Coffee truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Now, I’ll admit, as a coffee lover through and through, I am a little biased, but between the health benefits and various ways you can re-use the grounds around your home, it’s hard not to love this deliciously caffeinated beverage. I love a well-made cup of coffee first thing in the morning, but for me, the grounds are as valuable as the liquid coffee itself.
One of my favorite ways to get extra mileage out of my favorite beans is out in the garden. There are so many opportunities to re-use those old coffee grounds to improve the health and life of your backyard garden that the two seem to be made for each other. And the best part about it is that you don’t have to be a coffee drinker to reap the rewards. Many of my local coffee shops offer used grounds for free, packed and ready for you to come take off of their hands.
So, without further ado, here are my personal top 5 favorite ways to get those grounds working for you in your home garden.
HEAVY FEEDER SIDE-DRESSING
Most people that have tried their hand at gardening know that the primary nitrogen component in homemade fertilizers is seed meal. Well, aside from being delicious, the coffee bean is really just a processed seed and is also high in nitrogen content (about 10%). While the exact amount depends on the specific bean and how you brew it, the carbon to nitrogen ratio of your used grounds will be about 11:1, which is perfect for plant and flower soil nutrition.
With those kinds of nitrogen levels, coffee grounds make the perfect side-dressing for hearty greens and fruiting vegetables like tomatoes that are starving for nutrients early on in their growth.
PERFECT SHEET MULCH
This is probably how I utilize coffee grounds in my garden most often. When in doubt, I dump the grounds right onto the existing soil around my berry and fruit trees. Most people assume that because it can have a bitter taste and at times hurt your stomach that coffee grounds are very acidic, but I have personally tested my own soil, and the results show that the levels are only mildly acidic to alkaline.
Additionally, after doing a bit of my own research, I discovered that as the coffee grounds decompose, they transition to a more neutral pH composition. I have used the grounds as mulch for a variety of plants and trees all with great results.
I would, however, take it easy when applying the grounds to your soil. You don’t want huge piles as this can lead to mold from excessive moisture. I usually aim for about 1/2” layer in addition to my normal mulch, and this seems to be a good sweet spot – as it breaks down and dries up, feel free to add more.
GETTING RID OF FUNGAL DISEASES
Even the most seasoned gardeners deal with fungus in the gardens, and it’s happened to me on a number of occasions. So I was naturally excited to learn that when the coffee ground begins to decompose, they develop their own fungal colonies that can compete and fight off other fungal colonies that are less desirable (like the ones that want to kill your plants). After all, when you have invaders in your garden, it makes sense to unleash your own army on them.
According to my research, the fungal colonies on coffee can ward off some the most common fungal rots that you might experience in your garden. You also don’t have to wait until you have a problem on your hands. If I have the grounds around, I will simply throw some in the hole where I’ll be planting to get ahead of the issue.
CREATING A NATURAL FENCE FOR SLUGS AND SNAILS
Slugs are another common issue than can plague gardens, and creating a perimeter of coffee grounds can keep them out. This works equally wells for other critters like snails as well. I’m not completely sure why this works, but I would bet the sharp edges of the grounds don’t feel great on their bellies and prevents them from getting any closer.
If you are dealing with larger problem animals like cats, dogs or rodents, you can mix in some dried orange peels, and the undetectable but pungent odor will keep them away.
Due to the rich nitrogen content addressed above, coffee grounds are an excellent addition to your compost pile. In my experience, to find the proper balance and not overdo it, equal parts grounds, dead leaves, and clippings seem to be a good rule of thumb. If you add too much, you can end up throwing off the pH balance and doing more harm than good. As an added bonus, the grounds will create antimicrobial activity in the compost and produce a healthier, more powerful end product.
Remy Bernard is the owner and editor at Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes. A baker, chef and writer, Remy started Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes as a way to deepen and spread her passion for making delicious food and green living.
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