Now that spring has arrived, and the days are starting to get warmer, it’s time to think about your spring and summer garden. Learning to compost with used coffee grounds is one way to get a jump-start on the gardening season.
What is compost?
Compost is essentially decomposed organic matter. It can be made up of several types of materials, including leaves, grass clippings, vegetable scraps, and even coffee grounds! The act of recycling these materials is called composting, and it’s a great way to organically improve the quality of your soil.
Compostable organic materials are usually classified as “green” or “brown.” Green materials are exactly what they sound like – typically more fresh and moist (think grass clippings). Green materials are usually higher in nitrogen. Brown materials (such as leaves or twigs) are typically dry, and are higher in carbon.
The balance between carbon and nitrogen in a compost pile is very important. Beneficial microbes live in your compost pile, and carbon provides them with energy, while nitrogen provides them with protein. To create a compost pile that will eventually become a rich soil amendment, you should use the standard ratio of 2:1 carbon to nitrogen.
How do I use my coffee grounds?
Used coffee grounds are considered to be a green compost material, meaning they are high in nitrogen. In addition to providing microbes in a compost pile with protein, nitrogen allows plants to convert sunlight into energy. According to several sources, coffee grounds have been found to contain not only nitrogen, but also trace elements of phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, and copper. All of these minerals provide important nutritional benefits for growing plants.
Used coffee grounds can be placed into a compost mixture, though be careful not to include more than 25% of the total compost volume. Coffee grounds are also known to be very attractive to worms, which makes them an ideal addition to vermiposting (worm bins).
If you aren’t composting, don’t despair! Coffee grounds can also be placed directly into your garden. It’s very important to place the grounds only in an area where you have nitrogen-loving plants (such as blueberries, azaleas, or peppers). While nitrogen allows for large growth in plants, it can also inhibit the ability for the plant to flower or set fruit. If you choose to amend your soil with coffee grounds, make sure to incorporate them well into the soil.
That’s not all! There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests that used coffee grounds can also aid in repelling garden pests, such as snails and slugs. So go on, brew yourself another cup, save your grounds, and dream about your summer garden.