Chipped Coconut Husk (CHC)
First I should make clear that the coconut husk I use and sell is
fresh clean husk that has been processed to very high standards at source.
The raw material is collected at a factory in an area that has an abundance
of clean, soft water springs. Only fresh, clean husk is accepted for
processing. The produce is then soaked and washed in several changes of soft
water. This reduces the natural salts and tannin to a low level (EC <0.5
ms/cm), it is then heat treated as a precaution against disease, either
plant or human. The next stage is to grade it before it is compressed into
mini-bales for dispatch.
The factory is a large commercial operation with
coconut husk products being sold for the production of many different types
of plant including Orchids, Citrus fruits, Anthuriums, Tomatoes,
Strawberries, Peppers, Gerberas, Lilies and many more.
I (Ray) have been testing and using chipped coconut husk as a growing
medium for about eight years now and for the last three or four years I have
been using it exclusively for all my potting needs. I use it without mixing
with any other materials and for all types of orchid, as yet I have not
found anything that doesn’t benefit. I even have a few Disas that are
growing healthily in it. I have also used it, with great success, as an
additive to the compost for many other types of plant.
So often claims are made within the orchid world that are based on
little more than gut feelings and hunches. Here are some facts and figures
to back up my claim that Coconut Husk Chip is one of the very best orchid
growing media available today.
Coconut Husk holds large amounts of
Because the particles of CHC are like little
sponges they absorb large quantities of water
without leaving residues or films of water on their
surfaces. This helps to limit the spread of fungal
diseases within the root zone yet ensuring that
water if freely available to the plant.
High air-filled porosity
This is just a technical term for a growing
media that holds lots of air. Again, because of the
sponge-like nature of the husk, air is held inside
each particle as well as between them.
The open nature of CHC means that excess water is drained away very quickly.
Nutrients are released slowly.
Coconut husk has the ability
to bind nutrients to it chemically (Known as Cation
Exchange Capacity or CEC). This has the effect of
storing fertiliser within the growing media, these
nutrients are then released slowly to the plant over
an extended period of time. This of course means a
more even, more sustained availability of nutrients.
To take full advantage of this property, I would
advise the addition of a normal dose of good orchid
feed to the water used for the initial wetting up of
Good pH range.
With a pH of 5.4-6.8 this is almost ideal for
the growing of orchids. These levels are checked
during processing and any husk that does not conform
Low salt and tannin content.
Because of the rigorous washing process carried out
by my supplier the salt content is reduced to very
low levels. EC levels come out at <.05 mc/cm. Levels
of tannins, they can also be a problem, are reduced
to very low levels.
High lignin content.
Lignin has been described as one of nature’s
fungicides and is the material that gives many
hardwoods their rot resistance. (This is the root of
the name Lignum vitae one of the most rot resistant
woods known) The high lignin content in CHC helps to
protect plant roots from fungal and bacterial attack
Weed and disease free.
The CHC that
I supply has been heat treated to kill any weed
seeds or disease organisms, which could infect
either plants or humans.
Because of the extended period before CHC
begins to break down plants can be left for longer
intervals between re-potting. This means that plants
get less disruption and can grow on into large
specimens in a shorter period of time. It also
eventually leads to less use of potting material and
therefore a reduction in costs.
It’s nice to use.
CHC compresses when firmed and so supports you
plants well when re-potting. It is friable and easy
to work between roots whilst being ‘comfortable’ to
use. Once wetted there are no annoying dust
Use with a clear conscience
Even the most radical Green Party member
would find it hard to criticise CHC.
completely organic and poses no problems with
disposal after use.
It is a by-product of the
copra industry and until recently would have been
dumped because it was thought to be of no use.
Energy inputs are low, just the costs of chopping,
compressing and transport.
The firm that I buy
from has a very responsible attitude to there staff,
paying higher wages than the average for the area
and implementing various projects to help the local
It grows great orchids!
I can’t prove this one so you will just have
to buy some so that you can prove it yourselves.