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Growing Media

Growing Media

How to Use Coco Peat in Hydroponics: Tips for Perfect Growth

How to Use Coco Peat in Hydroponics: Tips for Perfect Growth

How to Use Coco Peat in Hydroponics

Imagine our plants thriving, their roots immersed not in the earth, but in nutrient-rich water. This is the essence of hydroponics, the innovative gardening method where soil is replaced by water, allowing for an efficient, space-saving way to grow plants. Indeed, hydroponics changes the game for apartment dwellers and urban farmers alike, turning balconies and rooftops into lush gardens.

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In the heart of hydroponic gardening lies a range of growing media – and one worth our attention is coco peat. Derived from coconut husk, the finer form of peat has become a popular choice for its affordability and effectiveness. It acts like a sponge, holding water and nutrients in a form accessible to our plants. By choosing coco peat, we opt for a sustainable and renewable medium that helps our hydroponic gardens flourish.

Throughout the article, we will dive into the practicalities of using coco peat in hydroponic systems. We will explore its benefits, such as its high water retention and aeration properties, and look at potential drawbacks, such as the need for buffering. We'll see how it stands up against other hydroponic media and offer guidance on how best to integrate coco peat into our hydroponic endeavours. 

Key Takeaways

  • Coco peat is a sustainable medium that's superior for hydroponic gardening.
  • It stores water and nutrients well but requires proper preparation.
  • Comparing media and following usage guidance enhances hydroponic success.

What Is Coco Peat?

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Have you ever wondered what coco peat is? It's a fantastic growing medium, especially if we're delving into the world of hydroponics! Coco peat, or cocopeat, is a natural by-product made from the dust, or 'pith', of coconut husks—the tough exterior of coconuts. Coconut Coir is also made up of ground coconut husk but in a coarser, fibre form. There are many growers using coco coir in hydroponics but our focus today will be on the finer, dust form of coco peat. Let's dive in and see why it's a darling in the hydroponic community.

The properties of coco peat are rather impressive:

  • High water retention: It acts like a sponge, holding moisture superbly well.
  • Low nutrient content: It's pretty inert, which means it doesn't come packed with nutrients.
  • Neutral pH: Plants love stability, and coco peat provides a stable pH environment, usually between 5.7 and 6.8.

When you're browsing the shelves, you'll likely come across coco peat in various forms, such as:

  • Bricks
  • Discs
  • Plugs
  • Bales

Why the popularity, you ask? Well, this organic medium is not only biodegradable but also widely available and quite affordable. It's versatile too—suitable for all sorts of plants.

Using coco peat in our hydroponic setup includes:

  1. Hydration: We soak it in water, and voilà, it expands into a fluffy material.
  2. Washing: It's given a good rinse to shed any excess salts – no one likes an overly salty situation.
  3. Mix it up: Combining coco peat with perlite or vermiculite adds that extra oomph for better aeration and drainage.

We plant our seeds or seedlings in the coco peat and make sure they're watered with a nutrient solution tailored for coco peat's needs, rich in calcium and magnesium. What's special about coco peat in hydroponics, you ask? It's all about being a snug home for plant roots, offering a constant moisture level whilst ensuring they have enough oxygen. Plus, it becomes a hotspot for friendly microbes that are great for plant health.

So, we can say Coco Peat is quite the hydroponic hero, don't you think?

Coco Peat Advantages

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When we discuss hydroponics, the medium we choose is crucial for the success of our plants. Coco peat comes to the fore not only for its incredible capacity to foster robust plant growth but also for its remarkable sustainability credentials.

Boosts Plant Growth

Coco peat is a star performer in the hydroponic medium lineup, primarily for its ability to support and accelerate plant growth. Its porous nature allows roots to breathe and grow freely, while its excellent nutrient-holding capacity ensures that our seedlings get all the sustenance they need. The result? Thriving plants and impressive yields!

Environmentally Friendly Option

We're all looking for ways to garden more sustainably, and using coco peat is a step in the right direction. As an organic by-product of the coconut industry, it's both renewable and biodegradable. We're repurposing what would otherwise be waste, turning it into something that benefits us and our plants—a true eco-win!

Excellent Water Retention

Ensuring consistent moisture for our plants can be a hassle, but not with coco peat! Its structure allows it to hold water up to eight times its weight, providing optimal hydration for seedlings and reducing the need for frequent watering. And don't worry about drainage; coco peat has got that covered too, ensuring no waterlogging and happy, healthy root systems.

Coco Peat Disadvantages

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In hydroponics, coco peat can be a bit tricky to master. It requires a good deal of initial preparation and some know-how to get it just right. Let's look deeper into what can make coco peat less than ideal for our hydroponic adventures.

Nutrient Uptake Considerations

When using coco peat, we must be on our toes about the salt content, which affects the nutrient solution. You see, coco peat naturally has high levels of sodium and potassium.

  • Sodium: Too much can cause leaf burn.
  • Potassium: Excessive amounts might inhibit the uptake of other nutrients.

So, it's essential to balance these elements with a fertilizer that is low in sodium and potassium. It's also crucial to monitor the EC (electrical conductivity) and pH levels to ensure that our plants can absorb all the nutrients they need without a hiccup.

Maintenance and Monitoring

Now, don't let the low-maintenance allure of coco peat fool you. To get the best out of it, there's a fair bit of upkeep involved:

  • Hydration: Got to soak it right to avoid a parched block.
  • Buffering: A bit like seasoning your cooking pan, so it’s non-stick, we need to prep our coco peat to avoid unwanted chemical reactions with our precious nutrients.
  • Rinsing: We'll need to rinse out the excess sodium and potassium, so our plants don't get a case of the “burns”.
  • Tech watch: Keep an eye on all those gadgets like pumps and timers. They're a bit like us — they can have their off days and need some TLC.

All this to say, while coco peat is a stellar medium in many ways, it's not a 'set and forget' system. It beckons for our attention and a bit of elbow grease to prevent issues like salt buildup or nutrient depletion. But if you're up for the challenge, the rewards can be bountiful!

Coco Peat Compared to Other Hydroponic Media

Choosing the perfect growing medium is pivotal for a hydroponics system. Let's weigh up coco peat against other popular mediums to find the best fit for our plants.

Coco Peat vs Peat Moss

Coco peat, a by-product of the coconut industry, offers superb aeration and moisture retention, making it an ideal medium for various hydroponic setups. It's reusable and has an almost neutral pH, usually ranging between 5.7 to 6.8, which is great for plant growth.

  • Aeration: Coco peat excels with better aeration than peat moss.
  • Sustainability: It's also more sustainable, as peat moss extraction can damage peat bogs, which are important carbon sinks.

Coco Peat vs Perlite and Vermiculite

Perlite is formed from volcanic glass and provides excellent aeration with its coarse structure, but it holds less water than coco peat. Vermiculite, on the other hand, retains water well but can sometimes retain too much, leading to less aeration.

  • Aeration and water retention: Coco peat balances both, while perlite and vermiculite can be too extreme on either end of the spectrum.

Coco Peat vs Rockwool

Lastly, rockwool, with its outstanding water-holding capacity and neutral pH, is a popular choice in hydroponics. However, it's worth noting that coco peat is far more environmentally friendly as rockwool is non-renewable and can be hazardous to produce and handle.

  • Environmental impact: Coco peat is a clear winner here with its eco-friendly features.
  • pH neutrality: Rockwool generally has a more reliable pH neutrality, which can be an advantage over coco peat for certain plants.

Each medium serves particular types of plants and setups well. For example, coco peat is excellent for beginners, while rockwool might suit commercial growers. Perlite is the go-to for those growing drought-loving plants, and clay pebbles are ideal for more substantial plants requiring robust support. Deciding on the right medium often comes down to our specific needs and the desired outcome for our hydroponic garden.

Tips for Using Coco Peat in Hydroponics

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When using coco peat in hydroponics, we're aiming to create a hospitable environment for plant growth. Let’s embark on making coco peat the best substrate it can be for our hydroponic system.

Preparing Coco Peat

To start, we need to properly hydrate our coco peat. Place it in a bucket or large container, and pour in enough water (tap, distilled, or rainwater) to thoroughly soak the coco peat. If it's in brick form, this may take a few hours. The goal is to have it expand and become moist and fluffy.

Next, we'll need to balance the pH. Rinse the now hydrated coco peat with pH-adjusted water — aiming for a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5 is ideal — until the runoff water is clear. This washing process reduces excess sodium and other elements that might be harmful to our plants.

Now, mix the coco peat with other materials like perlite, vermiculite, or coco chips to enhance aeration and drainage. A good mix ratio is 70% coco peat to 30% other materials.

Coco Peat in Different Hydroponic Systems

Coco peat is versatile and suits various hydroponic systems. In systems like Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) or Deep Water Culture (DWC), coco peat is usually placed in net pots or grow bags to support the plants.

Fill your chosen containers with the prepared coco peat mix. We can measure the container's depth with a ruler and ensure we have the right substrate volume.

If we're starting from scratch with seeds — sprinkle them directly onto the coco peat. For seedlings, make a hole with scissors and gently place the plant in, firming the coco peat around it. Label the pots or containers to keep track of our green friends.

Regular watering with a nutrient solution is key, and don't forget to monitor the pH. Keep it steady with our pH meter and adjust as needed to maintain the sweet spot between 5.5 and 6.5.

These steps will help us achieve successful germination and let our plants thrive in their hydroponic home.

Further Considerations

Before diving into the nuances of using coco peat in hydroponics, let's ensure we're setting ourselves up for success. We'll cover how to keep the environment optimal for our plants, tackle unwanted guests, and sustainably manage our resources.

Managing pH and EC

Maintaining proper pH levels and Electrical Conductivity (EC) is crucial for the health of plants grown in coco peat. The ideal pH range is between 5.5 and 6.5, ensuring the nutrient solution is readily available to plants. We need to monitor the EC closely to avoid nutrient burn or deficiency. Here's how we can keep on top of these two parameters:

  • Regular Testing: Use a pH/EC meter weekly to check the levels in the nutrient solution and runoff water.
  • Corrective Measures: Adjust pH by adding pH up or down solutions, and manage EC by modifying the concentration of the nutrient solution.

Addressing Potential Pests and Diseases

Our plants are always at risk from pests and diseases, and coco peat is no exception. Keeping an eye out for and preventing issues is better than dealing with outbreaks. Here are a few tips:

  • Sterilize your Coco Peat: Before reuse, ensure the medium is clean to prevent disease carryover.
  • Monitoring: Regularly inspect plants for signs of pests or disease. Early detection is crucial.
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Use beneficial insects or organic pesticides to manage infestations and avoid harsh chemicals.

Sustainability and Reusability

Coco peat, a renewable resource, boasts excellent sustainability credentials, but only if we use it responsibly. Here's what we need to keep in mind to make the most of its reusable nature:

  • After-harvest Care: Wash the used coco peat to remove old roots and salts. Then, buffer it with a calcium solution to reset nutrient content.
  • Composting: Once coco peat reaches the end of its life, compost it. This returns nutrients back to the soil, completing the sustainability cycle.
  • Mix in New Coco Peat: Add some fresh coco peat to the washed and buffered old medium to maintain the structure and porosity.

Conclusion

We've explored the virtues of using coco peat as a growing medium in hydroponic systems, and it's clear that our research underscores its considerable advantages. Lightweight and sustainable, this medium stands out as an ideal choice for both novice and professional growers aiming to enhance their hydroponic techniques.

Here's what we've learned:

  • Benefits: The unique structure of coco peat provides excellent water retention and aeration, key factors for root development and plant growth.
  • Growing Medium: Its ability to act as a buffer for nutrients allows for more forgiving water and feeding schedules, easing the route to horticultural success.
  • Techniques: Incorporating coco peat into our hydroponic systems is uncomplicated. We start by properly hydrating the medium, balancing its natural sodium and potassium content with a carefully selected nutrient solution.

Remember, the key to making the most out of coco peat is preparation and maintenance. If you've been following our journey, you'll know that detailed attention to the nutritional balance and consistent rinsing will push you towards a bountiful harvest.

Do we face challenges? Of course. But by understanding our plants' needs and giving our coco peat the TLC it deserves, we turn those challenges into milestones of our gardening adventure. The lightweight nature of coco peat also means we save our backs some trouble during setup!

So, let's grab that net cup, hydrate our coco pith, and watch as our hydroponic dreams take root! If we persevere with our chosen techniques and trust in the robustness of coco peat as a growing medium, success in our hydroponic garden isn't just possible – it's within reach.

How to Use Coco Peat in Hydroponics FAQs
What are the best practices for using coco peat in a hydroponic system?
To ensure the success of our hydroponic system, first, we must prepare the coco peat properly. It's crucial to expand the coco peat by soaking it in water, followed by fluffing it to avoid clumping. Then, we rinse it to remove any residual salts. Always maintain a proper water-to-air ratio; this fosters robust root development. During the growing process, we monitor the pH and electrical conductivity regularly to ensure nutrient availability remains optimal for our plants.
Could you explain how to properly buffer coco peat before incorporating it into hydroponics?
Sure, buffering coco peat is essential. This process involves soaking the coco peat in a calcium and magnesium solution for at least 8-12 hours. This step allows the coco peat to absorb these beneficial elements, which in turn displace the naturally occurring potassium and sodium, preventing them from inhibiting nutrient uptake by our plants.
What steps are involved in sterilising coco peat for use in hydroponic gardening?
Sterilising coco peat is pivotal in warding off pathogens that could harm our plants. We can do this by steam treatment or using a biofungicide. It's key to ensure that the material reaches the correct temperature for an adequate amount of time to be effective. Typically, we'd bring the core temperature of the coco peat to at least 70°C and hold it for 30 minutes to ensure we've eliminated any potential threats.
How does coco peat compare to other hydroponic media like Perlite and Rockwool?
Coco peat boasts superior water retention and is renewable, which marks it as a more sustainable choice. It also provides a natural root-stimulating environment. Unlike perlite, which can compact over time, coco peat maintains a good structure. Compared to rockwool, it's more environmentally friendly and easier to dispose of after use. However, each medium has its pros and cons, so our choice depends on plant type and personal preference.
What types of plants thrive best in coco coir when used for hydroponic cultivation?
We’ve found that almost all types of vegetables, herbs, and ornamental flowers prosper in coco coir due to their porous texture and water-holding capacity. Particularly, plants that require a higher air-to-moisture ratio, like tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce, enjoy coco coir. Its versatility makes it an excellent medium for us to experiment with a range of plants in our hydroponic setup.

Dragonfly Earth Medicine: Living Organic Super Soil

Dragonfly Earth Medicine: Living Organic Super Soil

Have you found yourself seeking all the benefits of organic soul but you can’t really be fussed with its slow working? Step forward living organic super soils. These absolute marvels provide potent certified 100% organic products that get to work in a matter of weeks as opposed to years. You can achieve incredible yields of beautiful fragrant flowers with these products and it may change the way you grow forever. This blog will cover DEM’s range in particular, give a breakdown of the entire range of products, how to mix the soil and even a test run of these powerful products themselves. 

What Is Living Organic Super Soil?

If you search online for a super soil recipe you will probably find everyone talking about “subcools recipe”. Subcool is a grower and breeder from the United States who owns the TGA seed company and is regarded as the pioneer for super soil. The problem with subcools super soil is that in the UK we can’t get hold of a lot of the ingredients needed to make it. This is where Dragonfly Earth Medicine’s amazing products come in. DEM has done all the hard work for us and created a range of powdered amendments. These can be used to create an amazing super soil and even better the range is 100% pure organic made from plants.

The idea of super soil is to mix the soil before you fill your pots with amendments. This will give your plants everything they need for the full cycle, once your soil is mixed and your pots are filled you just add water… simple.

DEM Range

Lush Roots

  • A Powerful Organic Herbal Endomycorrhizae Inoculant that encourages ultimate nutrient uptake.
  • Expands root mass and brings biodiversity to your garden. I love this stuff it’s my favourite product at the moment.
  • Use it when you transplant clones I like to dip the jiffy in water and then coat the jiffy to get the roots going

Radiant Green

  • Ideal base nutrient.
  • A Complete Organic Herbal and Bacteria Supplement that supports Ultimate Immune Health for your gardens.
  • A Bio stimulant that is good for every feeding during a plant's vegetative stage. The quintessential brew and soil amendment.
  • This is really good stuff and does an amazing job as a base feed.

Fat Flowers

  • A superb Organic blend of Herbs and Bacteria’s that specifically aide in extraordinary yields.
  • Excellent as an everyday nutrient during the flowering and fruiting stages of a garden cycle.
  • Makes a fantastic brew and soil amendment.
  • This stuff works really well to give you amazing flowers.

Brilliant Black

  • Organic Alfalfa blended with micronized humates and beneficial bacteria.
  • A replenishing and restorative soil amendment for all stages of plant growth.

Natural Mistik

  • A wicked organic herbal blend that is used to nourish plants through foliar spraying.
  • Can be used regularly for clean leaves and Essential Vitamin and Mineral Nutrient Uptake.
  • Pro Tip: Use every other day in the veg stage to keep all the leaves clean and very healthy.

Required Items For Soil Mix

  • Guanakalong soil 45L – One of the best soils on the market. Airy and full of goodness
  • Guanakalong bat dung 450g - This stuff will make your flowers taste amazing and it’s 100% organic it gives a depth of flavour that no bottled nutrients can match
  • Worm castings 5L - You can buy plagron worm castings that are really good these help promote root development and helps with nutrient uptake; full of trace elements, enzymes, and bacteria all needed for a healthy living soil
  • Hydro stones washed- added for extra drainage and aeration of the soil
  • DEM range product
  • Live earthworms x 30 optional - I like adding live worms they create tunnels when they move in the soil creating pockets of air for the roots. Also, you feed the worms and in turn the worms feed the plants just like in nature
  • 56L root pouch- In our opinion, a well-utilised root pouch can help plants grow faster and assure the soil will never get too wet
  • Light mix soil plagron
  • Black and white to mix the soil on
  • Straw to cover the top of the pouch-only if using live worms

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Lay the black and white sheeting on the ground and empty the 45L bag of soil on to it + worm castings + bat dung
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of all the DEM products per 5L of soil for a short veg time up to 3 weeks so that’s 9 of each and mix it into the soil, add 2 teaspoons per 5L of soil for a long veg time up to 6 weeks. All strains feed at different rates so these ratios are guidelines but don’t panic you can’t do any harm to your plants by over-feeding with DEM products.
  3. Add 10L of the washed hydro stones to the soil and mix them in this is to help with drainage
  4. Add the worms to the mix
  5. Fill the root pouch, add a layer of washed hydro stones to the bottom of the pouch. This is to help with drainage you want a 3inch layer at the bottom
  6. Start to fill the pouch with the soil mix. Fill the pouch leaving a 6inch space at the top
  7. Add clone which has been in the veg room for 2 weeks in a 3.8L pouch. Carefully remove the clone from the pouch and sit it on top of the soil mix in the 56L pouch.
  8. Take the light mix and fill in the space around the clone.
  9. Lay the straw evenly over the top of the pouch. This will protect the worms from the light when they come to the surface. Feel free to add fruit scraps to the surface of the pouch (under the straw) every week for the worms to feed on.
  10. Water the plant every other day with RO water with a ph. of between 6 and 7. Optionally, you can also use a compost tea once a week.

Results

I have just finished my first grow using this method, I could go into major details from the grow journal about this and that but I don’t think I need to. In the last 3 years, my focus has been on producing the best organic flowers that I can and I have tried nutrient ranges from bio bizz and bloom to try and achieve this. Bear in mind that even organic bottled nutrients are not 100% organic as they contain synthetic stabilisers to prevent the contents from going off.

DEM is a step above. What you could call “true” or “pure” organics: all the products are made from plant extract. You're feeding your plants with plants…can it get any more organic than that?

The flowers that I have just produced are the best I’ve ever had in all my life. A mentor to me for many years when I started growing and is probably the best grower I’ve met said he has never witnessed flowers that good from an indoor garden. The results of this product are miles and above anything under the ‘bottled nutrients’ label and I find myself wholly committed to this style of growing. If these results are anything to go by, DEM will give you the ability to produce the most amazing crop you will ever taste or smell.

A massive thank you to everyone at DEM for bringing this range to market, hopefully in time people will come to realise the potential of this fantastic range.