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Coconut Coir or Peat Moss?

 
pollinator
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I have a need for a fairly large quantity of soil amendment for growing in pots. I have partially composted wood chips and good compost but not enough to fill all of the pots needed for my project. (150) 3.6 gallons. My compost and partially composted chips are sufficient for about 1/2 of that volume.

Unlike most of my projects, expense this time is not an issue. I'm looking for experiences and opinions on which is better, coconut noir or peat moss. Has anyone used either or both in outside container gardening? Or would some other option be better?

Any advice greatly appreciated.

 
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I use coconut coir for starting potted plants. It works great for me. I amend it with a tablespoon of Epsom salts per block. You wouldn't need to do that if mixing half/half with your compost.
 
master pollinator
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My wife has eight 4x4 'square foot' gardens filled with Mel's Mix (1/3 compost, 1/3 coarse vermiculite, 1/3 peat) per that gardening method. When building the second set of four beds, I had us use coir in place of peat, just to test the results. I'm not seeing any difference. They're not exactly containers, but it's also not exactly not containers.

(an aside: There's ongoing grumpiness about peat extraction harming the environment, but peat is produced five miles from my house and coir comes all the way from Sri Lanka, so it doesn't seem like a clear-cut choice to me, even if I'm concerned with being kind to the planet.)
 
Mark Reed
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Thanks for the responses. I'm leaning toward the coconut noir and now after learning about Mel's mix throwing in some vermiculite, just to loosen it up a little. First things first is to go out and sift and measure my compost. I'm pretty sure I have more than enough, probably by itself, especially if I dug into my big pile of ground up leaves and grass clippings, but I don't what the final mix to be that rich in nutrients.

Would 25% vermiculite, 25% coconut noir and 50% compost be a good loose mix, not overly nutrient dense?

I'm not accustomed to buying anything at all for my garden but this project requires absolute consistency in my soil mix.  
 
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I've used both, and used both interchangeably and noticed no real difference. I'd suggest using leaf mold (mould) if you could get some. I know it's not an abundant resource in some places like it is here for folks, but it's a much more fertile medium if that's what you're looking for. If I was faced with a choice between the two, I would probably use peat over coir (but it's just so unsustainable I can barely live with myself wahh). You can also "hugel" your pots and just fill up the bottom 1/4 with organic material, this practice alone has saved me countless lbs of "soil". I put old wood, sticks and charcoal in the bottom of most of my pots. Good luck.
 
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I find that peat moss is much more hydrophobic if it gets dried out, than coir is. If you are sure your pots will stay reliably damp, that may not be a factor. In my summer climate, pots dry out easily and the coir reliably rehydrates quickly.

This is less of an issue if your pots will be sitting in a reservoir that will keep their toes reliably wet.

Like Thombo Corley, I also use punky wood in the bottom of pots, and a 3.6 gallon pot seems large enough to do that with, but you identify that you need a consistent situation in all your pots and I don't see how that could easily be done with wood. Fresh wood doesn't hold water the way partly rotted wood does, but even a single piece of rotted wood isn't consistent all the way through.
 
Christopher Weeks
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Mark Reed wrote:Would 25% vermiculite, 25% coconut coir and 50% compost be a good loose mix, not overly nutrient dense?



Stuff grows well in the Mel's Mix described above, which is pretty close to what you're suggesting. And it also seems to grow pretty well in 100% compost on top of our sandy loam, which should be a lot more nutrient dense, but doesn't seem to be a problem. So that seems fine to me.
 
Mark Reed
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Thanks again for the input.  

I inspected my piles this morning and figure between the compost and my pile of ground-up leaves mixed with grass clippings I have more than enough, but this is an unusual project with a species that "may, I don't know for sure" actually produce better with a less nutrient rich mix. It's a comparison experiment so it's most important that all pots are filled with an identical mix, even if it isn't necessarily ideal for production.

The crop is sweet potatoes. The pots will be buried just deep enough to ensure the drain holes are completely covered and that feeder roots can exit into the ground below rather than being air pruned; another reason fertility isn't really all that necessary.  Good drainage and moisture retention are both important though.

I just have pretty much zero experience with buying anything for my garden. Is there any particular source or brand of vermiculite or coconut noir anyone could recommend? Like everything else there seems to be about a million choices out there.
 
Christopher Weeks
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I used this coco coir from Amazon because the price was the best I found at the time. And for the same reason, this vermiculite from Uline. I'm not in a position to say these products are better than any other, and since I was being cost-conscious, it's entirely believable that there's better quality available. But I don't have any complaints and would use the products again.
 
Jay Angler
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We get ours as a compressed block from a locally owned and operated farm store.

I use a wedge to break it apart, as I usually only need small amounts at a time for adding to raised planters or my home-made seed starting mix. I put some bits of it in a bucket with about equal volume of water and let it rehydrate, check on it, usually stir it up, and add some more water based on how it looks. It's easy to end up with the top a bit too dry and the bottom waterlogged. It sounds as if you're going to be doing such a large quantity, that you may want to use a garbage can or non-leaky wheelbarrow to rehydrate it in. You just don't want to turn it into soup!
 
Christopher Weeks
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I found hydrating a 1 kg block of coir worked well in a large 'rough tote' type plastic tub...they must be 25 gallons or something.
 
pollinator
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Peat moss is a major cause in destruction of wetlands ecosystem. Their drainage also increase wildfire in my area. It's in my viewpoint one of the worst gardening materials. It's in no way respecting permaculture ethics, so it is best to avoid them.

https://theindoornursery.com/blog/the-problem-with-sphagnum-peat-moss-and-where-it-comes-from/
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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