Previously I have written about how damaging the plastic pollution is to our planet and ways in which we can reduce our plastic consumption and general waste. One of the alternatives I’d like to talk about, that I feel would help gardeners reduce their waste and be more environmentally friendly, is the underrated coir.
Some of you may already being gardening with coir, some may not and those of you that are new to gardening might not know too much about it, like where it comes from, what its benefits are and what impact it could have as an alternative to your store bought plastic sack of compost.
Could it be the new compost? I will let you decide.
What is Coir?
Coir is a natural fibre that is 100% biodegradable. It’s a by-product that’s extracted from the husk of a coconut. It’s the fibrous material that is found between the hard-inner shell and the outer coating of the coconut. Coir is also known as, coco peat, coir fibre pith or coir dust.
Where is Coir produced?
Coir is native to the Asia Pacific region, especially India and Sri Lanka, where coconut is produced in large quantities for global export. Currently, the global annual production of coir is approximately 650,000 tonnes. India produces around 60% of the world’s supply of coir fibre, while Sri Lanka produces 36%. More recently, countries such as Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Caribbean Islands have also started producing coir to the global market on a large scale.
Where is Coir used?
Coir is used predominantly for horticultural and agricultural purposes. Coir can be used in geo-textiles to produce mesh, netting and blanket sheets for slope stabilisation and erosion control. In horticulture the uses are vast, including the likes of growing medium, mulch, pots, trays, grow poles, netting and yarn. It’s also used in many household products such as door matts, floor matting, upholstery and brushes, not to mention rope and packaging.
What are the benefits of using Coir?
Less waste - because coir is a by-product of the coconut industry. It’s production is reducing waste by taking what would otherwise have been a waste product and creating something new and at the end of it’s lifecycle it’s bio-degradable and simply returns back to the earth from which it came
Versatile - it’s an incredible natural material that is used for many products from agriculture to household products
Porosity - it holds up to 30% more water than regular compost therefore helping to reduce watering frequency during the growing period. Coir is difficult to overwater and holds on to oxygen even when drenched
Root Growth - coir offers a rare combination of excellent water retention, reliable drainage and ideal aeration, giving the roots plenty of room and structure
Soil Conditioner - unlike compost, coir has a near-neutral pH level making it a great soil conditioner (this obviously depends on what your current soil type is) and makes it perfect as a seed starter or growing micro-greens, it has a very high germination success rate
Pathogens & Pests - this growing medium boasts anti-fungal properties, which keeps the roots happy and it repels some pests which makes it ideal for indoor gardening too
Environmental - on average a coconut tree produces 150 coconuts annually. The production of coir uses parts of the coconut that used to go to waste. Coir products can be purchased plastic free therefore reducing the need for plastic bags. Because of it’s water retention you are using less water throughout the growing season and is bio-degradable. The tree’s themselves are more resilient to environmental impacts like droughts, high winds and floods
Sustainable - coir is a natural and most importantly renewable resource, supporting communities across the globe in Fair Trade
What are the negatives of using Coir?
We don’t want to be biased and only discuss the benefits and so we will address the negatives too. And there’s really only one and it’s listed as a benefit too. It’s the near-neutral pH level, whilst this can be a benefit it can be considered a drawback. Coir has a high Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), it stores and releases nutrients as needed but it tends to hold onto calcium, magnesium and iron. Therefore additional nutrients need to be added overtime to boost the levels for healthy crops. But this can simply be done by adding earthworm castings, manure or home compost.
Our Coir Products
We currently stock coir as a growing medium, pots and trays. We are very proud of the coir products and will be looking to develop and grow this area because we think it’s an incredible material, if a little underrated. The pots and trays we stock are hand crafted by a ladies co-operative in the Hambantota area in Southern Sri Lanka, so by purchasing these you are helping a community thrive.
Coir is an excellent alternative to store bought compost and a perfect multipurpose growing medium. We currently stock coir growing medium in three products;
Coir Discs - these are small disc’s that sit perfectly in our coir seedling pots and once water is added is the perfect amount for sowing seeds
Grow Cubes - these are a little larger than the disc’s and work well with the coir grow trays
Coco Peat Bricks - we currently sell the 250g bricks but we hoping to expand this to larger sizes in due course, however once water is added the 250g brick will give you approximately 3.5 litres of coir growing medium
Pots & Trays
Coir pots and trays are very sturdy and can last around 12 months above ground (depending on your usage) or several months below ground, where they decompose in moist soil. I love using coir pots as they are perfect, once the seedling germinates you pot the entire plant in the ground, no waste, which for those attempting to live a zero waste lifestyle is ideal. We currently only stock one pot and one tray but this is definitely an area that we want to expand. Both products are natural, organic and hand crafted. They last about 12 months above ground (depending on your use) and several months in the ground.
Coir Grow Tray - this is perfect for seed sowing or growing herbs on the kitchen window ledge and even works well for micro-greens. They are 19cm long, 15cm wide and 7cm deep
Coir Seedling Pots - are perfect if you are starting out, at 4.5cm (50ml) they are the perfect size for sowing seed
I hope this has been an insightful introduction to coir and at the very least it has inspired you to try it as an alternative to store bought compost, trays and pots.