How To Use Coconut Coir In Gardening

How To Use Coconut Coir In Gardening

Chances are you’ve never looked at a coconut and thought, “I could use this for gardening.”

Or maybe you have, such as by putting it in your compost heap, in which case well done! But interestingly, some parts of coconut are being used as a soil amendment, even though they used to be seen as nothing more than waste: they’re known as coconut coir.

What, exactly, is coconut coir?

Coconut coir is the fibrous material that is found between the outer covering of the coconut and its internal shell.  

What can you use coconut coir for? Here’s everything you need to know about coconut coir in gardening.

How Coconut Coir Is Processed

Before we can look at how coconut coir benefits the garden, we need to look at how it’s processed. First, coconuts are soaked in water so that they become soft.

Then, they are dried for many months, after which they are organized into bales. These bales are chopped into different forms, such as ground coconut or coconut chips, so that they can be used in the garden.

Why Is Coconut Coir Becoming So Popular?

Why Is Coconut Coir Becoming So Popular?

Coconut coir is being used as an alternative to peat moss as it’s said to be better for the soil. Here’s why.

  • It has a neutral pH level, which is beneficial to soil because peat moss is very acidic.
  • It doesn’t require the use of limestone. When you use peat in garden beds, you often have to use agricultural lime to reduce its acidity. Since coconut coir isn’t high in acidity, it doesn’t require lime.
  • It’s sustainable. While peat moss takes hundreds of years to regrow after being harvested, coconut coir is a natural by-product of coconut harvests which take place every year, so it’s much more of a sustainable gardening option.

Other Benefits Of Coconut Coir For Gardening Include The Following:

  • It boosts soil quality. Coconut coir is organic matter and so it provides natural material to the soil.
  • It keeps the soil loose. By adding coconut coir to your soil, this causes the soil to loosen up and contain more air. This is the best quality of soil for a variety of plants.
  • It improves soil drainage. Coconut coir breaks down at a really slow rate and when it does, it produces air pockets in the soil. These ensure proper drainage for plants. Coconut coir also maintains a bit of the moisture in the soil to prevent the soil from draining too quickly.
  • It repels pests. Since coconut coir has antifungal properties, it’s great for plant roots. It can also help to repel some garden pests so that you won’t have to use as many repellents.
  • It’s rich in potassium. Coconut coir has a lot of potassium, so if you’re choosing a fertilizer for your soil you should opt for one that doesn’t contain high amounts of this nutrient. It also contains some copper, zinc, iron, and manganese, although not in large amounts.
  • It can enhance your compost. You can add coconut coir to your compost pile. Since it’s rich in carbon, it can help to balance materials in the compost that have high levels of nitrogen, such as grass clippings. You should put two parts of coconut coir to one part green materials (such as grass clippings and fruit scraps) in your compost, or equal parts of coir and your compost’s brown materials (such as dried leaves). 

What Type Of Coconut Coir Should You Use?

What Type Of Coconut Coir Should You Use?

There are different coconut coir types that you can purchase, each with their own pros and cons. Let’s take a look at them.

  • Coco fibers. These are bundles of coconut coir that enable more oxygen to penetrate the roots of plants. These fibers are also strong enough to be reused.
  • Coco chips. These pieces of coconut coir maintain water but also create air pockets, so they’re a very good way to use coconut coir in your garden.
  • Coco pith or peat. This looks a lot like peat moss, but it has a dark brown color. It holds onto water well, so it’s good not to use it on its own as it could cause plants that you grow in it to get too much water.
  • Coco bricks. Dried coconut coir bricks are easy to use because you just have to add water to them. That said, their drawback is that many of them are of low, unprocessed quality, so always find out where you’re purchasing yours and what it contains.

Sometimes, using different types of coconut coir is a good idea so that you can get the best qualities of each of them. However, it’s not always easy to do so, especially if you’re a beginner, which is why purchasing a premixed coco coir product can be a better idea.  

How To Use Coconut Coir

If you’re interested in purchasing coconut coir, you might wonder how, exactly, you’re supposed to use its different types. Here’s a crash course to help you get started.

If you’re using a coconut coir brick

You should place the brick inside a container that’s filled with water. This will enable it to expand. Then, mix it into the soil that you’re prepping. You should do this by adding equal parts soil and coir in a container.

You can also add one part compost if you like. Then, mix together the components so that they’re well blended. The coconut coir will help poorly-absorbing soil to hold onto moisture while also giving excellent drainage to clay-based soil.

If you’re using coconut coir chips

Simply sprinkle them over your flower beds instead of using other materials, such as bark.

This will ensure that the soil remains hydrated and aerated. These chips are really easy to use because they’re pretty much like clay pellets. They’re made to be big enough to encourage air pockets in the soil while maintaining moisture.

If you’re using coconut coir fibers:

Coconut coir fibers are used as liners in hanging baskets or other containers. These fibers are dried out and don’t undergo further processing, which is beneficial because they can enhance the drainage of garden soil as well as potting mixes.

If you’re using coconut coir pith or peat

As we mentioned earlier, coco coir doesn’t work well on its own because it holds onto water. In addition to that, it also doesn’t have lots of nutritional value (other than potassium), so it will benefit your plants and vegetables to have a mix of coco peat with compost.

Make sure you rinse the pith well to prevent salt from being released when it’s used.

Can You Make Your Own Coconut Coir?

Can You Make Your Own Coconut Coir?

If you’re interested in DIY, you might want to try making your own coconut coir. This tutorial by Planimal on YouTube shows how you can extract your own coconut coir from coconut husks and use it to make your own potting mix.

Here’s what you’ll need

  • Raw coconut husk (you can purchase this from coconut sellers)
  • Large bowl
  • Pestle and mortar
  • Strainer

Instructions

  • Put pieces of raw coconut husk into the mortar and crush them well to soften them. This makes it easier to separate the fibers.
  • After you have crushed the husks, you should put them in a bowl.
  • Try to separate the fibers of the husks as much as you can. You’ll see that what will start to collect in the bowl is the coir dust.
  • Put this dust into another bowl that has some water in it and mix it well. Using your hands, take bunches of the coir and squeeze them to get the water out of them. You can also use a strainer to make sure you get all the water out. 
  • Once all the water has been removed, you’ll see that you have what looks like bricks of coconut coir that you can purchase from shops. You can add it to your potting mix.

Related Questions

Is it possible to water coco coir too much?

Coconut coir is quite adaptable to different conditions and this is what makes it so great for gardening beginners. Just make sure you don’t let it dry out completely or be soaked with too much water. Aim to water coconut coir every four or five days.

Does coco coir expire?

Although coconut coir you’ve purchased might not go bad itself, it could have additives that can expire. Generally, though, make sure you use it within three to nine months.

Conclusion

If you’ve never heard of coconut coir before, now you know everything you need to know about this valuable gardening material so you can start using it in your garden to help your plants thrive.

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