Coco coir and peat moss have long been touted as fantastic soil additives for use in gardening and vermiculture. Whilst they may look very similar when mixed into the soil, there are some key differences between them. Coco coir, as indicated by the name, comes from coconuts, whilst peat moss is harvested from swamps and bogs. Read on to learn more about the origins and benefits of using both, and which one we prefer to use in worm farming.
What is Coco Coir?
Coco coir might be a relatively new word that you’ve heard in gardening and worm farming communities. It’s a product that has a wide range of uses, from erosion control logs and mats to compostable seedling pots and bedding material for worm farms.
As you might have guessed from the name, coco coir comes from the coconut, which is the fruit of the coconut tree.
Coconuts are harvested for their milk, water, and flesh from inside the fruit, but the shells also have a thick outer layer of fibrous material that protects everything inside. During the harvest and processing of the coconuts, the fibrous outside of the coconut shell is torn off, removed, and thrown aside.
Rather than being a waste product of coconut processing, the fibers can be gathered up, dried, and pressed into different shapes, like blocks, discs, or pots. Once in this state, the coir can be sold as an organic and sustainable gardening product.
You might only have recently heard about coco coir as a product, but it’s been used in gardening for around 200 years!
What is Peat Moss?
Peat moss is an organic material that forms when living vegetation like moss falls into and decomposes within bogs. Bogs are wetlands where the water is low in nutrients and slightly acidic.
When decomposition occurs in bogs, it happens in the absence of oxygen and nutrients. Because of this, decomposition is slow and can take millennia for peat moss to form.
This means that whilst it occurs through a natural process and from organic material, peat moss is considered non-renewable, and the harvest and use are viewed as unsustainable.
The reason gardeners use peat moss is due to its ability to be used as a soil amendment or mixed through potting soil. Peat moss holds moisture well and provides a sterile environment that can be planted directly into.
Because it’s not easily compressed it also helps improve soil structure.
It doesn’t break down readily so a single application can last for much longer than standard compost material.
Is One Better Than the Other?
Both products will give gardeners and worm farmers similar benefits, so it really comes down to your personal preference.
Coco coir is sustainable in that coconuts are relatively quick-growing products, and because coir is made from a by-product of coconuts’ main uses. It does undergo more harvesting, refinement, and production than peat moss, but most people don’t consider this to be enough to call it an unsustainable product.
Because peat moss is generally considered unsustainable, and its use should be avoided. But, if it’s the best available option to you, then you definitely shouldn’t avoid it.
RELATED: What Makes the Best Worm Bedding?
How to Use Coco Coir in a Worm Farm
The best use of coco coir in worm farms is for bedding material. It holds moisture well and doesn’t compress easily, so won’t become hard and compacted. This ensures that there is plenty of room for worms and air to move around. Coir also has a neutral pH and is free from any ink, bleaches, or other chemicals, which is ideal for worm farms.
Like peat moss, it is also really long-lasting, so can be a good bedding material if you don’t want to have to change and refresh it all the time.
With its ability to absorb and hold moisture, not only does it help keep humidity in the ideal range, but it can also help with temperature control, as moisture can help retain heat.
Coco coir is also good for drainage in your worm farm. If you’re trying to harvest ‘worm tea’ by draining water through the farm from top to bottom, then coir is a really good material.
Once the fibers reach their water holding capacity, moisture can still easily pass through the fibers but they’re not fine enough that they’ll capture and filter out any of the good stuff.
Coco coir is also a good source of carbon, which can help you maintain C:N ratios in your worm farm.
Preparing Your Coco Coir
To use coco coir in your worm farm, soak it in water and break it up into small, even piece sizes. Ideally, you’ll want to let it soak for around 20-30 mins. Once it’s waterlogged, pour out the excess water and wring out the coir. You want it to be moist, but not too wet before using it in your worm farm. Give it a good squeeze and if only a few drops of water run out, then the moisture content is about right. All you need to do then is to evenly spread it as a layer in your farm. If you’re using other bedding material such as newspaper, be sure to mix it through.
You shouldn’t need to replace it that often, but it may be worth fluffing it up and incorporating fresh coir whenever you harvest your worms or their castings.
Both coco coir and peat moss can do similar things in your garden or worm farm. The main difference between them is that one is considered a sustainable and environmentally friendly product, whereas the other isn’t.
Both can improve water retention and soil structure in your gardens and can be used in worm farms as worm bedding.
Coco coir is a waste by-product of coconut harvesting and diverts the product away from landfills. Peat moss, on the other hand, is harvested from bogs and takes a long time to be produced. For this reason, it’s use is not considered sustainable.
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