Coconut or “coco” has been around for some time now it is relatively new to the indoor and home gardener around about 15 years. It is a good alternative to other soilless mediums and is renewable and does not contribute to the the depletion of peat bogs.
It behaves very similar to peat moss based soilless mediums and when amended with the same ingredients as peat mixtures like sunshine and premix will work almost identically. Most soilless mixtures you purchase are not strictly peat most come premixed with perlite, mycorrhizae, wetting agents (usually detergent soap), fertilizer for about a weeks growth.
All of which are easily added to the expanded coconut coir to make an almost identical product.
There are a couple things to watch out for when growing with Coconut coir and if you have done any research at all have probably happened across the so called negative points. The only one really worth mentioning is the possibility of high salt content that some say can harm your plants. This is because at the time of harvest coconuts are often placed in sea water they are held there much the same way loggers floated logs on lakes back in the day with a ring of logs chained together end to end in a circle making a barrier other logs will not slip through,
A log boom on the lake.
During this time the coconut coir can become saturated in salt water and after the water evaporates the salt remains. This was a worry way back when it was first introduced to North America, having been in use in Europe for some time by then.. That fear has long been put to bed scientifically but old rumors die hard.
Tug boat pulling a log boom
Coco coir has long been rinsed and flushed before being compressed and packaged for the end user. It was never a really big deal to begin with and I personally both used them and sold them to clients for years with no issues. Coconut coir simply became an easy out for poor gardeners requiring something to blame for their being a poop gardener.
One of the best things about coconut coir is that it almost always comes compressed into a brick, while not always the case and its sold in many formats the most common and in my mind best is the compressed brick.
Its light weight and does not take up a lot of space two things that up the price of any item because of the shipping rates.
Its also nicer for covert gardeners where instead of lugging in bails of sunshine or premix you just bring in a grocery bag of compressed bricks.
A single 5KG brick will fluff out and be pretty dam close to the volume of a pail of peat mix. And that is before any amendments of which the most common would be perlite for added aeration.
Below are some images of a 5 KG bale of Coconut coir expanded and pressed into the containers. I say pressed so its understood that when put into pots you will end up with far greater a quantity than it appears here
Myself I prefer to use hot tap water to expand the bales/bricks this is because over time I noticed that hot water works considerably faster than cold water. It is also nicer to work with on the hands than cold.
Its also important to mention that Coconut coir holds more water than other similar mediums, so once expanded you will notice that a good portion of it is very saturated with excess water. If you expand it in a large container and then it sit for a while the water will migrate to the bottom layers thanks to our friend gravity and then you can use the top layers working your way down to the excessively wet layer.
Pile it up on top of itself and repeat or place what remains into a strainer or similar the water will drain out and any method you choose to do this is just fine.
Depending on what type of gardening your doing you may need to make adjustments because Coco holds water better than others for hydroponic systems and indoor in pots would be wise to both amended with perlite and put something in the bottom of the pots hydrocorn (expanded clay pellets) and so on to aid in proper drainage.
A 5 KG bale of compressed coir expands to approximately 90 liters of coir. A 1 gallon soil pot holds about 4 liters of growing medium (soil, peat,coir,hydrocorn etc) so in around 22.5 1 gallon soil pots without any amendments like perlite and so on.
That’s not too shabby for a brick that measures 12″ x 12″ x 6″ compressed all of a sudden the price advertised online in most places becomes not such a bitter pill to swallow
Add to this that most places online have some sort of price-break on shipping which does not extend to bails of sunshine or Promix.
Don’t get me wrong I love sunshine soilless mixtures they are great but the price is quite high and if you seek to order online you can expect to pay around a hundred bucks shipping so……
Coconut coir ships even from amazon Canada in a small box and discreetly if that’s important to you.
Well that’s my 2 cents on Coconut coir growing medium, do not believe the haters and myth spreaders it is a very good product and as long as you treat it like coconut coir and not peat moss you will do very well.