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How to use coconut coir in gardening: Your guide to using coconut husk for plants

Different ways coconut coir can upgrade your gardening routine

Coconut coir has been a timeless staple in gardening, but what exactly is it? Also known as coco coir or coconut fiber, it comes from the husk of the coconut fruit, and it's used in everything from home decor to construction. For foliage lovers, coconut coir can provide soil structure, drainage, and aeration to keep plants healthy. As it is a more environmentally friendly material than peat moss, many consider it a green add-in to soil. Because of its advantages and uses, coconut coir is an essential tool for many home gardeners — read on to learn all about using coconut husk for plants.

Difficulty

Easy

What You Need

  • Coconut coir

  • Water

  • Large tub or storage bin

  • Potting soil

  • Diluted fertilizer

Coconut fruit split in half in front of black marble background
Tijana Drndarski / Unsplash

How coconut coir works

Coconut coir comes from coconuts. When you buy coconut coir, you’re usually getting coco peat, coconut fiber, coco chips, or some combination of the three. For coconut coir that’s a soil supplement or alternative, most gardeners reach for coco peat or dust, which is finely ground coconut husk that works well for water retention.

Excellent for aerating roots, coconut fiber is an unprocessed string that’s commonly used for mulching and decorative purposes. Also deployed as mulch, coco chips consist of roughly chopped down coconut husk, providing both water retention and aeration benefits. This last form works well as an orchid mix when combined with perlite.

You can get coconut coir at your garden center in the form of blocks, loose mixes, discs, and liners. With blocks, you will need to break up the bale and mix it with water. Upon getting hydrated, coconut coir will expand about five times in size, so add water to it in a large tub.

Coconut husks in a pile
Diomari Madulara / Unsplash

Benefits of coconut coir

Coconut coir offers a wide range of advantages.

  • It's a green alternative to peat moss: Compared to peat moss, which is used for water retention, coconut coir is a green alternative. Peat takes hundreds of years to form, and it’s not being harvested at sustainable rates.
  • You can find it easily: Short coconut fibers are readily available as coconuts are being commercially processed in the food industry.
  • It lasts longer: Coconut coir also breaks down more slowly than peat moss, so its prized benefits of water retention and aeration last longer.
  • It's low maintenance: Because it retains moisture so well, it doesn’t require as much maintenance as a growing medium. In terms of feel, coconut coir is also easy to handle — it has no strong odor and feels fluffy to the touch. When you're creating a DIY potting mix, it's an excellent add-in that provides extra soil structure.
Coco brick
PhotoSGH / Shutterstock

Tips for using coconut coir

Here are some things to consider when you use coconut coir for growing plants:

Step 1: Supplement the coconut coir with a diluted fertilizer.

Coconut coir is inert, which means that it does not have significant traces of nutrients. Many gardeners will go for a calcium and magnesium supplement.

Step 2: Mix it with perlite or expanded clay balls for extra drainage.

Coconut coir, especially in peat form, is highly water-retentive. You can’t use it by itself or else your plant may get waterlogged and rot.

Step 3: Make sure your coconut coir has been rinsed to avoid salt buildup.

Coconuts are typically grown by the sea, which can lead to salt drying on their husks.

Step 4: Consider whether or not you need fine coconut coir or coarser, bigger fibers and chips.

Seedlings growing in brown pots
kram-9 / Shutterstock

Using coconut coir in gardening: Seed starters

Consider growing vegetables in coconut coir. Here's how to make a seed starter:

Step 1: Add coconut coir to potting soil or pick up a coconut coir disk.

Step 2: Soak the disk in a tray and add your seeds.

Step 3: When it's time to transplant your seedlings, plant the disks directly into your garden.

Dark soil with small red worms
KaliAntye / Shutterstock

Using coconut coir in gardening: Worm bins

Use coconut coir as worm bedding by repurposing coconut coir used in other gardening projects. Combine it with compost in a bin to create a habitat for earthworms, which will appreciate its moist and fluffy texture. Here's how to go about it:

Step 1: Drill 10 or more holes into each side of a 5-gallon storage bin with a lid (including the lid).

Step 2: Add coco coir into the bin and water it.

Step 3: Add scraps and worms to the mixture. For scraps, you can use kitchen scraps, leaves, newspapers, coffee grinds, and eggshells.

Step 4: Leave a piece of cardboard over your mixture and close the lid.

Pink geraniums in hanging basket
Outlook / Shutterstock

Using coconut coir in gardening: Planter and basket liners

Place coir liners inside hanging baskets to add an aesthetically pleasing touch to your home garden. Here's what to do:

Step 1: Soak the coconut coir for 15 to 30 minutes.

Step 2: Arrange it in your basket and trim it accordingly.

Step 3: Add a plastic liner with holes for drainage.

Step 4: Fill your coir with potting soil before adding your plants.

Coco coir in a bowl outside
Fiwsamatcha / Shutterstock

Using coconut coir in gardening: Hydroponics

Hydroponics essentially refers to growing plants without a soil environment. Coconut coir works well for transitioning into soil-free hydroponic gardening, as it’s sterile and inert.

Step 1: Add coir to a grow pot with a drainage hole.

Step 2: Because the coir will not offer enough drainage, mix in materials such as perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss to prevent root rot.

Step 3: Place your plant into the growing medium.

Monstera climbing a moss pole
Lara Joy / Shutterstock

Using coconut coir in gardening: Moss poles

If you'd like your plant to climb instead of trailing in an unruly manner, you can create a coco pole (as opposed to a traditional moss pole) to support it. A coir pole is just as effective as a moss pole, and it can be an inexpensive and longer lasting alternative if you can't find yourself a moss pole. Here's how to create one:

Step 1: Grab a roll of coco fiber lining sheets.

Step 2: Roll the coco fiber around a PVC pipe (or a thick hardwood dowel), leaving 1 or 2 inches of space at the bottom to stick into your soil.

Step 3: Use twine to secure the sheet to the pipe. You can tie a new piece of string every 1 or 2 inches or wrap a long piece around your pole all in one go.

Step 4: Place the coir pole into the potting mix of your plant, wrapping the leaves around the structure.

Besides being biodegradable and sustainable, coconut coir is an incredibly versatile material for garden use. Once you know how to supplement it in your outdoor projects, it’ll become a handy staple in your garden toolkit.

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Stacey Nguyen
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