Coffee Grinds

Palm Coast, FL(Zone 9a)

Can someone explain what is the benefit of putting coffee grinds on plants. I've heard this from different folks, but no one can actually explain the benefit. Thank you.

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 9a)

It is especially good for acid loving plants…Azaleas, Blueberries, etc. They are also a good addition to your compost pile. And I have even used them on ant mounds, and had good success, but I'm not sure if it killed them or just moved them away. :-)

Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

Often Jeremy hits Starbucks up for used coffee grounds.
They also can affect the colors of Hydrangea. I think there are tons of plants that like acid soil.
DB recommends instant oatmeal. He says they take it to the queen and when she eats it she implodes.
The other ants eat it too with the same result.

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

A couple years ago when the sego palms had a disease, putting grounds around the plants prevented it.
Figure if coffee is good for me, it must also be good for the plants.

Tea bags can also be put out.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

Coffee grounds are very high in NITROGEN.

Palm Coast, FL(Zone 9a)

Thanks everyone for the info. I'll start spreading it around. I've heard before about the grinds but just could not remember the benefit. With this Florida sand any nutrients will benefit. Thank you.

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 9a)

Amen to that! I've even found that this Florida sand eats,consumes,devours, etc. all of the compost that I feed it! One year ago, I started a perennial border…I loaded the area with organic material, compost, leaf mold, etc.,etc.,etc…..If I dig a hole today, in this same bed…I find nothing but sand! It is definitely a never ending process!

Indian Harbour Beach, FL(Zone 10a)

It's gravity! It all gets sucked down to China -- that's where even some of our food stuff is coming from these days.

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

I amend the soil every year with cow manure. If I don't all I have is sand which does nothing nutritional for plants. I use it both on ornamentals and veggies. Heck we have plenty anyhow so no need it letting it go to waste. Helps hold a little water also.
Should add coffee grounds too. I use fish emulsion also all the time.
Happy Gardening.

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from tlm1 :
Amen to that! I've even found that this Florida sand eats,consumes,devours, etc. all of the compost that I feed it! One year ago, I started a perennial border…I loaded the area with organic material, compost, leaf mold, etc.,etc.,etc…..If I dig a hole today, in this same bed…I find nothing but sand! It is definitely a never ending process!

As time allows I have been following with interest research into alternative treatment of organic materials for use in tropical soils. The idea actually dates back to a journal kept by an early European explorer in South America who reported he saw large native populations in areas with highly-weathered tropical soils that are now generally considered too poorly supplied with nutrients and too acidic to sustain repeated cropping. He reported seeing the indigenous people charring vegetation and reported they grew crops in the charred areas, and implied that the nature and complexity of the structures and villages indicated that they tended to farm the same areas for extended periods of time - something that until recently soil scientists would tell you could not be done. But more recent investigations in the area he reported exploring have uncovered layers of dark soil very distinctively uncharacteristic of the region that are locally "mined" by the current inhabitants and used to improve their gardens. Tests have shown that these soils are rich in charcoal, and that nutrient-poor tropical soils amended with these ancient burned-over soils are capable of incredible increases in crop yields. The peculiar area went unnoticed for many years because later explorers were unable to locate the large villages reported by the original discoverer, but it is now believed the natives were virtually wiped out by introduced diseases in the interval and the area abandoned.

In short, the charred vegetation has many of the desirable properties of organic amendments - increased water-retention, increased root penetration, and especially increased nutrient holding capacity - but with the additional ability to resist breakdown by soil microorganisms. There is a growing volume of very interesting information that can be easily located on the web by searching on the term "Biochar".

-Rich

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

When I was a kid my grandfather used to carry all his wood ashes out and dump onto his garden spot. We burned wood in stoves up north all the time. He always said it helped his plants and he always had a wonderful high yield garden. Wish I burned my fireplace more often but here in Fl. rarely need it.

Organic material to cover the soil is always best where we have a garden for vegies. I'm so thankful we have cows cause they always contribute.
Bonnie

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Wood ash is a good source of a number of minerals, especially potassium, but it is very strongly alkaline and it doesn't do anything for moisture or cation holding capacity. Biochar isn't ash, it's charcoal, preferably just barely charred through, and it's best made from green vegetation rather than wood. The charring inhibits breakdown by soil microorganisms while retaining a lot of the original cell wall structure. That's what makes it so valuable in worn-out soils in hot, humid places.

Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

I read some info. on biochar and it sounds interesting.

Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

The sugar cane fields are all burned after the harvest. Heavy carbon, but tradition. I don't see near as many smokey streams going up as I did 20 years ago.
I did however see the black ground a year ago coming the back way back to Okeechobee from Key West.
Sidney

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

floridag -- the article I wrote for DG about coffee grounds can be found here: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1501/ I actually did quite a bit of Internet research about the scientific factoids relating to coffee grounds and gardening. I hope you find the article interesting. One factoid -- coffee grounds are far less acidic than is generally believed (according to the scientific analyses). Most of the acid is removed in the brewing process. However, I still find that coffee grounds are sufficiently acidic to keep my Hydrangeas mostly blue without adding aluminum sulfate or other soil acidifiers.

It is true, and verified by the UF IFAS botanists -- coffee grounds placed around the base of sago palms will prevent Asian Cycad Scale disease (the white powdery stuff that looks like the sago leaves have been sprayed with artificial Christmas snow, but is actually insects).

I liberally spread coffee grounds around all my plants. Lacking a vehicle, I haven't made my usual raid on the Starbuck's supply (usually placed in school room type trash cans in foil bags by the front door). I may break down and drag a few pounds home on the bus someday soon! LOL

I also place fireplace ashes around my plants. As noted above, mostly for the Potassium content. It is the same idea as old-timey farmers burning their fields before planting -- removes weeds and increases Potassium. But such open burning in Florida is prohibited in most areas -- however (being someone that once enforced the air pollution laws that are concerned with open burning), if you put on fantastic garb and a headdress, you can legally justify your burning as a "ceremonial fire," or if you keep a supply of marshmallows or hot dogs nearby with appropriate sticks, you can legally justify it as a "camp fire." On especially cold days, you can claim it as a warming fire for outdoor workers and not get a citation. The fire should generally be confined to a pit, barrel or small area to meet the above legal caveats.

The VERY BEST soil amendment I've found for my very sandy north Florida soil is to simply allow oak tree limbs and stumps to decay. (edited to add: It takes about 4 - 5 years for very large oak trunks to decay, only about 1 - 2 years for branches about 1 ft diameter). The result is a deeply rich humus that plants seem to love. You might have some concern about termites coming to the deteriorating wood, but from my many experiments, I've never seen termites eating the oak (termites have plenty to eat in the kiln dried wood of homes LOL). The decomposition of the oak stumps/branches seems to start with beetles, centipedes, probably some Palmetto Bugs (large roaches that prefer outdoors), and fungi/virus/bacteria. Later on, a multitude of earthworms move in and really do the final work of turning the decaying oak into good humus. If you find sufficiently large oak stump pieces or large limbs, you can use them as planters for bromeliads while the oak decays. It is the perfect home for bromeliads. The bromeliads in my garden that are growing on the oak stumps/branches are the happiest that I have.

Jeremy

This message was edited Jan 14, 2013 5:17 PM

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from sugarweed :
The sugar cane fields are all burned after the harvest. Heavy carbon, but tradition. I don't see near as many smokey streams going up as I did 20 years ago.
I did however see the black ground a year ago coming the back way back to Okeechobee from Key West.

Charcoal / Biochar has to be made by stopping the combustion process before it is complete and allowing the residual heat to char the remaining plant material in the absence of oxygen. Just burning off fields doesn't produce much if any. It's not at all the same as "slash and burn" agriculture - that technique destroys soil structure and results in a net loss of nutrients, pretty much the opposite of what Biochar attempts to do.

Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

I would hope they are biocharing.
S

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from sugarweed :
I would hope they are biocharing.
S

It's unlikely. Bio-charring in place takes either a lot of labor (as it was done originally) or some fairly sophisticated equipment. You can't just ignite the plant material and walk away. You have to stop the process before everything turns to ash, graphite and carbon dioxide, which it will do on its own. High temperatures destroy the cell wall structure that is one of the keys to the success of Biochar. Uncontrolled burning in the presence of air turns the carbon compounds into carbon dioxide, leaving behind some mineral elements but ruining the ability of the material to hold water and nutrients and thereby positively affect soil structure. In fact, the only place "burning" has in the process is to get the remaining material hot enough to char, which then inhibits bacterial & fungal breakdown while preserving the basic chemistry and structure. That's because charring alters the composition or "shape" of the original celluloses, lignans, carbohydrates, etc. just enough to keep them from being attacked by the enzymes the soil organisms usually use, and allows the Biochar material to remain in the soil for very long periods of times essentially unaltered.

Because the material lasts so long in the soil and changes the structure and activity so profoundly, the benefits in worn-out tropical soils far outweigh the costs.

-Rich


This message was edited Jan 17, 2013 4:31 PM

Oviedo, FL(Zone 9b)

Do you find raised beds to be effective? If you can compost most or all of these elements, wood ash, coffee grounds, oak leaves, etc you will get a really rich organic compost mix. If you use wood ash, sprinkle it lightly in the compost layers, otherwise moisture will make it harden into a barrier. My son up here in MA mines the local starbucks for coffee grounds, but we put them in the compost bins along with the grass clippings and shredded leaves. We find you have to shred the harder leaves, like oak, to get them to break down more quickly . He does it with the lawn mower. if they remain whole, forget it. He recently removed some old compacted leaf piles that had to have come with our property 30 years ago. the leaves were brittle, but still intact shape-wise. This would probably be true for palm tree debris, and other harder leaved species.
I recently returned from a vacation in the Miami-Ft. Pierce area and was amazed by the lushness of the growth. We are contemplating moving down to Florida and I will have to take some gardening "refresher" courses about the differing styles of gardening in Zones 9-10.
Martha

Indian Harbour Beach, FL(Zone 10a)

if you do move to Florida and if you have the time, I would highly recommend that you contact your county extension office (part of the University of Florida), and sign up for their Master Gardener course. I learned (and was told) that when you move to Florida, you can forget everything you thought you knew about gardening! I've never, ever regretted taking the classes and I'm still a Master Gardener.

Oviedo, FL(Zone 9b)

I brought home some live oak acorns, Orchid. Can I just plant them up and they'll sprout? I have to use chilled acorns up here if I want an oak seedling to sprout. usually can find them started on the ground here. It would help to know.
Thanks,
Martha

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

gardenmart - We welcome you to Florida if you do decide to move! It's true -- gardening here is quite a bit different from gardening even a few hundred miles north in terms of the species that will grow, but I'm sure you will settle in and learn how to make things grow in our subtropical climate. I, too, completed the Master Gardener training and it is helpful, but it is a lot of information thrown at you very quickly. Trial and error still seems to work best for me in gardening.

If I can identify what the seedlings look like, I can probably send you a supply of Live Oak seedlings. I have oaks of many species popping up all over my yard and I pull all of them as "weeds" because I just don't need anymore shade.

Jeremy

Oviedo, FL(Zone 9b)

Thanks, Jeremy, but I brought some live oak acorns home. I am just going to pot them up and see what sprouts. If I get them to grow, I may enter one or the other in our Flower Show seed starting category next year. I have plenty of oak seedlings in my own yard here {lol} cause northern oaks have the same weed problem that southern oaks do apparently. We have twelve extremely mature oak trees on our property that in a good acorn year produce thousands of acorns. Lots of weeding the year after.
Thanks,
Martha

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from orchid923 :
I learned (and was told) that when you move to Florida, you can forget everything you thought you knew about gardening!

Amen to that! And I only lived one state up, in Georgia! After all the years I spent learning to cope with the heavy red acidic clay in the Piedmont, I end up on sand with a limerock base...

-Rich

Palm Coast, FL(Zone 9a)

I've lived in FL my entire life and it's still a learning experience. I've lived in South FL., North FL., and currently living in Central FL. and have learned that even within one State, the growing regions are quite different. Things that will grow here in Central FL. will not grow in South FL. because of the heat and will not Grow in North FL. due to the cold... and vice versa. It's constant trial and error here...LOL.

Oviedo, FL(Zone 9b)

We have that climate variation here too. just not so much in the winter. We had almost no snow the last two years so I guess we were due for the blizzard this year. I live very close to the coast so our weather is modified somewhat to the climate further inland west of here. the ocean effect. When I moved here 30 years ago, I went looking in the local arboretum for trees and shrubs that would do well because I wasn't familiar with the growing season and the climate. That's paid off very well. I noticed several varieties down in the Palm Beach area that do well except I don't care for the condo's meatball pruning philosophy. I will just have to wait and find out. I appreciate chatting with you about my trip. Thanks,
Martha

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

just read this interesting article re: coffee grounds: http://groundtoground.org/2010/12/17/ground-coffee-as-fertilizer/

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

Good article. I need to go to the gas station mini-store just up the road & see if they will save grounds for me. Now that I have a Keurig, I don't have enough grounds to make a dent in my needs.

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