Here in California, many of us know much more about the best restaurant in our neighborhood than we do about the best local garden. We know which cafe has the best coffee roast more than the ins-and-outs of good soil biology. Fortunately, there are some easy to follow steps to enhance your backyard soil, without breaking the bank. In fact, there is a natural and beneficial soil amendment right under your nose! That's right: Coffee grounds are a great natural food source for the soil. So, follow these simple steps and stop throwing away your spent coffee grounds.
1. Separate coffee grounds from your other compost. Also remove paper sleeve if possible.
2. Identify heavy feeders in your garden. Heavy feeders are plants that welcome regular nutrients.
List of some Heavy Feeders:
Apple, Pear, Plum, Cherry, Avocado, Tomato, Squash, Pumpkin, Corn, Roses, Camelias, Magnolias, Azaleas
Note: Many California Native plants and Mediterranean plants (*Ie: Sages and Lavenders) do NOT want such rich nutrients regularly added to their roots. Please avoid such plants and stick to heavy feeding perennials and vegetables.
3. “Sugar shake” the grounds around heavy feeders, so that it is sprinkled around. Note: Avoid clumping a whole handful of grounds in any given area, as it is very acidic. Therefore it is important to sprinkle the grounds around the plants.
4. Repeat this application of coffee grounds 1 time per month. This way you keep finding new destinations for your coffee grounds.
Don't have a garden yet? Fret not! You can begin to feed and enhance the soil biology of empty plots as well with this coffee sugar-shaking method! Have a large project? Talk to your local coffee shop and arrange to pick up bags of spent grounds. They are usually very willing!
Want to learn more? Check out my video for how I go to Starbucks all over the Bay Area and glean free castings for all of my garden projects!
So sugar shake those coffee grounds out of your trash or compost and into your garden. Give your summer crops a boost with coffee grounds!
Joshua Burman Thayer is a landscape designer and permaculture consultant with Native Sun Gardens. He is the Urban Agriculture Supervisor for Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation in San Francisco, Calif. Find him at Native Sun Gardens and read his other MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.