peat vs. Botanicare Cocogro for 5-1-1

goldfinchyAugust 27, 2012

Hi,

I keep seeing some questions about substituting the peat for coir in a 5-1-1 mix but so far a common response was the coir is too salty or it requires too much labor to make it usable.

I found Botanicare Cocogro that has a very low salt content as promised by the manufacturer. They also claim that Cocogro is unique because it is not chemically treated like other coir fibers on the market. Cocogro is a superior coir fiber because it is aged a minimum of 18 months and has finished its decomposition stage. In addition, Cocogro is exposed to rain water from at least three monsoon seasons, which naturally washes away harmful salts out of the final product.

It seems the Coconut coir lasts 3 times longer than peat so it would be a great replacement for peat to keep the 5-1-1 longer.

Any experience with Botanicare Cocogro you can share?

Thanks!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The first question that comes to mind is, what does coir bring to the table that peat doesn't? I think the biggest thing it has going for it is that it's more easily rewetable, for those who tend to let their soils dry down too much. Coir is generally finer than peat, so holds more water. It breaks down at about the same rate as peat. It has a much higher pH than peat, which precludes the use of dolomite as a source of Ca/Mg when coir is a significant fraction of the soil. Coir is also very high in K. Some of the factors that would be looked upon as negatives would be mitigated by the fact that you'd be limiting its use to a fairly small fraction of the 5:1:1 mix, but coir is probably going to be more expensive than peat.

Al

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 4:32PM
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goldfinchy

Al,

Thanks for your input. Yes, all the things you mentioned are positive. I have read that it, actually, breaks down much slower than peat, I saw numbers between 2 and 3.
The price is not that much higher since you need less of it. My local hydroponics store sells Cocogro at an affordable price.

The things that attract me are

-longer life
-higher pH
-high in K
-holds more water (good in a hotter climate?)

I want to try it but was wandering if anybody was there before me.

gf

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 5:41PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

On the right is Coco. On the left is peat. If the peat was wet like the coco is it would be mud. It seems this coco is more course then peat. It seems there is a lot of dust in the peat, and none in the coir.

I have coco from plants I buy that come in it. If you use coco I would say use 15% less lime in the mix. ;)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 6:00PM
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goldfinchy

TheMasterGardener1,

Thanks for the photos, nice! I like your comparison.
Do you know if the coco is the Botanicare Cocogro by any chance?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 7:32PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Mastergardener - I'm wondering how you arrived at your recommendation to use 15% less lime in a soil with coir?? Was there a calculation you did or was that a wild guess?

GF - the things you look at as attributes, I look at as issues that need to be worked around, except for the longevity, which I would say are approximately equal.

FWIW - here is something I wrote a long time ago that contrasts peat and coir:

Generally, commercial ops try to keep coir to less than a 10% fraction of the o/a mix because of its high pH, salinity, and high K content. If you're intent on using a more significant fraction, you might wish to eliminate half or all of the lime and substitute gypsum for the portion of lime not used.

Sphagnum peat and coir have nearly identical water retention curves. They both retain about 90-95% of their volume in water at saturation and release it over approximately the same curve until they both lock water up so tightly it's unavailable for plant uptake at about 30-33% saturation. Coir actually has less loft than sphagnum peat, and therefore, less aeration. Because of this propensity, coir should be used in mixes at lower %s than peat. Because of the tendency to compact, in the greenhouse industry, coir is primarily used in containers in sub-irrigation (bottom-watering) situations. Many sources produce coir that is high in soluble salts, so this can also be an issue.

Using coir as the primary component of container media virtually eliminates lime or dolomitic lime as a possible Ca source because of coir's high pH (6+). Gypsum should be used as a Ca source, which eliminates coir's low S content. All coir products are very high in K, very low in Ca, and have a potentially high Mn content, which can interfere with the uptake of Fe.

I have done some testing of coir and CHCs (coconut husk chips) with some loose controls in place. After very thoroughly leaching and rinsing the chips, I made a 5:1:1 soil of pine bark:peat:perlite (which I know to be very productive) and a 5:1:1 mix of CHCs:peat:perlite. I planted 6 cuttings of snapdragon and 6 cuttings of Coleus (each from the same plant to help reduce genetic influences) in containers (same size/shape) of the different soils. I added dolomitic lime to the bark soil and gypsum to the CHC soil. After the cuttings struck, I eliminated all but the three strongest in each of the 4 containers. I watered each container with a weak solution of MG 12-4-8 with STEM added at each watering, and watered on an 'as needed basis', not on a schedule. The only difference in the fertilizer regimen was the fact that I included a small amount of MgSO4 (Epsom salts) to provide MG (the dolomitic lime in the bark soil contained the MG, while the gypsum (CaSO4) in the CHC soil did not. This difference was necessary because or the high pH of CHCs and coir.) for the CHC soil.

The results were startling. In both cases, the cuttings grown in the CHC's exhibited only about 1/2 the biomass at summers end as the plants in the bark mix.

I just find it very difficult for a solid case to be made (besides "It works for me") for the use of coir or CHC's. They're more expensive and more difficult to use effectively. The fact that some believe peat is in short supply (no where near true, btw) is easily offset by the effect of the carbon footprint of coir in its trek to the US from Sri Lanka or other exotic locales.

That's the view from here. YMMV

Best luck.

Al

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 9:22PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

No, it is just coco that some palms came in.

I got them out of the coco and into some 511! Here is a nice palm I just took out of that coco.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 9:25PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

"Mastergardener - I'm wondering how you arrived at your recommendation to use 15% less lime in a soil with coir?? Was there a calculation you did or was that a wild guess?"

I thought because the peat makes up 15% of the mix, so the OP wanted to use coco to replace the peat (15%), which is a ph of 6 so it would be good to use that much (15%) less lime.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 9:32PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Tapla,

I just read back. I think we are both right on.

"you might wish to eliminate half or all of the lime and substitute gypsum for the portion of lime not used."

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 12:43AM
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jodik_gw

For anyone NOT already living in a tropical area where coconut products can be had, the energy footprint to manufacture it into the various stages used by growers, and the shipping involved, make it a poor ecological choice, in my opinion.

I've used cocopeat, and have not been at all satisfied with the results. It holds too much moisture, grows some funky looking molds and fungi, and with the ecological footprint to think about, is not for me. Regular peat is closer, and in my opinion, works better.

As an aside, many coco products must be continually rinsed to remove the salt by-product of manufacture before using.

All in all, I find it a poor substitute.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 11:24AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

I still wanted tofind out if my "wild guess" was on or not! ;) Please, what else can I get made fun of about when I am trying to help answer some ones question? ;) If you notice, I am not the only one one that is talked down to.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 11:30AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

I agree with what everyone said here. It seems to me though, the OP already has coco so at this point coco is the cheapest! :) I could be wrong.

For the future I would agree getting peat would be cheaper and easier. I get is at 10 bucks for a 3 cuft bale that expands to 6 cuft!

Maybe I was wrong about how much less lime to use. It sounds like from what Tapla said, it is more like use 1/2 the lime? I would really like to know too.

I think it could be like 30% less lime.

It takes 2 tblsp per gal of peat to balance ph so maybe that is what it works out to. Again, could be wrong.

Please, I really still am waiting to hear about the lime, and hear back about coco!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 11:55AM
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greentiger87

I don't recognize the original poster - is he/she a regular contributor that I don't recognize? Because otherwise, something about that original post seems super spammy.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 6:17PM
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goldfinchy

Hmm.. Why my post is a spammy one? Are only regular contributors allowed to post?

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 7:43PM
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goldfinchy

greentiger87,

can you be more specific?

I asked a question about the Botanicare Cocogro, what's wrong with that?

I believe the question of coco vs. peat is a valid one since both products are very comparable and accesible. I want to extend the lifespan of a 5-1-1 mix and based my question on the Botanicare claim that coco is more stable than peat.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 7:49PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sometimes people come on the forums in order to promote a certain product & do it in all kinds of slick ways, which often elicits a protective response, so it's just my guess that GT might for some reason have had a suspicion you had an ulterior motive; but I've seen your posts and know for sure that's not the case ..... nothing wrong with your posts or your questions - just a little misunderstanding. All's well & we're glad to see your questions & contributions. ;-)

Al

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 8:19PM
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goldfinchy

Al,

Thanks for your support! I couldn't reply to yours (and others) posts because of the nature of my work I sometimes don't have the inet access.

I need to think a little and digest the coco info I have found on this forum and elsewhere. It seems a better quality coco fiber coir might slightly outperform peat but is more expensive. The salt content of the mentioned above Botanicare Cocogro is quite low so it doesn't require the extensive rinsing.

Similar to TheMasterGardener1, I also saw plants sold in a coco mix that look great (but I think most of the plants for sale look great though).

I will plant 2 citrus trees in September (after the summer heat is gone) in large pots, maybe 24", still need to buy them. I want to use 5-1-1 mix and for an experiment will try peat in one and coco in another one as 1 part in 5-1-1.

I am not sure how much lime to use, maybe 1/2 of the amount for the mix with peat...

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 8:50PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

That (1/2) sounds reasonable. What will you bne using for fertilizer, or are you undecided?

Al

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 9:00PM
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goldfinchy

I have Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. I used it with avocado seedleings and they respond well. I think that should be enough as a base. Would you recommend anything else for citrus (or in addition to)?

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 9:22PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I think you have a good plan in place. The 9-3-6 should serve you fine.

Al

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 9:58PM
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greentiger87

I'm sorry goldfinchy, there's just been a lot of attempts at subtle product promotion here lately, and I misinterpreted your post. I'm not exactly a regular myself, so I didn't recognize your name immediately (there's also no easy way on GardenWeb to go back and see a particular user's posts). I would gladly delete that comment if I could. Please accept my apology?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 6:47PM
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goldfinchy

Hi greentiger87,

No worries, it's all cool!

gf

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 1:28PM
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