These days I am loving coconut fiber, otherwise known as coir. I’ve been potting up tomatoes for sale and making my own potting mix of 1/3 worm compost, 1/3 pumice, and 1/3 coir. The coir comes in solid, yet lightweight blocks, but you wouldn’t want to build a house with these because as soon as water touches them, they start to disintegrate. Ultimately when fully hydrated the short fibers are loose, moist, and a pleasure to run one’s hands through. There are no little slivers as with almost any wood-product-based potting soil; there’s no guilt as with a mining-a-limited-resourse- peat-moss-based potting soil; there’s just the pure pleasure of running your fingers through a soft, moist medium and thinking of all those palm trees on the beaches (and, realistically, the plantations) of Everywhere Warm putting out coconut upon coconut, with all that previously wasted outer fiber put to good use.
Alright, I don’t really think of all those beaches and coconuts when I’m planting. That was just hyperbole to create an sense of how much I like this stuff, but I bet you did imagine, even if ever so briefly, a lovely white-sand, azure-water beach when I mentioned it, AND I bet you would not let your imagination roam thus if I mentioned a peat moss bog (who wants to imagine a million hungry mosquitos?), SO there may be something symbolic to the allure of coco fiber as well. Symbolic resonances aside, when I am mixing potting soil I often cannot help but run my fingers through the coir, reveling in sensate delight, until higher mental functioning snaps me out of some mammalian pleasure center and into the frontal lobe’s preoccupation with business.
On the roof I love coir, too. We have primarily used Black Gold’s coir-heavy Water Hold potting mix (yes, I know it has some sphagnum peat moss…I’m not a purist), and what I appreciate about the coir is that it is not hydrophobic like a primarily peat-based soil. If peat moss dries out beyond a certain point, it becomes very difficult to rehydrate. It actually repels water, and if a container mix is to be allowed any personality quirks, a “fear of water” should not one of them. When it’s dry out and we’re watering shallow beds, we can’t afford anything repelling our precious water. With coconut fiber in the mix, even the dry surface soil of each bed accepts water immediately and uniformly.
So even though I’m not humming Jimmy Buffet songs while transplanting or thinking about my next tropical island get-away while tending to my rooftop watering duties, on some level these days, I am always cognizant and appreciative of the water-loving virtues of coir. Oh, and did I mention that it’s got a great texture and is hard to stop running one’s hands through?