Coffee grounds for the garden


In the spring, we enjoy sitting on the deck in the morning, drinking our coffee, watching the wildlife and listening to the birds.

There’s nothing quite like a good cup of coffee in the morning before getting started out in the garden. It warms the body, energizes the disposition and brings the world into sharp focus.

If you enjoy a daily cup of coffee, your first stop for tending to the garden is at your fingertips. Coffee grounds usually find their way into the trash, but we have a much better use for that daily grind.

Coffee isn’t normally appreciated for its nutritional value, but the organic matter found in that coffee filter is a notable source of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and copper and can be used to bolster the health of plants without investing in costly commercial soil amendments.

Even the caffeine, coffee lovers find the extra purpose for the frugal gardener.We use wet or dry coffee filters as liners in containers when planting annuals. By adding a coffee filter between the plants dirt and the pots drainage hole keeps dirt from leaking out.

It’s always a good idea to add coffee grounds to compost, but mixing it directly into the soil can help balance alkaline soil or give a boost of acidity for plants like hydrangeas or rhododendrons.

Brew up a weak coffee “tea” using spent grounds to water plants or add coffee grounds directly to the soil in planters. As coffee grounds break down, they release nutrition in the form of nitrogen, potassium, magnesium and other minerals into the soil.

Caffeine is toxic to slugs and snails and they will avoid coffee grounds sprinkled on the soil surface around plants. Coffee grounds are also a good deterrent when fire ants are a problem.

Unlike slugs,earth worms love coffee grounds. Using grounds in garden soil or in worm composting bins not only helps enrich the soil, worm productivity skyrockets, aerating soil and improving drainage. You can sprinkle fresh unwashed coffee grounds around acid-loving plants like azaleas, hydrangeas, blueberries, and lilies. Many vegetables like slightly acidic soil with the exception of tomatoes – they do not respond well to the addition of coffee grounds.

Root crops like radishes and carrots like coffee grounds, especially when mixed with the soil at planting time. Sprinkling dry, fresh coffee grounds around plants and on top of soil helps deter some pests. While it does not fully eliminate them, it does seem to help with keeping cats, rabbits and slugs at bay minimizing their damage in the garden.

If you don’t indulge in a morning cup many coffee shops often give coffee grounds away free to gardeners as they are a waste product they would normally have to pay to dispose of.

Coffee grounds and gardening go together naturally. Whether you are composting with coffee grounds or using used coffee grounds around the yard, you will find that coffee can give your garden as much of a pick up as it does for you.

By Charlene Thornhill

Along the Garden Path

Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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