Monday, December 7, 2009

Caffeinated Compost

The Starbucks website includes a page about using coffee grounds in making compost, and it includes the information that the grounds have a carbon to nitrogen ratio of about 20 to 1. This puts coffee grounds in the "greens" category for layering greens (usually fresh, high nitrogen stuff) and browns (more carbon-rich, and usually actually brown, like old leaves) when making compost.

Since this time of year provides plenty of "browns" (fallen leaves) and fewer greens (no mowed lawns, fewer pulled weeds and end-of-production garden crops), coffee grounds can be especially useful. They do tend to acidify both the compost and the soil the compost is used on, so some care is needed in using them in many instances, but some plants need a lower pH (more acid conditions) than other plants.

I usually spread grounds around my blueberries and azaleas, but I also plan to acidify (somewhat) the soil where I intend to plant potatoes. Since this will require more grounds than my household is likely to produce, Joe and I stopped by a Starbucks when we were out running errands yesterday so we could split a cup of coffee and ask about picking up some grounds for the garden.

The staff at the store nearest us (about 3 miles away) had just taken a load of grounds out to the dumpster, so none were available right then, but the manager gave me her card and said to call any morning I expect to be out that way later in the day, and she would save grounds for me.

I called a little before noon today, to let her know I would be in that area in a couple of hours, and the staff had a nice big bag of grounds for me when I got there.

This is my first bag of Starbucks grounds:

Behind the flowerpot is some chard still under cover (actually, an old flannel sheet), and in front of the bag is a volunteer dill that survived Saturday night's deep-freeze. The thermometer on the front porch was showing 27 degrees F on Sunday morning.

Everything under cover came through just fine, as did, amazingly that little bit of dill, but the Brugmansia (Angel Trumpet) looks terrible, and so do the flowers on my Camellia. However, that's what happens in winter, and everything will be fine again in time.

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