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How Hydroponics Systems Work For You, Part 8: Coco Coir Featured

Coconuts are good for drinks and for your hydroponics plants. Coconuts are good for drinks and for your hydroponics plants.

We’ve been discussing hydroponics systems and there are plenty more details to discuss before we’re all fully briefed on hydroponics systems, but because I have gotten so many questions about using hydroponics coco coir, I will take a brief excursion into coconutville.

First off, coco coir is a solid medium you use in a drip irrigation set-up. Some people might try it in an ebb and flow or flood and drain, but I’m not one of them.

Coir is made from the outer husks of coconuts and some say it is thus a “sustainable” material because it is organic in origin.

Unlike rockwool or hydroton, coir can be disposed of in the back yard or the woods; it will easily decompose. And it can be re-used, for at least 2-3 crop cycles, as long as you enzyme it and otherwise clean it properly.

Coir advocates tout a number of benefits. They say coir holds more air than most other hydroponics media, even when fully saturated. Overwatering in less-aerated media such as rockwool can drown your roots while also providing a good environment for bad things, such as root diseases. So coir’s extra air-holding capacity is seen as a plus.

An entire industry of coir-specific hydroponics nutrients has sprung up because coir can be tricky with pH, parts per million measurements, and certain nutrients elements.

Up until a few years ago, growers had to wash their coir to remove salts, but nowadays, most brands of premium coir are safely pre-washed.

Other coir problems include the unique way coir interacts with calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. This can interfere with your ability to get the right amounts of these elements into your root zone and roots. In this regard, coir is not as “neutral” a media as rockwool. And as you know, potassium, calcium and phosphorus are crucial elements for your plants, especially in bloom phase.

I recommend you do four things before you switch to coco coir. The first is to talk to other growers who use coco coir. If you like what you hear, the next step is to contact your hydroponics store and ask them what types of coco coir they recommend, and why.

This is important because the processing and manufacturing of hydroponics coco coir is hard to do right. There are many inferior brands of coir. The latest recommendations I’ve received say that Roots Organic Soilless Coco Fiber, Nutrifield Coco and Canna Coco Coir substrate are excellent performers.

After you’ve chosen a brand of coco coir you’re interested in, contact the manufacturer and ask them how they blend and prep their coir. You want to hear that they are mixing various grades of coir, along with washing and pre-buffering the end product.

Be sure to clear up confusion about what material you are buying: brick, loose, chips or fibers, or combinations thereof. I don’t want to bore you with the details of coco manufacturing or components but a hydroponics coco product is often a combination of various parts of a coconut husk. The combination ratios and ingredients influence how the coir performs, or at least how much work you have to do to make it usable. 

The fourth step is to contact hydroponics nutrients manufacturers to find out if their products work well in coco coir. An entire industry of coir-specific hydroponics nutrients has sprung up because coir can be tricky with pH, parts per million measurements and certain nutrients elements. It is a matter of opinion whether those “coir-specific” ferts work any better than premium all-purpose hydroponics nutrients.

Do I recommend coir? Not really. I’ll stick with Grodan rockwool. But follow the four steps outlined above if you’re new to coir. If you’re already using coir, please tell us how it works for your hydroponics plants.

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Read Part 1 of this series here.

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Read Part 3 of this series here.

Read Part 4 of this series here.

Read Part 5 of this series here.

Read Part 6 of this series here.

Read Part 7 of this series here.

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Coconuts and coco coir: something to sing about?
Last modified on Monday, 16 July 2012 14:31

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