If you’re growing in coco coir, you know how awesome this medium is. It’s sturdy, environmentally friendly, almost impossible to overwater, and perhaps best of all, it’s the perfect pH for hydroponic growing. Learn more about coco coir here.
So, you grow in coco, you get great harvests out of your chosen medium, and you might find yourself wondering, Can I reuse my coco coir after it’s been spent on a harvested crop?
The short answer? Yes.
But you can’t just yank old roots out of your used coco coir, drop in a couple of germinated seeds, and expect to start up a successful new grow. There’s a bunch of dead root material from your last crop in the coco’s fibers, and if you want to reuse that coco, you’ll first need to clear out all that dead stuff. Or even better, turn it into usable nutrition for the next crop.
In this article, we’ll explain how to do just that, including:
- How enzymes in your rhizosphere transform dead roots into usable nutrients
- How you can harness these enzymes to work in your coco coir grow
- The benefits of reusing coco coir
What Are The Benefits Of Reusing Coco Coir?
There are three primary benefits to reusing coco coir:
- It saves time and labour
- It saves money
- It’s an environmentally friendly alternative to using other grow media
When you reuse your coco coir, the primary benefit is as a cost-saving measure. After all, the less coco coir you buy, the less money you spend. You’ll also save time by reusing your coco coir. Much like buying less coco coir saves you money, making fewer trips to the gardening supply store saves you time and energy. And, as a grower, you know that saving time really saves you more than just time. It also saves you the physical and mental effort of bogging yourself down with unnecessary tasks.
Coco coir is a more eco-friendly option than rockwool cubes and peat-based grow media. Although peat-based media is great for plants, peat extraction isn’t so great for the environment, because peat bogs are a rare, delicate ecosystem that are being depleted to meet human demand. Rockwool, meantime, is a man-made material that can’t be composted, so when your rockwool’s finally spent, it’ll sit in a landfill, along with other refuse. Choosing coco from the outset is a healthy choice for the planet, and reusing your coco is simply another way you can make eco-conscious choices with your grow.
Although you can reuse coco coir, be careful to do so properly. Only reuse coco coir that’s been thoroughly reconditioned. Otherwise, your new crops won’t just get a high-quality substrate, they’ll also get exposed to everything that was in your last grow, including potentially harmful pests and pathogens. And if you don’t take care to completely break down the last grow’s roots, then your next grow’s roots will be fighting those remnants for space in the coir.
Some growers choose to reuse coco coir in other ways, like making it into mulch for their soil-based gardens. You can do this, too, because coco coir is an all-natural, completely renewable product with an average pH of 5.2–6.8.
Use Advanced Nutrients Enzymes To Break Down Dead Root Material
When you need to break down root material, you need enzymes — and you will always need to break down dead root material at some point. Roots grow dense in coco coir, and even after you harvest your crop, those roots remain. If your coco’s full of old, dead root material, your new crops’ roots will have nowhere to grow.
That’s where the Advanced Nutrients hydroponics enzyme formula Sensizym comes into play. Sensizym comes in two product formulations: The new OIM-certified formula and the original version. Both formulations of Sensizym break down all the root structures that remain in your coco from your previous plants, turning them into a food source for your next batch. In doing this, the enzymes in Sensizym recondition your coco coir, creating a healthy environment for your crops.
Enzymes transform root material into sugars by attaching to substrates. Once the enzymes transform root material into sugars, beneficial microbes in the rhizosphere consume the sugars for energy. Then, they create more enzymes, continuing the cycle and clearing up the root zone.
Give the beneficial microbes that are hard at work in your root zone the enzymes they need with Sensizym. Those beneficial microbes that work to break down dead organic material come from three other Advanced Nutrients products: Piranha, Voodoo Juice and Tarantula. Read more about using beneficial microbes in your grow here.
It’s completely safe to reuse coco coir. Unlike peat and soil, coco coir is sturdy enough to be reused two or three times. This is because of the lignins present in the coconut fiber, which are a class of organic polymers present in certain plant cell walls that provide cellular structure and support. They’re what makes these plants rigid and gives them a woodsy feel.
If you want to get the most out of your reused coco coir, you’ve got to use Sensizym. Sensizym is a concentrate of enzymes formulated to assist beneficial bacteria in the rhizosphere and accelerate crop growth by digesting dead root material and turning it into bioavailable nutrients. Sensizym is compatible with pH Perfect and non-pH Perfect base nutrients.
Why Recondition Coco Coir Before Using It Again?
After you’ve harvested your crops, you need to recondition the coco coir. You absolutely have to recondition your coco before reusing it, otherwise you’ll find your next crop facing issues that are tough to correct. One of these is salt toxicity. Here are the easy steps to reconditioning your coco coir:
- Break it up and physically remove any roots that remain in the coco.
- Wash the coco in distilled water. There will be a lot of salts in it, so you need to thoroughly flush them out.
- Soak the coco coir in the Sensizym solution to get rid of any decaying roots left from your previous crop.
- If you didn’t use beneficial bacteria with your previous crop, add it at this stage. If you did use beneficial bacteria, it will still be in the coco and you’ll be able to use it again with your next crop.
- Your old coco coir is now ready for reuse.
With each crop cycle, minerals and chemical compounds from the crops and the products used to nurture them accumulate in the grow media. One of these minerals is salt. Too much salt in your coir can block nutrients from reaching your crops, resulting in nutrient lockout. Salt-based nutrient lockout can look a lot like a nutrient deficiency. Both cause crops’ leaves to become discolored and wilt. Left untreated, nutrient lockout will kill a crop.
As coco is reused, it loses some of it’s lignin structure. Because of this, most growers only reuse the coco two or three times before replacing it, while some growers choose to mix new coco into older coco to extend its life. After that, it starts to break down and won’t be as capable of holding roots and maintaining an optimal moisture level.