Can You Use Coco Coir as Soil? Coco Coir vs Soil

  • By: CarlBroadbent
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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How far is too far when it comes to experimenting with new growing mediums?

Soil has been the go-to since the beginning of time, but we have expanded to growing in moss, polymer-based gels, and even in water.

Some people have gotten a little bit more creative and have tried using the fibrous part of a coconut as a growing medium. Can you use coco coir as soil?

Yes, coco coir can be used as soil and has quite a few advantages over the traditional growing medium. Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of each growing medium so you can find what will work best for you. 

Coco Coir

When you think of a coconut, you might picture the brown fuzzy seed that’s hard to open or the big green ball that comes off the tree.

Coco fiber, coco coir or coco peat
Coco Fiber

Coco coir are the fibres in between the flesh of the fruit and the outer husk.

There are two types of coco coir:

  1. Brown coir which comes from more mature coconuts and is strong.
  1. White coir from unripe coconuts which is flexible.

Both can be used to replace soil. 

Pros

  • Eco-Friendly: Coconut coir comes from a renewable resource, and every step along the way from soaking in water, to drying in the sun can be done in eco-friendly ways. Coco coir is also reusable and doesn’t break down over time. Believe it or not, coco coir is a waste product, and repurposing it for planting greatly reduces waste from coconut farms.
  • Good for Root Growth: Coco coir is light and airy. It gives the roots plenty of space to develop and grow, creating a very solid root system instead of a compacted root ball. 
  • More Control: Coco coir has no nutritional content. There are no different levels of sand, silt, or clay, there’s no decaying organic matter, there’s nothing to affect the nutrition your plants are being given. This means you have complete control over what nutrients you give your plants.
  • Introductory Step to Hydroponics: The basics of hydroponics is growing in water so you have complete control over nutrients being fed to the plants. Planting in coco coir gives you that same control without having to buy or set up a hydroponic system or maintain it. 
  • Water Retention: Coco coir can absorb 10 times its weight in water. Retaining this much water means the growing medium won’t dry out as quickly, you can go longer between waterings, and your plants are at less of a risk of suffering from dehydration. 
  • Insect Repelling: Many plant pests avoid making a home in coco coir. This is because coco coir doesn’t have any decaying organic matter for the pests to feed off of! 

Cons

  • Steals nutrients: Coco coir absorbs moisture, but it will also absorb some of the nutrients you add for your plants. Specifically, coco coir absorbs calcium and nitrogen, but adding a good CalMag can fix this. You can also keep the coco coir from absorbing the nutrients by hydrating the coco coir before adding nutrients.
  • Dependent: Your plants are going to be completely dependent on you if they are planted in coco coir. While you have complete control over the nutrients, too much or too little can kill your plants. 
  • Rehydration: It’s not a hard step, but before you can use coco coir, you have to rehydrate it. Coco coir is normally shipped in dehydrated, compressed bricks, and if you were excited about getting started as soon as you get the coir home, you’ll be a little disappointed. 
  • Expensive Mixes: Since coco coir can be difficult to work with since you have to adjust the level of nutrients yourself, you can buy premade mixes. This makes growing your plants easier, and it saves time by not having to do it yourself, but the mixes can be fairly expensive. 

Soil

Dirt. Earth. Soil. You’ve definitely heard about it, but what is it?

Soil is made of a blend of five key ingredients; minerals, organic matter, water, organisms, and has. The composition determines the size of the soil, which could be clay, silt, or sand. 

Where to find good topsoil
Find high-quality topsoil

Each type of soil has its advantages and disadvantages to growing, but the best blend of soil is called loam.

It consists of:

  • 20% clay
  • 40% silt
  • 40% sand

This blend is also called topsoil and is used by landscape companies, garden nurseries, and many, many home gardeners. 

Pros

  • Easy to Use: Soil is easily forgiving. Soil insulates the roots to protect them against temperature changes, you can buy pre-made mixes for your plant type, it retains nutrients, and is all-around easy to use. 
  • Acidity Buffer: Microbes and organic material from the soil and organic matter change the pH of the soil for optimal nutrient absorption in your plants. For most plants, this range is from 5.5 to 6.5. 
  • Already Has The Good Stuff: Set it and forget it is my type of gardening, and a pre-mixed soil specifically for my plants is basically that. The mix already has the right composition of sand, peat, organic matter, perlite, microorganisms, and nutrients. All I have to do is water the plants when they need it and place my pots where they are getting the right amount of sunlight. 

Cons

  • It’s Heavy: Soil is significantly heavier than other growing mediums, especially coco coir. This has a much larger effect on gardeners who plant in pots. When moving plants indoors to outdoors, or vice versa, heavy soil will make that extremely difficult. 
  • Soil Mixes: Because the soil has different water retentions and nutrients based on composition, it’s important to find the right soil mix for your plants. Not only could it be difficult to find the right blend for your plants, but if you have different plants you’ll need to keep different mixes for them. 
  • Less Control: With coco coir, you have complete control over the nutrients, but with soil, there are nutrients in the soil already from decomposing organic material. This makes it nearly impossible to calculate what nutrients your plants are getting, and how much. 

Verdict

Coco coir can absolutely be used as soil, and dare I say it may be better than soil in most cases.

Having complete control over the nutrients you feed your plant, the excellent water retention, and the fact that it doesn’t make a welcoming home for pests make coco coir my next choice for a growing medium.

But instead of asking coir or soil, you can have the best of both worlds.

A blend of soil and coir will give you better control, a lighter medium, space for roots to grow, and insulation to protect those roots from changing temperatures.

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