Coconut Coir vs Peat

When it comes to choosing soil amendments, gardeners can explore different alternatives to suit their needs. Two materials that you can use interchangeably are coco coir and peat. These two are common ingredients used when preparing a potting mix.

What is Coco Coir?

Coco coir is a natural, plant-based soil amendment that is derived from coconut husks. Coir is basically the fibrous materials of the husk. A by-product of the coconut industry, coco coir has been found to be a good replacement for peat. It is known for having a superb water-holding capacity and is very easy to saturate with water.

What is Peat?

Peat is another type of soil amendment that is formed out of plant material debris that has piled up through time. It takes hundreds or even thousands of years for peat to form. They are harvested from bogs through strip mining.

Comparison Between Coco Coir and Peat

Coco Coir Peat
Materials Used Fibers from coconut husks Dead plant materials that pile up through time (hundreds of years)
Physical Form Fibrous, rich, dark brown Fibrous, dark to black brown
Nutrient Content High in potassium and phosphorus Very little amount of nitrogen and phosphorus
Sustainability Renewable Semi-renewable (debatable) more details on peat.
Cost Cheap or free (when created at home) Costly

Benefits of Using Coco Coir or Peat

Natural

Both coco coir and peat are derived from natural resources. They’re safe to use on your plants because they don’t contain harmful chemicals.

Increases Water Absorption

One good feature of coco coir and peat is their ability to absorb water 10 to 20 times their dry weight. This makes them an excellent substrate for hydroponics. In container gardening, adding coco coir or peat increases the water holding capacity of the medium.

Increases Nutrient Retention

Coco coir and peat have high cation exchange capacity. They’re able to hold more nutrients on their surface. As a result, these nutrients become more available for plant uptake.

Improves Aeration and Root Penetration

Because of their fibrous nature, coco coir and peat are highly porous. Using any of them in your potting mix helps create more pore spaces for oxygen molecules to fill.

Houses Microorganisms

Beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi will thrive in coco coir and peat. They will provide a suitable environment for these living organisms to multiply. When peat is harvested, it already contains small amounts of those microorganisms.

Slow Degradation Rate

Coco coir and peat are very durable. They won’t easily degrade over time. Thus, you can reuse them.

Although both materials are effective soil amendments, there are several factors to consider when choosing to use one over the other. Listed below is the summary of the advantages and disadvantages of coco coir and peat.

ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
Coco Coir pH neutral Little to no nutrients
Less hydrophobic; more moisture is held even with less water applied High potassium content that can interfere with calcium uptake
Easy to find Can be high in salts
Aerates soil well
Higher cation exchange capacity
Readily renewable
Peat Aerates the soil well Low pH (More acidic)
High water holding capacity given enough water is applied Hydrophobic; very hard to rewet once dry
Favorable medium for acid-loving and carnivorous plants Less sustainable; massive strip mining of peat can have an adverse environmental impact
Little to no nutrients
More expensive