Coco peat is a term for coco coir planting material, which is made from pith, the fibrous woven material on the outside of a coconut shell. This coir is removed and then shredded into a very fine mulch. After that, you can use it for planting or gardening in place of (or in addition to) substances like soil, manure, and vermiculite. The main advantage of coco peat is its ability to absorb water while staying highly aerated.
Technically, coco coir planting material is not made solely out of the coconut pith â€” it’s made from a mix of mostly pith, plus coconut shell chips and coco fibers. Most coco peat is sold in bricks that are optimized for plant growth.
Why Use Coco Peat for Plants?
Coco peat is often compared to peat moss. Also called sphagnum, peat moss is a similar organic soil-replacement or additive material for growing plants. However, coco peat offers several advantages over peat moss.
People often use peat moss because of its moisture retention and aeration. Moisture retention is important because it leads to a more consistently wet environment for any plants you grow, so it becomes more difficult to under or overwater your garden. Aeration allows plants to grow their roots more easily and helps them “breathe” better, taking up oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. Both of these factors improve plant growth and can contribute to better yields.
Meanwhile, coco peat offers even higher moisture retention and aeration, but it also drains better. Other advantages include:
- Peat is generally difficult to sterilize. Comparatively, coir is sterile and can be further sanitized with hot water.
- Peat moss often contains seeds of weeds and other undesired plants, while coir does not.
- Unlike acidic peat, coir is pH-neutral, making it more adaptable.
- Coconuts, including their fibrous matter, are antifungal and antibacterial, and the coir can protect against certain root diseases.
- Coco peat lasts longer and can be reused in some cases. It is so resistant to decomposition â€” even when wet â€” that people commonly use it as reptile terrarium bedding.
Finally, peat moss is a product of bogs and swamps and must be mined out of the ground, which is environmentally damaging to these critical wetlands. In comparison, there is no shortage of coco coir or difficulty producing more of it. Until recently, it was simply a carbon-neutral waste product of coconut farming.
Coco Peat Uses
Coco peat is a versatile product. You can use it to nurse and sprout seedlings, as worm bedding, as a growing medium for hydroponics, in gardens, in plant pots, and more. You can also use it as a replacement for manure or other soil additives, and there will be far less risk of overloading the plants with too much nitrogen and causing nutrient burn.
How to Use Coco Peat in Gardens
Using coco peat in your garden is very simple â€” just follow these steps:
1. Break Up the Bricks
Coco peat is usually sold in bricks of compressed coir. However you intend to use it, it will need to be broken apart and reconstituted with water. Start by taking however many bricks you need (you usually only need a portion of one for a single plant). Break them apart in your hands, using gloves if you wish, and place the pieces in a large bucket â€” the coir will expand about six times its size when wet.
2. Immerse the Coco Peat in Water
Add water, mix lightly, and wait a few minutes for the water to disperse. You may need to add more water afterward because the fibers soak up more than you might expect. Stir and toss the coco peat with a trowel or other tool after 10 minutes, and if any parts are still dry, add more water. Repeat this process of waiting, tossing, and checking for dry spots until the matter is completely moist and loose. It should easily move around when you tilt the bucket.
3. Add It to Your Garden
Once the coco peat is fully saturated, you can incorporate it with garden soil in a 1-part to 3-parts ratio to improve the soil’s water retention, pest and disease resistance, and gas exchange. Alternatively, for plants that have already sprouted, you could use the coco peat by itself, laying it over the top of the soil as a way to retain its moisture and discourage weeds.
Can We Grow Plants Only in Coco Peat?
Another benefit of coco peat soil compared to regular soil is that it is less attractive to pests that might damage plants or become a nuisance. Given that and the other benefits, many people wonder if they can simply skip soil entirely. The answer is yes, it is perfectly acceptable to use coco peat alone in container gardening, hydroponic setups, and more. In any case, all you have to do is follow the same reconstitution steps listed above.
For planters, add the reconstituted coco peat up to one inch below the rim, and plant your desired seed or seedling in the center. Keep in mind, you may need to add a calcium-magnesium fertilizer solution and check the pH balance for optimal growth and longevity, depending on what you’re growing (such as with cannabis).
You could also just mix coir with gardening soil as mentioned above, following the same 1-part to 3-parts ratio. If you do this, apply a layer of pure coco peat over the mixture as well because planter pots dry out more easily than ground plants.
Coco peat is popular as both a soil additive and a total soil replacement for many types of plants and growing styles, from greenhouses and outdoor gardens to indoor planters. When given a choice between coco peat and peat moss, coco peat offers many advantages and is better for the environment.