Well this is a long *ss thread so here's a song while you read http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STZu6PtSZQI Well Rollitup.org A bunch of people have said this should be posted as a sticky.. It's up to you guys.. We are asking for a coco sub forum... maybe a coco contest.. maybe a couple free shirts, or a couple of months of a elite for free to the winner.. But this is my thread and if you didn't like the first song here is another.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STZu6PtSZQI A BIG THANKS to Nandro and Texas Kid for helping me compile all this wonderful information and pics to help everyone understand Coco and it's benefits just a little bit better. RB Background on Coco The recent shift to Coco as a medium for growers has caused many to turn and take a look. Since Coco can be used in virtually any style of growing (ie. Container Growing, Ebb and Flow, DWC and even Aeroponics) and wide spread reports of increased growth rates as a result of it's use, it certainly merits a closer look. Coco and it's various grades are manufactured from the shells and husks of the Coconut. While Coco is made in several parts of the world, Sri Lanka is by far and away the world leader in Coco production. For obvious reasons, it is cheaper to produce the Coco in Sri Lanka as labor is cheap and Coconuts are quite abundant as Coconut export is one of Sri Lanka's top export products. Coco products have many uses other than it's Horticultural applications. As an example, Coco husks (the larger pieces) are used to mix in with unstable earth to help anchor it and allow water to easily pass through thereby controlling erosion in mountainous areas of the world. Coco is also used to filter drinking water in some parts of the world that can't afford the high cost of water treatment plants. Coco in Gardening In indoor gardening, Coco and it's various grades offer indoor growers (Newbies and Seasoned Growers alike) a super forgiving medium that practically insures that over-watering and "dampening off" never occur. In Hydro, Coco allows the gardener to cycle/flood less frequently as the Coco itself, unlike Hydroton, will retain the perfect amount of moisture to keep the plants happy between floods. Depending on the grade of Coco used, if you're flooding four or five times per light cycle, you can easily cut down to two to three floods during "lights on" and NONE during the dark period. Less floodings = less nutrients used = big savings on nutrients! Being a totally inert (no food value) substrate, supplemental feedings through a good, well rounded nutrient regime are essential. However, this is the beauty of Coco as since it is inert, you can more accurately control EXACTLY how much food your plants are receiving. Also, by just looking at your plants, you'll be able to see if they are wanting more food or less and you can very precisely contol the feedings by monitoring the PPM or EC of your feedings. Coco allows the grower to have a "gas pedal" and a "brake" for the plant growth. Through trial and experimentation, you will quickly find that precise level that your plants perform best at and learn to keep it there for pronounced growth! Something should also be said about the "symbiotic" relationship that Coco enjoys with plants. When doing a side by side comparion with plants grown in Coco versus the same plants grown in Soil (or Coco vs Hydroton in Hydro), it becomes apparently very quickly to the grower that the rate of growth is EXPLOSIVE in Coco! It's not at all unusual to see the same cuttings in Coco be twice the size of cuttings in soil. The plants have an overall healthier, happier look to them and the hybrid vigour of a given strain is accentuated when in Coco. The tastes and aromas of buds grown in Coco are extremely difficult to tell from herb grown in a totally organic soil and are ALWAYS more flavorful and aromatic in Hydro when compared to Hydroton grown bud. The plants just seem to give their best in Coco and with less hassle than either soil or Hydrton. When it comes to the problems of seriously vasilating pH in Hydro when Hydroton is used, you can kiss those problems goodbye when you convert to Coco as your medium. Once thoroughly flushed and buffered with pH'd water, Coco will prove to be rock solid when it comes to staying in the proper pH range. This reason alone makes Coco worth converting to in Hydroponics, IMHO. Aside from training your brain to pH at hydroponic levels, Coco growers must adapt to a "Water to Waste" approach to watering/feeding when container growing. This means to continue watering well after runoff water comes out of the bottom. This is because Coco retains just enough moisture to sustain the plant but, like Hydroponics, it requires a good long drink to keep the plants happy. This also acts as an effective "flushing" method to keep salts (nutrients) from building up in the medium. Although you need to feed much more frequently than a pre-ferted soil mix, it is still recommended that you do a periodic plain pH'd watering to assist in ridding any built up salts in the medium. For this reason, Watering to Waste requires some sort of "catch" system to capture the run off water out of your pots when container garden. An Ebb n Flow tray works well or you can fabricate your own catch try to place under your pots. If elevated, this catch tray can have a drain in one corner or at the center to allow the run off to drip into a Rubbermaid container below the catch tray. Coco and it's various grades There is much confusion and misunderstanding regarding Coco. You will find that virtually all Coco is referred to as "Coco Coir". When, in fact, Coir is but just one of the different GRADES of Coco available. Coco is manufactured into three major catagories, or grades. Essentially, these grades are a catagorization of the "coarseness" of the various grades of Coco. They are as follows in order from the finest to the most coarse: PYTH - This is the finest grade of Coco. Pyth is harvested from the softer tissue just inside the shell or husk that is pulverized into a fine particulate. It resembles light brown, dried coffee gounds. The finer particles provide a solid substrate for the plant's root system but lack in the rapid drainage of it's more coarse forms. Using just Pyth solely as your medium is NOT recommend because of it's tendency to retain so much moisture but can be blended with other grades to add some body to the blend. Some manufacturers like Earth Juice and to some degree Botanicare use a fair amount of Pyth in what they call Coco Coir. Again, this grade is not Coir but we'll get to the next! COIR/FIBER - Coir is a longer fiber harvest from the outer layers of the shell or husk and is often chopped into shorter fragments. The fabled "Profit Disks" were made from this portion of the Coconut. While Coir still holds a good amount of moisture after watering or flooding, it's drainage is significantly better than Pyth. Coir can also be found in very long strands often referred to as "Coco Fiber" and is commonly found in nurseries and craft stores. The longest strands make a good liner for the bottom of pots which you can fill on top of with finer cut Coir or Croutons for an excellent medium. HUSKS (aka "Croutons") - The coarsest grade of Coco are the Husks which have also been referred to as "Croutons". Several growers here at the Bay can tell you of their success with Croutons. Made by fragmenting the shells or husks of the Coconut, Croutons are made up of chunks of shell and represent the fastest draining form of Coco available. Croutons are HIGHLY recommended for use in Ebb and Flow as well as DWC systems because they are absent of the finer particles that would tend to clog spray nozzles or pump motors. Croutons drain as well as Hydroton but do retain a perfect amount of moisture between floodings as compared to Hydroton. General Hydroponics recently discontinued their Coco Croutons and they have not been available. Until now, that is. More on that in a moment. The following pic illustrates the various grades of Coco. However, Pyth is not shown. Which Coco is best for me? Deciding on which grade of Coco or which brand can be quite confusing. For many, this is a trial and error excercise until they find the best grade for their grows. However, some generalizations can surely be made. For Container Style growing, either Coco Coir or a blend of the various grades would suite you quite well. In containers, a nice blend of longer fiber Coir with a small amount of Pyth blended in would give your roots good aeration and they Pyth would help to retain a bit more moisture so that watering every two to four days would be appropriate. While Coco Coir with Pyth in it MUST BE pre-washed, we recommend that ALL COCO PRODUCTS BE THOROUGHLY FLUSHED with pH'd water to rid any impurities from the blend. *It's also VERY IMPORTANT to remember that when growing in Coco, you MUST pH at Hydroponic levels in the 5.5-6.0 range. pH ranges higher than this will result in plant deficiencies and nutrient lockout! For Hydroponic and Aeroponic growers, Husks or Croutons are the way to go for sure. Nandro says that Husks/Croutons are "God's gift to our gardens!". Again, being absent of the finer particulates (after a good pre-rinsing, of course), they are the PERFECT medium for recirculating systems. As Husks are available in a couple of different sizes, you can experiment to see which size works best for you. In either case, both sizes retain enough moisture that you can reduce your amount of flood cycles and save on nutrients! Roots just explode in growth due to the amount of oxygen available in a Crouton medium and they grow easily through the net pot. The growth rate will astound the most seasoned of growers! In the end, it's a matter of grow style. If you container grow, a finer mix will do you fine just as long as it's still light, airy and pourous. In Hydro, the larger chunks of the Husks/Croutons will get the job done and give you better tasting, better smelling harvests than Hydroton ever has for you. Try it once and you'll never go back. Sounds great, Rell, but how and where do I get all these grades? Well, I'm glad you asked since I haven't had a good answer for you until just this week. As it turns out, Nandro, Texas Kid and I found a producer of these various grades of Coco right here in the North Texas area. A company called RioCoco imports the various grades from Sri Lanka and then pre-washes and packages primarily for the commercial agricultural and civil industries around the world. Up until now, this product has not been available in hydroponic supplies but, THANK GOD, we've been able to put RioCoco in touch with Water Baby's Indoor Garden Supply and they now will be the exclusive hydroponic supplier for their fine products! Take a look at all they have to offer. RioCoco Green Starters Green Starters are a compressed block of a perfect blend of Coir, Fibers and Husks called their S1 grade and when broken up will contain a small amount of Pyth. The block measures 7"x10"x2.5" and makes for a great shipping size. The wrapper can be opened up and used like a grow bag or use it to fill your containers. Just add your pH'd water to expand and break up the block. It recommends adding 500 mils to start but we found that about 1.5 liters was just about right. Nandro says, "Green Starter Coco Blocks are a great way for container growers wanting to experience the Coco craze". Here's a shot of a fresh moistened block. And a shot after it has drained and been broken up a bit. We popped a few holes in the bottom of it to let the water drain through properly. The S1 Custom Blend Coco contained in the block is their premium mix of Coco and is suitable for Container Style growing but can be used in hydro if you utilize a mesh bag for your reservoir pump or Coco liners in your net pots. This S1 Custom Blend is an absolutely gorgeous mix as you can see above and could still be used in recirculating systems if pre-flushed well to rid the mix of small particulates. RioCoco Chip Blocks - S2, S3 and Croutons RioCoco has also packaged into pressed blocks their finest grades of Husks/Croutons. Again, these are the large chunks of husk or shell that are best suited for recirculating Hydroponic Systems. The Chip Blocks are available in three grades: S2 which are medium sized chips, S3 which are slightly larger and Croutons which are the largest size. Premium Coco Husks like these are highly recommended fro growers using hydroponic systems like DWC, Drip, Ebb n Flow, Aeroponics and any other recirculating systems. The S2 and S3 Husks also make an attractive bedding cover (like Mulch) for your outdoor flower beds! S2 Chip Block S3 Chip Block Sitting side by side you can see the one block has bigger chips than the other. These Chip Blocks weigh between 9-10 pounds and should produce between 50-70 liters of expanded product. This is comparable to the pressed blocks of Coco offered by Botanicare and Earth Juice but the quality of the finished product is FAR superior. There wasn't a block to show you of the Croutons but here is a sample bag we received from RioCoco and you can see how much bigger they are. These Croutons are available as RioCoco's Green 'n Grow Premium Coco in 1 cu. ft. bags. More in a moment. Here again is the pic of the various grades and you can see the comparison of size of the S2, S3 and the Green 'n Grow Premium Coir Croutons better side by side. E-Coir Coco Fiber RioCoco also offers the longest strands of Coco known as Fiber in plastic bags. E-Coir can be used to grow in exclusively but, in it's longest form, it makes a great liner for your pots and the S1 Custom Blend, Husks or Croutons can be added on top for a superior draining mix. The Fibers can also be cut into short pieces and mixed in with your choice of Husks and/or Croutons to make the perfect custom blend for you. E-Coir is an excellent and versatile Coco product.