Basic plant knowledge tells us plants need several things for optimal growth: sunlight, water, nutrients, and oxygen. In the process of photosynthesis, plants create their own oxygen, visible in the green parts of the plant’s stems and leaves. But what about what we don’t see? Roots need oxygen as much as the rest of the plant, but since photosynthesis doesn’t take place at the root level, roots must absorb oxygen from the environment around them.
Mixing Coco Coir
Soils can be dense and compact, trapping water beneath the surface. If a plant’s roots can’t extract oxygen from the air due to water saturation, they will starve. Depending on the roots affected, the entire plant could die. It’s not only roots at risk, but helpful bacteria on and around the roots that need oxygen too. Nutrients need nutrients.
Adding coco coir fiber to soil allows for coir’s fluffy texture to create air pockets, making soil spongy and loose. Coir provides natural aeration and allows plants to take up oxygen with relative ease. Coco coir’s mixture with other mediums aids its ability to hold and release water as needed. As a sole medium in hydroponics, it may need a little assistance.
When coco coir is used as the sole growing medium in a hydroponic environment, it behaves a little differently. Because of coir’s ability to hold water, it is necessary to aerate coco coir in order to maintain oxygen flow to plant’s roots and surrounding beneficial microbes.
How to Aerate Coco Coir
Dissolved oxygen in a nutrient solution is an effective and efficient way to aerate coco coir. When using a nutrient solution, salinity and temperature can alter its efficacy. Although salinity is less of a concern, the temperature of the nutrient solution should remain at a constant 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit. If the solution is too warm, it will have trouble holding the oxygen. If it’s too cold, growth can slow considerably.
Replacing depleted oxygen can be done by using an air pump or stone to directly inject oxygen into the nutrient solution. As long as the temperature is ideal, the solution will hold the oxygen pumped in and distribute it to the plant’s roots.
Hydrogen peroxide may also be used to replenish oxygen, though the amounts used should be monitored carefully. Hydrogen peroxide should always be diluted before using. Overuse of hydrogen peroxide can cause harm to beneficial bacteria. Taking the time to monitor temperature should eliminate the need for this supplement.
It’s important to note that using quality coir is crucial to successful growing. Low-quality coir tends to be high in sodium content and would need several “washings” to remove the salt. Since salinity is already a factor in a hydroponic growing environment, using a high-salt coir is asking for trouble.
Oxygen is needed by every living thing and providing oxygen to a plant’s roots is a critical part of the growing process. Taking the time to aerate coco coir means it will reward you with healthy plants and a fruitful harvest.