USING COFFEE GROUNDS IN THE GARDEN
by John S S Slater
A few weeks ago we got new neighbors. They seem like a nice couple with two energetic children, one freakingly large dog and a cat that can only be described as mischievous. I had been meaning to go over and say, ‘Hi’, but never seemed to make it. Yesterday I was in my backyard, dressed in my worn muscle shirt that I am not allowed to wear among decent people and covered with dirt when Elaine, that’s her name, called over the fence (yes, my wife reminded me that is why you should always look your best). Anyhow, after introductions, she asked me what I was doing and I said I was sharing my coffee ground with my friends. Next she asked me, “Why?”
And I am going to tell you what I told her, I hate throwing anything away if I can use it and the grounds are good for the soil.
The coffee we drink is high in acid and most plants, at least most of ours, aren’t crazy about acidic soil. Fortunately, the mere act of brewing the ground coffee turns the coffee’s ph almost neutral, between 6.5 – 6.8, so all my plants can benefit from the grounds. And sharing couldn’t be easier.
Now before you run outside and start spreading your grounds like you were sprinkling fairly dust you need to know one thing, don’t spread it too thick. The goal is to enhance the soil for your garden not cover the soil so thoroughly that the grounds clump when dry and the water can’t drain through it. I can’t imagine I would ever have enough grounds at one time for that to be a problem, but you might, so be warned.
During the summer I take the grounds and sprinkle them somewhere I haven’t sprinkled in a while. Over the winter I collect them in old milk cartons. When springtime comes I add the grounds to my soil mixture when I put new plants in the ground.
Personally I don’t compost, I raid my friend’s (don’t judge me, I collect and contribute scraps to it, and make enough fish emulsion for both of us). He adds coffee grounds to his compost heap, he says it’s a good source of nutrients and that the worms love it (Worm whisperer?)
The nutrients are released slowly, so if you run outside everyday to see if there is improvement to your garden you will be disappointed. We have a beautiful garden and I (emphais added for my family) do a lot to maintain it, but since I can’t tell immediately if something is working I just have to have faith.
Being that we drink coffee almost every day in my home I find, with a little planning, I have more than enough grounds to share with my green friends. However, if your yard is large you might need to seek an outside source. Local restaurants, especially coffee shops, are a great source, most of them throw out the grounds at the end of the day. It can’t hurt to ask them to save the grounds for you.
What about leftover coffee in the pot? You can use that too. Dilute it, ½ coffee – ½ water, and water your plants. But be careful, brewed coffee is full of acid and should only be used on the plants that like an acidic soil, they will love you for it.
Do you garden? What tips could you share?