arjo_reich

Coco-Coir .vs. Peat Moss...

arjo_reich
July 2, 2007

I never knew there was such a heated-debate going on over peat moss being a renewable resource but it's made me wonder...

What's the general consensus towards coco-coir? I just started using it as a soil replacement (indoors) and soil amendment (outdoors) and it's been doing fantastic for me, although it's considerably too expensive to use in large quantities.

A 24-brick case of it costs me about $70 USD which roughly equates to...god, I don't know, a 1/2 a cubic yard? 1 brick, when rehydrated to field capacity will fill a 3-5 gallon bucket - how ever much volume that is, lol.

Comments (106)

  • oldmainer

    Hi wayne_5...I don't know whether the old timers have passed on or gone on to other forums. Things got away from me and I didn't realize how long it's been sense I was last on the forum. I hope to change that now...:-) oldmainer

  • jolj

    oldmainer, you are right.

    I have land in the Midlands of South Carolina, sandy acid soil.

    I have 25 blueberry plants for over ten years, they are doing great in organic only soil.

    I can buy blueberry suckers for $2.00 for one year plants & $2.50 for two year plants bare root. I have already bought 3 varieties last year, the seller has another 5 varieties. He has 9 varieties, but one dose not have suckers & I have that variety already. My goal is to have ripe berries for 12 weeks.

    My 25 older plants now have sucker, but I need plants that ripen later then last of April,May,June. So I hoping for July & August ripen fruit for the south.

  • oldmainer

    Hi jolj...are you hoping to get an pick your own operation going?

    I lived in Rye NH...near the ocean... for twenty four years before we moved here to southern Maine when I retired. My daughter bought the land...56 acres...and we cut in a fifteen-hundred foot road ourselves...cleared house lots and put houses in....that was twenty years ago....yikes...what a job. Wouldn't/couldn't do the job today for love or money...:-) Anyway we are a few miles from the ocean where we get a sea breeze in the summer most of the time. Big timber surrounds the house so gardening here is a challenge...:-) We are right on the upper reaches of the York river so can pump water to the yard if need be. Lots of different kinds of wildlife here which makes growing anything interesting. Next time I will tell you a little about myself. oldmainer

  • jolj

    No, this is an 10 acre home orchard & garden, we have grapes,musadines,pear,blk walnuts,pecan,figs, persimmons,blk berries,raspberries& blueberries.Hope to put in southren apples, more figs & nut trees.

    I may sale some if we get too many, but the way DW eats blueberries that would take a lot.

    I hear you have the thin shell lobsters, that taste the best!

  • poaky1

    Fine oldmainer, I was referring to someone else, not you, but, I should've not brought their old post up again I suppose. They were berating me for my use of coconut coir. In this same post above.

  • oldmainer

    Hi poaky1...not a problem...have a good day...oldmainer

  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.

    The World’s Coconuts Are in Danger - The Atlantic - ''...long-term outlook for coconuts? Not as good. In the Caribbean, bacteria that cause lethal yellowing are wiping out coconut trees—...''

  • monomer

    Wow this thread is nutz. Its all over the place. I can't believe how emotionally tense this topic is for some...

    Judging by a number of the postings above, I'm not sure many people here realize that coir is a waste by-product from another industry... meaning whether one buys it or not will not affect its production, it will only affect the manner in which this waste product is disposed of (don't buy it and it will be burned for fuel)... whereas peat is the actual product being sought (the reason for digging up peat bogs around the world in the first place) and buying it does directly affect its "production"/harvesting (or the destruction of its source as natural wild-life habitat and eco buffer zone depending upon your viewpoint).

    But all that renewability argument craziness aside... I'm like most practical gardeners and farmers for that matter... I'll use whatever is the most economical way to get the job done. I love old mother earth and all but in the end... value is what drives the choices most consumers make... witness the success of Wal-Mart, right?. To that end berkana has been the only poster in this thread that made any valid remarks with respect to product end value (referring to total cost). I've used both materials for gardening, vermicomposting (as bedding material), and hypertufa. My choice has been coir for value and performance. If you want to know the reasons, just go back to the top of the thread and re-read berkana's 2 postings (from 8-1/2 years ago). For what I use it for and its performance in those functions, coir is the best choice for me.

  • wayne_5 zone 5b Central Indiana

    I do have some potted plants, but my main use and value has been with peat moss in the open gardens. I got most of my from a local bog in my own truck loads.

  • toxcrusadr

    Speaking of bogs, did you know that butter can be wrapped in cloth, placed in a wood box and buried in a bog for storage? I saw something the other day about a thousand year old hunk of bog butter that was still edible. Apparently the complete lack of oxygen down there helps preserve it.

    What were we talking about? :-P

  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)

    I believe that meat can be preserved in bogs as well. Including people (e.g. Tollund Man). Acidity, lack of oxygen, and cold temperatures are what you need. The acid dissolves the bones, but the flesh is preserved. So peat moss is clearly more interesting for gardeners, because there can be such amazing stuff in it!

  • monomer

    I believe it also has some anti-bacterial properties that contribute in addition to other attributes to preserving stuff... in fact, peat was still used to bandage wounds as recently as in the first World War.

  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)

    Spaghnum moss is not only antiseptic (I believe lichens are as well), but it has extraordinary capability to absorb liquids (blood, pus, lymph etc.) Far better than cotton. In fact, that's precisely why it is so useful as a gardening medium. I think coir holds water well too, but not quite as well as peat moss.

  • monomer

    Hmm, I wonder how much pus coir will suck up... oh, I think I may have just thrown up in my mouth a little bit.

    One has to then wonder if peat's antiseptic properties might not translate into slowing down microbial action in the soil initially....

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Hold on!! You cannot equate living sphagnum moss with sphagnum peat moss. They are two entirely different products, one living and the other being almost completely decomposed. And sphagnum moss is a source of Cutaneous sporotrichosis, a fungal disease that can invade any cuts or open sores, also known as rose gardeners' disease, as roses carry the same fungal organism. Peat moss does not.

    Personally, I am very glad medical science has advanced from where it was in WWI, as I would not be happy to be wounded, have my wounds packed with sphagnum moss and then develop a potentially fatal fungal disease.

  • monomer

    One quick little search turns up all this and more:

    Sphagnum is a genus of approximately 380 accepted species of mosses, commonly known as peat moss. Decayed, dried sphagnum moss has the name of peat or peat moss. This is used as a soil conditioner which increases the soil's capacity to hold water and nutrients. A distinction is sometimes made between sphagnum moss, the live moss growing on top of a peat bog, and 'sphagnum peat moss' being the slowly decaying matter underneath. Sphagnum moss has also been used for centuries as a dressing for wounds, including through World War I. Since it is absorptive and extremely acidic, it inhibits growth of bacteria and fungi. Native Americans used peat moss as diaper material for their babies. Used to wick away the moisture and absorb the excrement from the baby.

    Sporotrichosis is a fungal infection caused by a fungus called Sporothrix schenckii. Persons handling thorny plants (roses, bayberries, etc), sphagnum moss, or baled hay are all at increased risk of getting sporotrichosis. The fungus can be found in sphagnum moss, in hay, in other plant materials, and in the soil.

  • jolj


    Peat moss is acidic, with a pH level of about 3.3 to 4.0. This is too acidic for anything but acid-loving plants, and could cause harm to plants that are less tolerant of low pH levels. Because of its low pH, peat moss is often used to acidify soils that are too alkaline. For most planting purposes, a neutral pH is more desirable, so lime is often added to peat moss before planting. Most peat moss-based potting soils include lime. Coconut fiber, on the other hand, has a pH range of 5.2 to 6.8, which is more acceptable to a wider range of plants.

    Water Absorption

    Coconut coir wets more easily than peat moss, which tends to shed water when first wetted. Coconut coir requires less time to become saturated, so it needs less water. Sphagnum peat moss holds 10 to 20 times its dry weight in water, while ground coconut fiber -- coir -- holds an average of 8 to 9 times its dry weight, despite reports that coir has a much greater water holding capacity than peat moss. Peat moss and coconut fiber can come in varying textures and the product's coarseness may affect its ability to hold water.

    Sponsored Links

    http://homeguides.sfgate.com/peat-moss-vs-coconut-fiber-69786.html

  • poaky1

    Well, at least I don't need to feel guilty about using the coconut coir, which by the way is great for mulch. But, I will say that peat moss is a great way for me to grow woodland plants in my currently neutral soil, I can add oak leaves, wood fines and pine straw, but peat moss is pretty much the best thing to help get that humus type soil started quickly, the other stuff can take over, but, for that initial help, I think peat moss will help get things going. Wes Whiteside gardens in Illinois was created with the help of peat moss for the plants that needed waterholding soil. I use wood mulch for the woodland plants but for my trees the coconut coir lasts for several years. My Southern Mag still has the same mulch I put under it when I planted it in 2012. I know it's good when it's being broken down for your tree to use, but, I have so many trees, I'm happy to have less to have to mulch every year. I do have the still green sphagnum moss, but that's for houseplants like orchids, right?

  • daninthedirt (USDA 8a, HZ10, Cent TX, Sunset z30)

    I think if you have a bullet through you, or a leg blown off, and far from any competent medical assistance, you'll be happy to take your chances with sporotrichosis. I found this wonderful article about wound dressing with spaghnum moss a century ago.

    http://rbg-web2.rbge.org.uk/bbs/activities/field%20bryology/FB110/FB110_Ayres_Sphagnum.pdf

    The study of mosses is, by the way, called bryology.

    But that's a fair point, that peat moss is decomposed spaghnum moss. Not sure why the antibacterial properties or water absorptivity should differ much between the two, though.

  • jolj

    This is another side.

    Here are the simple facts: Canada has over 270 million acres of peat bogs which produce peat moss. Each year the peat moss industry harvests only 40,000 acres of peat moss mostly for horticultural use. If you do the math that comes to one of every 6,000 acres of peat moss is harvested each year. And here is the cherry on top. Peat bogs are living entities. The peat bogs grow 70% more peat moss each year than is harvested. With that data I consider peat definitely a renewable resource.

    On the other side, the Oregon State University Extension Service makes a good case, based on sustainability, for using coir instead of peat. It quotes other studies that examined the effectiveness of sphagnum peat and coir:

    Researchers at Auburn University and University of Arkansas compared peat and coir as soil amendments for horticulture. They found that coir performed on par with peat.

    The third way here is to use less sphagnum moss if you’re using it at all. Square-foot gardener Bartholomew states that his efficient, small space gardening methods justify the use of peat in his soil formula. The peat industry has looked at combining sphagnum with other products in ways that maintain its effectiveness in smaller amounts. Sphagnum peat moss is found in better brands of potting soil.

    https://www.planetnatural.com/peat-vs-coir/

  • monomer

    jolj... "Sphagnum peat moss holds 10 to 20 times its dry weight in water, while
    ground coconut fiber -- coir -- holds an average of 8 to 9 times its dry
    weight, despite reports that coir has a much greater water holding
    capacity than peat moss."

    I wonder if the discrepancies in reported water holding capacities of coir vs peat could be due to measuring %absorption by dried weight vs by volume. Coir appears to also expand quite a bit (I've purchased coir both loose and in bricks... and also sphagnum peat bagged and in bricks... I just love watching the bricks grow after dropping it into a basin of water, its like watching a magic show... I'm always amazed by it even after seeing it dozens of times, I never get tired of watching the transformation, watching it growing its like the stuff is alive)... What I'm saying is for a given volume of loose stuff, dried coir is definitely quite a bit heavier than dried peat thus reporting water holding capacity as a percentage of weight would be quite different than if reported the same water holding capacities by volume. I can see where the data would suggest they are equals (if not actually giving the edge to coir) if water holding capacities were reported as % of water by volume... in this case since the density of water is a constant the calculated data in volume would be change because of material density... it would actually be better still if the absolute volume of water held were stated for each material. And if you think about it... when used as a soil amendment, a comparison by volume would be a more appropriate and a much more meaningful measurement for the gardener.

  • benaomtg

    monomer, One problem with Moss is that it breads pests, whereas coir does not. Howevere, my point in all this was made because of the overwhelming false impression that by using coc coir one is saving the environment. There are far more sustainable products than coc that have far better qualities, they are just not appealing because of regulations where they can be exploited properly, or because we already have trade routes with where they are comiong from, primarily south east Asia.

    Even though the full tree is not used, consider that it takes 10 years to grow a coconut tree (I planted a few as a kid). And it takes I full year to get ripe coconuts ready to be husked. It take 5 months to grow a. 82.35 foot long palm tree (Raffia) once it has sprouted with a 16 foot trunk, thus harvest twice a year. That is if a coconut tree takes 10 years to replace, a palm tree takes 0.42 years. Volume, the Raffia palm can reach diameters of 3 meters on 9 feet are not uncommon . The pith of these palms is soft and spongy and makes for a better palm coir than coco, Raffia hearts are more like vermiculite or think of them as a natural Styrofoam. Thik a natural mixture of vermiculite and per-lite with a superior advantages in aeration, biodegradability, The agricultural and economic applications of Raffia are astronomically superior to coco and on a "Green Scale" Years ahead of coco.


    REgardless of what you say or think how you want to save the world, explouting one resource always puts an untold stress on another. Therefore there is no breaking even. I am tired of listeing and reading snobe who think they are making a difference when all there is is a shift in our distructive force on this planet.


    Use what makes you sleep at night and stop preaching. Green does not mean eco friendly and ecoo friendly simply means shift of Environmental stress from one area to the other andf sometimes the impact are unseen and more damaging. Like with Coco or placing a Naval base in your town. The military destroys cities, states and sometimes entire countries by the side effects of their presence that out do the greater good.


    Talking about yhe greater good, keep your emotional calcus in check, make sure dGG/dET is a gentle slope ( where GG = Greater Good and ET = Environmentally Toxic.

    OREGANIC DOES NOT MEAN CARBON RICH. Organic means with no human intervention and does not always mean healthier or better FOR the environment.


    Please stop ignorantly bad moything Miracle grow, they have some of the most ecologically friendly processes that would beat what ever you think you know how to do in your back yard to shame. Low ebvornmental impact processes, pure product from non ecologically competing raw materials. You cannot replicate they way that company works on saving the envornment so shut aup about MIracle grow. They also have the leading and best products by far, are the oldest and best at what they do. In fact they are the first at what they do.


    You are a GMO, so boycot yourself. That 500k Fine Miracle grow received was only because they developed a strain of grass resistant to a pest that was released in the wrong county and someone found ity in their yard. So read up befgore you speak up against someone. That strain of grass went to be very popular and you probably play Golf on it often as we speak. So shut the hell up.


    How do you make a pest restsiant strain of biological being, you bnread the most resistant. You cannot encode a snippet of pesticide into DNA people, stop being so dumb. Genetically modified means changed from its original, if that were a bad thing and not accelerated evolution, , the world is full of GMOs including yourself. By the way, Brocolo is one of the first GMOs devel;oped in the 6th century by the Romans. Do not eat Broccoli if you are against GMOs

  • benaomtg

    monomer, One problem with Moss is that it breads pests, whereas coir does not. However, my point in all this was made because of the overwhelming false impression that by using coco coir one is saving the environment. There are far more sustainable products than coco that have far better qualities, they are just not appealing because of regulations where they can be exploited properly, or because we already have trade routes with where they are coming from, primarily south east Asia.

    Even though the full tree is not used, consider that it takes 10 years to grow a coconut tree (I planted a few as a kid). And it takes I full year to get ripe coconuts ready to be husked. It take 5 months to grow a. 82.35 foot long palm tree (Raffia) once it has sprouted with a 16 foot trunk, thus harvest twice a year. That is if a coconut tree takes 10 years to replace, a palm tree takes 0.42 years. Volume, the Raffia palm can reach diameters of 3 meters on 9 feet are not uncommon . The pith of these palms is soft and spongy and makes for a better palm coir than coco, Raffia hearts are more like vermiculite or think of them as a natural Styrofoam. Think a natural mixture of vermiculite and per-lite with a superior advantages in aeration, biodegradability, The agricultural and economic applications of Raffia are astronomically superior to coco and on a "Green Scale" Years ahead of coco.


    Regardless of what you say or think how you want to save the world, exploiting one resource always puts an untold stress on another. Therefore there is no breaking even. I am tired of listing and reading snob who think they are making a difference when all there is is a shift in our destructive force on this planet.


    Use what makes you sleep at night and stop preaching. Green does not mean eco friendly and eco friendly simply means shift of Environmental stress from one area to the other and sometimes the impact are unseen and more damaging. Like with Coco or placing a Naval base in your town. The military destroys cities, states and sometimes entire countries by the side effects of their presence that out do the greater good.


    Talking about yhe greater good, keep your emotional calculus in check, make sure dGG/dET is a gentle slope ( where GG = Greater Good and ET = Environmentally Toxic.

    ORGANIC DOES NOT MEAN CARBON RICH. Organic means with no human intervention and does not always mean healthier or better FOR the environment.


    Please stop ignorantly bad mouthing Miracle grow, they have some of the most ecologically friendly processes that would beat what ever you think you know how to do in your back yard to shame. Low environmental impact processes, pure product from non ecologically competing raw materials. You cannot replicate they way that company works on saving the environment so shut up about Miracle Grow. They also have the leading and best products by far, are the oldest and best at what they do. In fact they are the first at what they do.


    You are a GMO, so boycott yourself. That 500k Fine Miracle grow received was only because they developed a strain of grass resistant to a pest that was released in the wrong county and someone found ity in their yard. So read up before you speak up against someone. That strain of grass went to be very popular and you probably play Golf on it often as we speak. So shut the hell up.


    How do you make a pest resistant strain of biological being, you bread the most resistant. You cannot encode a snippet of pesticide into DNA people, stop being so dumb. Genetically modified means changed from its original, if that were a bad thing and not accelerated evolution, , the world is full of GMOs including yourself. By the way, Broccoli is one of the first GMOs developed in the 6th century by the Romans. Do not eat Broccoli if you are against GMOs

  • monomer

    Whoa buddy... Ya gotta learn to ease up a little there, this is merely a forum, have some fun, lighten up... toss in some humor along the way. You apparently got so intense there you actually posted it twice!

    I know even though you started off by using my online screen name you're not meaning to accuse me of all that other stuff that follows but really... too many things in too many directions makes it seem like you've been drinking way too much coffee (or Red Bull) lately. I don't mind having a conversation but because of the limitations of the format and on my time, you really need to keep it narrowed to one topic per posting and wait for a discussion to evolve, and only then bring up a single related topic to further extend the discussion. Tirades that trail off into half a dozen topics within a single posting as you go off accusing people you don't even know of stuff they know nothing about and have no responsibility for will only serve to scare people off... you know, as in running away from the crazy guy? Pick just one thing to talk about in your next posting and don't accuse anyone of anything and you'll likely get more interesting responses that we can all enjoy and perhaps learn from. And try to toss in something funny if you can... funny is always a good ice breaker when talking to strangers.

  • wayne_5 zone 5b Central Indiana

    Yeah, it good to not unload one's whole litany in one swoop but rather to post in one area with respect.

  • jolj

    please give me a link, I am not scared of GMO's & have found no unbiased proof that GMO's are bad. But even I need proof that the Romans slice genes.

    By the way, Broccoli is one of the first GMOs developed in the 6th century by the Romans. Do not eat Broccoli if you are against GMOs

  • benaomtg

    So are you saying all these breeds of dogs "made" before the romans was by splicing genes? Or are you saying a GMO is only "made" by splucing genes? You can breed enough generations maybe even one in ordrr to get the right phenotype (phydical characteristics) or genotype (genetic characteristics). You can splice for big bootay if you know the gene sequence, Or, you can breed for big bootay. Human variety is a result of genetic modification. We are GMOs Dang it!

  • benaomtg

    A dumb gold fish from a fishbowl is one that cannot appreciate its size when facing a shark. How is that a joke for you?

  • oldmainer

    Hi folks...how the hell did we get on the ongoing subject...thought we were talkin' about peat moss and coco-coir...:-) Anyway...if one wants to act alittle nutty this might not be the right forum...Oldmainer

  • toxcrusadr

    This thread is kinda long so I used my browser's Find function to look for occurrences of "GMO" and "Miracle" earlier in the thread. There were none. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Someone has gone round the bend arguing about these topics that were never brought up, in a thread about peat moss.

    This is a gardening forum. If you can't relax you might need a different venue to fight in.

  • jolj

    This is GMO:A GMO is an organism whose genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there. Note: A high percentage of food crops, such as corn and soybeans, are genetically modified.

    NOT this: the offspring of two animals or plants of different breeds, varieties, species, or genera, especially as produced through human manipulation for specific genetic characteristics. 2. a person or group of persons produced by the interaction or crossbreeding of two unlike cultures, traditions

    the offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties, such as a mule (a hybrid of a donkey and a horse).

    the offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties, such as a mule (a hybrid of a donkey and a horse).

    But back to op question, I think I will do my own test on coir & peat moss, then start a new thread with what I found. This will happen next year in the hot summer. In the mean time everyone have a Happy Holiday.


  • benaomtg

    You say potato... end results same redults. Chemical composition of plant DNA same as animal. Copulation versus laboratory ... same chemicals in play. So, you cannot, splice incompatible DNA. "Lock n Key"situation all around. So, GMO is really a non issue all around

  • benaomtg

    Judt playing with evolutionsry tree. Fact, we as a specie must create GMOs. We Must. The Naive answer is we do not have to

  • benaomtg

    Judt like We mist find a new home in outer space

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    "Judt like We mist find a new home in outer space"

    WTF?????? How does this relate to the pros and cons of peat versus coir?

  • benaomtg

    Think wide for a change, not just at the tip of your nose. As it applies to the end of the earth, the end result is unavoidable whether you use peat or coir and your decision to use either does not matter on the bigger scheme of things. This earth will Die when and not if our sun dies, when and not if a large enough meteorite hits it, when and not if we exhaust our natural resources due to over population (Now this we might survive due to evolution), and lastly but not least, when and not if we blow ourselves up in a nuclear holocust . The other reality is that the mathematics are pretty clear, no matter what or how we do it, we deplete our natural resources at a growing rate (exponentially) and therefore regardless of policies and practices to save it. It is not a matter of if, but how soon can we move into space or a new planet if we want to survive as biological beings

  • monomer

    Been a month since I'd visited this thread and yet benaomtg you're still hard at it... truly spacey stuff there buddy... the gist of what I'm getting is apparently nothing matters because the end of the earth is inevitable? so I guess its anything goes?

    I actually have some time to kill today so let me address the GMO issue, as that's a bit more down to earth so to speak. (I know its a really long ways from peat moss but GMO was a talking point recently and nobody who's interested in "coir vs peat
    is ever going to make it this far through this strange and bumpy thread of convoluted postings, especially when it starts to spin outta control... like in the last few postings... so I figure why not have some fun with it and talk about weird unrelated stuff... like GMOs and doomsday scenarios right?) Keep in mind I have NO background in biology outside of the stuff I read and my own observations... with that out of the way let me begin:

    If one believes in evolution (biology as a science I should say) then all living things are related at the core level (cellularly speaking)... all life, plant, animals, microbes. Animals and plants split off from some common microbial ancestor (likely a one cell bacterium) about 1-1/2 billion years ago and so all subsequent life had the same basic mechanism based upon the structure of DNA. As each new branch of life evolved to achieve reproduction success in the environmental niche it found itself in, the DNA structure changed remarkably little over the huge spans of time. Cell replication is not always perfect and so mutations happen... though most mutations do not create a viable organism, occasionally it will be something that can survive and more rarely one will represent an improvement upon the original and thus actually flourish. Over great spans of time this is what evolution is... a gradual form shifting resulting from environmental culling of most of the natural spurious mutations and success of the few favorable mutations happening over thousands, millions, and hundreds of millions of years... "survival of the fittest"... and thus slowly living organisms of all sorts were created. all perfectly adapted to their environment. Once the DNA changed the physical characteristics of the organism enough breeding between unrelated species became no longer possible... and so certain combinations of mutations were no longer even possible. This process of evolution also created many pure strains within species, each perfected to flourish within their particular local environment. This is how creation worked for literally billions of years!

    Then a mere few thousand years ago man figured out at some point that he could speed up natural selection of certain species by preforming or controlling the breeding of various pure strains to create mutations all by himself (cows, dogs, wheat, corn, etc). Man could now simply perform the selection process of genetic mutations that he created instead of nature culling. We could now have a small part in speeding up evolutionary process by forcing mutations and then selecting the mutations we found advantageous for our own purposes rather than what works best within the ecosystem... these "man-made hybrids" were not really any different from what nature was doing... man was just able to get what he desired (within limits) faster... it was a first step to designing new organisms... however it was not yet genetic engineering since there were great limitations placed upon what could be achieved because they had to be closely enough related to still breed. However at some point very recently here (talking like less than 3 decades) man gained enough of an understanding of genetics (an the methods to control it at the nucleus level) to have a major changed where we can now play at being GOD. Since all living things are related at its core, many of the same genes exist between species as evolutionarily far flung in time as plants, animals, bacteria and viruses... Which now allows the splicing together of gene segments that are from totally different species. We can bring together gene segments from plants and animals and viruses, mix them up anyway we chose... gene segments which previously were kept apart for a billion years of evolution, man can now put together to create new organisms with new functions never before tried out in nature... unnatural organisms completely foreign to the environment... "alien beings" if you will. Now that's scary... introducing totally alien life-forms into our ecosystem.... the ecosystem that supports all human life! There is no dress rehearsal, there is no back-up ecosystem... there is no reverse gear... this is the ultimate risk.

    The scariest part is that we have no idea what most of the nuclear coding in a cell actually does, we're only looking at nucleic acid sequences... we're only at the stage of poking around trying to decipher which sections of the DNA strands seem to correlate to physical expression of a gene... that's like about 15-20% of the code... all the other stuff we are guessing turns the genes ON or OFF depending upon something in the environment but we really don't know exactly how it all works and what all that other stuff does... IOWs, no one has a complete picture of what everything on the strand does, its too early on and very much still in the discovery stages... its still just a work in progress. For instance the scientists have spliced in a gene segment from a fluorescent jelly fish into a mouse and we now have mice that glow in the dark... what else is that mouse capable of doing or becoming and how does it affect everything else in the environment? The scientists don't know but the marketers already are trying to figure out ways to make money off of it! We may have sequenced the strands but we don't yet know what most of it does. Living things consume other things that were once living... that too is a part of nature... just stop for a moment and think about the implications. Creating alien life forms... THIS is true genetic engineering. What we've done is achieve the power to mix and match specific parts of the DNA genetic code from one living thing into most any other life form and create designer mutants with unpredictable results to the environment... Consider this: by turning them loose into the world (remember our ecosystem is the human life support system!) we are relying upon the environment to cull the misfits without changing the balance of the ecosystem in a negative way for humans. Once you turn life loose into the world you cannot ever get it back into the test tube again.... it becomes part of our world forever. We have no idea what the other stuff in the DNA segments we are splicing in actually do... thus marketing of GMOs is really an experiment happening outside the lab, using planet Earth as a petri dish, where we (all human kind) are now the guinea pigs... And as if that weren't stupid enough, in many of these cases the only motivation for bringing these alien mutants to market before we fully understand the ramifications of splicing in foreign DNA, is making money to feed the greed of a few who already own too much of the wealth.

    If you wish to talk about doomsday scenarios, how about starting there... genetic engineering of animals and grains outside the lab... creating mutations that not even nature would have ever been able to create... the bringing together of genetic code previously separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

    I gotta go check on the bread I'm baking... don't know when I can put in the next installment in the thread... maybe in another month perhaps. Until then... benaomtg have fun with this.

  • poaky1

    I am going to admit that I haven't read anything accept the top posts of this thread. I want to grow some plants that like acidic shady conditions, and I know that I need to use peat moss, and plant shade trees there.

  • westes Zone 9a California SF Bay

    @poaky1 are you growing rhododendrons or azaleas? I find that both do well in filtered fir bark as the only soil. Obviously, you need to add fertilizer.

  • toxcrusadr

    This thread is wacked!

    Did you actually have a question or did you just want to risk getting sprayed on? LOL :-D

  • Irving Ragweed (Austin 8b)

    This thread has been a most entertaining read. When gardeners become passionate about certain issues, keep your distance until the storm blows over.

    Back to the original debate: Sustainability issues aside, did anyone mention the superiority of coir in a hot, humid climate? Peat moss has a short lifespan where the summer is long and intense. Coir holds up much better under such conditions.

    Has there been any recent progress re compressed pecan hull fiber? Is there any chance it will become a third option in the near future?

  • tapla

    By extension, and using that line of logic, growing in pudding would be even better.

    There are several reasons why coir would not be a superior choice over peat in areas where the weather is hot/humid.

    Coir does not "hold up much better under such conditions".

    And the same several pH and chemical considerations that require work-arounds if coir is to be used efficaciously are in play, no matter if it's used where it's hot/humid or cool/dry.

    Al

  • monomer

    tapla said... Coir does not "hold up much better under such conditions".

    And the same several pH and chemical considerations that require work-arounds if coir is to be used efficaciously are in play, no matter if it's used where it's hot/humid or cool/dry.

    Could you please expound upon those brief statements? They seem to be just hanging out there without tethering to anything one could relate to. If you could please provide some background or reasoning for those statements to give it validity, that would be quite helpful. Thx

  • tapla

    They were purposely left hanging ..... but the reasoning behind them has very often been discussed prior to this thread's exchanges.

    Peat has already broken down so the primary hydrocarbon chain left is lignin, the organic polymer that makes plants woody. Peat is quite stable because lignin is highly resistant to the soil organisms that cleave hydrocarbon chains and accelerate decomposition. Coir, OTOH, has notable %s of other components, like cellulose, that break down much more rapidly than lignin. Also, coir loses its loft much easier than peat, which means that coir compacts after repeated waterings significantly more than peat, which, when combined with the faster breakdown of coir particles contributes significantly to the potential for excess water retention, which is equally as perilous to root/plant health in all locales.

    Coir is known to be allelopathic to a notable number of plants. Coir is VERY high in K, which requires addressing if you wish to maintain any kind of real control over nutritional supplementation. Coir's pH level is too high to allow liming (of container media) as a way of providing Ca and Mg. Also, significant amounts of coir is processed in salt water, which can, and often does produce extremely high EC/TDS levels in the soil solution, even before adding the rise in EC/TDS always caused by nutritional supplementation that's required to keep plants healthy. Inherent in cases of high salinity are toxicities of Na and chloride.

    If you're not prepared to limit the volume of coir or CHCs to something like 10% or less of the overall volume of container media, and/or aren't equipped to put in place the work-arounds I mentioned a little upthread in order to eliminate the negative potentialities associated with using large fractions of coir/CHCs in container media, you should be ready to accept the limitations that are widely recognized as inherent in the products.

    Al

  • monomer

    Though I've yet to actually measure the pH of coir (which I guess I can easily do for myself) I've read its much nearer to neutral (5.8-6.8pH) than peat is (3.4-4.4). If gypsum (and maybe some Epsom salt) is used with coir instead of dolomitic lime then pH changes would be roughly a wash, however that is likely not necessary with modern day coir... read on. I assume we are talking about peat vs the modern coir available today. Coir processed in seawater is for the most part a thing of the distant past, at least when referring to the stuff sold in most horticultural stores today... almost all brands claim low EC (generally below .7) due to double or even triple rinsing in fresh water and most are also buffered so no additional Ca/Mag is required.

    As far as breakdown (and thus packing out the pore spaces), I'm going to say the jury is still out unless you can provide me with actually studies that have been documented to prove this out. The coir industry claims just the opposite of what you alleged here... meaning they tout the slower breakdown of coir vs peat as an advantage to coir... and of course they would, they are selling the stuff so I won't trust their claims either. They also claim as a result of slower breakdown coir holds its luff longer so it doesn't require the addition of such things as perlite to maintain the air spaces as most peat based potting mixes do. Again, considering the source, I'll maintain the jury is still out on this matter.

    However one claim the coir industry makes I've verified many times over for myself, and that is that coir doesn't repel water while I find I've got to use a surfactant to wet-out peat when watering. Finally a search I just now conducted on coir being allelopathic turned up absolutely nothing (well aside from a reference to yet another thread generated here in the Houzz Garden Forum... maybe just a little too incestuous for a proof reference?). I was very curious since I'd not heard of this property associated with coir nor have I experienced it with anything that I've used coir to plant in, that I'm aware of in any case. So, if you can provide me with a list of plants affected by the use of coir in potting mix or soil, I'd greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you for filling in the blanks of your earlier posting for me, I believe I now more fully understand the arguments you've put forth. Thank you, it is truly appreciated.

  • Irving Ragweed (Austin 8b)

    There are several reasons why coir would not be a superior choice over peat in areas where the weather is hot/humid. Coir does not "hold up much better under such conditions".

    On what experiential evidence do you base your statements? I was not referring to conditions in Michigan, where peat is no doubt superior, but to conditions in a region with a 9+ month growing season where subtropical summer is the norm for five of those months, where a daytime heat index between 100 and 110 is typical, during which period it also never cools off at night.

    From my own experience I can confirm that peat moss breaks down within a few weeks during high summer, presumably due to the intense microbial activity associated with such a climate. Gardeners this far south who add peat moss for improved moisture retention find that frequently repeated applications are necessary within the same growing season. In contrast, coir in a container/raised bed mix is still identifiable, and still moisture-retentive, after an entire growing season. This comparison is also applicable to peat vs. coir in a compost pile. The former disappears quickly; the latter takes a long time to break down.

    Disclaimer: The preceding statements are based on observations from three decades of gardening in Austin, Texas. I am not a compensated spokesperson for the coir industry.

    Would that be tapioca or rice pudding?

  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.

    As a young(er) man I tried both and became annoyed with both. I don't recall why, it was long ago.

  • tapla

    Ideal pH for container gardening is about 1 whole number lower than growing in mineral soils, so coir DOES present pH issues.

    for container media ^^^

    Peat is primarily lignin, which breaks down very slowly, unlike coir, which breaks down much faster than peat. Peat holds 10-20X it's weight in water, and coir 5-9X, on average, so, if the thinking is that because coir holds more water than peat, which is in itself an error, it doesn't necessarily follow that more water retention is better for the plant. Better for the person who has to perform watering chores, perhaps, but there is definitely a break point when the decrease in media air porosity decreases due to the increase in water retention. The ideal soil would hold all or almost all of its water on the surface of soil particles and as intra-particular water. Large measures of inter-particular water that always tend to occur when media are made with large fractions of fine particulates are extremely limiting to root function/health, so introducing ingredients (coir OR peat) that support large volumes of inter-particular water is a counter-productive measure when viewed from the perspective of (plant) vitality levels, which brings us full circle to my earlier comment that carries forward the supposition and begs the question: if excess water retention is a good thing in locales where the transpiration rate is extremely high, why not grow in pudding ..... or muck. It would be much easier for the grower, after all.

    In areas with consistently high temperatures, open soils (high porosity) are much cooler than soils saturated with water, this, due to evaporative cooling. They also allow the plant to expend less energy absorbing water and to absorb more water due to better air porosity and oxygen availability, which leads to a higher degree of transpirational cooling. Plants do require more frequent watering, but again, from the plant's perspective, are a much healthier option.

    Allelopathy - High levels of phenolic compounds known to be present in coir (especially high concentrations in uncomposted coir) can profoundly affect root morphology, limiting length, number, and size of all orders of roots (1st, 2nd, 3rd, ....), and does interfere with cell division.

    I'm not stumping for peat - just sayin' for folks willing to consider coir/CHC's real issues "It ain't all that"; and, I repeat in saying that when used as a significant fraction of container media, it requires work-arounds OR a willingness to accept its inherently limiting properties.

    For a good overview of Coir's physical/chemical attributes/limitations, see Handreck and Black's Growing Media for Ornamental Plants and Turf

    Al



  • monomer

    tapla said... "Ideal pH for container gardening is about 1 whole number lower than growing in mineral soils"

    Again, you've simply thrown out another statement un-tethered to anything... I know, I know you intended it to be that way... but why? I've no idea.

    As far as water holding capacity... you choose to present it based upon weight where dried peat is going to be much lighter than an equal volume of coir and so appear to hold more water but to my thinking basing water holding capacity on volume would likely be more relevant for the gardener (in either container or in soil). This I've done myself and am quite sure coir is going to expand far more with a given volume of water. Water holding capacity is important provided air pore spaces remain equivalent... however perlite, pumice, or vermiculite is so often suggested as an addition with peat potting mixes to make one wonder why the need for these components... likely to maintain the air pore spaces due to compacting as the peat degrades and thus collapses within one growing season, its lignin content notwithstanding (btw, coir has significant lignin content as well, especially considering percentage of weight). And as every gardener knows, maintaining the air pore space is critical for healthy root development and growth of a good many plants (but not all plants however). Holding luff then is the important feature and not necessarily lignin content. Again, a simple comparison study would prove out which material best maintains adequate air pore space over time... so could you point me to one or more of these studies? I don't know the answer but would definitely like to see some studies conducted that could enlighten me on this subject. Until then, I've got to say the jury is still out... there's lots of theory out there but empirical evidence is what's called for to solve this particular inquiry.

    tapla said "Allelopathy - High levels of phenolic compounds known to be present in coir ... can profoundly affect root morphology, limiting length, number, and size of all orders of roots"

    From the foregoing statement I gather you're saying that coir has an allelopathic effect on ALL rooted plants? and thus you cannot and/or need not supply a list of affected plants... is this a correct reading of what you're meaning to infer? I'm surprised that this allelopathy of coir is not mentioned on the Internet somewhere... or at least from the simple yahoo search I've done so far. I'm so intrigued by this new piece of information that I'm going to take it from a theory and try to come up with empirical evidence of it by planting some radishes in dixie cups... a half dozen in a 50/50 with peat/soil and another half dozen in 50/50 with coir/soil... the soil will be the same (coming from my garden to supply the micros and biology) and then water the same amount each day with one teaspoon of Jack's Classic into a gallon of water. In approximately two weeks I'll wash the soil mix off the roots and compare. Do you see any complicating factors I should be aware of before beginning this little experiment? I'm excited. (BTW, the reason for radishes is merely speed of germination and the roots will not swell if I end the experiment too soon... I don't have the time or patience to carry on anything that's going to take more than 2 weeks at the most to complete... also I already have everything I need to do this in the shed right now).

    EDIT: In my search for allelopathic connection between phenolic compounds and plant root growth I came upon these tidbits from two separate sources... make of them what you will but they sure seem to complicate matters with previous claims of allelopathy of coir over peat...

    "Once the coir is freed from the fiber it goes through a maturation
    process to stabilize the product and this can take up to 6 months.
    During this process salt, tannins, and phenolic compounds are removed.
    It is buffered, washed and calcium nitrate is added to displace sodium
    and balance the pH
    ."

    "Sphagnum and the peat formed from it do not decay readily because of the phenolic compounds embedded in the moss's cell walls."

    So does that mean peat too is allelopathic to plant roots? If so, then its a wash and I'd be wasting my time conducting the simple radish experiment?

    Final UPDATE: Okay I give up... After a single search I've already found several references to peat and peat bogs as being allelopathy to the germination of certain plants...

    I'm going to call the allelopathy claims against coir and peat a wash.

  • tapla

    Where you think I'm just "tossing out untethered statements", I think the information is so widely known by those with only a little better than average understanding of container media and its components that I wouldn't even imagine it would be questioned. E.g. and in reply to your opening challenge, please note the following quote, some variation of which you'll find in all reference books that make comparisons between growing in mineral soils vs container media.

    "Plants can be grown in a pH range between pH 4 and 8, if micronutrients are maintained in available form. The pH range for plants grown in organic soils or soilless mixes is around 1.0 to 1.5 pH units lower than the pH range for plants grown in mineral soils due to differences in nutrient availability. Nutrient availability is higher in soilless mixes around pH 5.0 to 5.5 compared to a mineral soil that has maximum nutrient availability around pH 6.0 to 6.8."See it here beginning bottom page 2, ending pg 3.

    I do see complicating factors re your radish experiment. First that jumps out at me is the fact I wonder why you would use soil from your garden mixed with peat/coir in your radish experiment, the combination of which is likely to be so physically limiting as to entirely mask the delineation in plant vitality/mass you'll be relying on for conclusions.

    BTW - I've done a similar experiment several times with several plants, making comparison between a soil made with 5 parts pine bark, 1 part peat, 1 part perlite and a soil made with CHCs in the stead of pine bark. The results in all cases were striking in that all groups of plant material grown in the media containing CHCs did very poorly compared to the bark mix.

    I posted the following as early as 2007. I also performed the same experiment using cuttings of Luma apiculata (Peruvian myrtle) and Salix arctica (arctic willow) with exactly the same results.

    "I haven't tested coir thoroughly, but I have done some testing of
    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 of the high pH of CHCs and coir.) for the CHC soil.

    The results were startling. In both (now, all 4) 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."

    Al

Need help with an existing Houzz order? Call 1-800-368-4268