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What is coconut soil, and how can it make your garden better?

Coconut soil hasn’t been around for very long. Its history goes back only a few decades. It’s a growing trend for gardeners who want a highly efficient growing medium known as coco soil (it has nothing to do with hot chocolate) and coco coir.

There are a myriad of benefits waiting for the gardener who chooses to use coconut soil. One of the most attractive benefits is that coco coir is considered a growing medium that’s entirely renewable and sustainable.

In this article, we’ll go over what coconut soil is, the medium’s background, its uses, and how it benefits your garden. With that said, let’s jump in!

What is coconut soil?

Since coconut soil is trending upward in popularity and has even spun off into its own little coco gardening niche, it’s a good idea to grasp what it even is.

Step into the Time Machine, and let’s talk about where coconut soil originated. In the days of yore, coconut husks were considered waste products after their milk and meat had been harvested. Essentially, the entire shell of the coconut was trash. Then someone got the bright idea that coconut husks could have various applications in home products and gardening.

You see, all of the material between the coconut seed’s outer coating and the shell is considered coconut coir. There are two types here. There’s white and brown fibers. White coco coir is flexible but not too strong, and they come from coconuts that aren’t ripe yet. Brown fibers come from ripe, mature coconuts, and they’re less flexible but much stronger.

open coconut husk

How is coconut soil made?

Before anyone can use coconut coir in their gardens, it has to be processed extensively. The brown and white fibers mentioned above have to be removed from the husk. Removal of the coco coir is accomplished by soaking the husks in water. This softens and loosens them.

Depending on the manufacturer, the husks are soaked either in freshwater or in tidal water. Now, coconut fibers soak up a lot of water and retain that water for a long time. Gardeners need to find out what kind of water the coco coir they buy has been soaked in before using it around plants. This is because all the salt from tidal water soaking will be retained in the coconut fibers. If that’s the case, all that salt will have to be flushed out.

One of your primary concerns when buying coconut coir is how it was processed. How was it soaked, flushed, cleaned, and dried?

In any case, many manufacturers do flush the coir out if they soaked it in tidal waters, and then once it’s been taken out of the water, it’s left to dry for a year or more. Now, the drying process is exhaustive, and after the coir is dry, it’s then turned into bales (kind of like bales of hay).

Manufacturers then chop those bales and process them further into a variety of forms and sizes. For example, the bales are progressively chopped and refined into dry fibers, chips, “croutons,” and ground coco coir, which looks like dark soil.

That’s where the “coconut soil” term comes from.

What are the benefits of coconut soil?

Because coconut soil looks so much like regular gardening soil, it’s possible to have a hydroponic garden that looks just about the same as the soil garden you’re used to. The difference is that you’d have to make sure to water your coco garden with water that’s been enhanced with nutrients. (A downside to coconut soil is that it has zero nutrients of its own, unlike regular soil.)

With that said, coconut soil retains moisture like nobody’s business. In fact, it’s incredibly effective at water retention and can take in up to 10 times its weight in water. Of course, this means the roots of your plants won’t ever become dehydrated. Additionally, your plant’s roots will have a lot of growing media to work through, which means coconut soil is perfect for promoting healthy roots.

Another benefit to coco gardening is the fact that bugs don’t like coco coir so much. It can, therefore, be used to help manage pests.

Coconut soil is sustainable. Many gardeners swear by peat moss, just as many have begun to raise the alarm due to environmental concerns. You see, peat bogs take over a thousand years to form and therefore can’t be considered an immediate, renewable source for growing media. Thus, unlike peat moss, coconut coir can be used more than once since there is no shortage of coconut trees that obviously don’t take a thousand years to grow.

Finally, if you’ve never undertaken a hydroponic gardening project, using coconut soil might be the perfect place for you to begin. You can learn hydroponic gardening basics without all the maintenance that real hydroponic gardening demands.

man planting in daylight

What’s coco gardening?

Suppose you’ve chosen to explore using coco coir as a growth medium for your plants. In that case, you’re engaging in coco gardening. As noted above, coconut coir can hold up to 10 times its weight in water, but it can also hold over 1,000 times more oxygen. Its increasing popularity in hydroponic and organic gardening is mainly due to its ability to retain the water as mentioned earlier and oxygen (and plant nutrients once added).

Gardeners can use coconut soil in their compost, which allows it to become a significant growth medium for those working on urban farms and who do container gardening.

If you choose to experiment with coco gardening, bear in mind that you should only use coco coir safe products when it comes to purchasing plant nutrients. Other nutrients, which are made specifically for other growth mediums, can potentially harm or even kill your plants. (Remember how well coconut soil holds on to anything saturated with water.)

Finally, remember that if you’d like to start your own garden, using coconut soil is a great, environmentally friendly way to do that!

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