Coco peat is a natural product with some interesting properties for the garden, plants in container and hydroponics.
Coco peat is residual waste from the processing of the coconut.
It is also known as coco pith, coir pith, coir dust or simply coir.
If you do not know coco peat yet, I encourage you to try it for your seedlings, houseplants, garden, vegetable garden or hydroponics.
What exactly is coco peat?
Coco peat is produced from the husk of coco nuts.
It contains more lignin and cellulose than other plant fibers like cotton or linen, making it stronger and decomposing very slowly.
The longer fibers are used for making ropes, mats, brooms…
Shorter fibers are used in horticulture, as growing medium or for soil amendment.
Larger chips are used as mulch.
This article is about the shorter fibers, known as coco peat.
- decomposes very slowly due to its high lignin content, making it almost inert and thus suitable for hydroponics. Coco peat can be used 5 years before it degrades.
- high aeration, even when wet
- good water retention: absorbs 9 times its own volume in water without being waterlogged
- water is absorbed very quickly, even when completely dry
- water is propagated uniformly through the medium, there are no dry spots
- when coco peat dries out, it does not shrink
- pH 5,7-6,8 suitable for most plants
- high cation exchange capacity (CEC), which means the ions from fertilizer are linked and not lost
Coco peat may be used in itself, as a replacement for soil, for:
- growing plants in container, for house plants as well as orangery plants
Suitable for sowing as the biological activity is very low: no bacteria and very few moulds.
Suitable for growing mushrooms due to its high lignin and cellulose content.
Planting of an indoor plant in coco peat in a sub-irrigation container:
Coco peat may be mixed with garden soil, potting soil or sand.
It is also a good substitute for peat moss as it comes from a renewable source. Whereas the extraction of peat moss is very detrimental to its ecosystem.
In container, adding coco peat to the potting soil increases aeration and water retention capacity. Fewer waterings are needed.
In the garden, mixed with garden soil around the plant, coco peat contributes to:
- aeration of clay soil
- improving water retention of sandy soil
Forms commercially available:
In bulk in bags, like potting soil, per 10-25-50 liters
Perfect for ease of transport and space saving for storage. It is ideal for those living in an apartment with limited storage space.
Prior to used, the coco peat needs to be hydrated and then swells to its normal volume.
Known as Jiffy pellets or coco pellets: the seeds are placed in the hole in the centred, then then moistened, encasing the seeds.
There are also individual growing blocks or tablets for planting of several plants.
Sowing in a coco pellet:
Coco peat itself is poor in nutrients and a complete fertilizer that contains trace elements as well as the primary nutrients is needed.
Sometimes, coco peat is found to which the manufacturer has already added fertilizer. It is therefore essential to check on the package to avoid over-fertilization.
Fertilizers for hydroponics are recommended because they all contain trace elements. But a good general fertilizer for culture in soil, provided it contains trace elements, is also suitable.
Warning: do not add fertilizer with every watering to avoid over-fertilization. Providing fertilizer weekly or every 3 waterings is enough.
Is coco peat environmentally friendly?
The product itself is environmentally friendly: it is a waste product from a renewable source and undergoes little processing. It is rinsed with water and sometimes sterilized.
For this reason, it is accepted as a substrate in organic farming.
That being said, the product is transported from the equator, often from the other side of the globe (Asia) and boat transportation has a negative environmental impact.
And plastic packaging is not particularly environmentally friendly, that seems obvious.