Growing Cannabis in Coco Coir: A Beginners Guide
Trying something for the first time can be daunting. Growing cannabis in coco coir is no exception. But it doesn’t have to be.
Cannabis cultivation with coco coir isn’t as hard as you might think.
Growing cannabis in coco coir is an excellent way to control and monitor critical variables like water, nutrients, and pH to produce a superb cannabis crop for the recreational and medicinal markets.
And once you’ve mastered the art and science of growing with coco coir, you’ll have a much better understanding of growing with hydroponics and soil.
What is coco coir?
Manufactured mainly in Sri Lanka and India, coco coir (pronounced “koy-yer” or “kwar”) is a coconut harvest byproduct. Not only is the coconut chock full of health benefits, the husks of the coconut, when processed, produce a superior growing medium.
You can find the valuable fibrous material between the hard internal shell and the coconut’s outer coat.
At Riococo World Wide, we sustainably harvest coco coir using coconut waste material. Unlike some companies that immerse the husks in saltwater to cure (which can contaminate the product), Riococo uses freshwater, allowing the husks to soak between four and six weeks before we mechanically extract the fiber.
The husk has three main parts: the coco pith, fiber, and coco chips. Most people are familiar with the coco pith – the finer, dirt-like, water-holding component. There are also long fibers within the husk extracted for various purposes, like making mats, beds, and other products in developing nations.
Otherwise, the fiber is cut into small pieces and used with the coco pith for aeration. The coco chips are cropped sections of the husks, containing both the cockpits and fiber in a chip; this helps provide aeration and still holds some water.
Most coco coir comes in compressed bricks of straight coir that must be hydrated. It can also come moistened in a loose mix of coir, perlite, and peat moss.
Our mixes use all three parts in different ratios depending on the crop type and the required aeration or water holding necessary in the root zone. Cannabis cultivators also use coco coir in hydroponic grow systems, greenhouse/warehouse potted plant production, and in the field.
What are the benefits of coco coir?
Coir is becoming increasingly popular with cannabis growers because of its ease of use and precision in nutrient delivery and pH monitoring. Here are some additional benefits of growing with coco coir:
- An inert substance. Coco coir is PH neutral with no additional nutrients. You’re starting with a clean slate so you can better control your fertilization program. The only nutrients in the medium will be the ones you add.
- Retains water and drains well. Riococo PCM keeps water for healthy plant growth and drains well to oxygenate the root zone.
- Robust root development. Healthy roots grow healthy plants. Because there is good aeration at the root zone, fibrous roots love dangling in coir to get the water and nutrients they need when they need it.
- Renewable resource. Unlike peat-based growing mediums mined from peat bogs in Canada and Europe, coco coir comes from coconut waste processed initially for other purposes.
How can you use coconut coir to grow cannabis?
You can use coco coir alone or mixed with perlite and a peat-based growing medium for indoor cultivation. In more extensive cannabis operations, growers often use three-inch deep 6” by 6” coconut cubes to produce fully mature cannabis plants. Irrigation lines run to the cubes to fertigate and moisten the media. These companies use computerized control systems to deliver the correct amount of water and nutrients, allowing growers to optimize space and save money on potting soil.
For field-grown crops, you can mix coco coir with soil to improve water retention and aeration. You can also use coco coir for cloning.
It’s more affordable for the commercial grower and passionate hobby grower to purchase coir in compressed bricks or bales and add perlite than it is to buy a pre-mixed medium. You can buy perlite from large wholesalers or from big box stores that sell garden products.
Growers generally use a 3:1 coir to perlite ratio, although some go higher – or lower. Just remember, the more perlite you add, the less water you’ll retain in the media. You can use this ratio in any growing setup, i.e., hydroponics, potted plant production, and in the field. Use a 5-gallon bucket or large vat or barrel to mix the perlite and coco coir. The size of the container will depend on your grow operation’s scale.
If you choose to purchase bales or bricks, you’ll need to hydrate the bricks so they’ll expand. You can do this by lining a container with landscape fabric, then dropping a brick into the container and letting it soak for about 15-20 minutes; drain off the excess water. Four to five gallons of water is needed to hydrate a five-kilo coco coir brick.
Still, there’s a way of cultivating with coco coir without mixing additional components. For example, you don’t have to mix Riococo products with anything extra. That’s what sets us apart from virtually every other coco coir provider on the market.
Most of our competitors use only coco pith, which means their coco must be mixed with perlite (or other components) to create aeration.
We use coco pith, fiber, and chips in specific ratios based on crop type. Our cannabis mix is 30% aeration – more than double what you can get from a coco pith and perlite mixture. In the long run, you have to ask – is it worth the extra time and effort to mix different components into your coco when you can choose a product that needs nothing additional?
How do you add nutrients to coco coir?
Because coco coir is inert, fertilization is straightforward. Unlike peat-based growing mediums, coco coir is devoid of nutrients. This makes coco coir an excellent medium for beginners as they learn what cannabis plants need to thrive.
Regardless of your selected growing method, your plants will be happy with nutrient products specially formulated for growing with coco coir.
Note: when growing with coir, you may need to add a supplemental dose of calcium and magnesium, which isn’t available in large enough quantities in many of the popular nutrients used for growing cannabis.
Nutrient levels, EC, and pH can all be monitored with the pour-through method and a reliable meter. The pour-through process will test the water that drains out the bottom of the plant.
How do you keep the medium moist?
Coco coir offers the one-two punch of retaining water while also draining well. Since it does drain faster than other media types, it allows the grower to feed more often and grow larger plants.
Coco coir should never be allowed to dry out, which will prohibit your plants from obtaining the nutrients they need.
Here are a few more tips for watering when growing with coco coir:
- Water potted plants until 10-20% of the water drain out the bottom.
- If you’re using a hydroponics system, irrigate the coir every 3-5 hours.
- Monitor moisture levels daily to ensure the plants are getting enough water to thrive.
Coco coir is a versatile growing medium that can be used in virtually any growing situation.
Beginning growers have a lot to gain by growing with coco coir, not the least being a better understanding of the nutrients and pH required to grow healthy plants. Coco coir will undoubtedly increase in popularity as growers look for a renewable resource to develop a superior crop of cannabis and other plants.
We’ve won many awards for our products and the way we do business. Get in touch today for more information on coco coir or to find a distributor for our products.