Coconut Fibre

One thing I really like about gardening is that there’s always something new to try.  A new plant, a new technique, a new tool or a new challenge does keep things from slipping into the mundane.  Sometimes, though, new isn’t always better and why does someone somewhere decide to change the botanical name of a plant when I’ve finally memorized it?  Why does Senecio greyi now have to be Brachyglottis?  Like that’s a more attractive name for a plant?

As frustrating as that is it’s not what I’m writing about today.  Instead I’m writing about a fairly new product to come out on the market that makes sense to me.  I’ve tried it and I have to say I see a bright future for it.

Coconut coir is the latest, greatest in the soil amendment category.  It’s actually been around for a while but just recently it seems to have hit the local horticultural industry. It is an environmentally sustainable alternative to peat moss and can be used in many gardening applications.  I’ve used it in my vegetable garden, mixed it with soil for container growing and my daughter germinated seeds in straight coir for her science fair experiment.  We’re also using it at the garden centre mixed with Sea Soil for potting up trees and plants.

Coir fiber is found between the husk and the outer shell of the coconut.   It has wonderful moisture holding capabilities and doesn’t repel water like peat moss is known to do.  Team that up with excellent aeration, disease resistant qualities, a pH of 5.7 to 6.2 and the fact that it’s a renewable resource and you’ve got a winner.

It’s available as loose fiber (already moistened) or as hard, compact bricks that will expand with the addition of water.  It only takes about 10 minutes to expand a brick in a bucket or wheelbarrow with some warm water.  It doesn’t over saturate either so you’ll never have a real soggy mess to deal with.   Just drain the excess away.

In an industry of different pronunciations of the same word (tom-ay-to, tom-ah-to) I’m sure ‘coir’ is going to be right up there at the top of the list.  I believe it’s pronounced ‘koi’ with a ‘er’ at the end but don’t quote me.  Best to say ‘coconut fiber’ and sound like you know what you’re talking about instead of announcing that you’ve come to see the choir or that you want some hard core.

We carry bricks and bagged loose coir at the garden centre along with Sea Soil Potting Mix and Container Mix using coconut coir in place of the peat moss.   The peat moss versions are still available.  A lovely bunch of coconuts if you ask me and I look forward to using them in my annual containers and garden this year.

For more information on Sea Soil products check out their webpage at http://www.seasoil.com/

 

Shirley Eppler

March 2009

The Dirt on Dirt

The industry joke about dirt is that if it’s in a bag and sold in a garden centre it’s called ‘soil’.   Perceived value, I guess.  Who wants to pay money for dirt? Today the ‘dirt’ we sell is actually more than just dirt; it’s rich in organic matter, has peat moss or composted manure mixed in and is dark and loamy.  Regardless of what its called, soil or dirt, it’s the building block of the garden.  Good soil, good garden.

 Your garden contains an underground city of microscopic organisms, earthworms, fungi, bacteria and other things that contribute to the healthy structure of the soil.  This city needs to be fed continuously with organic matter to survive.  Some people run screaming when they hear words like bacteria and fungus but really, most of the ones that exist in the soil are good ones.  They play a vital role in the health of a garden.

I often say ”grow your soil and it will grow your plants”.  That means feed your soil by replenishing it continuously with organic matter.  Let the microorganisms and other earth dwelling creatures do their work and it will in turn grow your plants.

I try to add a good layer of leaf mould (shredded leaves) to my garden in the fall.  During the winter it decomposes and adds wonderful nutrients to the soil and feeds the important microorganisms that are essential.  In the spring I rake up any bits that haven’t completely broken down and throw them in my compost bin or in the case of my vegetable garden I just dig them in.  I top up the ground around my plants with composted manure, Sea Soil and organic matter that I’ve cooked up in my compost bin the previous summer.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve done your job if you toss some chemical fertilizer down.  This is like fast food to your plant but it does nothing for the soil structure.  Whatever isn’t used within a day or two is leached away and overuse of these fertilizers can actually damage the life that exists in healthy soil.  Some popular chemical fertilizers are very high in salt content and can kill the beneficial fungi and bacteria.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for chemical fertilizers.  Just try to use organic based brands, use them sparingly and keep in mind that they are a supplement, like the vitamins we take.  We still need to eat.

So the next time you take a wander through your garden be aware of what’s going on below.  Hundreds of thousands of bugs and microscopic things are working for you, tirelessly and without pay.  Be kind to them.  Nurture what’s under your feet.  The dirt.

Shirley Eppler

March 2008

Sea Soil (and why it’s so great)

If anyone has ever talked to me at the garden centre about soil, mulch or what to use when planting trees and shrubs then they know about my love affair with Sea Soil.  I am a HUGE fan of Sea Soil, I use it in my garden, I recommend it for just about all plantings, and I’d eat it for breakfast if it tasted better.

Made from forest fines and fish fines, Sea Soil is packed full of delicious nutrients that your plants will love.  What the heck are fines, you ask?  Forest fines are the waste product from the logging industry.  They contain mostly dirt from the forest floor, bark and needles.  Fish fines, another recycled waste product, are a great source of nitrogen and other nutrients.  The two year composting process eliminates any odour and what you’re left with is rich, rich goodness.

When bark mulch breaks down it robs the soil of valuable nutrients and therefore robs your plants but with Sea Soil all the decomposing is done before it gets to your yard.  Sea Soil is also weed free since it had gone through such a long composting process.

Another plus in the go green world is that Sea Soil Original and the Sea Soil mixes are completely organic.  They are listed with the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which is the watchdog for the organic products industry.  So if you don’t like to use fertilizer then Sea Soil is a great way to bump up the nutrients in your soil.  It looks good, too, all dark and rich.

Mulching in general is very good for your garden.  It suppresses weeds, adds humus and helps keep in the moisture.  I use a good couple of inches of Sea Soil on my garden as mulch in spring and again in fall. I mix it in my vegetable beds and use the lighter Sea Soil Potting with Coconut in my annual containers.

As with any mulch don’t hill it up around the trunks of shrubs and trees because that can cause the plant to die.  When material is resting up against the part of the trunk that would normally be exposed it causes the trunk to rot which basically cuts off the tree’s lifeline as the trunk’s bark is the way nutrients and moisture travel up to feed the plant.

There are a few different mixes to choose from.  I use the Original in the garden as it is a bit chunkier and the Potting Mix with Coconut for containers because it has been ground up finer.   There’s a potting mix with peat moss which is great for acid loving plants like rhododendrons.  There are the Container mixes which are the same as the potting mixes except they have perlite in them.

If you usually amend your soil with peat moss then consider using the straight coconut coir.  Coir is super for loosening up heavier soil, helps to hold moisture and has a neutral quality so won’t change the pH of your soil.  It’s an environmentally sustainable alternative to peat moss.  Coconut coir is also great for seed starting.

Really, I can’t say enough about this stuff.  If you haven’t discovered Sea Soil yet then I encourage you to try some in your garden.  Sea Soil is a trademarked name so make sure you’re getting the real deal as it’s a different kettle of fish from fish compost.    Want more information?  Check out the Sea Soil web page at http://www.seasoil.com/ .  In my opinion it’s the ultimate soil.  Now if it only tasted better…

 

Shirley Eppler

October 2011