What is Coco Coir and why is it great for growing Cannabis?
Coco coir otherwise known as coco, cocopeat or coir peat is created by grinding up the seed husk of coconuts. The husk tissue is biodegradable, and a renewable resource which can be used to grow cannabis and coco can be used up to three times before you retire it. Super cost-effective, environmentally friendly and would you believe one of the best substrates for growing big healthy cannabis plants.
Why coco coir?
Every year more than 3 billion coconuts are harvested and processed in countries like Sri Lanka, India, and the Philippines. The fiber that holds the actual coconut shell is used in many products such as insulation, ropes and now a growing medium.
Coco Coir which is made from the coconut tissue called mesocarp, and it acts and feels a lot like soil when its ground up finely. While Coco does share some similarities with soil, there are some major differences.
Types of Coco Coir
When considering Coco as a growing substrate, there are 3 main types of processed Coco you can choose from fiber, pith or chips. Which is best for growing cannabis? I believe that Pith is the best growing option for cannabis because of its soil-like texture.
Coco Coir pith is very similar in texture to peat moss but had a rich brown color. It’s light density which increases surface area in the substrate allows for better oxygenation of the roots while retaining water safely in the root area. Just mix about 15 to 20% Perlite into the mix to supercharge your grow.
Coco fiber has a stringy texture to them which allows oxygen to enter your root zone. Mixed with some Coco Pith to increase water absorption.
Coco Chips are small chunks of Coco that also create large air zones in your roots. The size of the substrate bundles makes this Coir not suitable for growing cannabis in my opinion.
An experienced and knowledgeable grower will use a mixture of soils and substrates to develop their own perfect formula for growing cannabis. There are pre-mixed products that take care of the work for you.
How is Coco Coir different than soil?
The first difference is how coco coir acts as a moisture sponge holding an incredible amount of water/nutrients while still providing more air flow to the roots of your plants than could ever be achieved with soil. The amount of surface area the coco provides allows for lots of oxygen to be trapped beside the root formation.
Coco is an inert medium which carries little nutritional value to your plants just some natural potassium (K) and phosphorus(P). Even more interesting is the fact that as substrate coco has a pH in the 5.6 to 6.2 range which is perfect for cannabis. Since the medium carries no nutrients on its nutritional supplements are needed to sustain your plant.
The woody like structure of Coco is comprised of two-thirds carbohydrates and one-third lignin. The complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides cellulose and hemicellulose. I know it’s a mouth full, what’s important is that these tiny structures are the perfect breeding ground for beneficial micro-organisms.
These microcosms are the lifeblood of your root zone and also include helpful bacteria known as rhizobacteria. Oxygen, water and nutrients power this little world but the conversion of these elements into useful plant food takes place because of the micro-universe of bacteria and micro-organisms that break down the cellulose in the coco fibers which is converted into carbon which feeds microorganisms and the plants.
If you feel the Coco in your hands, you’ll notice right away how light it is compared to regular potting soil which is much denser. The Coco is light and almost fluffy in a sense because the material has so much surface area.
In contrast, potting soil is dense and clumps together which provides a little area for oxygen at the root level. More oxygen in your root area is going to grow your plants faster and healthier. There is a second benefit to Coco, and that is its ability to hold water while still providing room for oxygen. This is a major limitation for regular soil.
You Must Use Nutrients from the start with Coco Coir
Coco can’t support your plant’s full growth cycle without support. You need to select a nutrient option that is safe for growing in Coco. Since this substrate contains significant amounts of potassium and phosphorus plus trace amounts of nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc you’ll need to use an appropriate nutrient formula to fill in the missing components.
I’ve done a lot of research on nutrients for Coco and have read two schools of thought. The first is that you need to consider that the Coco contains significant amounts of potassium and phosphorus, so your supplemental nutrients should have less base potassium and phosphorus values. Coco also requires additional nitrogen to support the micro-organisms in your root zone.
Tip: make sure to download my free Grow Bible for more information
Make sure you buy quality Coco coir because it can contain high amounts of sodium and chlorine which will not be healthy for your plants. A quality provider washes and leaches out these unwanted elements which occur naturally in Coco because coconuts grow near the ocean.
Coco Coir is a Re-Usable and Renewable Resource
Coir that has been used in up to 3 grows can be flushed clean and then used for your next grow. After three uses the Coir starts to break down and makes it unsuitable for growing. Coir is a completely renewable resource; each coconut tree produces 150 coconuts per year. If you use peat instead which has its growing issues and requirements, you are using a resource that is estimated to take 25 years to create in a peat bog.
Fewer Issues with Pests
Coco Coir does not attract most of the garden variety of insects and pests most of the time. Grows in Coir should give you an extra safety net with one less issues to worry about.
Does Using Coco Coir Mean Bigger Yields?
Cannabis plants truly love Coco and respond very well by showing increases growth and size of both the plant and buds. Switching your grow to Coco isn’t going to give you Hydroponic type gains but you will see significant improvements in your cannabis grown in Coco when compared to standard soil or peat.
Coco is easier to deal with than soil by far. Having the extra oxygen in the roots while maintaining good moisture levels makes watering a breeze.
Coco Coir is a hybrid between soil growing and hydro growing. Its natural fibers make it more forgiving than full hydro systems and much more responsive to nutrient changes then soil. Plants will grow bigger, faster and yield up to 25% more over soil grown cannabis.
I know what you’re thinking; can I back up that faster bigger growing claim with any proof? Well, I sure can! When I was asked to write about growing in Coco Coir, I set out immediately to start a grow of premium OG Kush in Coco Coir using a 1000 W compatible Wide-Band Led Grow light.
The difference was noticeable almost immediately. Within a week I could see that my seedlings had matured much more in Coco then if had been planted in soil. The plants looked strong and healthy from start to finish. I previously grew the same OG Kush in soil and created side by side photos showing the plants at the same times. You’ll notice the Coco plant is bigger right away when compared to the potting soil option.
Around week 4 of Vegetation, I began having issues with the plants having nutrient deficiencies. It first showed up as marks on the top of the leaves, but it became quickly obvious that I had a deficiency in
Not only is Coco Coir more productive than soil, but it’s also eco-friendly, versatile and easier to use. Coco can be purchased in several formats such as pellets, bricks, sheets or ready to use bags which I prefer. You can find Coco at any growing store or where I like to buy it is on Amazon.
By Bud Durden