What Type of Growing Medium Do You Grow With?

By: The Guru

Have you ever heard of or tried using coco coir or coco peat? Coco peat comes from the coconut. It is left over raw material from the process of stripping the fibers off of the outer shell of the coconut. The first record of coco peat being used dates back to the 11th century when the Arabian Traders experimented with it. In 1290, Marco Polo described the process of extracting the fibers from coconuts.

The next uprising of coco peat for horticulture was in 1862 when John Lindeley, botanist, gardener and Secretary of the Royal Horticultural Society introduced coco peat into the English horticultural industry. But this time, they had serious problems with poor quality and harmful build ups in the coco. The EC levels and the harmful levels of salts and other contaminants made its use die off again in popularity.

Over 100 years later, and due to new technology, coco was once again turned into a valuable growing medium for horticulture. Canna was the first to introduce an RHP certified coco to the market. Canna has become a pioneer in the coco growing method and has been using coco peat since about 1995. Canna Coco was first introduced to the German market place and it took off from there. It has also become really popular in the Netherlands. Canna Coco and their Coco A/B nutrients have made coco a big hit among growers and it has now reached markets worldwide.

Before coco was used for horticulture it was nothing but the waste from stripping the fibers from coconut shells. There were mountain size stock piles of this waste in countries like Sri Lanka and India. By developing methods to treat the coco, it has turned a waste product into a highly valuable horticultural growing medium. Canna has been a forerunner in this movement from the beginning. It has turned a negative into a positive and created thousands of jobs for these countries; creating a whole new industry while simultaneously helping the local economies.

Best of all coco is 100% natural and is an environmentally friendly product.

Coco has many favorable properties and qualities that make it an ideal choice for growing. These characteristics include ease of rooting, the large water-retaining capacity, good drainage, and the high stability of the coco material. Root systems seem to love the coco medium, as they grow an abundance of fine hairy roots that appear to just burst into the coco.

Watering coco is a lot easier than most mediums. Water it well, with about a 10% run off out of the bottom of your container. This is important. It is like the saying goes “out with the old, in with the new”. Each watering pushes the old nutrients out and replaces it with the new nutrients. A 10% run off also ensures that there is no nutrient salt build up in the coco medium. Often people water way too frequently. Let the coco dry out about 80% or so before you water again. They only need to be watered 1-2 times per day, but this can vary due to environmental conditions, nutrient uptake, and type of container or pot you’re using.

Another main characteristic of coco is that it has a high, but relative Cation-Exchange Capacity. This means that the medium has the ability to hold and retain certain nutrients vigorously, and in turn has special nutrient requirements. The nutrients must be supplied in a special form that remains available to the plant. Due to these special characteristics and a special pre-buffering process, it is possible to combine vegetative and flowering nutrients into one nutrient mix.  The medium and the plant control which nutrients are supplied to the plant, at what amounts, and what times. For growers it makes it nice to not have two different nutrients to switch from, grow to bloom. Coco is about the only medium that this applies to and works with.

Not all coco is the same even though it all comes from the coconut. The process is what makes the difference, how it is treated and how it is cleaned. Back in early 2000, there was a shortage of raw material coco due to the popularity and demand for it by soil companies using it as an additive in soil mix. This resulted in growers purchasing raw material from unknown sources and led to a lot of crop loss. The suppliers were taking raw material, collecting it off the dirt ground, and not properly washing or treating it. Also, the salt in the ocean air can get into the coco and that can result in deadly high levels of salt in the coco, creating EC levels as high as 3.2 right out of the bag. By not controlling the harvesting and treatment of coco, it is susceptible to all sorts of contaminants that can cause crop damage.

Brands of coco vary in quality quite a bit, but Canna ensures their quality every time. One way they do this is by controlling harvesting and having contracts with only select growers. Also, they do not steam their coco like many others do. This kills off anything beneficial that naturally occurs in the coco. Canna ages the coco to a certain time, ensuring the Trichoderma fungi is still naturally in the coco, which is a great benefit to the plant and rooting cycles. This also helps fight off other molds and diseases. A high quality coco is essential for a good grow, and Canna Coco has always set the standard by offering the best quality coco on the market.

There are many other growing mediums that you can pick from, I prefer to use one that is simplest to use, with the least amount of maintenance, and most resistant to diseases and pests in the garden. From the first time I used coco, I did not want to use anything else. The results are great, the maintenance is easier, and overall it produces a very bountiful harvest.

Peat moss is another medium that can be used in hydroponics and as a soil amendment. Many growers think that it is better simply because it is a bit cheaper than coco. But cheaper is usually not better, especially in quality and its effects on the environment. Peat moss develops in a “peat bog” or “peatland” which is a special type of wetland on which decomposing moss has accumulated to a depth of at least 16 inches. At a rate of 1/25th of an inch per year for peat to accumulate, it has taken a very long time for these peatlands to develop naturally. Only about 3% of the world’s surface is made up of peatlands.
By mining and stripping this natural resource, we are destroying an eco system that is considered by some scientists to be as important as our rain forests. Peatlands are the earth’s natural lungs, and filters our air quality and harmful gas emissions. They have many useful purposes and advantages to us on earth. As natural filters for water, it is estimated that peatlands filter 10% of the earth’s freshwater. Also, the highly acidic conditions of peat moss result in very slow decay allowing scientists to use these bogs for scientific data on the earth’s past. They can tell what the climate was and how it has changed by observing vegetation and dead wildlife found in the peatlands.

Perlite is another popular growing medium, as well as an amendment to soil and soilless mixes. Perlite is a generic name for ‘naturally occurring siliceous rock’. The unique characteristic of perlite is that when heated up to 1600F degrees and combined with water, this crude rock pops like popcorn; it forms thousands of tiny bubbles which create air pockets in the rock. It is very cheap to purchase perlite, and it is lightweight, making it easy to handle. But it is messy. When you are finished harvesting, you must dispose of perlite and it ends up everywhere, including our landfills. Over time, perlite will hold in harmful pathogens, as it is not an organic decomposing material. Also, the fuel that it takes to heat up this rock creates additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

Rockwool is also a medium that works well for hydroponics. Rockwool is a generic name for ‘insulation’. It is made from heating and melting natural basalt rocks and chalk to 3000F degrees. The flowing lava is blown and spun by machines into chambers, and eventually into large slabs. Then it is cut to the required sizes. But once again, by using a large furnace you are releasing lots of harmful carbon gases into the atmosphere, and worst of all, if not recycled, it is going to end up in the ground and take a long time to breakdown.

Coco is a natural renewable resource and is a good amendment to the earth. It breaks down, decomposing into the earth naturally. The only harmful gases created from coco is in the transportation of it.  The harvesting of coconuts does not strip the earth of any natural resources that can’t be replenished. But the environmental benefits that coco offers is just part of it.

Plants are happy and grow very well in coco.  From beginners to experts, coco is very easy to get accustomed to, and with great success. The rate of people using coco for gardening is increasing rapidly every year. I recommend that every grower at least TRY growing with coco. If you have the same success as I and many others have had, you may never use anything else again!

If you’re in San Diego, go see IGS (IGShydro.com) in Pacific Beach. They carry the only full line of Canna products in San Diego and they will also give you a free DVD on how to use Canna Coco.

bringing you that fire! stay tune for more posts.

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