Grow, little garden, grow!

Did you know that you have some incredible garden fertilizers, right in your very own kitchen?

As I am trying to keep my garden costs low, I have been so blessed this year to discover a few very simple, yet very effective ways to boost my garden!

It all started on a short date with my husband to our local Starbucks. While waiting for our drink, I happened to notice a bucket with a couple of large bags in it, labeled “Grounds for your Garden”. Intrigued, I picked one up and asked the Barista what people usually do with them. She answered that she wasn’t quite sure, but that they were supposed to help with the soil or compost or something like that, she just knew that many, many people swore by them. Hmmm…

I hoisted the weighty bag into my arms, and walked out, feeling mysteriously as though I was on the verge of something great. After mentioning the grounds to my friend that week (which were still sitting in their lovely silver bag, untouched, on my patio), she sent me a link that night to this website page, where I learned that:

Coffee by-products can be used in the garden and farm as follows:

Sprinkle used grounds around plants before rain or watering, for a slow-release nitrogen.

Add to compost piles to increase nitrogen balance. Coffee filters
and tea bags break down rapidly during composting.

Dilute with water for a gentle, fast-acting liquid fertilizer. Use about a half-pound can of wet grounds in a five-gallon bucket of water; let sit outdoors to achieve ambient temperature.

Mix into soil for houseplants or new vegetable beds.

Encircle the base of the plant with a coffee and eggshell barrier to repel pests.

If you are into vermi-posting, feed a little bit to your worms

After reading the testimonials, I felt that at the very least, I could give them a try. I tossed a bunch in with my compost, sprinkled some more half-heartedly on a few areas of my garden, and then finished the bag off in the compost again.

At first, I didn’t think much of it at all, but this week it started to make sense to me. My slow-going compost had been quite hot and steamy (hee, hee, those words sound funny to describe compost) when I turned it the week before, and this week while turning it, I suddenly realized that the compost I thought would never compost was actually nearing usability! When did that happen? Perhaps the nitrogen had really boosted the speed of the composting!

My second epiphany came this week while reading my trusty How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method as my kids splashed around in the bath. I felt like I had gone back in time to the beginning’s of my health journey as I realized that just like our bodies, vegetables and fruits (well, all plants) need particular nutrients in particular amounts, or they will not grow healthy, strong or fruitful! (Okay, seriously, I somewhat knew that, but I had so much to wrap my mind around in learning to garden that I hadn’t really gotten around to that part yet… I never said I was a fast learner!)

The proverbial lightbulb suddenly came on and I had a whole new view of my garden, it’s poor soil, and the mildly stunted growth it was experiencing at the moment (part of which I know is due to the cold, cloudy stretch of weather we’ve been having).

As I read through the different types of organic fertilizers and their nutrient content, I realized that coffee grounds were acidic and would alter the pH for those of my plants that were really needing a very acidic or mildly acidic soil.

According to the book, here are some of the plants that require more acidic conditions to flourish.

  • Quite Acid (pH from 4.0 to 6.0):
  • Blackberry, blueberry, huckleberry, raspberry, cranberry
  • Potato
  • Sweet potato
  • Radish
  • Watermelon
  • Slightly Acid (pH from 6.0 to 6.5):
  • Apple, Peach, Pear, Cherry
  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Kale
  • Parsley
  • Pea
  • Pepper
  • Squash (all, including pumpkin and zuchinni)
  • Strawberry
  • Tomato
  • Turnip

With this in mind, I am now eager to get myself some more coffee grinds (I think I’ll make a Starbucks run tonight, with absolutely no intention of buying coffee!). The best part is that they are free, either from a local coffee shop or the remnants from your morning cuppa!

In addition, while I was reading up on all of the nutrients that my poor garden was obviously lacking, I realized that part of why my tomatoes might be so lacklustre could be a lack of calcium (very important for tomatoes, apparently).

I had already been washing, drying and crushing all of my egg shells, with the hope of deterring slugs (a point which is debated, as to whether the egg shells actually work or not). However, I discovered that egg shells happen to contain much calcium carbonate!

Now, I am crushing my egg shells more finely and using them as fertilizer as well. I think that I will actually begin to put them into my food processor to grind them into a powder, to help the nutrients to be absorbed into the soil more readily. Once again, fertilizer at my fingertips, for free!

Last but not least, have I mentioned that I am mulching this year?

I’ve just read so many positive things about it (less weeds, more heat/drought tolerance, need to water less frequently, organic matter decomposes and enriches soil, etc.) that I just had to try and see it for myself.

I looked up hay on Craigslist and was so pleased to find bales of spoiled alfalfa hay for just the price I was willing to pay- $0 (though I did end up putting $20 of gas into the truck I borrowed to pick it up, but that’s besides the point).

I’ve been working to carefully mulch around my plants, and even in my walkways, and I’m pleased to say that I think the weeds are less than they would be otherwise, which is a huge bonus for me! I don’t think that I have mulched thickly enough yet, so I will keep adding more and seeing how that affects the weed population. It will take until next year, probably, to really see the results, but I am optimistic and hey, it can’t hurt!

So there you have it- 3 free/cheap ways to boost your garden this summer:

1) Coffee grounds

2) Eggs shells

3) Mulch

Now all I need is a little sunshine, and I’m set!

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  1. What great ideas! My tomatoes are looking very sad, so I am going to do the eggs shells today! Thanks for the great ideas!

  2. I love this tip! I have heard of pouring leftover coffe (or even soda) in a potted plant, but coffee grounds in the garden? I am SO doing this! (and eggshells too!) Go tomatoes go! 🙂

  3. What a timely post! I was just looking at my green peppers this morning. They don’t look like they are doing so hot. I was going to go out and buy some organic fertilizer this weekend. But now I don’t have to. Thanks for the free and frugal ideas!

  4. Several years ago, we purchased an old home (built in the 50’s)- we’ve since moved- that had very poor soil. We worked to add some semblance of landscaping and a garden. By doing just the 3 things you mentioned, our plants started flourishing! They really work!

    By the way, we found that the roses love the coffee grounds, too. 🙂 The eggshells are also helpful in deterring slugs/snails.


  5. Thanks for the coffee info. I’ve been wanting to try adding grounds to the garden but wasn’t sure how. I did try growing wheat grass in coffee grounds–sounds crazy but I thought it was worth a try. The coffee by itself holds too much water and molded quickly. Not to mention that when I did water the tiny seedlings of grass, coffee poured out the bottom.

  6. Reason Number 27 I wish I had a little place to garden! Looks like you are doing a great job!


    PS – I’m doing a new series next week on lacto-fermented fruits and veggies . . . come on by!

  7. I always start saving egg shells a couple months before I put my garden in. I just keep a container in the frig and put them in there. When I plant my tomatoes, I put shells in the holes right along with my plants.
    We always seem to have a good crop.

  8. Ohh…I like it. Your Starbucks just had them sitting out for anyone to take? I haven’t seen that before. My plants are doing really well so far with a natural fertilizer that I paid only $5 for (supposed to last for 7 plants, 2 applications). I will definitely be putting your ideas to use. Thanks.

    Do you have any ideas for composting on my small deck? I don’t have any lawn, and am needing ideas for how to make my condo patio work somehow. Even now with four containers of tomatoes and one container of green peppers, our AC unit, and small patio set, its getting pretty tight. I wonder if I could store something in my garage?

  9. Michele, glad to hear these ideas have worked for you!

    Pieces, in my research for this post, I came across someone talking about mixing topsoil with coffee grounds for starting plants in- interesting! Sounded like he had some success with it.

    Sarah, that’s a great topic for a series- I’ll have to visit!

    Lindsay, some Starbucks put it out, and some you have to ask. I would definitely just ask if they can give you any grounds, and I bet you’ll get some!

    As for composting, I would recommend getting a worm composting box (I think it’s called vermi-composting?). Many city halls will actually sell them very cheap, to encourage residents to reduce their curbside waste. They are not too big, and can actually fit under a kitchen sink, where they do well. They are apparently pretty fast and efficient at producing compost, so they might work for you! And I remember when we lived in a condo (first 4 years of our marriage), and had no yard. It can be such a tight squeeze, hey? Hang in there! 🙂

  10. Great ideas. I had seen the box at Starbucks, so I’ll have to take advantage of that. And I think I’m going to go put egg shells on my tomatoes this evening, as they are looking a little sad! I’m excited to see if this works because fertilizer–even the organic stuff–scares me, and it’s really pricey!

  11. Thank you for sharing all of these ideas! I’m saving your great post in my Bloglines so I can refer back to all your great info in the near future. :o)

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