Coco Coir Hydroponics: The Complete Guide

Coco Coir Hydroponics The Complete Guide

What is Coco Coir?

Coconut coir, also known as “coco peat” or “coconut fiber”, is a natural growing medium from the husk of coconuts. It is a sustainable and renewable soil substitute that has been used for various applications, including agriculture, construction, textiles, and automotive.

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Coco Coir Hydroponics

Why is it a popular hydroponic growing medium?

Hydroponic is a type of cultivation in which plants are grown directly into a liquid nutrient medium or medium, rather than the soil. The substrates can be sand, rice husk, coir husk, peat, or vermiculite perlite, etc. This cultivation type is usually defined as “growing plants in water” or “growing plants without soil”. The hydroponic growing technique is one of the modern gardening methods. The technique helps growers easily control as well as provide nutrients for plants to grow as desired.

With that information in mind, we come to the reason why coco coir is becoming one of the go-to choice for hydroponic:

  • It is a sustainable and environmentally friendly hydroponic growing medium. It also can be reused many times, reducing cost of materials.
  • It is flexible, can be used both indoor and on field.
  • It’s also a versatile alternative to traditional peat moss or soil mixes at places where the soil is scarce.
  • It is a better alternative method for hydroponics and aeroponics systems. With its texture, Coco Coir facilitates oxygen to reach the roots while holding a good amount of water at the same time.
  • It is naturally resistant to pests and diseases.

How to use Coco Coir in hydroponics

Advantages of using coco coir in hydroponics

Nutrient and water retention

With its nature, coco peat is able to hold an exceptional amount of nutrients and water. The thing about it is that, by itself, coco coir is waterproof, but its texture allows pockets that hold a decent amount of liquid that are released gradually so that plant’s roots are actually not soaked in water the moment it is watered, preventing root rot or potential of fungal diseases. It also contains small amounts of potassium and phosphorus, both of which help plants grow.

Eco friendly properties

First to mention: Coco coir, or peats are produced from coconut’s husk- a waste product of the coconut industry. By using coco coir, it is essentially reducing the amount of waste that would otherwise be trashed into the environment, making it eco-friendly at its core. It is also biodegradable, and can be reused multiple times before losing its core characteristic. By just using coir to re-forest, the biodegradation process from start to finish could take up to 7 years, which is enough for tree roots to grow to the extent that it’s also protecting the soil, making coco coir somewhat sustainable on this matter.Coco Coir for Hydroponic: Advantages Of Using Coco Coir

Drawbacks of using coco coir in hydroponics

Some types of coco coir may have high salt concentrations, which can negatively affect plant growth if not rinsed before use. This is also why growers are advised to choose coco coir products that have been processed correctly and have a trusted source of origin.

Ph balance requirements

Coir holds water exceptionally well and at the same time provides proper drainage. The pH of the coir medium in the range 5.8 – 6.5 is very suitable for most plants. But, keep in mind that some plants are very sensitive to environmental change, and some even need a different pH level in phases of their growth. Keeping track of the specific needs of the plant and making suitable changes is recommended.

Best coco coir for hydroponics

Types of coco coir

There are three common types of coco coir:

  • Buffered coco coir – This type of coco coir has been treated with calcium and magnesium or calcium nitrate to balance its pH level.
  • Unbuffered coco coir – This type of coco coir has not been treated with calcium and magnesium, and may have an acidic pH level that needs to be corrected before use.
  • Washed coco coir – This type of coco coir has been washed to remove excess salts and other impurities. It is typically used in hydroponic systems or for plants that are sensitive to salts.

Coco Coir For Hydroponics

Coco Coir Grow Bag

Factors to consider when choosing coco coir

  • Quality: The quality of coco coir can vary depending on the manufacturer and the source of the coconut husks. It is recommended to look for coco coir that is clean, free of contaminants, and has a consistent texture and moisture level.
  • pH level: Coco coir has a naturally high pH level, which can affect the pH level of your soil or growing medium. Look for coco coir that has been properly buffered or treated to have a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5, depending on which type of plant.
  • Salt content: Coco coir can contain high levels of salts, which can be harmful to certain plants. Look for coco coir that has been properly washed and rinsed to remove excess salts.
  • Water retention: Coco coir has excellent water retention properties, but the texture and density can vary depending on the manufacturer. Look for coco coir that has a consistent texture and can hold water without becoming waterlogged.
  • Nutrient content: Coco coir is a relatively inert growing medium and does not contain many nutrients. Look for coco coir that has been nutrient-enhanced or can be easily amended with fertilizers or other nutrients.
  • Cost: Coco coir can vary in price depending on the quality and quantity. Consider the cost per pound or cubic foot when comparing different brands and products.

 Factors to Consider When Choosing Coco Coir

Coco Coir vs rockwool in hydroponics

Hydroponics strictly speaking, both have is pros and cons, so choosing which over what is all up the preference of the user, so we made the following table for easier reference:

  Coco Coir Rockwool
Material used for the process of making Made for coconut’s husk (natural origin), it is a good choice for gardeners demanding an environmentally friendly growing medium. Made from melted rock (synthetic material), it is a good choice for gardeners looking for a sterile growing medium.
Effect on environment Biodegradable material that is also sustainable Non-renewable and not easy to dispose of
pH level 5.8-6.5 6.0-6.8
Insulation capability It’s structure built better for plants wanted a well-aerated growing condition It insulate better than coco coir, suitable for cooler-affinity plants
Cation Exchange Capacity Has higher CEC than Rockwool, able to hold onto more nutrients. Has not as much CEC as Coco Coir
Reusability Easy to reuse Require being treat probably before being reused for insulation
Ease of Handling Lighter than Rockwool in most cases, easy to transport and move the plants in its pot. Heavier, harder to apply for vertical garden or other structures and would require additional support
Cost and availability Cheaper, better choice for gardener looking to cut cost and save up a budget, altho at some place it can be hard to obtain More expensive, but more availability

Preparing coco coir for hydroponics

Most Coco Coir products come in the form of dried blocks or tablets, but here we will use loose coco coir as a convenient example.

First thing first, you have to know which type of plant you are intending to grow- this includes knowing the ratio of mixing the coir for that plant, which level of pH they prefer, etc.

After that, it is just a simple matter of filling containers and keeping up consistency in watering and feeding the plant to avoid deficiencies, as loose coco coir products come in a ready-to-use form that usually does not require much adjustment for the common plants.

How to get started with hydroponic growing in coco coir

Types of Coconut Coir

As mentioned above, there are 3 types of coco coir. But speaking of processed coir, there are also 3 others known as:

  • Coco pith, often known as peat, resembles peat moss but is a rich, brown color. Because of its density, this product holds water incredibly effectively; however, you may not want to use only coco peat because it may swamp the roots of your plants.
  • Coco fibers are stringy bundles that allow oxygen to easily enter the root system of a plant. The fiber is not highly absorbent on its own and will break down over time, reducing the amount of air that reaches the roots of your plants. It is, nevertheless, durable enough to be reused.
  • Coco chips are little coir pieces (small chunks) that blend the greatest qualities of peat and fiber. Coco chips absorb water well while also allowing for air gaps.All these components can be mixed to a different ratio to get different growing mediums of different characteristics. One thing to keep in mind is that coco coir by itself does not contain any nutrient with it, so it may need additional supplementations to fit purposes. This is just for those who wanted to mix the substrate from raw materials, the product sold usually pre-mix already.

Using coco coir in hydroponic garden and mulching

It is an environmentally friendly approach to replace other non-renewable mulches. By soaking it in water for around 10-20 mins, it is ready to be used. Spread a layer of coco coir over the top of the soil around the plants and water it regularly. By this, the weight of the coir can press down the soil, keeping it from being washed away. Adding a layer of urea fertilizer of about 30g per square meter once every four weeks of the summer months- this increases the nitrogen levels inside them which one, help it keep heavy and two, promote a healthy growth because the coir slowly breaks down into nutrients to your plants.

Using Coco Coir in Hydroponic Garden and Mulching

Hydroponic plants for beginners to grow in coco coir

Hydroponics has been gaining in popularity at a high rate, of course, there will be lots of people eager to get into the scene, even if it is commercial or just for a personal project. So, these are some recommendations to kick-start the journey:

  • Lettuce. It’s a plant with a high growth rate and is repeatedly harvestable. It thrives in a variety of hydroponic systems.
  • Speaking of fast-growing, spinach is also a great choice for hydroponics. A nutrient-dense addition to salads and smoothies.
  • Similarly, kale is a very nutritious crop that grows well in hydroponics. It is also versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes.
  • Herbs as a whole are also compatible with hydroponic systems, namely basil, parsley, and cilantro.

One final mention is for tomatoes. Yes, they could take a little longer to grow than any other plants on the list, but they are still a fantastic choice for novices. Growing and harvesting them can be a quite rewarding experience.

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