If you are into hydroponics, or indoor growing more generally, you'll have heard about the soilless growing medium coco coir. This sustainable replacement for soil improves water retention but still offers excellent drainage. Not to mention the fact that coco coir for plants being the perfect consistency for root aeration has a neutral pH and is reusable.
Coco coir is perfect for cannabis, indoor veggie gardens, and even house plants. Are you considering making the switch from soil-based growing (or even from another substrate)? What do you need to know about this magical coconut-fiber ingredient? It requires a bit of special treatment but offers great payoffs come harvest time.
What is Coco Coir Substrate?
Coco coir is a gardening product produced from the fibers of coconut husks. Several coconut products fall under this category of substrate, including coco pith, coco fibers, and coco chips. These substrates are classified as soiless growing mediums, and are designed to totally replace the need for soil.
Pith, also called coco peat, is an excellent replacement for peat moss, and most importantly, it's much more eco friendly. Another coconut by-product, coco fibers, is stringy and absorbant. They create air pockets in the substrate for better aeration. Coco chips combine peat and fiber together for the most value. Coco chips provide great drainage, yet retain enough moisture to keep plants happy.
Indoor growers prefer coco coir because it is eco-friendly and improves nutrient availability. Plants spend less time seeking nutrients and more effort producing. Also, coco fibers naturally reduce the risks of pests because insects prefer real-soil over coconut products.
Can you Mix Coco Coir with Soil?
Generally speaking, coco coir has become a popular substrate for hydroponics or soilless growing. The coconut by-products replace traditional soil mixtures, giving roots a place to hold on, and direct access to nutrient solutions. In whatever hydroponic system you have set up, the coco coir replaces any need for soil - although it does require a few additional steps to prep, flush, and reuse.
Outside of the hydroponics world, coco chips and coco peat are excellent additions to soil, helping improve water retention and aeration. It's so useful, you find more companies than ever before are adding coco coir as an amendment to potting soil mixtures, instead of the more conventional peat moss.
Coco coir has a lot of similar properties with peat moss but is much more eco-friendly. Peat moss is a nonrenewable and environmentally damaging industry, so coco coir is growing in popularity. For some growers, there is not debate about growing with soil vs coco coir — they choose both.
What is the pH of Coco Coir?
When it comes to indoor growing, pH is critical to harvest success. Coco coir starts off as relatively neutral, a pH between 5.2 to 6.8. This base-pH is perfect for growing cannabis because cannabis thrives in a hydroponics system between 5.5 to 6.5.
But, and this is a very important but, hydroponics systems fluctuate over time. As you add new nutrients into the nutrient solution, and as your plants absorb these nutrients through their roots, you may find the pH level rises over time. Careful and frequent pH testing is an ongoing requirement for growing in coco coir with hydroponics.
How to Prep Coco Coir for Growing Cannabis
Growing in coco coir can improve yields, but it requires a bit of special attention beforehand. There are several pre-buffered and pre-mixed coco coir options out there, but you can reap significant savings by preparing your own.
Buffered coco coir already has the tiny particulate (coco peat) removed. These small particles are quickly removed by soaking and straining the mixture. If you do not buffer the mixture, they compact the substrate and make root development difficult.
For this preparation, you will need coco coir bricks, a bag of perlite, a large plastic container, a fabric pot (for prepping), and a Cal-Mag solution.
- In a large 7 Gallon Fabric pot, unwrap and roughly break apart a coco coir brick.
- Place the pot within a larger plastic container. Add water and the Cal-Mag solution. Allow the mixture to soak for ten minutes to rehydrate and break down the brick.
- Remove the fabric pot from the plastic container, letting the excess water drain out through the fabric pot. Dispose of the excess water.
- Add perlite to the coco coir, mixing thoroughly until evenly combined.
- Now the mixture is ready to grow, split between your hydroponic containers.
Is Coco Coir Reusable?
One of the big benefits of growing with coco is the ability to reuse for several successive runs. But, it does require a bit of reconditioning between crops. Suppose you don't clean and recondition between uses. In that case, the lingering nutrients, roots, and other organic materials can cause issues for the next run.
To reuse your coco coir, follow these three simple - but crucial - steps:
- Remove from the container and break apart into a large empty rubber maid (or larger container). Remove all old roots, dispose of them.
- Using distilled water, flush the cleaned coco coir. This will remove the built-up salts and nutrients from the old run. Flush several times to ensure the coco is clean.
- Add beneficial bacteria, if using.
Now your coco coir is cleaned, conditioned, and ready to grow again. With the right attention, a single purchase of coco coir will last for grow after grow.
Coco Coir: An Ideal Growing Medium for Cannabis
Coco coir is the preferred growing medium for cannabis. As an affordable and readily available by-product from the coconut industry, it's eco friendly and renewable. From coco fiber to coco peat to coco chips, all parts of the coconut shell are usable for hydroponic growing or as a soil amendment.
Naturally, coco coir has an ideal pH for cannabis, plus its the perfect consistency for water retention, while still offering enough aeration for roots to thrive. As a final bonus, coco coir for hydroponics is reusable! Saving money and reducing waste. There is nothing not to love about this growing medium.