Hydroponic gardeners use coir as a growing medium in place of soil. In traditional horticulture, coir is used as a substitute for peat moss.
Coir, another name for Coco Peat, is simply the fibers removed from the outer shell of a coconut. As it is 100% natural and biodegradable, it is popular with both organic and hydroponic gardeners. The vast majority of Coco peat comes from Asia, in particular India and Sri Lanka but countries in the Caribbean and Mexico also produce coir.
One of the main reasons that Coco peat is popular amongst gardening enthusiasts is that it is resistant to bacterial and fungal growth. An interesting fact about the Coco peat that comes from Mexico is that it is populated with a beneficial fungus which acts as a biological control against pathological fungi.
Coco peat has several characteristics which make it popular with both the hydroponic and traditional gardener:
- Retains water and is able to store 8 – 9 times its weight in water.
- Has a pH of 5.2-6.8 which makes it potentially acidic. Hydroponic gardeners should be careful to adjust pH as required when using Coco peat.
- Renewable and according to literature can be reused for up to four years.
- Stores and releases nutrients for extended periods of time.
- Great oxygenation properties which assist in root development.
Coco peat typically comes in two formats, loose or compressed. The compressed form is more common due to the fact that it is easier to ship and takes up less space. It is typically shipped as bricks which can be broken into smaller pieces and then re-hydrated.
In hydroponic systems, coco peat is typically mixed, at a ratio of 50/50, with pumice or coarse perlite to provide some drainage. This type of medium is recommended for intermediate to advanced hydroponic gardeners due to the fact that the saline effect will vary from one brand of Coco peat to another. During the hydration stage, the runoff should be checked to see how much dissolved solids are being introduced into the system.