So you’ve discovered Coconut Coir. You’re convinced it could be the perfect choice for your gardening needs. That’s great! Now you want to buy some. Where will you go? What should you be aware of?
Whether you’re an experienced bulk-buying convert or an inexperienced gardener, you’ll want to be sure that what you buy is the best quality you can afford.
Understanding what makes good coco coir means knowing how the product is produced.
In general, good coco coir is the result of a controlled production process — from harvesting through to packaging.
Perhaps the greatest concern for a would-be purchaser should be the level of salt retained by the material.
To extract coco coir from coconuts, each coconut is washed in water. This tends to happen outdoors, either in a freshwater lake or stream, or — more commonly — in a river that is subject to tidal flow.
Tidal rivers contain a high volume of salt. As the coconut husk soaks in the solution, salt is absorbed by the coco coir. This needs to be removed prior to shipping the finished product, as excess salt can be potentially fatal to a plant, should it be leached into the soil mixture.
Coconuts growing close to the ocean, or within a salty substrate, will naturally have elevated levels of salt within the husk.
The salt can be washed out during processing, although aging of the coir — for six months to a year — will also help the extraction process.
Drying and block compression
In this regard, the method of drying is also a contributing factor to quality. You’ll want to opt for a product that has been naturally sundried. While coco coir can be dried with machinery, there is an increased risk of the coir fibres being damaged.
Typically, coir sold in brick form or in bales will have been compressed as well as dried. The combination of these two actions can end up creating waste, in the form of damaged fibres and dust, which ends up getting packaged into the mix.
Waste coir will have a knock-on effect on plant growth as well: too much compacted dust and useless fibre can reduce the volume of air and water reaching the plant’s roots.
To combat this, the mixture basically needs to be sieved on an industrial scale to ensure only finer particles remain.
Storing coco coir
The processed fibre needs to be stored correctly prior to reaching resellers. There are a couple of issues to be aware of in this regard.
Firstly, as moisture will have been removed from the coir — and given its absorbent nature — the material needs to be stored in a dry environment.
If moisture does set in, the coir could simply rot. It also makes the fibres susceptible to microorganisms: chiefly mould and mildew.
In addition, the longer the coir is kept in storage, the higher the risk of contamination by other foreign substances. The most common is insect infestation, which damages the fibre bales.
While it is possible to combat infestation by using a chemical treatment method, this also introduces risk: cellulose can be damaged by this process, causing the fibres to break down.
It’s generally accepted that steaming the coir is a ‘kinder’ way of reducing problem pathogens, as it reduces fibre damage.
Ultimately, it makes more sense to prevent contamination through good storage, rather than to cure the problem afterwards.
Coco coir in storage is also susceptible to:
- Oils (natural and manufactured)
Another chemical treatment that coco coir may be subjected to prior to sale involves soaking the material in an alkaline solution. This can increase the strength of the coir fibres.
When the sodium solution crystallizes, the resultant particles reinforce the fibres — making them more rugged over repeated treatments, allowing for better interlocking between fibres on a microscopic scale.
In summary, coco coir quality is largely a product of the industrial processes used to harvest, prepare and store the material. Determining the quality of what you are getting will require you to find out how the coir was handled before reaching the store. Do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions. Before purchasing, you’ll want to know:
Where the coconuts were grown
Did this happen near a source of salt water?
How the husks were loosened
Were they soaked in fresh water or salt water?
How the coir was desalinated
Was the residual salt washed out of the fibres?
How the coir was dried
Was it left in the sun, or was a mechanical method employed?
How the coir was compacted
If you’re buying bricks, was the coir pressed without excessive waste and dust production?
How long it was left to dry and mature
Did the coir sit for a period of six months to a year?
Dryness of the storage environment
Was the coir at risk of mould and mildew?
How it was treated to prevent infestation
Was the coir coated with chemicals to prevent contamination or steam treated?
Whether the fibres were artificially strengthened
Was the coir exposed to an alkaline (sodium) solution to improve fibre binding?
Choosing a coco coir retailer
When searching for a place to buy coco coir, the ideal solution is to find a reseller who can tell you not only where their coir was sourced, but also how it was produced.
While this may be a difficult standard to hold some retailers against, it again largely comes down to research. The key is to find an outlet which can be considered to be a specialist in the market.
Coco & Coir are positioned to fill this gap. Their range of coco peat bricks can meet all needs by volume: from individual 650g blocks for solo use, through to full pallets intended for resellers and large organisations.
Coco & Coir are active participants in the gardening community. They are keen to communicate the benefits of coco coir, while advocating for its use in a variety of projects.
The team is open to receiving questions and queries. They want you to make the right choice when it comes to the product: while it benefits them, it ends up benefitting the gardener even more.
Even if you do end up going elsewhere, Coco & Coir’s depth of knowledge will ensure you are able to make informed purchasing decisions going forward.
Horticulturists, landscapers and hydroponic growers are among those who better understand what coconut coir has to offer them, because there is an expert who is willing to listen.
Why not join them? Reach out to Coco & Coir today.