Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Coffee in the Garden ... As fertilizer that is!

(Parlsey going to seed on purpose, I want the seeds of this particular variety.)
I had shared in a prior post that I was quite concerned about one of my tomato plants. The leaves were turning yellow, and despite my great soil, I feared that I would lose the struggling little plant. Now, I know that some folks won’t sweat the loss of a plant here or there, but I, uh, get attached to my little photosynthesis beings, and really wanted to do all I could to save it. Besides, it’s my only “Early Girl” variety in the garden, and I had already envisioned lots of sammies graced with red, sweet slices of its fruit. To borrow a phrase from my friend, I had not only counted my chickens before they hatched, but I also put them in suits and named them!

Anywhoooo ... a friend wanted to see my garbage can potatoes so she could do it as a garden project with her kids, and while she was here, I shared with her my woe about the tomato plant.(Garbage can potatoes are doing awesome!)
She told me that years ago when she and her husband used to have a huge garden, every morning her husband would dilute his leftover coffee and coffee grounds and then water the plants in the garden. She enlightened me that the nitrogen in the coffee cured the “anemic” looking plants. As soon as she said that, I remembered my grandma always watering her plants with leftover coffee.

My grandma was a gardener extraordinaire. Her 100% organic garden(and this was before the “natural” movement”) was absolutely bountiful. My mom’s garden was always gorgeous as well and, again, completely organic. Since both women are now enjoying their Heavenly reward, I turned to the internet for guidance.

It turns out that coffee grounds are a great addition to both compost piles as well as directly into the garden! Only one problem. I don’t drink coffee. I don’t even have a coffee pot, or maker, or French presss, or whatever. I could always go to one of the bazillion Starbucks within 10 minutes of my house, but the thought of hauling heavy, wet, used grounds didn’t thrill me. (Although the seed thought of composting has been planted in my brain, and if I follow up on it, I’d haul said bags in a heartbeat.)

To solve my dilemma, I thought why not just go buy a can of ground coffee and use it? Soooo, on my next trip to the store, I stood in amazement in the coffee isle. Who knew there were so many coffee choices available? Okay, okay you coffee drinkers, be gentle with me. I mean there are a zillion different brands, blends, strengths, “flavors”, grinds, etc. You can buy it buy the bag, carton, can, or even concoct your own blend from bulk bins. Prices raged from under $5 to over $20. I opted for the cheapy store brand of ground French Roast, Medium Dark.

Since all the info on the net refer to USED grounds and I read that un-used grounds could burn the roots, I thought I’d better boil it up first. Using a large 3 quart pot, I dumped about ¾ cup of grounds into the pot and added about a quart of water. Next, the mixture was brought it to a boil. I then filled the pot the rest of the way with cold water and let it sit until the entire pot was room temperature. I gave it a good stir make sure the grounds were swirling in the water, and set out to water the tomato plants.(Coffee grounds on top of soil!) The coffee grounds end up on top of the soil, and I just leave them there.

Oh. My. Gosh. The tomatoes LOVE their coffee. My little anemic plant is fully recovered.(First Early Girl tomato!)
I decided to branch out and try this with the spinach, who were really struggling. Well, they struggle no more.Their growth has exploded! I was so pleased that I “served” coffee to the peppers, cilantro, new parsley, and squash. They are absolutely thriving. I mix up this concoction once per week.
(Italia Sweet Pepper, long variety.)
So, what have I learned? Besides the fact that little cuppa Joe goes a long way in helping the garden, I’ve surmised that despite having terrific organic, rich soil, you sometimes need to provide a little extra to help keep your plants healthy and thriving. The yellowing leaves of my tomato (and then spinach) plants told me that they needed more nitrogen. My other plants were doing great, but now they sport a glorious, deep green color. The marigolds are blooming like crazy. I also notice less critters crawling in the garden. I don’t know if coffee grounds are a bug deterrent, but it’s workin’ for me. Plus, it keeps my garden “chemical” free.

So, do you think your garden would like a cup of coffee?

21 comments:

Marjie said...

I've been layin' down the grounds, because I'm married to an obliging coffee drinker, but never tried giving them their own coffee. You are right, the variety of flavors, grinds, prices, etc., are enough to make you crazy! When he's finished creating his next little dish of grinds, maybe tomorrow, I'm going to add them to coffee and go give the spinach a wake up call!

Cathy said...

Your garden looks great. My daughter followed your instructions and planted garbage can potatoes. The kids love it. How do you harvest them? All at once? A layer at a time? Do you end up with huge potatoes on the bottom and little bitty ones on the top? It's all a mystery.

Mickle in NZ said...

A kitchen garden full of coffee lovers. Brillinat idea and much faster results that re-enriching the soil with "growing" of lupins or peas.

Enjoy the results. The efforrts of Paula and MArjie have me planning a wee veg garden of my own come spring.

Manggy said...

That is an AWESOME tip. I wonder if I could've used it to save some of my plants. SNIFF! Oh, don't worry, I'm okay. Hee hee :)

Bridgett said...

Your garden is coming along beautifully and I will be using that tip with the coffee grounds as my zucchini is looking especially anemic. Did you know that coffee grounds will also keep away that wandering neighbohood cat from digging as well. My peppers are at the same stage as yours and I cannot wait for them. Your garden is lovely!

Mediterranean kiwi said...

to think i throw away my coffee grounds every morning, when i could be helping our tomatoes - thanks for this really good advice

Pam said...

Paula - you can go to Starbucks (or any coffee place) and ask them for their used grinds. My husband makes a loop around town every Saturday and comes back with a trashbag full.

Katherine Aucoin said...

I save my grounds up for my hydrangeas to make them bloom blue. Garbage can potatoes is a new one on my but I definitely have to try this.

Bellini Valli said...

Living under the shade of a maple tree all I need is some sundshine to make my patio garden grow. Love the garbage can potatoes. I live freshly dug new potatoes with a litlle mint and slathered in butter.

noble pig said...

That is so fabulous! I could save all the tomato plants in the world with all my grounds! Thanks for the tip for when I plant them.

Lynda said...

Great photos, Paula; Your garden is just beautiful!I'm a coffe drinker and when I remember, I toss the grounds in the garden, I do that in the winter too.

DayPhoto said...

I am doing this!!!! I have a 'new spot' that is struggling and struggling. Thanks to you Off I GO to the coffee isle. I am so excitied!

Linda
http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com/

Cheryl said...

HA I plant Early Girl tomatoes too! My dad used to use Coffee I had forgotten all about that!

Mrs. L said...

Check out your local coffee shops. Most of mine have a basket full of bagged grounds specifically for gardeners. And they are free!

Grace said...

ah, the wonders of coffee know no end. great tip, paula, and may i say, your plants are looking lovely. :)

Sparow said...

What a great idea! You know, I've done that with houseplants and even herbs but just never made the garden connection (fyi used grounds make good mulch too, and will tear up slugs).

This year (first year in a new garden) our veggies--beans especially-- are looking a little yellowish---I was thinking it might be a nitrogen issue...I think you've given me the solution! Many thanks! (I wonder if I can collect the bottom of the coffeepot in a watering can--that might start to stink....Maybe better to figure out how to do a large-scale occasional operation...hmmm..)

Jan said...

Well done, Paula! We compost, and although we don't drink a lot of coffee what we do goes in there. We do, however, drink a lot of tea, and tea leaves seem to work equally well.

Your post also reminded me that my mother always used to give her plants a pot of cold tea. Thanks for the memory. And I'm so glad your plants have perked up - everything in the garden is looking lovely.

jacobithegreat said...

great to know! my little garden is not thriving. I will definitely try this.

jnscrotsley said...

I am not sure where you live but here in Jacksonville, Fl. StarBucks will actually give you their used grounds for free. They are in like 5 pound bags, not messy at all!

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I will definitely try this method in my garden!