Coffee in the Garden

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Coffee in the garden is my favorite way to spend a morning. It's one of the most peaceful ways I've found to wake up, and it's also a great way to get some work done before the heat and business of the day.

Did you know your garden soil also likes coffee in the morning?

Actually, your soil doesn't care if it's coffee in the morning, afternoon, or evening. What really matters are the nitrogen rich nutrients and organic material that coffee provides the soil. Coffee can also help deter some pests.

Read below to learn three ways you can use leftover coffee grounds in the garden.

No coffee drinkers in your house? No worries, you can usually pick up free grounds from your local coffee shop. Just ask!

1. Incorporate grounds directly into the soil

Coffee grounds break down quickly and can be directly incorporated into the soil. It's actually best if you don't leave them on top like a mulch because they can develop a water resistant layer. When added in large amounts, they can affect the acidity of the soil, which is great for evergreens, azaleas, or blueberry plants you might have at home. Otherwise, your peppers, parsley, radishes, potatoes and rhubarb in your community garden plot will appreciate it.

Even if you don't have acid-loving plants, coffee grounds in smaller amounts break down quickly and add a great source of nitrogen for all your vegetables. It can also be used to amend heavy clay soils (which is what most of our soils are in Missoula!)

If you need one more reason to add coffee grounds into the soil, worms love them!

Note: As with all amendments or fertilizers, keep an eye on your plants. If they start to turn yellow or seem to be reacting negatively to the amendments, you may have used too much and should stop.

2. Pest deterrent

Used coffee grounds are a natural deterrent for snails and slugs if you lay grounds in a ring around your plants. It may also keep rabbits and roaming cats from messing in your garden. Because coffee grounds can be easily washed away with regular watering and break down quickly, refresh the grounds often, once or twice a week, to keep up the efficacy of the repellent.

3. Coffee in the Compost

 Compost is all about a balance between greens and browns.

Compost is all about a balance between greens and browns.

Coffee grounds add a high amount of easily accessible nitrogen to a compost pile. If you're familiar with composting lingo, although coffee grounds are brown in color, they are considered a "green" addition and act similarly to kitchen scraps and grass clippings in a compost pile. They create the heat to break down materials fast. If you need to jump start a slow compost pile, add coffee grounds! (Keep in mind, a lot goes a long way.)

Finally, like I mentioned earlier, worms love coffee grounds, and the more worms in your compost the better!

Note: For all of these applications above, never use any flavored coffee or grounds that have added cream, milk or sugar. The sugars and fats can not only harm your plants and invite pests, but also result in a stinky mess.