How Coffee Improves Your Garden
Coffee In The Garden
Springtime is a time for cleaning, planting, and enjoying the sunrise with a good cup of coffee. As I sit and enjoy the sunrise with my aeropressed Highlander Grogg, I reminisce.
I still vividly remember the feeling of being 7, out in the garden in the early springtime, digging my toes into the soil of my grandmother's pride and joy. She would be busily prepping the seed starters while I did my job- play in the dirt. Little did I know playing in the dirt is actually one of the most important jobs of having a garden. She'd sip her coffee, plant seeds, and I would mix dirt. By the end of the summer grandma's garden would be overflowing with lucious zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, what have you. I always thought it was just so amazing what a green thumb she had.
I really didn't understand the true science and meticulous care that was put into that garden until years later. Of course, Grandma had a million secrets she'd attribute the vast bounty that was her garden to, but thinking back perhaps it had to do with that dirt I mixed.
The garden always had coffee grounds and ashes in it. That's what I mixed all those warm spring mornings. Soil, potting soil, coffee grounds, and ashes (from the burn pile).
Now, I'm sure you've heard of using coffee in the garden. At least passively I've heard, "You know you can use those!" from folks here and there, but no one ever went into any more depth than that.
How? And why? And also what part?
Well, I'm here now with Grandma's secret dirt recipe and the science behind it.
So, if you're a gardener then you're probably a coffee drinker (I mean how else do ya get up early?). That green bone in you probably makes you want to compost or preserve things and use every little bit of whatever you can for good. Well, great news! Your morning fuel can help fuel your garden too!
However, you certainly do not want to go just dumping your coffee grounds all over your garden dirt. The key, as with anything really, is care and moderation. As most any coffee drinker knows, coffee contains quite a bit of acid (which is why too much gives you a bellyache), however once it is brewed and the grounds are spent the pH is nearly neutral*. That just leaves behind the amazingly textured and nutrient rich damp grounds behind; which are prime and ready to be mixed into your soil. You can loosely sprinkle the grounds over your garden (or if you happen to have it tilled and have an eager yet bored 7 year old handy they just may mix it for you) being sure it is not too concentrated in any one area. Too much concentrated spent grounds sort of works as a solid water barrier, and can easily mold or prevent water from getting down into your dirt. You also have the option of making a Plant Potion, where you mix your spent grounds in with water and sprinkle the muddy water about. With either of those choices you can also of course add your normal fertilizer and even some ash if you want. Every gardener has their own concoction.
Alright, your garden has it's nice coffee boost, awesome. But what is it really doing? Coffee is a bean of many talents. Not only are the grounds that you've sprinkled rich in nutrients such as potassium and magnesium, but they have a scent. The scent sort of works two fold as well, as many people have claimed that it deters cats and other pests from wanting to enter the gardening area. It is also a delicious smelling food for the precious worms that do all the important soil work in the garden. The worms consume the nutrient rich coffee grounds, digest them, and disperse even more nutrient rich dirt. And that, ladies and gents, is the real secret to coffee grounds in the garden. You're feeding the worms! Remember, in the garden worms and bees are your best friends. Worms eat the coffee, feed the plants, plants feed the bees, and BAM! Now, not only are you a coffee connoisseur and a gardener, you're also a bee conservationist!
Now that we know spent coffee beans really serve as great worm food, you may be eager to run out and water with some muddy mixture or sprinkle the yard; and you should! Just be sure not to overdo it. If you have even more grounds left, they can be added to your compost pile. Once again, though, if using coffee grounds in compost be sure not to use too much as they can throw off the balance or become a water barrier.
Of course, my Grandmother never really gave me the magic recipe. I, personally, have not reached the beautiful bounty that she reaped every year- but I have gotten some nice tomatoes here and there, and grounds in the garden is definitely a thing in my house. So, give it a shot; maybe you've got the touch! If you have interest in reading a bit more on the subject feel free to check out Jeff Schalau's article in Backyard Gardener, where he details the findings of Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, expert Horticulturalist.
It is worth noting as well that SPENT coffee grounds are the grounds I'm talking about. Fresh ground coffee is way too acidic to be spread about and will likely kill your plants, plus you're wasting coffee! Also since the spent grounds are really just serving as nutrient rich food for your worms, they don't do too well on inside plants. In fact, if used on inside plants it often just simply sits and molds. The little bugs in those plants just aren't big enough to munch through it all.
To wrap it all up for you:
1. Don't toss those spent grounds! Sprinkle them in the garden or mix some into your watering can for a Plant Potion
2. Spent grounds work best outside; inside plants don't have enough bugs
3. Don't use too much; should just be a drizzle
4. Spent grounds also make great compost; but don't make it more than a fourth grounds to avoid mold and whatnot
5. Worms are friends! They do all the real work
Well, now that you know some tricks, give it a go! If coffee ends up being the muse your plants were missing, be sure to reach out to us! I'd love to see your bounty. In the meantime, drink coffee and be well!
Author: Chelsea Roberts