Coco is a really versatile soil-less medium that can produce heavy yields using techniques that can push the line between hydroponics and traditional soil based gardening. Most high quality coco brands like Organic Mechanics Cocodelphia or Cocogro are ph buffered for growing and ready to use out of the bag. Here are some tricks that I like to use when transplanting and getting the most of your high value crops. This isn't an instruction on the only way to use coco, just wanted to share how I like to amend, and the other products I use with it.
With these heirloom tomatoes, I am going to be setting up a drip system for daily feedings once the root mass has established. So I'm transplanting out of 4' square pots that I have been hand feeding, into 3 gallon fabric pots. I am using pure organic cocodelphia coco this time, mixed with about 20% rice hulls as a perlite substitute. Initially for the vegetative stage, I mixed about 30% for additional aeration to allow for faster root development. The natural tubular structure of the coconut fibers allow for great moisture to air ratio, so many people choose not to add anything to it, its up to individual preference and also allows for fine tuning based on how plants respond to different moisture levels and feeding regimens.
For these tomatoes I'm trying to maximize quality and quantity, so I'm adding some organic beneficial ingredients and NPK value with Organic Mechanic's Fuhgeddaboudit! Root feeder packs. They are easy to use, you just drop the pack in your pot and put the plant on top! It adds a 4-2-2 NPK, mychorrizae, biochar, azomite, oystershell and other ingredients that will send your tomatoes to the moon. Because I'm using a drip system later, I like to water in soluble mineral based nutrients. This keeps my res and drippers clean by avoiding larger sized particles from organic liquid nutrients which can build up in the lines. In my opinion, using a blend of synthetic and organic bio-stimulants gets the largest production with high quality results.
There are a few other liquid products I like to use before or during transplant. My favorites are a B vitamin supplement like Raw B, or B-52 by Advanced to help with stress recovery, microbe and humic acid product called Microbe Life Root Dip, and Fox Farm Big Bloom for a mild organic feeding . I give them a thorough soak and allow the roots to sit in the solution for about 15 minutes before transplanting
You might have noticed the layer of rice hulls on top of the transplants. These are great also for fungus gnat prevention as the adults hate to crawl through them to lay eggs. I like to put a layer on top, and then some clay pebbles to keep everything in place and allow for even watering. This also protects the top feeder roots and allows for additional microbe activity at the top layer of the medium. Rice hulls also break down over time and release phosphorus and silica into the medium benefiting your plants in later blooming and fruiting stages.
After transplanting, I take the leftover solution and water it in to finish. Usually I will transplant just before the lights go off to reduce any additional shock, especially if I am changing to a different lighting system, like T5 to LED or MH to HPS.
That's it for now! Let me know what tricks you have when transplanting or growing in coco in the comments below. I'll make an update or youtube video when we get the drippers running so stay posted. See ya around!
Paul Davis is the owner of Green Dragon Hydroponics, and an avid gardener with over 12 years experience focused in DIY indoor gardening, both soil and hydroponic applications.