A common problem:
You are not alone in getting confused when it comes to plant substrates; we have all bought a bag of soil thinking that one is as good as another. But the truth is that choosing the right substrate means caring for the health of the plants. It's a bit like choosing the quality of your mattress - they all seem the same, but we all know how we wake up after a sleepless night!
In the city, it's easier to find universal soil, considered suitable for all types of cultivation, often characterized by a lower cost and (unfortunately) low quality. We expect universal soil (as the name suggests) to be a complete product, with the right amount of nutrients for each plant and suitable for "a little bit of everything," but are we really sure that's the case?
Do you want to know which is the best substrate for your balcony gardening?
Let's discover together a valid, sustainable solution that will guarantee much better results than the classic universal soil.
Coconut fiber: a new sustainable alternative for your plants
The current trend in the field of off-soil growing substrates is directed towards promoting alternative raw materials to peat, thus enhancing organic waste products.
On the other hand, peat, the evergreen excellence of every farmer, is not as sustainable as one might think... But how is that possible, you might wonder? After all, it's still soil!
You should know that even though peat bogs constitute only 3% of the global land area, they absorb twice as much CO2 as the total sum of all forests. Unfortunately, peat extraction threatens the delicate ecosystem that unites both plant and animal species. If the marshes disappear, so do they! Due to these potentially irreversible damages, the EU is about to ban extraction in some areas.
An excellent, still relatively unknown but effective, inexpensive, and eco-friendly alternative is coconut fiber. Have you ever heard of it?
Coconut fiber powder, also known as "coir or coir dust," is effectively a waste product derived from the mesocarp of the coconut plant itself - in simple terms, a by-product of the coconut industry.
So, which growing substrate is the best option for your balcony gardening?
If you're planning to grow in pots, coconut fiber is undoubtedly an option worth trying. Let's find out why.
It's efficient, practical, and doesn't get messy!
Coconut fiber is one of the lightest and most friable substrates on the market, with excellent drainage capacity and good water retention. This allows for healthy root and plant development while preventing water stagnation, which is typical of peat and can lead to root rot.
Due to this characteristic, coconut fiber requires more abundant and consistent irrigation compared to peat, to ensure that your seedlings are never left "dry" and to nourish the roots and keep the substrate moist.
Its pH (5-7) is higher than that of peat (typically more acidic) and is optimal for most plants that prefer a neutral pH. Therefore, it is suitable to meet the needs of a wide range of plant varieties.
Coconut fiber is usually marketed in compressed and dehydrated discs or bricks, which are less bulky and lighter than the classic sacks of twenty or more liters of soil. Therefore, you can use it in your garden or balcony pots without having to make superhuman efforts to move the containers. Furthermore, one of the greatest advantages that convince thousands of urban farmers to prefer it over soil and peat is that, unlike its alternatives, it doesn't get messy or stain. It arrives at your home in convenient compact blocks that, once hydrated in the pot, dissolve and become a very friable and nutrient-rich cultivation base. You can finally store the hated broom in the closet - thanks to coconut fiber, you won't need it anymore!
Remember to Fertilize!
Although coconut fiber blocks may sometimes contain nutrients, it is an inert substrate, meaning it has no micro-components that plants can absorb to grow. If you purchase coconut substrate with added nutrients, they will be sufficient to nourish your plants for only a few days, so you'll need to supply them with quality nutrients to continue cultivation.
If you want to maintain the advantages of coconut fiber while increasing fertility in your substrate, an option is to mix the fiber with soil or peat. Alternatively, you can add nutrient-rich soil to your substrate after transplantation, in the form of compost. However, if you have a closed-loop irrigation system where excess water from your garden is drained and recycled into a tank (like in the case of Poty), adding peat or soil may risk clogging your pump and blocking irrigation.
If, on the other hand, you decide to use pure coconut fiber for your balcony gardening, the best way to fertilize is through fertigation, which involves adding liquid nutrients to the water used for watering the plants.
Nutrient intake becomes much more straightforward - both for you, as you only need to pour the liquid fertilizer into the water (instead of mixing substrates), and for the plants, as they will absorb the nutrients into their system more quickly.
Want to learn more about this irrigation system?
Discover Poty, the vertical garden that uses this automatic irrigation system. It's practical and perfect for your balcony, and you won't have to worry about which nutrients to give your plants - they are already included in the package.
At Hexagro, we have chosen to use coconut fiber as a substrate to give a second life to this by-product of the coconut industry and, in return, grow natural and healthy seedlings - an excellent example of a circular economy to which you can also contribute!
Furthermore, given its excellent agronomic performance, coconut fiber allows you to achieve results very similar to peat and, in some cases, even superior, with an increase in the fresh weight of the aerial part of the plant, larger dimensions, and, in some species, greater root development.
Clean, lightweight, friable, and well-draining - try coconut fiber today with Poty, and you'll see that gardening will be as simple as drinking a glass of water!