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coconut coir vs. peat plugs???

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coconut coir vs. peat plugs???

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 3/8/2013, 12:55 pm

I have a question about coconut coir seed starting plugs, do they work? Here are my observations from my kitchen counter and I was wondering if anybody else has had the same experiences...

I started my tomato seeds in 3 different mediums and 2 different sizes. (It was a use up last years supplies year.) All seeds were watered, put under lights, gently talked to and put in front of a fan. Admittedly one of the lights is new and the other is a few years old. The tomatoes in the slightly larger peat plugs have grown to the point that they need to be transplanted. The lettuce in the peat plugs has grown to the point it needed to be thinned and possibly hardened off (just have not gotten that far.) The 72 other tomatoes, basil, peppers and maybe lettuce barely have their first set of seed leaves out. Those 72 plants are in the coconut coir plugs. I have switched the bank of lights over the plants to no noticeable difference. I will feed the plants next.

Has anybody else seen or noted a similar problem? Thanks in advance.

Patty the puzzled Yorktown gardener
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Re: coconut coir vs. peat plugs???

Post  dvelten on 3/8/2013, 3:32 pm

Patty,

Sorry to hear about your problems. Your experience this year was my experience last year. My seedlings in a coir-based mix (Burpee plugs and Burpee planting mix) germinated OK but failed to thrive. Some things like lettuce, endive, escarole did OK and I was able to use them. They recovered once I planted them in peat-based MM. My peppers, eggplant and tomatoes were failures. I documented this in my blog here. The problems I had are described in this research paper.

In my opinion, coir-based mixes are hazardous to plants. I was suckered and I will never buy or use a coir-based product again. The fact is, coir in an industrial waste product of the process to separate coconut fiber from the lignin that binds them in the coconut husk. This process causes water pollution (whether it occurs in more modern facilities similar to the paper mills that used to pollute our rivers, or traditional methods that involve submerging the husks in water for a year to rot). Coir is the waste product left over, compressed into bricks and dried. It apparently has toxic effects on many plants as described in the research paper above, and if it was produced by submergence in tidal estuaries, it may be highly saline and require extensive flushing with clean water to purge it of the salt. The only reason it is used in planting mixes is because it is cheaper, not better. Peat-based starting mixes have been successfully used for 50 years and I made sure the products I am using this year (Pro-Mix and Johnny's 512) are peat-based.
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Re: coconut coir vs. peat plugs???

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 3/8/2013, 8:45 pm

Hi again,

Thank you for the very clear response to what has happened to my seeds. I read the article and your blog and I think that your conclusions are correct. I will try and track down some more peat plugs or a soil-less mix. I still have a bit of time to restart my seeds (assuming that I still have seed, which I think I do.) Lesson learned. Thank you very much for your time, it has saved me a lot of time and frustration.

Patty from Yorktown
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Re: coconut coir vs. peat plugs???

Post  jazzycat on 3/13/2013, 8:54 pm

Patty, I'm new to gardening, but I tried 3 different mediums to start my tomatoes as well. I also used the Burpee coconut coir pellets (on a self watering mat), some large peat pellets, and a long tray with the small peat pots filled with Jiffy seed starting mix that has peat in it. The peat pellets are doing the best, but the coconut ones are right up there with them. Those plants are all looking very nice. The ones in the seed starting mix are the smallest and taking the longest to develop true leaves. When I repot the other ones in a few days, I might go ahead and repot these as well and see how they do. They may just be crowded for room because the pots are smaller.

I have them all under two long , full spectrum grow lights (sun blaster) and I have a fan on them a couple times a day for anywhere from a half hour to one and a half hours. I also run my fingers over them periodically.

I'm also having some trouble trying to figure out the water situation. I started them all off very damp, and then I started worrying about them being TOO damp, so I sucked up the excess water with paper towels (I went through a whole roll, so I'm pretty sure they were too wet). I waited a couple of days and now I'm watering a little from the bottom daily, but I'm keeping them more on the dry side, as I've read overwatering kills more seedlings than anything.

dvelten, I don't know about the practices of producing coconut coir, I'll have to look into that, but the people who own the hydroponics store here swear by it. I've talked at length with them and they don't strike me as the kind of people who would sell a product that was toxic. Do you know if there are different ways of producing it? Like, perhaps some companies do it sustainably and responsibly and others don't? I would hate to think I'm adding to a problem somewhere because of my ignorance. pale

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Re: coconut coir vs. peat plugs???

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 3/13/2013, 9:32 pm

Hi, Thanks for your response. I am glad the coconut coir is working for you. It still is not doing much for me. I did move some of the lettuce seedlings and noticed that they had long roots out the bottom. I will try planting them in my garden and see how some of them do. If I can remember I will take pictures. The size difference is amazing. Happy gardening.

Patty from Yorktown
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Re: coconut coir vs. peat plugs???

Post  dvelten on 3/13/2013, 10:06 pm

jazzycat, The university research paper I cited compared plants grown in coir to plants grown in peat. The results matched what I was experiencing. Not all but some types of plants failed to thrive in coir-based starting mixes. Previously, I had great success starting seedlings of any type in peat-based mixes and had poor results last year in coir-based mixes. I will never use a coir-based product again. I'm happy you are having such success.
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Re: coconut coir vs. peat plugs???

Post  floyd1440 on 3/14/2013, 7:24 am

Last year I used both the 512 and the burpee kits. The only thing that didn't do well is the cucumber. I am going to start my seeds, toms and peppers, some time next week so I will be using mainly the 512 but will put in a control group from the burpee kit and see how they turn out. Hope they all grow

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Re: coconut coir vs. peat plugs???

Post  NightMist on 3/14/2013, 11:05 am

Hi there, new to the forum here.

I make my own starting mix and I do use coir.
Experimentation has shown that, for me at least, the two biggest seedling killers when using this stuff are not soaking it enough, and trying to use to much coir and too little of anything else. I usually combine the coir with worm castings and a handful or two of bird or bat guano, and get excellent results. It can absorb a startling amount of water, and you do need to water more frequently when using it because it will give water up just as easily as it takes it on.
I do not like starting pellets or plugs at all, just never had much luck with them. I either use trays or fold origami pots.
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Re: coconut coir vs. peat plugs???

Post  jazzycat on 3/14/2013, 12:02 pm

I'm thinking of repotting all the plants I started in the Jiffy seed starting mix because they don't seem to be doing anything. The plants in coir and the ones I started in peat pellets are all growing their true leaves, but the ones in the mix are small, and only one or two have slowly started developing other leaves. Because the largest number of plants are in the seed mix I want to make sure at least some of them survive. They look ok, they just aren't doing anything. Suggestions?

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