands of years. However, this organic product’s benefits for gardening became popular in other parts of the world only recently. It was only towards the end of the 20th century when people rediscovered that coconut coir is an organic, environmentally sustainable growing medium.

Thanks to its tough and fibrous texture, people have used coconut coir to make ropes, rugs, brushes, doormats, mattress stuffing, and upholstery.

Another fantastic characteristic of this material is the fact that it is resistant to root rot and fungus. So it is an excellent solution for gardening with plants that are sensitive to overwatering.

How Is Coconut Coir Produced?

Coconut coir is produced by extracting tiny grains of coir from the coconut shell, which are then pulverized into a packable growing substrate.

The coconuts go through a retting process, a method of decomposing the husk’s pulp naturally. Long before we used modern technology in the manufacturing industry, people had to immerse the coconut husks in water for nearly six months or even longer until they started to decompose. Luckily for us, this retting process now takes as little as a week, so coconut coir is an affordable and easy-to-come-by material.

After the retting process is completed, the next step is defibering, a process in which the coconut fiber is removed from the shells with steel combs. Once the fiber is removed and gathered, it goes through a drying process. After that, it is pressed into different forms such as bricks, discs, coir pots, or bagged as a loose mulch.

coconut coir for planting
coconut coir for planting

Types of Coconut Coir

If you’re planning to use coconut coir in your garden, you need to know that there are more types of processed coco coir. Furthermore, using a combination of different types has many benefits. Here are the basic types of coco coir:

  • Coco pith – This type of coco coir looks very similar to peat moss. The only noticeable difference is that it has a rich, brown color. Coco pith has a density that allows for very good water retention. It is not recommended to use it for plants that are sensitive to overwatering and prone to root rot because it retains water exceptionally well, which can swamp the roots of your plants.
  • Coco fibers – Coco fibers look like stingy bundles. They improve aeration as they allow the oxygen to penetrate the plant’s root system. The main benefit of this type of coco coir is the fact that it is hardy enough to allow reuse, and we all know that ‘green gardening’ is all about reusing and recycling.
  • Coco chips – These are small chunks of coir that basically mix the best properties of peat and fiber into one product. Chips retain water really well, and they also allow for air pockets to improve aeration.

If you are an experienced grower and you know exactly what your plants need to thrive, you can prepare your own mixture out of these three types of coco coir. You can also find premixed products available to buy if you don’t want to go through all the hassle of doing it yourself.

Coco Bliss Premium Coconut Coir, From Amazon

The Benefits of Using Coconut Coir

There are plenty of things to love about coconut coir. This organic product has a wide range of benefits that make eco-friendly gardening a lot easier. Here are the pros of using coconut coir:

  • It’s a renewable resource –Unlike peat, for example, coconut coir doesn’t take a century to form in a bog.
  • It’s sustainable and eco-friendly –If you want to be an eco-conscious gardener, coconut coir will help you protect our planet’s resources. Since it’s a renewable resource and it is biodegradable, unlike perlite or vermiculite, coconut coir is an eco-friendly option.
  • It has a very neutral pH level –The pH of coconut coir is almost neutral. It ranges from just over 5 to just under 7, meaning that it is an excellent base for all plants.
  • It helps improve soil conditions –By adding coconut coir into the soil when planting your flowers, you’ll improve drainage, water retention, and aeration.
  • It’s free from bacteria and fungi –Good quality coconut coir contains no pests or disease.

Are There Any Cons In Using Coconut Coir?

Despite having plenty of benefits, there are also some noticeable flaws in coconut coir, including:

  • Different qualities –The quality of coconut coir products can differ from one supplier to another. And, since product quality can vary, this may affect your garden. For example, inferior quality products can include weeds, pests, and diseases because of improper processing or storage. So, it’s quite important to read the labels and buy from trusted sources.
  • It’s not that nutrient-packed – Unlike other organic materials, coconut coir doesn’t contain many nutrients such as calcium or magnesium. You must either buy a product that has been enriched with nutrients or add fertilizer to help your plants grow.
  • It can be costly – Compared to peat or vermiculite products, coconut coir can be a bit more expensive.
Growing in pots made from Coconut Coir
Growing in pots made from Coconut Coir

How to Prepare Coco Coir

Now you know what coconut coir is and what the pros and cons of using it in your garden are. So, you may be wondering “how to prepare it for planting”. Don’t worry! We’ve got the answer for this one as well.

To properly prepare coco coir for planting, you must first hydrate it. Hydration and rinsing the product several times before use are essential to eliminate excess sodium, which most products contain due to processing in saltwater. So, place the coconut coir, no matter the type you use, in water and let it soak for at least 15 minutes to absorb. Once it absorbs enough water, you’ll notice that it will resemble the ideal soil-like consistency for planting.

Coir for Soil Amendment or Potting Medium, From Amazon

The next step for preparing coconut coir is to add nutrients to it. Like we’ve already mentioned, coconut coir lacks naturally existing nutrients. So, during the preparation stage, you need to add essential nutrients to it to ensure that your plants will thrive and grow as healthy as they did in other mediums like peat moss.

What nutrients should you add? That’s a matter of personal choice based on what nutrients your plant needs to thrive. Research the specific growing instructions for your plant to see what nutrients will help it grow healthy and happy.

What Can Coconut Coir Be Used For?

How exactly can you use coconut coir in gardening? There are plenty of uses for this organic product, including:

  • Garden soil additive – In outdoor gardening, coconut coir can be a fantastic addition to your soil, no matter the type. This organic product has amazing water retaining and aerating capabilities. For example, if your garden has clayey soil, coco coir can help thanks to its lightening effect. If you have sandy soil in your garden, coco coir will help retain water more efficiently.
  • Soilless potting mix component – Coco coir can also be an excellent addition to homemade soil mixes for similar reasons of why it makes a great garden soil additive. It will improve soil drainage and water retention.
  • A sustainable alternative to peat moss – For all eco-friendly gardeners out there, coco coir should be your go-to option to replace peat bogs in your planting. Unlike peat bogs which are a nonrenewable source of peat, coco coir is a byproduct of coconut farming, making it a significantly more sustainable source. What’s more, coco coir also has some added benefits over peat, including being more easier to manipulate and work with. It has an almost neutral pH, making it a better choice for a wider variety of plants, it combines with nutrients better than peat, and it is also superior when it comes to water retention.

Using Coconut Coir for Indoor Plants vs. Outdoor Plants

If there’s one thing to love about coco coir is the fact that it is a very versatile gardening accessory. It is perfect for growing all types of plants, flowers and vegetables, no matter if you grow them indoors, outdoors, or within a hydroponic system.

For both indoor and outdoor planting, coco coir needs to be adequately prepared just like we’ve explained above: by hydrating it and by adding the necessary nutrients. However, depending on whether you use it for indoor or outdoor plants, it must be treated differently.

Indoor use

More precisely, for houseplants, coco coir makes an excellent growing medium, thanks to its abilities of moisture retention and good aeration. When you prepare it for indoor plants, we recommend using the smallest coco brick you can find. Keep in mind that you’ll have to hydrate the entire brick to be able to break it apart. Since you will need less product compared to garden use, there’s no point in hydrating more product than you’ll use. What’s more, for houseplants, it’s recommended to add nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to help your plants grow healthy.

If you want to use coco coir for indoor succulents, you also have to pay attention to the product’s water-retentive abilities. Most succulents don’t like wet feet and are prone to root rot. So, when preparing coco coir for planting succulents, add a coarser material like pumice, perlite, or sand to improve drainage. Also, keep in mind to not overwater your plants and to allow sufficient drying time.

Coconut Coir Garden Use

When using coco coir in the garden, you need to pay attention to your outdoor space’s naturally existing soil. Considering this, you will be able to tell how coir should be added to create an ideal growing environment for your plants. For example, if you have clay soil in your garden, it can be too dense for growing vegetables or other outdoor plants. By adding coco coir to your soil before planting your greens can help create a much lighter texture which will allow roots to grow and thrive.

In contrast, if your garden’s soil type is sandy, then it may be too dry for plants to thrive in it. In this case, coco coir significantly improves your garden’s water and moisture retention.

As you should do when preparing coco coir for indoor use, it’s essential to add vital nutrients in the preparation stage to ensure that your plants will thrive.

In Conclusion

Coconut coir can be an amazing gardening accessory if you use it right. It has plenty of advantages, including being durable, sustainable, and having lots of properties that you can use to help your plants thrive. If your plants need improved water and moisture retention, coconut coir can help with that. If your plants need a lighter growing medium, this organic product can help again.

The best part of it all is that coconut coir is an eco-friendly product. It will help you be an eco-conscious grower who protects our planet while growing their favorite plants.

Are you using coconut coir in your garden? Share your experience with us in the comments below!

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Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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