From hydroponics growers to container gardeners, the use of soil substitutes is fast gaining traction in mushroom farming. With the emergence of new farming methods, you can now grow your crops without using soil, and expect to harvest great yields at the end of the farming cycle!
One good example of a soil substitute that every mushroom grower should consider is coco coir.
So, what is coco coir? Can we use coco coir for growing mushrooms? Let’s find out…
What is coco coir?
Coconut coir, normally abbreviated as coco coir, is the fleshy, spongy, outer husk of a coconut. Many growers use coco coir as a substitute for soil or as a soil additive to help retain moisture, increase drainage, and assist with aeration.
Given that coco coir is strong and has a low decomposition rate, it makes a very good medium for hydroponics farming. Besides, it is 100% organic, making it the perfect choice for farmers who are conscious about the environment.
Even though coconut coir does not have any inherent nutritional value, you can find traces of important minerals such as calcium, boron, copper, zinc, nitrogen, iron, magnesium, chlorine.
Read about What Houseplants Need Calcium?
Moreover, it is much easier to add a nutrient base to coco coir compared to adding the same base to other growing media.
Can you grow mushrooms in coco coir?
Yes, you can grow mushrooms in coco coir. However, you first need to sterilize the coir before you can use it as a growing medium for your mushrooms. This helps to prevent the spread of diseases and decimate all kinds of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
In case you didn’t know, any soil substitute like coco coir that works well for mushrooms also works well for disease-causing bacteria. Then again, growing mushrooms is a complex process that requires a lot of care and attention, given the delicate nature of these plants.
You may want to consider getting Beneficial Bacteria For Coco Coir.
For these reasons, it is always a wise idea to sterilize your coco coir before using it as your preferred medium for mushroom farming.
Coco coir has excellent moisture retention and aeration capabilities. And since mushrooms thrive in high-humid environments, you do not have to worry about your mushrooms losing water.
Nevertheless, make sure you add water to the coco coir substrate before adding the mushroom grain to guarantee the correct balance of water during the growth process.
Cons of using coco coir for mushrooms
- Varying product quality
You can use coco coir in its natural, unprocessed form, but this means you have to harvest plenty of coconut fruits to extract this precious husk. To avoid the hassle of doing this, many growers opt for commercially-processed coco coir that comes in the form of bricks or blocks.
However, coco coir bricks have varying quality and they may decompose quickly since some of the natural elements have been removed during processing.
- Low nutrient content
Coco coir does not have any inherent nutritional value. It only has a few important minerals, but these cannot support healthy mushroom growth on their own.
You have to add fertilizer to the coir or buy already enriched coco coir bricks.
- Requires sterilization and hydration
Coir is very dry. You have to hydrate it before using it in your garden. On the other hand, sterilization helps to get rid of pests and disease-causing organisms.
Although you can combine the hydration and sterilization processes, the two tasks are somehow tedious, especially if you are a beginner.
- Not appropriate for reuse
Although coco coir is easily reusable, we do not recommend this since the product might harbor various pests and diseases after the first farming cycle. You can only reuse your coil after sterilizing it thoroughly.
Pros of using coco coir for mushrooms
- 100% organic, non-toxic resource
Coco coir is a 100% organic, non-toxic byproduct of the coconut fruit. Besides, it is highly sustainable and biodegradable, making it the ideal natural by-product for growing mushrooms.
Coco Coir is also good for growing houseplants.
- High moisture retention
One of the standout benefits of using coco coir is its high moisture retention. This means you do not need to water your plants frequently. Mushrooms require plenty of moisture, but they tend to lose water quickly when growing in soil.
Substituting soil with coco coir can help solve this problem thanks to its high water retention rate.
- Exceptional aeration and drainage
Aside from high moisture retention, coco coir has exceptional aeration and drainage capacity.
Whether you are into hydroponics, container, or organic gardening, using coco coir as your preferred medium can help increase aeration and improve drainage in your farming system.
- Easy to maintain the right pH balance
Coco coir has a favorable Electrical Conductivity level (a measure of dissolved salts) and a neutral pH level of between 5 and 7.
This makes it the ideal medium for growing mushrooms since it does not inhibit the absorption of nutrients compared to other soil substitutes like peat.
- Lower decomposition rate
Coco coir has a very low decomposition rate. You can immerse it in your hydroponic farm for more than 6 months without noticing any rot.
Most importantly, coco coir is resistant to many common plant diseases that normally plague mushrooms. Besides, it minimizes the spread of harmful pathogens and repels pesky pests.
What is coco coir good for?
Coco coir is good for indoor plants and heavy-feeding crops like fruits and vegetables, due to its ability to promote strong and healthy root development. It is also good for raring high-quality mushrooms, cannabis, and other plants that require extra care and attention
You can use coco coir in soil gardens as an additive or amendment, or in hydroponic systems as the main growing medium. Notably, its ability to retain nutrients and its high porosity make it well suited for hydroponics.
Is coco coir reusable?
Coco coir is highly reusable in soil and in hydroponics given that it takes up to 6 months or even more, to decompose. You can reuse it two to three times without any issues.
However, we recommend that you sterilize your coco coir each time before reusing it since it may harbor disease-causing pathogens from the first farming cycle.
What to look for when buying coco coir?
Coco coir is available in different varieties and quality. Inferior quality coir may contain high concentrations of sodium from seawater, which may affect nutrient absorption of plants.
They may also harbor weeds, pests, and diseases. For these reasons, it is always a good idea to shop around to select the best coco coir.
Here are a few tips on what to look for when buying coco coir.
To establish the quality of the coco coir, you need to consider how the husk was harvested, stored, and prepared. Good quality coir is usually soaked for 12 months to remove excess salts and destroy pathogens, before it sun-dried for several weeks.
The coco coir you want to buy must have desirable consistency. It must be free of weeds, pests, and seeds. The fibers, croutons, and chips must have an even blend and the right physical structure.
- Processing and Packaging
The processing and packaging can also impact the quality of the product. Coco coir may come in the form of bricks, ground coco or unbuffered coco, with each type processed differently.
Coco coir bricks vary sharply in EC/pH levels and may require further processing before use. Unbuffered coco coir comes in its purest, natural form but it might contain some minerals like sodium that are not good for growing crops.
Ground coco has poor moisture retention and oxygen capacity, making it not ideal for hydroponics
Some brands like Kempf and CANNA are synonymous with producing high-quality coco coir blocks. With this in mind, you will never go wrong when you settle for these reputable brands.
4 Best coco coir for mushrooms
1. Coco Bliss Premium Coconut Coir Bricks
Coco Bliss is a 100% natural premium coco coir that comes in brick form. The coir provides excellent aeration and drainage. Besides, it boasts of low-level EC and pH with extremely low salt content for optimum mushroom growth.
2. GROW!T Coco Coir Mix Brick
GROW!T is an all-purpose coco coir mix brick ideal for all types of organic farming. It has a very low decomposition rate, and you can store it all year long before using it on your farm. Moreover, it has excellent drainage properties and it is free from seeds and pathogens.
3. CANNA Expandable Coco Brick
The CANNA expandable coco substrate is a natural plant medium packaged as fiber in bags. You can blend it with soil or compost, or use it as the main medium for growing all types of flowers and vegetables, including mushrooms.
4. CocoTek Premium Coco Growing Media
The CocoTek Premium Coco growing media is great for hydroponic systems. The package contains three types of compressed coco coir that provide plenty of aeration, and they all have very low sodium content for healthy plant growth.
Coco coir is an organic resource that every mushroom grower should consider for their gardens. From excellent moisture retention to exceptional aeration and drainage, coco coir has all the right properties to handle the delicate machinations of mushroom farming.
Try it today and let us know how it goes.