I am open to change because without change we never grow. I only keep the same habits if they produce great results. I never take the word of anyone. I have to check things out for myself if I can. I have been reading a lot about Coir or Cocotek ( organic brand I used this growing season ) which is the natural fiber from the husk of the coconut. It is used to make a wide variety of products as floor mats, rugs, ropes, brushes, doormats, mattress filling and upholstery to name a few and it is considered a renewable resource. I have been amending my soil on our city lot for years, but this year I did not want to continue using peat.
Here are the steps I took to amend soil and start fall seedlings in our succession plantings through the growing seasons
Through my research I have found we are depleting our peat bogs and they are in threat just as much as our rain forests. Peat is not an excellent choice for those wishing to create a sustainable garden for it is not considered a renewable resource. Due to this fact, I decided to quit using peat on our city lot and wanted to implement the use of Coir in all the phases of our urban potager from starting seeds, growing seedlings, and amending the soil structure.
Most people do not realize that peat takes hundreds of years to form. Coir comes from coconuts and it does not take many years to form which means it is considered renewable.I have been reading arguments on “peat vs coir” for the past few years. I have been sitting on the fence about this issue and did try a variety of growing mediums this year for seed starting. I have found peat moss not to be a good seed starting medium. I have had problems with it getting too soggy, some seeds did not germinate well and I also found a lot of sticks, rocks, and bulkiness in the medium which hindered the development of the young seedlings.
I tried a variety of organic (OMRI certified)seed starting mediums that were all mixed with peat at various percentages this spring and fall. I found that many of the different seed starting mixes had a lot of pests in the soil after I used them in my pots! It was a horrible year with little bugs crawling out of some of the organic soil starting mixes I used. I finally tried coir for seed starting and had great results. It was very clean and no bugs were crawling out, but you have to remember once the small seedlings have their first true leaves to provide them with the nutrients they need for proper growth. I use Neptune’s Harvest Organic Fish/Seaweed Blend Fertilizer on my seedlings to provide the nutrients after the first true leaves form. I will be working with coir and Neptune fish-seaweed blend to see how the seedlings grow this next spring. I have started many of my microgreens in a thin layer of coir and it is working out quite well. They sprout in a few days and since they are harvested before the first true (cotyledon) leaves form I have had no problems. Great germination when I use Coir( some people mix other growing mediums with coir, I used straight coir for germination, but realize I need to add something to the soil to supply nutrients for the plants. That I am still experimenting with this year.
I finally decided to do my own experiments this fall in my new garden beds with coir. We took out a bush that was getting too large for the space and really not doing too well since the drought of 2012. Cocotek does not have as much salt in it as other sources for coir so I only rinsed it when I soaked it. My plants are doing fine so far, but we shall see as they grow.Once I cleared the garden beds of debris and weeds I placed a sheet of newspaper on top of the garden soil. I then spread the coir on top of the newspaper,seeded my fall crops densely, and lightly covered the seeds with a thin layer of earthworm castings. I built several new beds Wednesday + Thursday last week and was away for the weekend. I returned Sunday and all my beds were filled with germinated seeds! I consider that pretty amazing.I was a bit surprised that they germinated that soon. I have to admit some of the success could be quality seeds which I am sure helped, but I have never had my seeds germinate that quickly in the late summer garden!
This approach to seeding a fall bed is a new approach for me and it will be interesting to see how using coir benefits the garden soil. Will it make it lighter? Will it help retain water during times of drought? I like to experiment and see if something is a better approach. I read a lot about what others are doing and then take a bit from everybody and adapt it to my growing area. Sometimes it works and sometimes it flops! Part of creating a sustainable garden is to find ways that nurture Mother Nature so we need to experiment sometimes to learn what works best.
I am curious to see what I can learn about this renewable product and how it will contribute to our urban potager. At this point in time, I would say it gets high marks for germinating seeds, but how does it work with older seedlings in the spring. I also am curious how well it amends the soil, helps it retain moisture, work with older seedlings and what I need to add to the coir to get nutrients to the seedlings….this will be the year I discover + learn about this renewable resource for gardening.So this year will be the ” Year of Coir”….
update: Coir is not the same product as Cocoa Mulch. Here, is an article to explain the confusion of the two products. Hope this helps since Coir is not poisonous to dogs.