Coco vs soil - which grow media is the best option for you this season? When you’re starting a garden of any kind, there are lots of considerations you’ll need to make.
What kinds of plants are you going to grow? Will you use a hydroponics system or grow plants in a raised bed or container?
Of course, you’ll also have to decide on the proper growing media. Coco coir is a natural material that has been used in agriculture for decades. It's made from the husk of coconuts and provides an excellent growing medium for sustainable gardening, particularly in the hydroponic setting.
A byproduct of the coconut industry, it is often seen as the all-purpose solution that is far superior to soil - but is it really?
Garden soil, as you know, can exist in many forms, textures, and types, including sand, silt, loam, and clay. It is found naturally in your garden yet can also be purchased by the bag or yard at just about any gardening supply store. You can even make your own organic super soil at home, too, if you are so inclined.
Both coco coir and soil are frequently used by gardeners to fill their containers or raised beds. They can both be used on just about any kind of plant and present their own benefits and disadvantages, many of which are shared between both.
Coco Coir vs Soil - Similarities and Differences
There are a few differences and similarities between coco vs soil. Coco coir is made out of the fibers of coconut husks and offers growers a variety of benefits.
It is eco-friendly and easy to use. Since it is so light and airy, it is often used for commercial growers in their greenhouses.
You likely already know what soil is - it’s ubiquitous in most garden supply stores. We'll outline the similarities and differences between coco vs soil to help you figure out which will be best for your plants.
Similarities Between Coco Coir vs Soil
Both soil and coco coir are growing mediums that can be used for just about any kind of plant. Either type can be used indoors or outdoors, in containers, or for filling raised beds in your main garden space. You need to water and fertilize both soil and coco coir, too.
Most of the time, anything that you do to soil can also be done to coco coir. Gardening in coco coir feels just like growing in soil. Both are eco-friendly, too.
Differences Between Coco Coir vs Soil
A key difference between the two mediums has to do with moisture retention. Deciding which one to use may depend on how heavy-handed you are with the watering can as well as what kind of plants you are growing.
With coco coir, it is very difficult to overwater your plants. The medium dries out quickly so you don’t need to worry about your plants becoming rotten or waterlogged if you happen to drench their roots.
That said, soil can easily become waterlogged. While it doesn’t need to be watered quite as often, it will allow you to get away with watering your plants just once or twice per week.
The way you water your plants might differ depending on the growing medium you choose, too. When you water coco coir-grown plants, you’ll often use a nutrient-enriched water solution rather than just plain water (although this isn’t always the case).
Another difference between the two mediums is that soil has nutrients already added, while coco coir is a sterile substrate. For most bagged soils, you’ll have enough nutrients for at least the first two to three weeks of your plants’ lives.
Coco coir, however, comes in bricks and bags. While these sometimes have nutrients in them, it is, in and of itself, a sterile growing medium. Usually, if any nutrients have been added to the coco, it’s only enough to last your plants for a few days.
Coco vs Soil - Which Is Better For Growing Plants?
Are you planning on growing outdoors? If so, soil is likely the way to go, particularly if you plan on growing organically.
However, if you’re going to grow indoors and use liquid fertilizers, coco coir is your best option. Both coco coir and soil are simple to use and versatile. Both are relatively easy to find, too.
Basic soil has the minerals and nutrients your plants need already built in - so you won’t need to add extra fertilizers at first.
You can water soil in any way you see fit and generally, the soil helps insulate the root systems of your plants, too. The biggest benefit of using coco coir, on the other hand, is that it can aid in healthy root development.
It has plenty of air pockets, providing space for roots to grow without being compressed. This substrate can be watered just as you might water plants growing in any other substrate, but it retains moisture longer than other growing mediums.
As a result, it can sometimes be more forgiving if you forget to water. That said, coco coir can sometimes wick up added nutrients, leading to a delay in your plants getting the nutrients they need.
This is a problem with a simple solution - just pre-hydrate with a liquid nutrient solution or compost tea before you plant. Plus, it’s lightweight - soil can often be too heavy and cumbersome to lug around. This makes coco coir a more appealing option for certain growing environments like container gardening.
That said, coco coir can lead to certain nutrient deficiencies in plants if you aren’t careful about supplementing appropriately.
The most common nutrient deficiencies are magnesium and calcium, so keep this in mind at planting time and supplement with a cal-mag supplement to offset it.
It is often said that growing in soil is better for organic gardeners while growing in coco is better for beginners (since you can have more control over all of your variables). Ultimately, however, the choice is yours!
Can I Mix Coco With Soil?
Rather than choosing just coco coir or soil, some growers choose to get the best of both worlds by using both.
You can either mix coco with soil when you plant or you can use it as a soil amendment later on. That way, you can get all the benefits of coco coir - a lightweight, breathable medium that is easy to water and fertilize - with all the benefits of soil (such as its nutrient content).
This kind of mixture will also be lighter than plain soil alone, so you can use it in your garden pots without having to break your back to move the pots around.
What Are The Best Coco & Soil Products Right Now?
If you've made up your mind as to whether you're going to grow in coco coir vs soil, all that's left to do is choose the right bag now!
We recommend brands like Mother Earth, Botanicare, & Fox Farm - these guys all produce both coco and soil medias, so you can choose either option from one of the best.
We actually put together a list of the best soils and coco mixes for indoor and outdoor plants alike, so check it out if you're looking for a specific recommendation! Otherwise, you can shop all coco coir or all soil below.
Final Thoughts On The Potting Soil & Coco Coir Debate
Coco vs soil - which one will it be? There has been much conversation among gardeners about whether coco coir is better than soil, and while it certainly poses numerous advantages, there are pros and cons associated with both types of substrates.
Consider these benefits and disadvantages as you are deciding which media is right for you. Of course, you should also give some weight to the types of plants you are growing, whether you wish to grow organically, and what kind of set-up you have when you are making your decision.
Ultimately, know that neither coco nor soil is better than the other - they’re just different! Both have a place in a gardener’s supply closet - and you can find both for sale by shopping our large selection of growing supplies and equipment here at Hydrobuilder.