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2007-10-19 / Beauty in the Backyard

Stopping to smell the flowers

Perk up your garden
Part 11: Feed your plants coffee grounds
Arlene Marturano

Stopping to smell the flowers
Perk up your garden

Part 11: Feed your plants coffee grounds 
Arlene Marturano


            Arlene Marturano is a master gardener, writer, and educator. As 
            an advocate of gardening as a tool for learning, she helped develop 
            the Carolina Children's Garden at the Sandhill Research and 
            Education Center. She is an education consultant with T.E.A.C.H. marturano@yahoo.com 
            Arlene Marturano is a master gardener, writer, and educator. As an advocate of gardening as a tool for learning, she helped develop the Carolina Children's Garden at the Sandhill Research and Education Center. She is an education consultant with T.E.A.C.H. marturano@yahoo.com

Coffee shops line every corner, and by day's end, Americans scoop heaps of grounds into the garbage when they could put the valuable resource in the garden.

Eleven years ago, Starbucks headquartered in Seattle, started giving grounds to local gardeners on a first- come, firstserved basis. The local stewardship spread quickly and Coffee grounds absorb now includes all Starbucks across North America.

Free for the asking, the grounds are packaged in used coffee bags and fastened with a sticker that gives recycling tips

The grounds have nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the basic N- P- K nutrients for plant growth, plus calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.

In the language of composting, coffee grounds are considered a green like grass clippings.

The brown components in compost are dead leaves, sawdust, and hardwood ashes. The browns contribute carbon.

Gardeners extol the many benefits of the grounds. Coffee grounds are a good nitrogen source for plants with a carbonnitrogen ratio of 20:1. When mixed with brown materials in the compost bin, grounds generate heat to speed up decomposition. moisture and thereby improve soil texture. The acidity of the grounds can be balanced with lime and hardwood ashes.

However, many gardeners mulch acid- loving plants like azaleas, camellias, and blueberries with spent grounds.

Coffee grounds can keep hydrangeas blue, too. Growers use tomatoes for the nitrogen boost and add calcium to suppress late blight. Roses and vegetable beds benefit from the java jolt as well.

Sprinkle the grounds on lawns to contribute nitrogen, the greening nutrient for actively growing lawns. When it comes to growing Hostas and lillies, slugs and snails are repelled by the grounds. Earthworms relish a coffee klatsch in a vermicompost bin, and in no time their java castings perk up the garden.

Outdoor container plants and indoor houseplants awaken when grounds are worked into the soil or used as a liquid plant fertilizer. Dilute the grounds in water to form an amber cordial, but refrain from pouring cold cups of coffee down the drain; feed your plants instead.

Don't overdo with straight coffee grounds in the soil. Composting the grounds with kitchen scraps, yard debris, and wood ashes forms a less acidic product.

If grounds are not dried and worked into the soil, they may form an unwanted mildew mat. Wet grounds may be dried in the oven at a low temperature.

Instead of only enjoying your morning coffee in the garden, share the experience with your plants. It can stimulate your green thumb and promote healthy plant growth.

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