Guide to Growing in Coco

Coco coir is the outside layer of husk that surrounds the shell of the coconut. After coconuts are harvested, the fibrous husk is removed from the coconut seed. From this husk, three main horticultural coir products can be produced: coir chips, coir fiber or coir pith/dust. Coir dust retains water well while the fibers and chips help with air space and drainage.

There are many brands and types of coco coir available on the market. We recommend that you use only buffered coir products, as coco coir naturally contains a lot of sodium ions that cling to the coco coir like a magnet. The buffering process involves pre-soaking with a buffering solution high in calcium, which displaces the sodium and balances the naturally occurring potassium. After the soaking period the media is washed with water, which removes the displaced sodium, leaving the calcium in the coir. This buffering process prevents unwanted draw down or ‘lockout’ of calcium and magnesium, and avoids sodium toxicity issues. These selections of coir products are made from high quality coconuts and use unique buffering processes to ensure the health of your crop.

10 Benefits of Coco:

  • Promotes strong root growth and plant vigor.
  • Coco coir is completely environmentally friendly.
  • Encourages beneficial bacteria and discourages harmful bacteria.
  • It is a 100% renewable resource
  • Coco has an ideal pH range of 6.0-6.8.
  • Coco coir never shrinks, cracks or produces crust
  • High lingin and cellulose content
  • Coco coir is odorless, pleasant to handle, and uniform in composition.
  • Coir has a high cation exchange, meaning it can store unused minerals to be released to the plant as and when it requires it.
  • Contains significant amounts of phosphorous (10-50ppm) and potassium (150-450 ppm).

Coco coir has many unique physical and chemical properties that actually make typical hydroponic nutrients less than ideal. This is because coco coir growing media interacts with nutrients and holds onto calcium and magnesium while slowly releasing potassium and nitrogen instead. For this reason there are several nutrients that are specifically formulated with the coco coir’s unique characteristics in mind. These formulas contain far less potassium, less sulfate, more calcium, and more magnesium than their standard grow and bloom counterparts. By using a nutrient specifically formulated for the coir-based system, such as House & Garden’s Cocos A+B, you are ensuring that your plants are receiving the best possible nutrition package. Only high quality coco coir nutrients will ensure that your plants receive the nutrients and elements they require for strong and healthy growth.

Furthermore, coconuts are naturally high in compounds called lignins. This compound is able to help encourage the development of beneficial bacteria, which makes it less likely for harmful bacteria to invade your system. This also means that if you choose to use a hydroponic supplement that contains beneficial microbes, they are more likely to grow, thrive, and benefit your system. These organisms, such as bacillus, mycorrhizae and trichoderma all form symbiotic relationships with the plant that can increase overall performance and yield. Bacillus is used world wide for the control of insect pests and opportunistic fungi pathogens. Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi that colonize the root surface, helping the plant take up nutrients.

Many forms of coco coir also contain trichoderma and if a healthy root environment is maintained, the bacteria will continue to colonize the roots and multiply in the growing media. Trichoderma works in symbiosis with plant roots to protect them from pathogenic fungi such as pythium or fusarium. These characteristics can boost yields by decreasing disease organisms. Since Trichoderma grow and proliferate best when there are abundant healthy roots, they have evolved numerous mechanisms for both attack of other fungi and for enhancing plant and root growth. As coco coir is a natural habitat for trichoderma, it provides an ideal environment for trichoderma to thrive.

When using beneficial microbes, always use reverse osmosis (RO) water, which removes harmful chemicals that can kill the beneficial microorganisms. Tap water often contains chlorine and chloramine to kill harmful biologicals. Unfortunately this indiscriminately kills beneficial bacteria. Reverse osmosis units can remove up to 99.9% of tap water impurities including phosphate, nitrate, minerals, and heavy metals for contaminant-free water. Your beneficial microorganisms will thrive and be at their healthiest population by removing these harmful substances.

However, reverse osmosis water is so pure that it is depleted of essential trace elements and minerals, which must be added back to the nutrient solution. Furthermore, calcium and magnesium are both naturally attracted to bind to coco coir, causing them to become unavailable to plants. To compensate for this, it is important that you add some form of a calcium/magnesium supplement to your nutrient solution, especially if you are using reverse osmosis water.

Coco coir is an ideal medium for encouraging roots to develop to their full potential due to its high levels of aeration, naturally occurring trichoderma and remarkable drainage properties. Its high buffer capacity also assures that coco coir will hold and release nutrients over extended periods of time, optimizing plant growth. For further advice on coco, e-mail or call (530) 318-7190 to speak with an expert advisor at House & Garden.

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