Coir and or Coir based compast
Thu, 01 Jan 2009 13:13:40 PST
Firstly can I wish everyone a stable and contented New year, to expect much more given the brown liquid such as Madoff et al have dropped people and companies into would be unsustainably optimistic, quite something coming from some one whose wife describes him as a perpetual optimist. Sit tight and work for the best is as much as can be hoped for.

As to the subject of Coir could I introduce a note of caution please. The issue of carbon, costs and footprint is well enough aired elsewhere however here in Scotland specifically and the UK more generally the issue of plant growth media has been hotly debated, usually by those who don't properly understand the issues, e.g. in relation to peat and carbon releases when it is used. Because the gardens for which I am responsible operate on a carbon surplus audit one aspect considered thoroughly was Peat versus Coir and others such as husks from other crops. The resulting outcome demonstrated that the carbon audit in relation to the use of Coir, quite apart from its effectiveness, was truly dreadful and I would counsel great care when considering going down that route. It is worth baring in mind that the carbon footprint for the average North American is c. 7 tonnes p.a. the same calculation produces c. 3 tonnes for the average European within the boundaries of the EU prior to expansion taking in the former Warsaw Pack countries however I would very much doubt it has improved following the advent of their joining the EU. Interestingly there is a strange synergy between the above carbon footprints and the number of people who are needed to support a single North American and European [EU] which is respectively 7 and 3.

Aside from the ethics associated with the use of Coir, at least as far as geophytes such as Cardiocrinum, Korolkowia, Lilium, Nomocharis and Notholirion being the genera with which I am working, neither Coir nor Peat [sphagnum types] are of any benefit what so ever either solely or in any thing like a major component. The disparity of Lilium e.g. as to requirements is as we know widely variable where quite frankly it matters little what medium they are grown; provided they have an absolute free draining location and irrigation able to provide, artificially, adequate nutrients in solution sufficient to mimic soluble nutrients in rainfall it seems neither peat nor coir brings much to the success of those taxa c. 130+ worked with so far, whether alpines growing in nature on insoluble limestone, or temperate to semi tropical deep litter or virtual sand and gravels has made little difference to outcomes here. The use and or reliance on Coir is as alluded to in one post principally that of providing something for roots to hang onto in hydroponic cultures in order to stay upright. 

The same post alluded to the use of bark as another medium in which to grow presumably bulbous plants as well; it may be of assistance to note that the use of bark from coniferous trees which has not totally weathered is likely to lead to serious losses. In hot weather fresh, or freshish bark, releases volatile chemicals similar e.g. in pines which are known as terpines, hence the root for turpentine, try growing any plant in or remotely close to the latter. Even when mixed with other material in various proportions such as mineral soils the effects can be seriously damaging even to trees and shrubs. All bark used must be composted bark and when handled should be as black as possible for anything to be, its admittedly very nice stuff to work with and handle but here we only use it as an anti weed mulch to a depth of 5 -  7 cms as well as introducing humus to land such as we have which is basically devoid of both humus and worms prior to doing so, and refreshed in alternate years mostly with us.

Sorry to "go on" but all gardeners, as well as folk in general increasingly need to think and act responsibly however it is not always possible for the average gardener or anyone else for that matter to be aware of all research and implications working as most do in relative isolation. The suppliers of Coir et al are there to sell the stuff and even if they knew the ecological implications attendant on what they do e.g. transferring it half way around the globe in huge ships, would they consider it worth their while to look into the ecological impact, obviously not otherwise they wouldn't still be selling it! I would never the less welcome learning what advantages others have discovered and benefited from in their use of Coir etc and the circumstances in which benefits can be demonstrated.


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