There are many ways to make coco peat, but the production process generally begins by collecting coconut coir, which is the fiber on the coconut husk. Most manufacturers collect coco peat through a process that looks like this:
- Collect coconuts from the trees and store for a six-week curing process.
- Peel the outer layer of the husk from the coconut.
- Soak the husks in water for six to 12 months to wash salt from the husks and make the coco pith pH neutral.
- Place the coco pith in a de-fibering machine which separates short fiber and bristle fiber from the pith.Â
The coir fibers that are removed from the husk at this stage have numerous uses and can be found in:
- Car mats.
- Door mats.
- Bristle brooms.
The product that will become coco peat is actually a byproduct in the manufacturing of these items. This has long been thrown away, as it was considered useless. However, this byproduct has now found a use in gardening. The coco peat that remains once the fibers have been removed is typically sun-dried and compressed into blocks.
How Is Coco Peat Used?
Coco peat is used as a growing medium. It offers a wealth of benefits for gardeners because this natural, biodegradable product:
- Can retain water for several months, holding up to 10 times its weight in water.
- Provides aeration to keep soil loose.
- Is pH neutral, so you can easily adjust acidity or alkalinity with additives.
- Is insect neutral and does not attract pests.
You can use coco peat in several ways, depending on your gardening style. In a traditional garden, coco peat makes an excellent amendment to help the soil retain moisture without becoming waterlogged. This loose growing medium aerates the soil so that there are small air pockets. It also absorbs water and helps deliver moisture and nutrients to your plants. In sandy soil, coco peat will increase water retention, while it assists with drainage in clay.
If you’re engaged in hydroponic gardening, you can use coco peat as your growing medium. While hydroponics deliver all the necessary nutrients to plants through water rather than soil, the plant’s roots still need something to anchor themselves in. This is where a soilless medium like coco peat comes in. The coco peat makes it easy for roots to absorb water and nutrients while remaining loose enough to prevent root rot.
How to Incorporate Coco Peat
Coco peat comes in compressed blocks that you must prepare before you can add this media to your garden. Follow these steps to get your coco peat ready:
- Place the coco peat block in a container roughly 10 times its size.
- Cover the brick with warm water, using about 5 gallons of water per kilo of coco peat.
- Allow the brick to soak for about 30 minutes. During this time, it will expand to five to seven times its original size.
- Fluff the coco peat with your hands until it resembles loose soil.
For traditional gardening, you should mix the coco peat with soil or compost. You may also want to add perlite or vermiculite for a well-balanced blend. As a soilless growing medium, coco coir does well when mixed with perlite.Â
Some coco peat products come with fertilizer amendments mixed in, so it’s important to read the packaging for your product. If no amendments were added, you’ll need to incorporate these yourself. Coco coir naturally contains some phosphorus and potassium, but you’ll need to balance this with the addition of calcium and magnesium for the best results.
Coco Coir vs. Peat Moss
Coco coir is often lauded as a more sustainable alternative to peat moss. Peat moss is the result of long-decomposed plant matter in bogs. In peat bogs, peat forms at a rate of about 1/16-inch every year. The harvesting process for peat releases carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. Peat use in Britain is much reduced in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the Royal Horticultural Society has cut back on their peat use by 97%.
Coco coir is more readily renewable. Most coco coir comes from the Malayan coconut tree. This tree reaches maturity in just four to six years. Between six and 10 years of age, the tree begins to fruit. A mature Malayan coconut tree can produce 50 to 200 coconuts a year and will do so until about 80 years of age.
Both coco coir and peat moss offer excellent water retention, though peat moss holds on to water slightly longer. The neutral pH of coco coir makes it more favorable than acidic peat moss for many plants. The two are usually comparable in price and can be used very similarly.
If you’re looking for a new garden amendment or soilless growing medium, consider coco peat for your next project. Naturally produced from coconut fibers, this is an excellent option that’s always easy on the environment. You can enjoy the numerous benefits of this material while making your garden easier on the environment at the same time.