Odds and addENDumS


Can everyday be Action Day? There are bandwagons all over the place that I want to jump on. Here is a post about the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) that reminded me to rave that Fred and Dan, Blithewold’s groundsmen are expert at Reusing/Recycling. They took sills from the old greenhouse when it was renovated and rather than hauling it to a scrapyard, they re-invented it as a bed edge and grass stair risers. Sometimes with a wide open to the possibilities imagination, a useless cast-off can be rescued from the landfill and transformed into the perfect solution! Greenhouse sills used as bed edge and stair risers
This morning I found a sidetrack bandwagon in this (otherwise really interesting) post. I’ve been on a (passive) lookout for an alternative to the soilless potting mix that we use in the greenhouse. Most (all?) potting mixes are made with peat which is not a renewable resource. It also bears mentioning that peat harvests are killing precious bogs and I don’t want to be a party to bog death. I perked right up at the mention of coconut coir in this post and did just a little searching and found that it’s available by the brick and bale. I’m curious now – has anyone has used it either in or as a potting medium? What’s your source? Did you and your plants like it? Do you have any other peat-free potting medium recommendations? Enquiring gardeners want to know!

And if everyday is action day (sometimes action is not about Activism…) the volunteers have had a couple very active days! Here’s a before and after of the Cutting Bed – note that Gail and I have allowed the Asclepias physocarpa ‘Oscar’ (a.k.a. Hairy balls) to live on for the time being!… Next week we’ll be planting tulips.

The Deadheads picking the last of the Cutting Bed flowersEmpty Cutting Beds - ready for tulips

And the Fairies have been pretty active too. The fairy family at 4 Dust Ave. has acquired some overstuffed furniture! Looks like they’re still working out how to get it up the stairs and down the hall… A fairy big toadstool

8 thoughts on “Odds and addENDumS

  1. Kris: Love that new fairy furniture! I am sure that you can call Griffin Greenhouse Supply for a coir based mix and they may even have the bricks for mixing your own media. I did read that coir has higher potassium content and does not buffer pH very well. Also, more fertilization in the form of N may be necessary as leaching can occur at a faster rate. I know that peat moss sales are down in the landscape industry and the peat industry is not really promoting their products although it is still the choice of growers for large scale production of vegetable and bedding crops. There are vast, untapped reserves of peat moss but they are in Russia and the cost of import would probably be prohibitive. I think there will be a gradual change to other media sources as North American reserves are depleted. That will leave many out of work though. There is always a cost.

  2. I used coir exclusively this year in my garden. The coir is similar to the peat except it is more fibrous. This fibrousness lends itself well to using it as a mulch since the fibers keep the coir from moving around, even when pounded with torrential rain. When I used it as a potting mix, I incorporated vermiculite and garden compost, a combination my potted plants particularly seemed to enjoy. The coir isn’t as acidic as peat, which was another perk.

    I ordered organic Cocolife blocks from territorial seed company in Oregon; once expanded they gave me just over 2 cu. feet. The nice thing about the blocks is that they don’t take up a lot of space so I was able to stack up four or five in my shed until I needed them–I couldn’t do that with peat! Also, I was able to break off chunks and use it as needed; with peat, once you open the bale, you always had to contend with containment issues.

    The down side to the coir was the cost. At $17.00 per block, you have to be firm in your organic, save-the-peat-bog mentality. So, if anyone else has a less expensive source for these blocks, let me know. I wouldn’t even mind buying in bulk!

  3. Layanee, I checked Griffin and they do have a coir mix – that also has peat… Thank you for pointing out the drawbacks. You’re certainly right – there is always a cost and a difficult transition time. But I hope that we keep exploring the alternatives. And alternatives we don’t have to cross oceans for might mean more jobs for people here…

    Susan, Thank you for sharing your experience with coconut coir! I’d like to try it but we’ll have to find a less expensive source too especially if we decide we like it! (I’ll keep you posted)

  4. Oh Kris, those old sills look wonderful edging the pennisetum! I hope my little project turns out at least half as aesthetically pleasing.

    I have used coir for a couple of years now, and I like it for seed-starting. I normally mix it anywhere from 1:1 to 2:1 with well-screened compost… not because I used it straight and it didn’t work or anything like that, just because I like the idea of using both together so the compost provides some nourishment. I have had no problems with the coir that you wouldn’t have with peat (for example, it’s not easy to rewet once you have let it dry out entirely) and find it easy to use.

    Side note to Susan: I don’t know where you buy your coir bricks or how large they are, but I mail order mine from GH Organics. (I can’t find them locally at all.) At GH, 1 brick=1/3 cubic foot=4qts coir when watered and fluffed. At $3 per brick, GH’s seem much more reasonable than $17 per brick unless your bricks are much bigger. I usually order in bulk every few years, and only wet one brick at a time–the rest keep just fine in a dry place like my attic.

    This is the only thing I’ve ever mail ordered from GH Organics, so I can’t attest to any of the rest of their products, but they’ve been more than fine for the “Coco peat,” as they call it.

  5. Hi, I have been reading your blog for awhile now. Interesting behind the scene information and great pictures.
    As to the coir, in a recent class Bill Shores (our instructor and manager for the gardens of Rick Bayless of Fontera Grill and PBS Mexican food fame) shared his use for coir in seed starter mix and as a potting soil medium.
    We mixed 5 parts well sifted compost (worm castings worked even better) with 4 parts coir (from bricks that had been rehydrated) and 1 part perlite.
    We started cool season leaf lettuce,radishes and many small greens for winter salads to be grown under lights. Bill said he keeps 60 trays of green seedlings going all winter harvesting every couple of weeks for the restaurant then recycling the starter mix by tossing it into the worm bins.
    So far it is a great success.

  6. Kim, Thank you and thanks for the ‘coco peat’ info! I’ll check out GH Organics. I suspect Susan is buying bales which would account for the difference in price. I think we’d have to buy in big bulk to keep our costs down…

    Gloria, Thank you too and thanks for being a visitor! It sounds like a mix of coir and compost is the way to go. I think we’d leave out the perlite though – the mix we use now doesn’t have it and we prefer a perlite-free look in pots. When we need to improve the drainage, we add turfus (a clay grit not unlike old fashioned kitty litter). Fresh greens in the winter… hmmm… I wonder if I could wrangle any greenhouse space for that…

  7. A couple of things to add…Yes, I am talking about bales when I mention the $17 cost. Also, I found a few other sites that offered the bales for $13-$14. No matter where you buy coir, count on it costing more than peat as they have to ship it in from tropical plantations overseas like Sri Lanka or the Phillipenes. Again, coir requires enviro-freak dedication. Save the peat bogs!

    One thing I discovered in my online quest is that you should try to find aged coir instead of fresh. Aged coir will not compact as the summer goes by, unlike fresh. Also, according to a wholesale supplier—VGrove Millenniumsoils Coir—some coirs can have high salt concentrations. I didn’t have a problem with my CocoLife Bloks as I used them in containers and I don’t have salt problems in my soil. However, I plan to continue using the coir so I will watch the soil reports each year to make sure my salt level doesn’t get any higher.

    Kris—you should look up VGrove online. They are a Canadian wholesale supplier to the hort industry. And since you are relatively close to them and the US and Canadian dollar are close, it may be a good option if you are looking for a large, bulk order.

  8. Thank you, Susan! I haven’t had time yet to do more research and your info is hugely helpful! I’m going to lobby hard to get some bales on our orders list and I’ll make sure to post about how we like it. (I think we’ll start with a small order and go from there…)

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