When it comes to creating your ideal growing media, soil is not your only option. Coco coir, derived from the fibrous husks of coconuts and ground into fine fibers, is a great addition to soil or can also be used on its own to create a soil substitute. When creating a soil mix, you must monitor your soil to ensure you have the correct nutrients to optimize your plant’s growth.
Coco Coir and Soil Mix
Because coco coir offers higher water retention and a neutral pH level than peat moss, it is becoming more popular to use as an additive to traditional dirt or soil.
Coir typically comes packed as a compressed brick, so before adding it to the soil, you must first rehydrate the coir in water. Follow the package directions for how much water to use and allow it to rehydrate overnight.
The rehydrated coir should be light and fluffy. Once your coir is rehydrated, it is ready to mix in with traditional soil. Because the nutrients in coir are different from that of dirt or soil, you will need to test your nutrient levels to determine the best additives for your mix.
Dry Coir Soil Additive
If you want to transition to hydroponic gardening, the use of a coco coir-based soil alternative provides you with the look and feel of a soil garden without the use of traditional soil. Because coco coir retains as much as 10 times more water than traditional soil, it makes for a good growing medium.
Moistened Coir Soil Additive
While coco coir does offer nutrients for plant growth, like phosphorus and potassium, it lacks others and must be watered with nutrient-enriched water. You can also choose to mix coco coir with perlite and vermicompost for a good organic mixture. Vermicompost, or worm castings, adds beneficial nutrients and microorganisms while the perlite helps to dry out the coco coir, reducing the chance of root rot.
Adding Aeration Components
Whether you are using coco coir alone or mixed with traditional soil, an aeration additive is often needed. Because of coir’s ability to retain so much water, there is often too much water and not enough oxygen in the mixture. This causes the root systems of your plants to essentially drown. By adding an aerator like perlite or pumice, you introduce air pockets and give yourself more control over moisture levels in your soil. Both perlite, a type of volcanic glass, and pumice, a type of volcanic rock, work in a similar fashion, but perlite is lightweight and less expensive.
Taking Nutrients into Consideration
When it comes to creating a soil mix with coco coir, your nutrient levels need to be considered. Traditional potting soil typically needs to be combined with a fertilizer with high levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, but coco coir already has naturally high levels of phosphorus and potassium. Coir also contains trace levels of calcium, magnesium, and nitrogen, so a fertilizer with high levels of these three nutrients is needed. If possible, test your soil for nutrient levels.