Coir fibre baskets are cost-effective, clean alternative to plastic pots

Alappuzha, Feb 4: Gardening enthusiasts and home growers scouting for an organic, effective and relatively inexpensive substitute to plastic containers may have now found a way out —the coir-derived ‘multi-grow basket’. With the largest basket on display at the international pavilion of Coir Kerala 2016 measuring 42 inches in diameter and capable of accommodating 20-25 different plants, these handy bins are a space- and water-saving tool as well. 

“The coir baskets are a new trend and will gain popularity as we move forward to a plastic-free future,” said K.J. Scaria, managing director of Sofine Decors Pvt. Ltd., the basket’s manufacturers. “As well, it provides a much-needed outdoor activity and also gives us pesticides-free vegetables in the bargain.” 

The baskets are made entirely of coir fiber (Chakiri), which is cleaned, willowed and made into sheets via a sheeting machine. Latex is sprayed on the sheets, which are then moulded into shape. It is then either air-dried under the sunlight or in a hydraulic hot-press.

The innovative product comes in different sizes – samples ranging from 24 to 42 inches are on display at Scaria’s stall – and can be tailored to meet customer specifications without sacrificing quality. The biggest basket he made was a massive five feet in diameter.

“One can plant quite a few types of plants together in this basket. Even the smallest ones can hold five to six crops,” Scaria said. “Plant melon, ash gourd and cucumber seeds and leave the basket on your terrace and you will have a sun-covering of sorts for your house. Plant tendril-type plants like bitter gourd, snake gourd, runner beans together and provide a support for them, and watch them grow.”

Any type of soil can be used with instant manure – a mixture of pith compost with dried and powdered cow dung, bone meal, stera-meal and fish cake powder – being provided as the potting mixture. For terraces, light-weight pith compost is preferred. 

“The advantage of using pith is that even if we forget to water the bed for a day, the moisture will remain since both pith and coir retain water,” Scaria said. “If the slurry of bio-gas is used in place of water, it would be even better.” 

The water absorption properties of pith allow it to withstand an appreciable amount of rain without being over-saturated and a leak-proof liner inside the basket permits its use indoors though flowering plants need sunlight to blossom.

“Termite and ant attack can be resisted by using herbal remedies such as neem cake powder,” said Scaria, proudly noting that prototypes given to the Coir Board some years ago had been functional till very recently. The large baskets are priced at Rs 1250 and the small basket has a price tag of Rs 275. 

This is only natural, said Minister for Coir and Revenue Shri Adoor Prakash.“Besides value for money, more and more people are looking for sustainable, carbon-neutral and bio-degradable alternatives to what have traditionally been plastic appliances at home,” the minister said.

“The public is waking up to the many benefits of coir. This trend can only be good for the consumer, the environment and the coir sector,” he added.

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