Coconut substrate - advantages and disadvantages of use
If you are preparing soil mixtures for growing indoor plants and seedlings on your own, then it is worth taking a closer look at the relatively new, interesting and, in my opinion, the right component - coconut substrate. Everyone probably saw at least once in a life a coconut and its “shaggy” shell covered with long fibers. Many delicious products are made from coconuts (actually drupe), but shells and fibers used to be just waste products. Then the fibers were adapted for the manufacture of mattresses, and the mixture of crushed shells and the same fibers was adapted for the needs of gardeners. What are these special needs?
Benefits of Coconut
Everyone who is engaged in gardening knows that the main thing for a plant is, perhaps, the development of the root system. If the roots develop in loose soil, then this process is faster than in dense clay. Roots need moisture to grow, but they also need air.
Therefore, when preparing soil mixtures, gardeners add various loosening additives - peat, vermiculite, agroperlite, etc. Each of these materials has its pros and cons. But what about coconut substrate as a baking powder?
Firstly, it has a porous structure and can store a large amount of moisture in itself, gradually giving it to plants. But at the same time, it provides air access to the roots.
Secondly, it has a neutral pH. This allows you to use it for almost all plants (except for cacti, perhaps). After all, adding this or that component to the coconut subtrate, you can change the acidity of such a mixture. Say, for slightly acidic soil, peat (acidic) can be added, and for slightly alkaline soil - lime.
Thirdly, the coconut substrate is easy to transport. It is worth knowing that out of 4 kg of pressed coconut substrate (a block measuring 30x30x10 cm) at the output, you can get about 60 liters of the finished component for soil mixtures.
Complete sterility is another advantage. This is especially important when germinating seeds, because they die mainly due to improperly prepared mixtures, where they use natural components (earth, sand, peat) without preliminary treatment (disinfection).
In addition to water, the coconut substrate can be fed with liquid (water-soluble) fertilizers, which then it will gradually give to plants.
After use, the coconut substrate can be used repeatedly, and for 5 years. This is a completely organic material, which means it is quite suitable not only for indoor floriculture, but also for gardening, and even organic. At the same time, gradually, in about 5 years, the coconut substrate completely decomposes and becomes part of the soil of your site.
Which is better - coconut substrate or peat?
In my opinion, convincing pluses. By the way, if you compare it with the most common baking powder among gardeners - peat, then here the coconut substrate has its advantages. Many people are familiar with the situation with over peat. Soak it and make it suitable for use for a very long time and is difficult. Coconut substrate, being completely dried, soaks for one hour.
Read more about the use of peat in the article Peat - what happens and how to use it?
And small particles of peat have a “habit” with time, when watering, with water to go down the landing pit or container. The coconut substrate has larger particles and even fibers, which allows it to be uniformly located in the root zone all the time.
Usually seedlings grown in a coconut substrate or soil mixture with its addition have a better and more evenly sprouted root system. Notice how many manufacturers of planting material in containers use coconut substrate - it is easier to transport, and the roots in it develop better.
In what cases is it worth using a coconut substrate?
In indoor floriculture
There are two options for using coconut substrate for growing indoor or container plants. Either grow in a clean coconut substrate, but with constant and regular top dressing, or make a mixture by adding earth and vermicompost to the substrate.
Sowing seeds for seedlings
Since it is sterile, you will most likely get rid of most of the problems with young seedlings (black leg, insects and weeds). But there are two things to keep in mind: since the substrate itself is a fairly large fraction, then it is worth sowing large seeds into it.
By itself, a pure coconut substrate has practically no nutritional value, which means that it either needs to be specially prepared for sowing seeds, or fertilized with liquid fertilizing after the appearance of the first true leaf.
For details on top dressing seedlings, see article 5 effective top dressing for seedlings.
Growing seedlings after a dive
To do this, the soaked coconut substrate is mixed in approximately equal parts with the decontaminated garden soil of your site. The soil mixture is both loose and nutritious, and seedlings from "childhood" are accustomed to the characteristics of your soil.
Planting of plants (seedlings) in open ground
If you create a mixture of earth and coconut substrate in the planting hole (approximately 1: 1), then the adaptation of the plants will be faster, as will the growth of new roots, which is very important at the initial moment of the plant’s life in the open ground of your site.
Coconut substrate can be used as mulch and as a heater for the roots of young plants (if funds permit).
How to cook coconut substrate?
The pressed block must be filled with water in the required quantities, as indicated in the instructions. Let's say a 4 kg block, pour 25 liters of water and after one hour have a completely clean substrate ready for use in an amount of about 60 liters (6 buckets!). If you do not need such an amount right away, then you can cut off part of the block. True, it is difficult to do with a knife, a saw or a cutting power tool is suitable.
But I would advise you to improve the technology a little and soak the dry substrate not in pure water, but with the addition of a small amount (according to the instructions) of a water-soluble complex mineral fertilizer, and even better with the addition of liquid biohumus (vermicompost tea).
Such a substrate will immediately have a small, but nutritious. Yes, during irrigation it will decrease and be consumed by plants, so you can add about the same amount of dry vermicompost. This mixture will provide your plants, and any, except for succulents, with everything you need: moisture, nutrients, and air.
Disadvantages of coconut substrate
Unfortunately, this world is so structured that there are always and everywhere flaws. In relation to coconut substrate it is:
- Relatively high price. This greatly limits its use by small volumes of containers, pots and cassettes. Application in the open ground is possible, but it will come out not cheap.
- Before use, the coconut substrate must be prepared - soaked and (optionally) saturated with fertilizers.
- Finally, the main thing. Unfortunately, judging by the reviews, there is a poor-quality coconut substrate, non-sterile and containing substances harmful to plants. The fact is that coconut palms are grown on the sea coasts and, of course, sea water is widely used in processing. But do they completely get rid of it? Is not a fact! So, either look for good manufacturers, or make sure to thoroughly rinse the substrate yourself (ordinary nylon women's tights are suitable for rinsing).
So, we are mastering a new product and share our impressions and recipes for its use!