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Friday, September 28, 2007

Coffee, Anyone?

My garden has had trouble all three years we have had it. One of its problems is that it only gets partial sun during the day - the most sun we can find in our yard. The other problems is that there are walnut trees all around our yard, including by our garden, which release a toxin through their root system that is hard on many garden plants.

This year my tomato plants looked quite droopy most of the summer. I decided that they might need some coffee to perk them up.

Twice a week I go to the coffee shop on the square and pick up a bucket of coffee grounds and filters to throw into my garden. Used coffee ground are an excellent fertilizer and filters decompose and add organic matter, both of which can decrease the toxic effects from the walnut trees. The coffee shop is more than happy to give me their heavy, wet garbage too.

Although I didn't mind the coffee filters out there (they make a great mulch!), Ethan didn't really care for the look of them in the garden. So now I add them to my kitchen compost barrel outside of our door, which eventually goes to the larger compost pile in the railroad ditch adjoining our property.

After pulling out the filters, I am left with a bucket of pure coffee grounds to spread on the garden. The coffee grounds have a 20:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. To balance the ratio out to a 30:1 ratio, ideal for composting, I add sawdust - given to me from my dad who is a woodworker. The sawdust will "capture" nitrogen (fertilizer) from the coffee grounds and will make it available as the sawdust decomposes. It also adds some of the extra organic material to my garden that I was looking for.

It sounds like it is quite a long drawn out process, but really it only takes a couple minutes. It also gets me out of the house and outside where I can feel like I am doing farmy type things. I think if/when we get to the country, I might still go after the free coffee fertilizer but will just dump it into the compost pile to be spread later - after the filters decompose. As for now, I am hoping that all of this will help turn my golf ball sized tomatoes into softball sized tomatoes next year!


Blair Family! said...

Very interesting. If you add them to your regular compost pile will they have the same effect? What about tea leaves, does that work too? Just curious. We started a compost pile for the first time this year so it's all kind of new.

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

I think that if you add them to your compost pile instead of just dumping it in the garden, it can actually be better. You wouldn't have as much of the valuable nitrogen escaping in the air and through run off. The carbon in the compost would catch it and make it easily available after it composts. I am just dumping it on now because I want the nitrogen on now even if I lose a bunch - my garden is pretty cruddy.

Tea leaves would be great to compost. They would be nitrogen (or a "green"). So would a lot of your other kitchen waste. Just don't put in meats and milk products. They take awhile to break down and attract vermin.

Balance the nitrogen out with carbon (or "browns"). Things such as dried leaves, dried grass, shredded newspapers, cardboard . . .

Have fun!

Here are a couple sites with some extra info:

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