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Hydroponics Coco Coir, Part 2: Beware Calcium-Magnesium Problems

Coconuts give us hydroponics coco coir. Coconuts give us hydroponics coco coir.

In the previous article in this series on hydroponics coco coir, we talked about how coir is made, and discussed details of how coir is used in hydroponics. Unfortunately, there are few controls or regulations that ensure the quality and performance of hydroponics coco coir. This is a matter of concern for you.

Commercially available peat-based growing mixes have been used in hydroponics for decades, and there’s more standardization of peat products and more information on how you can benefit from using peat in your hydroponics garden. But that’s not true for hydroponics coir, so you have to be very careful in how you select and use coir.

Coir is available in different grades of coarseness; the best texture for your hydroponics plants are the coarser grades. Coir is sometimes available in large, coarse chunks commonly used by orchid growers. Powdered coir is also available, but it holds too much water, starves roots of oxygen, and can provide a good environment for bad root diseases.

Coir locks up magnesium and calcium and the only thing that defeats the lock-up is to add calcium and magnesium so your hydroponics plants can get enough of these two essential elements.

At your hydroponics store, coir is available loose, pre-hydrated in bags, or bricked, and often is ready to use although you may have to hydrate the bricked coir. Coir has a more neutral pH (more alkaline) compared with peat-based hydroponics media. Peat-based mixes are acidic unless they have been properly buffered with lime to help neutralize the pH and supply a slow release of calcium and magnesium.

Growers sometimes make the mistake of running pH levels in their nutrient solution that are the same as what they’d use in peat mixes. But coir needs a pH range of 5.6–5.8 in vegetative growth and a pH range of 5.8–6.0 in bloom if you want acceptable performance.

Coir has some tricky features when it comes to hydroponics nutrients and absorption. Most coir contains lots of potassium, and it transfers some to your crops. Coir locks up magnesium and calcium and the only thing that defeats the lock-up is to add calcium and magnesium so your hydroponics plants can get enough of these two essential elements.

Some manufacturers pre-charge their coir with calcium and magnesium so you don’t have to. If your coir is not pre-charged, when initially soaking your compressed coir or watering pre-hydrated coir, add Cal-Mag to your water. Just remember that most cal-mag formulas suck. I recommend using Sensi Cal because it comes in two formulations - one specific to grow phase, one for bloom phase.

In our next article about coco coir, we’ll talk about other nutrients issues that happen with hydroponics coir, and we’ll also explore a great new coir blend starter product from Jiffy. Stay tuned to RosebudMag.com for the insider hydroponics information you need to get huge harvests.

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The inside story of coco coir
Last modified on Friday, 17 August 2012 18:18

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