Using Coco as a Substrate

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Contributed by: Irishgi
Submitted: September 15th, 2004
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Coco produces excellent results for the soilless grower; it is comparable in result to hydroponics systems.

It is a great alternative to the soil grower willing to experiment with a ?soilless? medium, yet get comparable results to a hydro grow.

Coco can be used in a hydroponics system, or just put into pots and watered by hand as with any other soil grow. Countless grows for decades have been produced in plain soil, mixed with organics, compost, and perlite among untold other ingredients thrown in.

While soil does have its advantages, it also has more drawbacks: inconsistancy, unwanted (unknown) ingredients, increased chances of over-fertilizing and over-watering. Nearly all of the potting soil used has been sourced from nature contain larva and insect eggs.

*Pics shown which I grew in Coco are only 30 days into flowering, 60 days old from seed, with an intentional N def. They are not as yellow as shown. I have provided them to show the crystal/pistil covering bud/leaves more common to hydro in this stage of flowering, yet grown in coco-filled pots

The Definition of Coco
Many at first are misled by the use of the term Coco. It has nothing to do with the Cocoa plant at all. In reality, they are the brown fibers that make up the husk of a coconut, which have been washed and buffered. Pure Coco can be used as a substrate, or Coco can also be mixed in with soil.

It can be bought loose in bags; it is also pressed into planks (and bricks). Coconuts are found near beaches, oceans, places that have very salty air. To rid the coco of these salts, the coco is first washed, and then pressure steamed to get rid of salts, and bacteria, germs or anything else that might have been in it. Coco is buffered using water, enriched with Magnesium and lime. The quality of this treatment is dependant to the quality of the Coco. Coconuts cannot be bought from a store, pealed, and mixed into your soil.

(Edit: low quality coco may need to be washed to remove natural salts.)

Coco and PH
The buffering process also means easy adjustment of pH in the Coco, which is imperative when it comes to the optimum uptake of nutrients throughout the plant?s life.

Soil PH can be hard to change, since it takes time to correct, flow check and restore. It takes longer to correct the problem in soil, than it took to cause it.

The PH of fresh Coco is marked on the bag from 5.0 - 7.0, however all of the coco I've tested was always between 6.0 - 6.5. Changing the PH of Coco takes a few waterings of pH-adjusted water, perhaps only one. The medium is very reactive to the PH of the water given to it; this gives coco growers rapid control over pH.

What is important is that you use 6.0 - 7.0 pH water, 6.5 being optimal if in pots.

Oxygen and Coco
Soil has a tendency to become finer after time. The clumps of soil quickly disintegrate, leaving very fine pieces of matter which hold moisture, creating saturated spots, making the soil less and less aerated for roots over the plant?s life. The soil at the bottom of the pots can become a very hostile environment for the roots to grow, making roots suffocate in mud. Coco users rarely find this a problem. Coco almost never disintegrates, leaving the medium well aerated, supplying the roots constantly with enough oxygen, and all saturated spots quickly even out.

Reusing Coco
Another advantage of Coco is the fact it can be re-used. Because Coco is treated so well, you can get up to three grows from the same batch of coco. Coco is inert and does not absorb nutrients within its own fibers, so plants uptake only supplied nutrient-rich water; excess nutrients and salts are washed through with the overflow.

I paid 8 Euros for a 50 Liter bag of coco. 24 Euros in Coco, and I can fill a total of 9 seventeen Liter pots (4.5 gallon) 3 times over. Those 27 plants could go through flowering, and only averaged to .88 euro per pot in coco.

Before reusing coco, you must sift through the Coco looking for any loose root fragments, missed decaying leaves, ect. and remove them.

Advantages and drawbacks
Coco overall has many distinct advantages over soil. I have yet to grow a plant in Coco that hasn?t reached 2-2.5 feet in just 1 month from seed, without any stretching until later in life (without Topping or Fimming). The evenness of watering and the quick and direct changes of pH compares to hydro. The cost isn?t that steep because it can be reused up to 3 times, making the average cost (for myself) .24 cents US currency per US gallon. Well, after using coco, I?ll never use normal potting soil ever again

The only drawback to Coco I have found is that a massive root ball forms very quick while in veg., all my plants were detrimentally root bound in 7 Liter (1.85) gallons of coco after only 3 weeks of growth from seed. If you are ready for the growth, being in pots, and hesitant at all to go hydro with supplies and adjustments, it's just a small hurdle for all the benefits.
  Last modified: 00:12 - Sep 28, 2004  

faq:1675 "Using Coco as a Substrate"