Garden Compost

Savor Those Coffee Grounds

Coffee Mug

  1. Love coffee?  Well, drink up – but don’t throw those grounds out with the trash. Gardening Junkys know there really is more to coffee than just drinking it. It turns out coffee can play a part in organic gardening. So not only can you drink it, but you can use the coffee grounds to make your garden soil and plants happy.

Brewed coffee is acidic, but the grounds produced from the brew are not. The brewing process removes the acid and they become neutral and nitrogen-rich. This is good news and lends itself to practical applications in your garden.

Probably the easiest thing to do with your coffee grounds is to add them to your compost pile. They are considered a “green” material just like any vegetable peelings and grass clippings. Being rich in nitrogen means they will help heat up your compost and aid in a faster decomposing time. As with any composting, brown materials such as dry leaves should be in your bin as well.

Another way to use your grounds is to work them well into the soil before you plant your garden. Or consider lightly sprinkling them around your garden before a good watering as if they were a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer.

Consider making a compost tea with the remains. Try grounds and water for a weak mix and let it heat up. Strain it and spray on the plant leaves. You might want to do a test run first to make sure it’s not too strong.

Some people like to spread coffee grounds around their acid-loving plants, but since the coffee’s acid was depleted in the brewing process, it may not really give extra help to these plants. There are those who swear by it though.

If crawling pests are a problem, try spreading grounds and crushed egg shells around plants in an effort to deter pests such as slugs.

Feed the worms, they like coffee too! If you have a worm bin you can feed it to them in small doses mixed in with your other kitchen scraps. If you don’t have a worm bin, working it into your pile or directly into your soil will benefit the wrigglers who will, in turn, benefit your soil.

You can keep a compost bucket in the kitchen for your grounds after you brew your coffee and then dump them all into your compost bin at the end of the week. Alternatively, you can get larger quantities by visiting your local coffee shops and asking for their grounds. Consider making arrangements to pick up their waste on a specific day each week and they’ll keep you “grounded”.  Do watch your ratio though, as it should not be more than 20-25% of your total compost material.

The next time you have coffee, save the remains for the benefit of your garden. Put them in your compost pile, feed the worms, work into the soil, or use in a tea, and watch your plants thrive.

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Photo Credit: strotter13

Maintaining a Compost Heap

Compost Pile ImageMany people who maintain gardens have a large amount of organic waste, from grass clippings to leaves and dead plants. Unfortunately, many waste money and time having these wastes transported to a landfill. It isn’t just a waste of good compost; it’s a waste of everything that goes into the process of transporting it (the garbage man’s time, the money you pay for the removal, etc). It is truly a travesty.

All this garbage that people are trying to get rid of can be a better supplement for your garden than any fertilizer or chemical. If you properly facilitate the decomposition of all of the garbage, it will alter chemically until it is in such a state that it can be nothing but beneficial nutrition for other plants. Therefore you can turn all the stuff you would have thrown away into top grade fertilizer for your garden.

Usually compost is maintained in a pile somewhere in your backyard. Usually the thought of a compost heap brings disturbing images to ones mind; heaps of rotten garbage emitting a horrid odor. However, if you maintain it correctly you’ll be able to produce great compost without producing an offensive odor. When I first began my compost pile in an effort to improve environmental health, I made several major errors. These included preventing the pile from the oxygen it truly needed, and keeping it to dry. It ended up decomposing in a very non-beneficial way, and producing an odor so foul that I had government agents knocking at my door.

When you are choosing your spot where you will be putting all of these materials, you should aim for a higher square footage. Having a really deep pile of compost is not a good idea, because generally the deeper sections won’t be exposed to anything that is required for the process to work. It is better to spread it all out over a large area. If you have a shed or a tool shack of some sort, it is a possibility to spread it over the roof (with boards to keep it from falling off, of course). I have seen this done several times, and it helps keep the pile out of the way while still maintaining a large square footage.

A compost heap can consist of any organic garbage from your yard, garden or kitchen. This includes leaves, grass, any leftover food that won’t be eaten, or newspaper (no more than a fifth of your pile should consist of newspaper, due to it having a harder time composting with the rest of the materials). Usually if you have a barrel devoted to storing all of these things, it will fill up within several weeks. It is quite easy to obtain compost, but the hard part truly comes in getting it to compost.

After you have begun to get a large assortment of materials in your compost heap, you should moisten the whole pile. This encourages the process of composting. Also chop every element of the pile into the smallest pieces possible. As the materials start to compress and meld together as they decompose, frequently head outside and aerate the pile. You can use a shovel to mix it all up, or an aeration tool to poke dozens of tiny holes into it. Doing this will increase the oxygen flow to each part of the pile, and oxygen is required for any decomposition to take place.

If maintaining a compost pile sounds like something that would interest you, start considering the different placement options. The hardest part about maintaining a pile is choosing a spot that provides enough square footage without intruding on the rest of your yard or garden. While usually you can prevent the horrible odors that most people associate with compost heaps, it’s still not a pleasant thing to have to look at whenever you go for a walk in your garden.

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