Friday, February 7, 2014

Germinating Moringa Seeds on Coir Fiber? What is Coir?

Last years seed germination tests

Over the past several years I have experimented with several different methods to germinate the Moringa seeds including: peat pots, in sandwich bags, and under a cake carrier.  I have not been completely happy with these methods because the seeds tend to mold.  I also have to say that Nevada was one of the worst places for them to grow period. Humidity, temperature, altitude, and severity of climate are all important factors for success in sprouting the seeds and growing the trees. Even the trees raised in the house did not grow as tall as they should have. The only real seeds I germinated the past three years in Nevada were to test the germination rate of the seeds I was selling online. So this year now living back in San Diego, I thought I would experiment again. The method you choose also depends on the number of seeds you are germinating.  Many of you just want to grow a couple of trees for your family. Most of my readers would not want to buy a coir block to germinate a handful of  seeds. One of our goals in moving back to San Diego was to get our nursery license again and sell trees locally as we did in the beginning of our business. This whole aspect of our business started out with a few seeds sent to me by my youngest daughter who lives in Florida. I germinated them and fell in love. Those few seeds changed the direction of our business and life.   I will begin by growing 20 to 40 trees a month, then expand as sales increase. There is a private owned nursery less than 4 blocks away ready to buy a few trees once I get them up and going. We put up our first of several small green houses this week.

What are Coir bricks and where do you buy them?

Coir is the waste product from the coconut’s outer husk. Germinating seeds in coir or coconut fiber is less familiar to most readers. You will not find coir blocks easily at Home Depot or Lowes. You can buy them online on Amazon or at your local green house supply company. It is used more commercially than by the average gardener. I think in one of the past columns, I told you we bought some over compressed coir bricks several years ago that were discounted. I worked with them then and I could not get them to decompress. I kept them determined to find a way to use them sooner or later. We brought them down with us in this move and decided to try and use them once more. They were nearly 100 bucks discounted.  We soaked them for a week, before they finally got soft enough to break apart. Marty still had to take a shovel and break them in pieces. It was much more work then they should have been, but we are using them up. Coir fiber should easily fluff up when water is applied. This method is used by many of the big nursery companies in their greenhouse operations. When we were living in Nevada I did not sell trees and the coir fiber was not available where we lived. Shipping on the coir bricks is expensive. It is much better to buy it locally without the nasty shipping cost.

Germinating Moringa seeds in coir (coconut) fiber: 

Coir fiber bricks are disease resistant and a pH balanced growing medium that provides excellent air space and holding capacity.The compressed coir fiber brick expands up to 7 times the original size of the brick. The coarseness of the fiber is also important. Finer coir is better for seeds. The bricks come in different sizes from 1 pound to 5 pounds.  Put the brick in a wheel barrel or large tub with a half gallon of warm water for every half pound of fiber. Soak the block for at least 30 min and watch it expand in size. Stir it up along the way. Break it up with a trowel or your hands. When it is fully expanded, squeeze the excess water out. Keep breaking it up until it is a course mix. The link below with pictures is great and has many tips in the article for this method. Please go through that link below first.
Click here for a complete guide on the process. This man is quite experienced in its use.

Using this method, you make a bed of coir or coconut fiber, then lay the Moringa seeds in the coir, after soaking the seeds in water for several hours and draining off the excess water. They were not buried in the coir, just sitting on top of it. I used a plastic tray with a dome as pictured.  So far none have molded and they are sprouting well in that environment. This experiment was a plastic container left over from a deli meal lined with moistened coir fiber. After the sprouts get about 2 inched high, I transplant them into either one gallon pots or larger pots of one sort or another.  You will notice the seeds cracking on many of these seeds pictured. I also used a heated seed mat  under the container as well.  The moisture generated from the moist coir and the dome over it, keeps it moist but not soggy.   I think this method is the one I will use for my seedlings this year.  This tray was an experiment that is working quite well. 40 seedlings have germinated from this one tray. Unless you are going into this with the goal of selling large numbers of trees to people planting acres of them, you do not need a huge operation with expensive green houses and equipment. It depends on your overall goals in your business plan. At 62 with my husband being 67, our goal on this is more humble. Selling the trees is just part of the business, not all of it. We love the smile on people's faces when they see the Moringa trees that they grew up with in the Philippines or India. They look at the tree like a long lost friend.  It warms the heart. If you grew up in the Philippines, you would know the tree. It is known by Mulungaay in some countries. Moringa is called by a different name in each place it grows. In those countries, they pick the leaves off their own trees or buy the fresh leaves at their local market. Here is the US, you generally only find the fresh leaves in Asian markets in areas such as Southern California, Florida, and Hawaii where the people demand culture-based produce and foods.  Moringa is becoming more well known, so in the future, you may find the fresh leaves more commonly in your local supermarket or health food market.

I feel if you can, it is important for you to grow your own trees for your family. Several trees will give your family fresh leaves for salads, teas, and to top other dishes.  It is as organic as you can get. It is a joy to watch them grow and to pick the fresh leaves. If you can, grow your own veggies or a few of is good for your nutrition and your pocketbook. You don't have to worry about where those leaves came know!

Notice the various stages of seed germination. As they get 2 inches tall, I take them out and plant them in larger containers.

We have our first greenhouse up.  It is not one of those expensive ones that costs thousands of dollars. Ours is 10 feet wide by 14 feet.  We will put up two more next. I am sharing this with you so that some of you realize you don't need to start with thousands of dollars and a professional $10.000 green house. You can start humble, then expand as you make money. I am advertising the trees on Craig's list and getting pre-orders already.  I have a nursery that is interested in buying the seedling once I receive my nursery license. On that subject, if you have a small operation, the license is pretty reasonable. The price goes up with the number of acres you plant and the complexity of the operation. One factor is also what you are selling as well and where. Shipping the trees over state lines involves agricultural inspections and layers of paperwork and inspections, which is why I am not doing that for the near future. I do sell seeds as well.  It is important, you look into the law regarding your goals and plans before you begin.  The paperwork required to ship plants is very complex. Is it worth it to do all that? That is a question only you can answer. If you do these things without doing it lawfully, the fines can really be nasty.  Things you should think about. I have people call me often in regard to selling trees and what it takes. Research the laws that apply to your goals in the business. Each state and county is different.

Well this is all for now.  Kate Freer, the Herbladyisin
Update: We now live in Indian Mound, TN as of 1-15-2015


I do not sell Moringa products as of Sept, 2016. I am working on a project that demands an unbiased viewpoint. 

If you want to buy from my favorite herb, vitamins, and supplement companies. visit my store here

 Kate Freer, the herbladyisin


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