I always wondered what happened to the coconut shells after its water and edible flesh were consumed by the people in roadside?
And that it would be such a nuisance to carry and discard so many big pieces by the thela wallahs. If someone used to bring it at home, discarding it in a proper cover was frustrating due to its large size.
Here is the awesome truth, no part of the coconut used goes to waste!
All of it is beneficial to us and man has learned to put them to good use. The outside layer of husk that surrounds the shell of coconut consists of fibers which are removed from the shells to make ropes, carpets, doormats, brushes, mattresses, coco layer movable garden lawns etc.
What is Cocopeat?
Cocopeat is a byproduct of the extraction of coconut fibers from the husks or shells.
It is also called “coir fiber pith” or “coir dust”.
It is the spongy binding material that comes from a fibrous part of coconut husk. They are brown particles that fall down while dehusking the coconut.
The coconut is embedded in a husk which forms 35-65% of the whole fruit when it is ripe.
There is an outer skin called exocarp. Inside this layer is mesocarp which is around 3 inches of fibrous pulp. Fibers recovered from this layer is called coir and dust collected while removing fibers is called cocopeat or coir pith.
Generally about ⅓ collected is coir fiber and ⅔ is coir pith from a single coconut.
In olden days, coconut shells were submerged in water bodies for 2-3 months and then the fibers were removed by hand.
In the modern era, a machine easily removes the fibers which are commercially used. During the process of removal of these fibers, coco peat which looks like light dust used to come out as a by-product and it used to be a menace to discard it in factories in such large quantities.
In the 1980’s, cocopeat was first commercially used in Holland to grow roses and lilies. The results were excellent. It is now extensively used in horticulture and gardening.
Coco peat as an industry started in Sri Lanka in the 1980s and in India in 1990s. The 2000 era brought with it modern machinery techniques to bring cocopeat in the mainstream industry.
Cocopeat is full of nutrients and an excellent growing medium. It is used widely now for soilless cultivation or hydroponics.
60 percent of worlds cocopeat comes from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Cocopeat is now replacing soil and other organic mediums.
To make 5 kilograms of cocopeat, you need 30-40 coconuts.
Why Use Cocopeat? Some Amazing Facts
Cocopeat has a high amount of nutrients. It contains nitrogen, phosphorus, high potassium content, magnesium zinc etc
It has amazing water absorbing properties. A single kg of dry cocopeat will expand up to 15 liters in water. It can retain several liters of water for several months. So plants need to be watered less frequently.
Moisture retention capacity of coco peat is very high. About 600-800 %.
It has good aeration and drainage properties. It keeps the soil loose and airy. It has a low bulk density (0.18g/cc).
Being an organic medium, it has high cation exchange properties. This allows the nutrients to be absorbed and released to plants according to its need. This prevents leaching out of nutrients.
Cocopeat can be compressed to ⅕ of its original volume thus it can be effectively transported without any fuss
Hydroponic plants grown in cocopeat grow 50 % faster than they would in the soil.
Cocopeat eliminates the need for fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides as it contains ample amounts of most required nutrients.
Cocopeat contains Trichoderma naturally which acts as a bioagent against harmful pathogens and weeds. It also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi. It also has natural rooting hormones.
It has a ph of 5.7 to 6.5 which close to neutral. This means it can be used for many plants without adding lime.
Cocopeat has excellent wettability, less shrinkage, lightweight, pleasant and odorless to handle.
Read This Before Using Cocopeat
Cocopeat cannot be used as direct manure in agriculture or horticulture. It has a high carbon to nitrogen ratio. About 112:1, because of which mobilization of nutrients becomes a little difficult. To directly use cocopeat as manure in agriculture it has to undergo compost process.
Carbon to nitrogen ratio of 24:1 is ideal for it to be used as organic manure in agriculture.
Cocopeat contains good quantities of potassium. This extra amount of potassium can interfere with magnesium. Adding extra magnesium can correct the issue.
Cocopeat has a high amount of naturally occurring salts. It should be washed properly to rinse out excess salts.
For potted plants, slow releasing fertilizers is ideal as it competes with the plant if there is less nitrogen available.
It is a good idea to buffer the cocopeat with calcium nitrate solution. Soak it in a calcium nitrate solution. Then wash a couple of times with water.
Always add cocopeat by volume while mixing with other potting materials like sand, garden soil etc by 1:1:1 ratio. That is 50% volume of coco peat should be added.
How to Make Cocopeat at Home
Cocopeat can be made easily at home and one can ensure it is clean and pure without any added adulterations.
Cocopeat is biodegradable and eco-friendly and easily renewable.
Collect coconut husk and store them in a clean place.
After pulling out fibers, dry them. Then chop or cut them into small pieces with help of good scissor or cutter which we use to trim branches.
Cut them into small fine pieces
Grind them in a fine grinder. The coco fiber will be separated as fluff.
Remove the fibers out of cocopeat powder with help of a sieve.
Manually remove the fibers from atop the sieve. Use a good stainless steel soil sieve.
Extracted peat is washed with water to remove salts and radical ions.
It also decreases electrical conductivity.
Soak the peat in water for about an hour.
Squeeze out with hands excess water.
Fill it in containers according to the shape you want-blocks, bricks or discs.
You can also put it in coco fiber pots.
Dry it in direct sunlight for a day.
Cocopeat is ready to be used.
You can fill it in a planter and start planting.
Using a Readymade Brick of Cocopeat
Cocopeat brick is readily available in the market and is also online.
For this one will need a large tub or a large container.
For every brick, you’ll need approximately 3.5 liters of warm water.
Soak the brick in water with the help of water can for one or two hours.wash off the extra salts by rinsing a couple of times.
Drain off the remaining excess water.
Break apart the brick with hands or trowel.
Mix the peat.
Add more water if required.
Fluff the peat as you mix.
Keep it in direct sunlight for a day or two.
It is ready to be used.
How to make cocopeat as compost
For this, a shaded place is selected.
First 100 gms of coir pith is spread out.
Over this Pleurotus 300gm.(available as PITH PLUS).
On top of this again 100gms of coir pith with 1 kg urea.
This sandwiching of layers is repeated until 1-meter height. Water the area every day. Allow the heap to decompose for a month.
So coir + pith plus urea+ water= C-POM ( coir pith organic manure)
A good organic manure is formed in 30-40 days.
This cocopeat manure is rich in micro and macronutrients. It is also used as a soil conditioner.
Uses of Cocopeat
Being 100 percent natural and organic, it is an excellent growing medium for hydroponics.
It is an excellent potting soil mix and can be mixed with any variety of soil owing to its neutral ph. The plants grown in cocopeat are healthier producing strong and fibrous roots.
They make excellent bedding for the growth of earthworms
Being resistant to harmful microbial and fungal growth, they are great for seed starters and seed raisers. They provide quick rooting and faster germination.
They are mostly used in place of soil due to its high water absorption and good aeration
Due to cocopeat being nutrients rich, this growing medium is replacing everything from soil to water to fertilizer.
One can reuse cocopeat for up to 4 years.
An average coconut tree produces 150-180 coconuts per year. So there is a continuous supply of this by-product.
Likewise, one coconut gives approximately 100 gms of coco peat. Thereby making it cheap and affordable.
It is used as a mulch for soil remediation. Because of its high nutrient content, it increases the fertility of the barren land. This property makes it an excellent soil conditioner.
At home, we can use it as surface mulch in all kinds of soil. This will preserve moisture and improve soil conditioning.
It is biodegradable and disintegration is a slow process completing at 10 years.
It is used as compost for growing plants. Lignin which is naturally present in coco peat does not allow natural composting. Mushroom Pleurotus is used along with coco peat as it degrades the lignin level (75%). A fully mature coconut has more amount of lignin and less amount of water-soluble salts.
It is used as a growing medium for greenhouse and intensive agriculture.
It is also used profusely by the horticulturists and floriculturists for the cultivation of exotic flowers and vegetables.
Not only is it a substitute for soil, because of its ability to hold the plant, but it is also being made into pots and pans along with coir fibers. These pots can be arranged on screens in vertical gardening and can even be hung on balconies.
It is increasingly being used for nonterrestrial plants mainly for urban homes and there is a lack of available land space. Roof gardening, balcony gardening, and kitchen gardening are where cocopeat is increasingly being used.
Coco peat is reusable up to 4 years. It can be rewetted. It disintegrates slowly over a period of 10 years.
Coco peat is also used as bedding in animal farms and pet houses to absorb waste animal waste and keep the farm or pet house clean and dry. It can also be used in poultry shed.
Being a good absorbent it can be used as an oil absorbent on slippery floors.
It is also used in lawns and golf course construction. Gold greens and other commercial lawns are constructed with sand. They use Coco peat mixed with sand as it requires less nutrition and requires less maintenance.
It helps conserve water and prevents leaching out of nutrients. Retention of water slows down the evaporation rate. This results in fewer waterings even in hot summer.
It can be used as a base to make green coco lawns for your garden. First coco fibers are set in a netted pattern. Over which coco pith is arranged in a layer. Grass slips are planted in coco peat layer. Over which c-pom is sprinkled. One can choose which type of grass one wants for home lawns. It can be rolled and transported easily. It can also be set up for vertical or terrace home garden.
Soil erosion and degradation are proving a threat to the environment. Geophysicists are now using techniques involving coco peat to prevent soil erosion, sediment runoff, and degradation. The high tensile strength of coco pith prevents steep surfaces from the heavy flow and debris movement. Its high durability causes land stabilization.
Coco peat has a high calorific value of 3975 kcal/kg. Hence it can be used as a fuel block.
Price of Cocopeat and availability online
Cocopeat can easily be bought from Amazon. It can be purchased online from private websites as well as from government showrooms present in different cities.
Owing to its excellent properties and good availability, coco peat is the ideal choice for growing plants whether hydroponically or as a potting mix or as a soil conditioner or as a mulch. So next time you bring home coconuts, store them, make coco peat and use it while keeping in mind all the points mentioned above. Enjoy your gardening with coco peat!
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