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How to use coconut coir in gardening

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 it.

Difficulty

Easy

What You Need

  • Coconut coir

  • Water

  • A large tub or storage bin

  • Potting soil

  • Diluted fertilizer

Coconut fruit split in half in front of black marble background

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

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. Coconut coir is an excellent supplement to potting mix as it provides extra soil structure.

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.

Seedlings growing in brown pots

Using coconut coir in gardening: Seed starter

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, plant the disks directly into your garden.

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.

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. Because the coir will not offer enough drainage, add materials such as perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss to prevent root rot.

Using coconut coir in gardening: Worm bin

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 moisture and fluffy texture. As the worms eat the compost, they produce worm castings that can fertilize your plants.

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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