Organic Gardening 101 – Tips and Guide

It is always nice to hear both sides of the peat vs. coco thing. I have been passionate about growing food for most my life. Growth in general really. I have come to understand what it takes for life to continue on to it’s fullest. Your soil recipe is a great start to creating that life.

Bacteria and Fungi are the real engine of this life. They are the ones doing all the dirty work. The relationship between these two convert proteins into nutrients for plant roots to uptake, which brings growth. The more biodiversity you have in your soil the healthier your plants will be. Check out Biodiversity (The more biodiversity we have on our planet the healthier our planet will be. So there are NO “built-in limits to how much habitat is subjected to the reduced biodiversity caused by peat harvesting” as someone stated earlier). So, with the bacteria digesting food and providing it to the fungi which create a bond with your roots, your plant is able to get what it needs to thrive. This all said… Melinda’s soil mix creates the perfect home for these organisms to live to their fullest potential and allowing your plant to reach to it’s fullest potential.

I would say the sand portion of the recipe would be optional depending on the type of plant you are growing. The sand will provide you with abundant drainage, but your coconut coir and pumice/perite will already provide plenty. One third of each compost, coco coir, and perlite/pumice would be an ideal environment for most plant species. One thing I would add to this mix is a small portion of worm casting. These will provide an abundance of micro-life to inoculate into your soil mix. When buying worm casting make sure they are from a good source. Local is best! The should have a very consistent texture of little round pebbles, not dusty or chunky. Knowing what your worms are being fed is important. The castings are only as quality as the worms diet.

There are some gardening tools you need to have when doing organic gardening. These tools include loppers, shovel, trowel, hoe, lawn movers etc. You may also need post hole digger for fencing and composting. This is a great tool that every gardener should have. Good thing about post hole digger is that they are not expensive and last long. There are many types of post hole digger available on the market, if you are looking for the best manual post hole digger in UK, then go for Roughneck 68260 Post Hole Digger, it is easy to use and comes with load of features.

post hole digger 2018Also, when you go to buy coco coir you should know what your getting. Coco comes in three forms. The fiber, the pith, and the dust. Most coco coir suppliers mix all three while some take the care to screen and provide just the pith. Which is what we are after. Your coir should have minimal fiber and minimal dust. There is also the salt content that comes into play. Coconuts contain salts which cause nutrient lockup and stop your plant’s growth. High quality coco coir is rinsed free of all this excess sodium and screened to produce a material that looks much like soil.

Below are some benefits of coir :

• 100% Certified Organic
• OMRi Listed
• Super washed with freshwater to remove Sodium (EC), tannin, phenolic, chloride, etc.
• Complete freshwater processing
• No steaming or harsh chemical washes to ensure a healthy microbial population
• Naturally contains trichoderma a natural rooting/ growth agent
• High lignin / cellulose content
• Ideal environment for microbial life to flourish
• Studies show coir inhibits pythium and phytothora growth
• Faster growth with more abundant fruit/bloom setting
• Easy to dispose / recycle compared to other growing mediums
• Plants root faster compared to other mediums, great for seeds and cuttings
• Preferable natural PH compared to peat moss: (Coir: 5.7-6.2) (Peat: 2.3-3.3)
• Weed and pathogen free
• Mold and fungal resistant
• Lasts many times longer than peat moss
• High water and air holding capacity
• Coco coir holds water and air like a sponge
• Excellent drainage, High Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC)
• Cuts down on fertilizer up to 30%
• Prevents stress after transplanting
• 100% Natural and renewable resource
• Coco never compacts, easily re-wets unlike peat moss which is known to form a crust on top of the medium which causes the water to run-off. Coir always absorbs evenly through the medium.

However, I’m ultimately unconvinced of the environmental argument in either direction. Peat is renewable because it can be regrown. Canada appears to be harvesting it in a sustainable fashion. As for loss of biodiversity in the habitat, that’s a good point. But there are built-in limits to how much habitat is subjected to the reduced biodiversity caused by peat harvesting. The Canadian National parks own so much more peat bogs than private industry, that there is no overall loss of habitat. It is true that peat is a carbon sink, but that is because plants absorb carbon. As it is harvested and decays, it re-releases its carbon. Isn’t that also true for coconut trees? Coir just takes longer to decay.

The environmental argument against coconut coir is that it requires lots of fresh water to process (shells have to be soaked to loosen the fibers.) The third world countries that produce it don’t have a lot of clean fresh water to spare (India and Sri Lanka). Finally, it has to be shipped from Sri Lanka and India, and burning fossil fuels for the ships more than offsets the carbon footprint of using peat. So I reached the conclusion that they both have some negative environmental impacts.

It then comes down to the performance and cost of the products themselves. For seedstarting, coir beats peat hands down. As a general garden additive, I like that it’s easier to store coir (in compressed bricks) and when initially wetting it down, coir is much easier to handle. (Peat sheds water when dry, and is difficult to wet at first.) Coir also has form memory. When you wet it, it springs back into shape, like a sponge. This provides natural air pockets and is much better than peat, which mats down over time. I can’t say how coir performs in the garden beds long term — this is my first season giving it a try.

Coir appears to cost slightly more at first, but I’m not convinced of that. Coir takes longer to degrade, which means I buy less over time. It’s hard to compare price because you have to compare it by hydrated volumes. I also tend to use homemade inputs instead of purchased ones where I can. Composting local wastes are better than anything else — but there’s only so much compost I can make, and certain applications require more than compost only.

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