As more and more growing enthusiasts become conscious of issues regarding sustainability and functionality, hydroponic hobbyists and commercial gardeners alike are beginning their switch from traditional and peat moss-based soils, spun rock, and expanded clay type mediums to more sustainable options made from the husks of coconuts.
The use of coco fiber as a planting medium has increased exponentially in the past decade and as cultivators make the switch, many have taken it upon themselves to analyze the quality of their media using runoff tests. The runoff from coco often times tests high in parts per million (PPM), and this begets the question: What is in YOUR parts per million?
Understanding Coco Fiber’s PPM
So, what are parts per million (PPM)? PPM is another way to measure the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). This merely tells you how many milligrams per liter, of any substance, are dissolved or are within the liquid being tested, but NOT what that may be.
Well, it is pretty well known that coco fiber often contains sodium-based salts that need to be thoroughly leached before it is put into use for gardening/hydroponic applications. Most companies claim that their coco fiber is “triple-washed,” but often times, this only means that the coco manufacturer exposed the fibers to the elements for at least three storms. Testing the coco’s ppm will often lead the gardener to believe that there is still a considerable amount of residual sodium left even after the fibers had been “triple-washed,” and for many coco-based mediums such an assumption would be correct. This is exactly why some companies take the washing, rinsing and buffering a step further.
Industry leaders, such as Royal Gold Potting Soil, take pride in providing the highest quality coco-based mediums available in the gardening and hydroponics market. To ensure the finished product is optimal for healthy and vigorous plant growth, companies import the top quality Coco available. They continue to rinse, buffer and test their coco on-site before sending each batch to be analyzed by a third party.
A Key Ingredient
Why does your meter read roughly 800 ppm when testing the run off from their coco fiber? Leftover salts? Actually, this is not the case. People are finding in the runoff of this particular medium an ingredient that is essential to having successful crop production — calcium.
Calcium is vital to healthy plant growth and for years many have struggled with calcium deficiencies in coco mediums. The reason this problems arises is because coco absorbs calcium and oftentimes does not release it in the quantities that plants require for optimal growth. To solve this, gardeners incorporate increased rates of calcium into their feeding regimen and some producers buffer their coco with calcium before handing it off to the end consumer.
When you make the switch to coco fiber, don’t forget to ask, what’s in YOUR parts per million?