What Is Coconut Coir: Tips On Using Coconut Coir As Mulch

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Using coconut coir as mulch is an environmentally friendly alternative to non-renewable mulches, such as peat moss. Let’s learn the reasons why using coir for mulch is a great idea for many gardeners.

What is Coconut Coir?

Coconut fiber, or coir, a natural waste product resulting from the processing of coconuts, comes from the outer shell of the coconut husks. The fibers are separated, cleaned, sorted and graded before shipping.

Coir mulch uses include brushes, ropes, upholstery stuffing and doormats. In recent years, coir has become widely used by gardeners as a mulch, soil amendment and potting soil ingredient.

Coir Mulch Benefits

  • Renewability – Coir mulch is a renewable resource, unlike peat moss, which comes from non-renewable, diminishing peat bogs. Additionally, peat mining is not environmentally friendly, while harvesting of coir poses no threat to the environment. The downside is that although coir mulch is a sustainable industry, there is concern about the energy used to transport the mulch from its point of origin in places like Sri Lanka, India, Mexico and the Philippines.
  • Water retention – Coir mulch holds 30 percent more water than peat. It absorbs water easily and drains well. This is an important benefit in drought-plagued areas, as use of mulch may reduce water use in the garden by as much as 50 percent.
  • Compost – Coir, which is rich in carbon, is a useful addition to the compost pile, helping to balance nitrogen-rich materials like grass clippings and kitchen waste. Add coir to the compost pile at a rate of two parts coir to one part green material, or use equal parts coir and brown material.
  • Soil amendment – Coir is a versatile substance used to improve difficult soil. For example, coir mulch helps sandy soil retain nutrients and moisture. As an amendment for clay-based soil, coir improves soil quality, preventing compaction and allowing freer movement of moisture and nutrients.
  • Soil pH – Coir has a near-neutral pH level of 5.5 to 6.8, unlike peat, which is highly acidic with a pH of 3.5 to 4.5. This is an ideal pH for most plants, with the exception of acid-loving plants like rhododendron, blueberries and azaleas.

Using Coconut Coir as Mulch

Coir mulch is available in tightly compressed bricks or bales. Although coir mulch is easy to apply, it’s necessary to soften the bricks first by soaking them in water for at least 15 minutes.

Use a large container for soaking coir, as the size will increase by five to seven times. A large bucket is adequate for a brick, but soaking a bale requires a container such as a large garbage can, wheelbarrow or a plastic small wading pool.

Once the coir has been soaked, applying coir mulch is really no different than using peat or bark mulch. A layer 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm.) thick is adequate, although you may want to use more to keep weeds in check. If weeds are a serious concern, consider using landscape cloth or other barrier under the mulch.

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15 replies on “Coconut Husks Are Unbelievably Useful. Here Are 12 Reasons Why”

How do I get the husk out of the shell? I have cut the shell in half but it takes hours for me to peal all of the husk out! I just wanted to use it in my pots for water retention but am finding this just too difficult? Are there tricks to this task?

Well Barbara, use a butter knife.

I use a large pair of pliers and pull it off the shells

Someone on face book thaught about coconut husk tea. That is good for weight loss and malaria. Is it true?

The way I separate the coco coir and coco peat from the coconut shells is a little easier than most of the videos.

First, I completely split the shell into smaller pieces. Then I soak the shell pieces in water for a few days, changing the water each day.

Next, I take the shells out of the water and drain the container. Spread a large tarp under the soaking bucket and sit on the tarp or very close to the tarp leaning over it. Using heavy scissors, cut off the corner of each section. Using pliers, tear off the outer shell coating.

Next, using your hands or pliers, tear out the fibers making sure the little bits of peat land on the tarp. Put the coir (fibers) and the peat into a canvas bag (we call these rice sacks).

Each day, take the tarp, and spread the coir and peat on it, and cover it with nylon screen secured with rocks to dry. Put ìt back into the sack at night and repeat the process every day until is totally dry.

Depending on what you’re going to use it for, you can also cut the fibers into smaller pieces.

Note: each coconut husk makes a lot of coir and peat!

Very surprising that coconut husks are very useful like. I use to throw them away. With I will be using to make teas and use on the farm.

Am amazed ! I never know coconut just has any value !

The Many Benefits of Coir Mulch

Coir fiber comes from inside the coconut shell and is a natural byproduct of the processing of coconuts. The coarse, strong fiber is used to make rope, floor mats, brushes, mattresses, and, for the past 20 years, landscape mulch.

Coir is an outstanding substitute for cypress mulch or peat moss because: (1) it is a renewal resource, unlike peat and cypress (2) its harvest does not cause environmental damage, as does peat mining and (3) it does not contain disease organisms that can be transmitted to plants.

More Advantages of Coir Mulch

Coir mulch has other advantages. Because it both holds water and drains well, coir mulch helps moderate moistures levels in the garden. It also moderates soil temperature, cutting temperature fluctuation in half. Like any good mulch material, coir helps control weeds, but it lasts up to three years, a lot longer than mulch from newspaper, straw, or grass clippings.

When it does biodegrade, coir adds organic matter to the soil.

Some coir even contains beneficial fungi that help control disease organisms that could infect plants. The coarse texture of coir may deter slugs and snails.

Coir mulch reduces the need for watering by as much as 50 percent, an important consideration in drought-prone areas of the country.

One of the biggest benefits of coir mulch is its light weight. Coir mulch comes in tightly packed, lightweight blocks, which expand when exposed to water. Less than ten pounds of coir expands into two cubic feet of mulch, which can cover twelve square feet at a depth of two inches.

It’s also quite attractive, and its rich brown color doesn’t fade.

Gardeners mulch their garden beds with coir two to three inches thick, starting when the soil warms up in the spring. They also add it to potting mix at the rate of three parts hydrated coir mulch to one part soil. Coir also makes a good-looking topping on planters, with the added advantage of reducing the need for watering.

Some gardeners use it as an amendment to improve compost and garden soil. It’s also proven itself as an excellent fungus-resistant medium for rooting cuttings.

More About Coir Mulch

Coir mulch is organic, biodegradable, renewal, and nice looking. It’s made a big splash on the garden scene as gardeners look for more ways to be sensitive to the environment. You can do your part to protect limited resources by substituting coir for other materials and recommending coir mulch to fellow gardeners.

Want to know more about Coir Mulch?

If you want to know more about coir mulch, read what other gardeners have to say about it on these blogs.

Where to buy Coir Mulch: Clean Air Gardening has a great selection of coir mulch available.

GreenUpGrader has a great story about coir as an alternative to peat moss.





Sue Vosper says

My dog likes the taste of coir. Will it harm her if she ingests a small amount?

mandy says

hi- looking at mulching our terraced garden and am interested in using coir- can you tell me whether coir will deter termites

Kate says

I live in Queensland tropics Can you tell me if Termites are attracted to Mega Coir Feed and Mulch?

Alison says

Best Uses

Potting Medium

Coconut coir is a wonderful growing medium for hydroponic applications, container gardens, and pots. Coco coir is also great for indoor plants, especially for soiless planting. Coconut husk-based products can be purchased in ready-to-use bags, or in breaks that expand when soaked in water.

Ground Cover

Coconut coir mulch or coco chips are great for use outdoors as ground cover. Coco products do a great job of retaining moisture and surpassing the growth of weeds. In addition, your shrubs and other outdoor plants will benefit from the additional nutrients that are released from your coconut coir ground cover.

Do you want to learn more about how to use coconut-based products in your garden? Visit us today and one of our helpful associates can help you decide if coconut-based products are right for you!

What’s Not to Love?

By now you’re probably saying, “Okay, so I can substitute coco peat for peat moss and coco chips for wood mulch. But why should I?” Let’s find out!

The Upside of Coir

Unlike peat, it’s a renewable resource that doesn’t take a century to form in a bog.

Adding it to soil is an excellent way to increase aeration, drainage, and water retention.

The pH is almost neutral, ranging from just over 5 to just under 7, whereas peat is slightly more acidic. This means it’s a great base for all plants.

Unlike perlite and vermiculite, it’s biodegradable.

It contains a polymer called lignin that inhibits rotting, making it especially good for mulch.

Good quality products contain no weed seeds, pests, or disease.

The Downside of Coir

Product quality varies widely, and this may affect your garden.

Inferior products may contain weeds, pests, and disease due to improper processing and storage. Some products may contain excess sodium due to processing in salt water, so you may want to rinse all products several times before use.

Improperly decomposed material may absorb nitrogen from fertilizers, depriving plants of this essential nutrient.

Inferior products contain too much dust and decompose fast once in use. Inferior products also tend to contain materials of irregular texture. For example, chunky mulch mixed in with smooth coco peat.

Coconut husks contain almost zero nutrients, so unless you buy a product that has been enriched, you will have to add fertilizer.

Unlike soil, which teems with life, coir has a very low nutrient content. A study conducted at Utah State University concluded that coco peat was an inferior substitute for sphagnum peat moss as a soilless medium.

The cost may exceed that of peat or vermiculite products.

Treated products may contain chemical residues that may adversely affect plants.

Products should not be reused because they may harbor disease.

Compressed products require hydration before use.

Coconut Mulch: What It is and Tips for Using

We’ve all probably heard that old saying, “Waste not, want not” and this rings true for the many uses of coconut husks. Besides protecting the inner nut of the coconut fruit, it works double-time as an organic-friendly mulch. Don’t mistake cocoa mulch for coconut mulch, because they are made from two completely different trees. A by-product from the production of cocoa, cocoa mulch is toxic to dogs, whereas, coconut mulch is safe but may be stringy and taste bad.

What is Coconut Mulch?

When it comes to organic mulches, coconut mulch or coconut coir is a relative newcomer on the market to home gardeners, though commercial greenhouses have been using the product for over a decade. It is a natural waste product produced from the outer shell or husk of coconuts.

During processing, the husks are shredded, cleaned, sorted, graded and finally packaged for use. Depending on the product and manufacturer, you can purchase chipped coconut mulch or types that are more shredded. You can most likely locate it at your local garden center.

Additional Uses

In addition, there are coconut coir disks used for container gardening that reduce weeds and helps the potting mix retain water. You simply slip the slit around the plant stem and the disk lays flat on top of the soil. The coir also comes in large mats which lay flat upon the ground and are useful in areas where erosion in a problem.

Coconut coir has a wealth of uses, besides those in the garden and include, the manufacturing of brushes, stuffing for upholstery, ropes and doormats. Besides its use as an organic mulch, it’s also used as a soil amendment and ingredient used in potting mixes.

Advantages of Using Coconut Mulch

Gardeners have a variety of advantages by using coconut mulch in their gardens over many of the other types of mulches on the market. Unlike cypress mulch, where entire stands of trees are killed for the sole purpose of making mulch, coconut mulch is an environmentally friendlier alternative because you are utilizing an otherwise waste product from harvested coconuts. Best of all, no trees are killed in the process. Some advantages include:

  • Used like regular mulch for weed-control
  • Has a relatively neutral to slightly acidic pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
  • Retains seven times its weight in moisture, which helps the soil retain moisture.
  • Coconut mulch doesn’t pack down, which allows for good air penetration.
  • The mulch doesn’t need replacing as frequently as other types of mulch and can last up to three years.
  • Coconut husk mulch is from a renewable resource, is easy to use, weed-free and completely biodegradable.

Tips for Using

The major difference in coconut mulch compared to other organic mulches, when it comes to its use, is you need to soak it before using. It’s recommended to soak the mulch anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight before applying. The product can expand up to five times its size before soaking, so be sure to use a container that is large enough like a garbage can, wheelbarrow or child’s plastic pool.

Once the coconut mulch has soaked and increased to its full-size, you simply apply as you would any other mulch. Using a thickness of 3 to 4 inches helps control weeds. To prevent disease, keep the product from butting against the trunks of plants by pulling it back several inches.

Watch the video: Coco Coir Grow Media Hydroponics 101

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