Patsy Bell Hobson is a freelance writer in Southeast Missouri. Her neighbors think she is opening a reptile or arachnid farm because they see her so often in the pet store buying coir.

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Coir competency
by Patsy Bell Hobson       #Fertilizing

Plants in hanging baskets thrive with coir liners as well as coir mixed into the potting soil. Plant: Proven Winners - Superbells® Lemon Slice - Calibrachoa hybrid.

Once considered a waste product, coir is now used as mulch, soil conditioner and as a hydroponic growth medium. This organic fiber is an ideal material for worm composers. It is also used to grow mushrooms. It is bacteria free and will deter slugs.

Coir is a very affordable and a reusable product used for lining hanging baskets.

You may be using it already as hanging basket liners. Coir is also used to make doormats. It is also used as the bristles in brushes.

Coir is often used as a replacement for peat in soil mixes. It will lighten up garden soil in raised beds or containers. Like peat, it holds moisture in the soil and also aides in drainage. Unlike peat, coir is considered a renewable resource. Peat comes out of bogs that are rapidly being depleted. Technically, peat is a renewable resource, but few of us can wait for the the many, many decades it takes to regenerate a peat bog.

This coconut fiber retains more water than Sphagnum peat moss. It is considered a renewable soilless resource. It has been used commercially for years but is only recently marketed to home gardeners.

Coir is being marketed as a replacement for peat and as a soil amendment. I used it to start seeds this spring. I also replaced peat in my potting soil blend.

Coir can be added directly to garden beds to loosen up clay soil. If your soil is sandy, adding coir will help the soil to hold water. Coir is organic, but it takes about 20 years for coir to decompose.

A 1/2-inch disk of coir comes with the Amaryllis kit.

Add water to the disk and fluff to loosen coir.

One 1/2-inch disk makes enough material to fill the pot around the Amaryllis bulb.

What is Coir?

Coir is simply coconut fibers. Coir fibers are extracted from the husk, or outer shell, of a coconut. The coir fibers are then dried and made into bricks for agriculture use.

Together, India and Sri Lanka produce 90 percent of the coir manufactured each year.

Coir is used to make ropes and fishing nets because it is resistant to salt water. It is used in mattresses and upholstered furniture. Coconut fiber is used to control erosion along riverbanks.

Coir can be high in sodium and potassium. So before use as a growing medium it is pre-treated by soaking in a calcium buffering solution. Methods of processing coir vary around the world. Salt is not always washed out. There are a few very vocal opponents to coir — I suspect they have used a grade of coir that is high in salt content.

How Coir Works

Water must be added to loosen the fibers into the fluffy peat-like soil amendment. While these coconut fibers provide good soil aeration, they also retain up to nine times their volume in moisture.

To use the brick, place in the bottom of a bucket. I use a 5-gallon bucket. Add water to see the fibers quickly expand. Allow it to continue to absorb water for at least 15 minutes. Once the coir is loose and moist, it is ready to be used.

If the salt content is a concern, add more water to completely cover the coir. Allow it to soak in the water for a couple of hours or overnight, then drain. Look for coir products labeled for garden use and buy from a trusted source.

If coir is sold as a product not intended for garden use, it may or may not have a high salt content. Better to be on the safe side and soak the coir to leach out salts.

This lightweight brick starts expanding as soon as the water hits the surface. Available in any home improvement stores.

Break up and loosen the wet coir brick.

The finished product is ready to be added to a soilless container or raised bed.

Compost and Soil Mixes

Coir is carbon rich, making it an ideal ingredient to layer in the compost pile with grass clipping and kitchen scraps. If you have access to fresh grass clippings, it is quick and easy to build a compost pile. Just layer grass, then coir and repeat a layer of grass then a layer of coir.

Use coir the same as you would use peat moss. Coir can replace up to 40 percent of potting mix. It tends to have a more neutral pH, wheres peat tends to be slightly more acidic.

Where to Buy It

You can ask for coir at some local garden centers, but you might get some blank stares. Coir is easily found online, and it might be available locally in pet supply stores.

Photos courtesy of Patsy Bell Hobson.


Posted: 08/04/14   RSS | Print


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