I've read a lot about rice hulls, esp. used as wall insulation. (Google "Rice Hull House") They used to be free in our few coastal states that grow rice, and probably still are close to free. It's the transportation cost that increases the price, although now they are adding it to cattle and hog feed so they are selling more of it.
Great article Jill! I used the coir, rice hull, vermiculite and fertilizer potting mix this year for my tomatoes and have it in my deck containers. I love it and it is so much cheaper than the "other" stuff.
Plants are happy, environment is happy and the grower is happy!
I haven't tried coir or rice hulls for planters yet...might be ok.
As far as peat moss goes, I feel that the environmental aspect is much over stated. I get some well hydrated local [6 miles away] peat moss from a farmer which is great for amending beds along with sharp sand, compost, and horse manure mixed in deeply with good top soil.
Kim, I figured you were using that mix; glad it's working well for you!
Indy, although i haven't used my coir mix in too many planters yet, so far it looks like it would provide excellent drainage (my main consideration for a good container mix). As far as the environmental aspect goes, overstated or not I figure peat is a nonrenewable resource, so finding alternatives is a good thing. It also seems to me that coir and rice hulls might be a little easier on my pocketbook, but I haven't quite worked out the math to compare the expanded volume of the coir mix compared to the bales of Pro Mix I've used in the past.
Critter, thanks for telling us the alternative to peatmoss having used that along with vermiculite for eons of years. I do remember one type I used in the late forties and fifties when suddenly it stopped being available. I wish I could remember the name, I prefered it to peatmoss, it was very lose and as black as coal and stayed that way. The Nurseryman said the reason for not being able to find it anymore is that it is used as a mix for potting soil and other mixes. I still miss it.
I started using coir this year as the main component of my potting mix, along with locally produced compost and an organic granular fertilizer added to the mix as a sort of "starter charge". I like the coir for its texture and how well it stays hydrated.
As far as environmental issues, I read the comments referenced about peat, and do understand better now, how peat is harvested and maintained. I understand the issue, also, with shipping the coir from Guyana, in my case, to Ontario, Canada, then to me in Texas. Whew!! Lots of fuel use there.
I guess we each have to make our own choices and try to be as informed as possible.