There are a lot of different growing mediums you can put your plants in to help them grow and plenty of other tools and amendments you can use to get them off to the right start.
From different types of soil to fertilizers, various-sized pots, and more, the list of choices when it comes to what to include in your garden can be dizzying.
If you’re new to gardening, there are just two simple words you should remember - coco coir.
Although this phrase likely isn’t familiar to the average beginning gardener, it should be at the top of your shopping list as you prepare for the upcoming growing season.
A boon to any garden or gardener, coco coir is a growing medium that you definitely need to consider.
It pays to know a little bit about coco coir and how to use it - and this complete guide to growing in coco coir will tell you everything you need to know.
What Is Coco Coir?
Coco coir is a material that you might expect, given its name, to come from coconuts. And it does! This material is made out of coconut fiber.
It is created when old coconut shells are cured for one week. After the curing process, steel combs go over the coconut and remove the fiber, and then the fiber is dried out.
Finally, the coir is molded into bricks, pots, or simply crushed and sold as loose mulch.
What Plants Can You Grow in Coco Coir?
You can grow just about any plant in coco coir, as the material acts just like any other potting soil or peat.
There aren’t too many plants that won’t benefit from being planted in coco coir, as long as you know what you are doing and the unique properties of the coco coir.
You can use coco coir to grow everything from exotic plants, to even more common plants and flowers.
It’s also almost always required for use in hydroponics. Typically, you’ll just have to mix some with your soil, and you’ll reap all the benefits.
What Are The Benefits Of Growing In Coco Coir?
If you mix coco coir with regular potting soil, you’ll be able to help supercharge your plant growth.
Coco coir easily retains water and has very high wettability. Plus, the pH level is just about neutral compared to the more acidic option, peat.
It is also a renewable resource that will biodegrade with ease and can be used as a natural mulch in your garden.
The coco coir’s ability to hold water for an extended period of time makes it so that you won’t have to water your plants quite as often.
The plant roots will be able to grow and expand because coco coir has reliable aeration and drainage.
When mixed with natural soil, you’ll be giving your plants everything they need to focus on growing, which means more flowers, more fruits, and a bigger harvest for you!
Is Coco Coir Better Than Soil?
This question comes up a lot in gardening circles, and the answer is: it varies. For the best results, you should mix coco coir and potting soil to find a perfect balance.
But if you are growing solely with coco coir, then there are a few times where it can be better than soil.
The increased aeration toward the roots can increase your yield, and the water retention properties will keep your soil moist for longer.
If you are working with hydroponic farming, then you almost always have to use coco coir. The coco coir’s nutrients will benefit your plants, and the superior water retention properties will help keep your plants wet and growing.
Plus, coco coir is environmentally friendly and reusable. You can get multiple generations of plants from a single hydroponics station with coco coir if you play your cards right!
What Are The Different Types Of Coco Coir?
Coco coir comes in various forms, and while they might all be made from the same material, they each have pros and cons. Some of the different forms include:
- Compressed bricks
- Molded pots
- Coco peat
If you’ve been a gardener for any length of time, you’ve probably seen seed starters and other products made with soil marketed in the same forms.
Coco peat is, without a doubt, the most common and easiest type to buy. It’s a simple peat that you can mix in with the soil to give it all the coco coir benefits.
You’ll get all the aeration, moisture retention, and drainage benefits, along with all the benefits of regular soil.
Just make sure you know what you are doing, as having the wrong balance of soil to peat can cause problems for your plants.
Compressed coco coir bricks place coco fibers and dust into shaped bricks. Unlike peat or molded coco pots, these bricks require an extra step before they can be handled and set in your garden.
You will need to soak them in water to make them expand, and most bricks can absorb up to nine times their weight in water!
Once they have been thoroughly soaked, you will be able to use the mixture for your garden without any more delays.
This is an incredibly efficient form of coco coir as a result.Finally, molded pots take coco coir fibers and shape them into the shape of a flowerpot.
You simply place your plant into the pot and then put that pot into the ground. Over time, the pot degrades, and you are left with coco coir enriched soil.
How To Grow In Coco Coir - Everything You Need To Know
Growing in coco coir is different from the soil, and you’ll need to understand those differences to make sure that you know how to get the maximum benefits.
We’ll cover tips for growing in coco such as watering, feeding, cleaning & reusing, and more, throughout the remainder of this article. This is the most important section of this blog post, so continue reading on!
Preparing Your Coco For Growing - Give It A Soak
First, coco coir holds a lot of nutrients, but these nutrients are so tightly woven into the mixture, your plants might not be able to get at them.
So you should always soak your coco before planting. While some types of coco coir, like bricks, require pre-soaking, others do not.
Just because soaking isn’t required doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, though, as it can provide numerous benefits.
Aside from soaking your coco, you’ll also need to learn how to properly water your plants. This is an incredibly important aspect of not just growing in coco, but any media for that matter. Let’s discuss this now.
Do You Water Coco Every Day?
Many growers wonder, “do you water coco every day?”
For the most part, the answer is no - this would lead to overwatering. However, nothing is concrete, because every grow is different.
If your grow room or grow tent is especially hot or has tons of air flow (especially common when growing outdoors), you may need to water more frequently, and in some instances, water back to back days.
However, it’s easy to overwater your coco coir, which will stop the aeration from becoming effective. Once the coco coir is watered, take some up between your hands and squeeze. The water should disappear between your fingers but shouldn’t run out.
If the water runs out, you’ll need to dry it out. If no water appears, then you should keep watering.
Soil often requires less water overall, as it tends to hold lots of moisture. Coco coir, despite its water retention properties, does need to be watered every couple of days.
Despite the vigorous watering schedule, it’s much harder to overwater your plants. The drainage and aeration keep water out, and you have to work to overwater them.
Soil holds water in much longer, and you have a greater risk of overwatering and damaging your plants.
Feeding Coco Grown Plants
The grow media’s electrical conductivity is an essential factor when it comes to growing big, healthy plants. This is especially true if you are growing hydroponically.
Testing nutrient EC is a way to measure the salt and nutrient content of your hydroponics reservoir, and thus, what your plants are getting. By measuring the EC of the solution, you can ensure your plants get ample nutrition.
Coco coir has a very low EC, essentially no charge at all. This means you are in complete control of what your plants get fed - a huge responsibility. Most potting soils contain low levels of nutrition to nourish your plants during the first few weeks of growing. However in coco, you need to start feeding right away.
Your specific nutrient package will have a feeding chart to help you determine how to feed plants, and most of them will have different versions for whether you grow in soil or coco.
But, the big takeaway here is that you need to learn about the relationship between plant nutrients and pH, and how to test for these two important components of your grow.
There may be a learning curve, and you may underfeed or overfeed for a while until you get the hang of it. But, that’s what growing is all about!
How Long Should I Flush In Coco?
Another common question growers ask is, “how long should I flush in coco?” The answer will depend on your specific grow - how much salt build up do you have in the media? How long has it been since you last flushed?
Many nutrient regimens will call for a flush every 4-6 weeks to prevent any toxic build up of nutrients in the media.
Coco is notorious for sucking certain nutrients up and preventing your plant roots from accessing them - such as calcium.
After a grow cycle, if you haven’t flushed, you’ll be able to visually see salt build up in your media. This is why it’s so important to routinely flush, and give a really good flush prior to harvesting.
We have an entire guide on flushing plants, but it’s essentially just watering pure, pH’d water for a period of time, removing excess salt build up from the media and forcing your plants to use whatever nutrients they’ve built up throughout their cell walls.
If nothing else, this is a must prior to harvest. It will push out some serious growth in the final weeks, as your plants become stressed, and attempt to make a last ditch effort to become pollinated (they think their life is ending, as they run out of nutrient stores).
It will also greatly improve the flavor and aroma of your plants, preventing you from consuming the built up salt within your plants.
We recommend giving at least a 5-7 day flush, but you can get more precise with this by testing the EC of the runoff from your waterings - once there is no more charge, you can be sure your media is free of nutrients!
Cleaning and Reusing Coco Coir
Coco coir is a renewable and reusable resource, meaning that you can reuse old coco coir once the current batch of plants has been harvested and removed.
It must be processed and cleaned before you can reuse it, but don’t worry - it’s easier than it sounds.
First, you’ll need to gather up all the coco and remove any roots or plant matter from it. Get rid of as much as you can by hand because it will allow the new roots to have room to grow. Once the soil is clean, you’ll need to wash it with distilled water.
This will flush out any other roots or salts that are still in the soil, as having too much salt can be toxic for the plant.
The smaller roots that you can’t see will also be fighting for space inside the coir, stopping your plants’ growth.
For an added layer of effect, you’ll need to use sensizym enzymes to help break down any excess roots that are too small to be removed.
Then the coco coir is ready to be used again. You can use your coco coir two to three times before you’ll need to get a new batch.
The reason coco coir can be so easily reused is the lignin structure. The lignin makes the plant cells and the coco rigid and allows for reusability.
What Are The Best Coco Mixes For Growing Plants In?
Not all coco mixes are created equal - but luckily, we’ll help you choose the best coco mix for your grow.
Just about every product you’ll find here at Hydrobuilder are of the utmost quality, and sourced from only the most reputable brands. Here are a few of our favorites!
Mother Earth Coco + Perlite Soilless Mix
One of the best coco products on the market is Mother Earth Coco + Perlite Soilless Mix. This premium blend of coco coir and perlite is as good as it gets, giving your plants the best balance of aeration and water retention possible.
This mix is 100% natural, derived from the husks of coconuts combined with perlite to increase aeration and drainage. The ratio is about 70% coco to 30% perlite.
This increased drainage and aeration allows the media to dry out quicker, and thus, allowing you to feed more frequently - this leads to explosive growth!
Rhp certified to ensure the highest quality substrate possible, you know you are getting a quality media. If you prefer less aeration and drainage, there is a Mother Earth Coco option without perlite!
Botanicare ReadyGro Aeration Formula Coco
Another great option is Botanicare ReadyGro Aeration Formula Coco. Botanicare is an industry leader when it comes to horticulture - their hydroponics systems/components, plant nutrients, and of course, grow media, are as premium as it gets. They’ve earned a reputation as the best in the business for good reason.
This aeration formula is similar to Mother Earth, in that it provides excellent drainage to help lower the risk of overwatering, while allowing you to feed more frequently.
If you are growing in an automated fertigation system, this is the best choice for you because of the rate at which it dries out. The ratio here is about 55% coco to 45% perlite, so it provides superior drainage to Mother Earth.
This also has the added benefit of getting more oxygen to the root zone, improving nutrient uptake and leading to an all around healthier, happier plant. Part of this is due to the increased breakdown of organic and mineral based matter, because aerobic bacteria in the root zone can truly thrive. This makes nutrients more available to your plants.
With very low salt content and a high cation exchange rate, this is perfect for both indoor and outdoor plants. That is - as long as you are growing under a frequent watering program. If not, there is a better option for you.
Botanicare ReadyGro Moisture Formula Coco
A similar product is the Botanicare ReadyGro Moisture Formula Coco. The difference between this mix and the aforementioned Aeration Formula is that this Moisture Formula behaves the opposite in terms of aeration and drainage.
What this means is, the ReadyGro Moisture Formula holds water for longer periods of time, drying out slower. So if you are growing under a frequent watering program, this is not the mix for you!
However, there are many advantages to this mix. If you are a hobbyist grower trying to limit your work in the grow room, you can use this Moisture Formula to water less frequently.
Of course, it’s much easier to overwater with this formula. You’ll need to be more precise with the frequency at which you water or feed nutrients, ensuring your media is not still too wet.
That’s not to say this product will stay soggy for extended periods of times - it still provides great growing conditions with a ratio of 80% coco to 20% perlite.
If you’re looking for a great coco mix that will limit your need to water, this is the one of the best choices for you!
DaKine 420 Organic Coco Coir Blend
A somewhat new arrival to the horticulture world, the DaKine 420 Organic Coco Coir Blend is a very unique mix.
Unlike the aforementioned soilless mixes above, this coco blend contains more than just the coir and perlite. Rather, Dakine Coco is mixed with:
- Worm castings
- Alaskan peat moss
- Fish bone meal
- Bat guano
- Kelp meal
- Beneficial bacteria
This is not typical of coco products - which tend to contain no nutrient charge whatsoever. But, all the organic amendments featured in this blend will provide your young plants with nutrients early on, allowing you to forego liquid nutrients in the first few weeks of growth.
Char Coir Coco Coir
One final line of products we want to mention are the Char Coir Coco Mixes. Two in particular are really cool, and worth checking out:
The Char Coir BioPot is perfect for transplanting your small plants into after propagation, and allowing them to grow in the same container through veg and flowering! This prevents the need to transplant. The BioPot is both a coco product and a fabric garden pot.
The Coco Cube, on the other hand, allows you to actually start your seeds or clone a plant in the container. You’ll enjoy rapid germination and rooting because of the aeration of the fabric container.
Both of these products contain 100% RHP Certified Coco Coir, and contain virtually no EC. It’s buffered and pH balanced and features a high cation exchange capacity for impressive growth.
Final Thoughts On Growing In Coco Coir
Coco coir is an excellent growing medium for beginner and intermediate gardeners alike. It thrives in all conditions, benefits your flowers and plants with its properties, and is perfect for both regular and hydroponic gardening.
You can grow just about any kind of plant in this diverse and versatile medium. To find the right coco coir for your growing needs, be sure to visit Hydrobuilder’s dedicated coco coir supply page.
We have everything you need to get you up and running - and a dedicated team of customer service professionals to help you with any concerns you might have.