Tag Archives: soil improvement

Coffee grounds. Free to a good home.

Photo: Jenny Harlen“Hello gardeners! Please take some coffee grinds for your garden!”

What gardener could resist that? Well, unfortunately I had to as I was just a tourist passing by. But I was seriously tempted to drag some home to the friends we were staying with.

Coffee grounds are just great in the garden. The nice thing is that they’re brown, so you can just spread them out under bushes and in garden beds. Smells nice while you’re doing it and pretty soon they just eat their way down into the soil where the nitrogen in the grounds is released to the plants nearby (with some good help of whatever microbes are in the vicinity).

The only disadvantage can be if you use a lot of coffee grounds in your veggie patch that the carrots start tasting like coffee. No, just joking. There can be a risk that heavy metals in the coffee build up in the veggie patch if you overdo it. My feeling is that it would take an awful lot of coffee to get you to that point, and the greater worry would be whether we should be running that much coffee through our bodies. However, worth checking out a bit more if you’re concerned.

The alternative is to dose up bushes, trees, flower beds, even a smallish lawn with coffee grounds — none of that is going to get into the food chain. It’s a cheap source of nitrogen and a cool thing to do, just swag home with a bag of coffee grinds when you pass your neighborhood cafe.

Unfortunately none of the cafes round us do this. I’m hoping that will change gradually, like so many recycling-related things. Common sense does seem to be kicking in all over.

A few years ago I did a deal with the local bakery/cafe to pick up their coffee grinds once a week. I kept it up for a few years until other priorities took over, hopefully they have now adopted a new coffee collector.

My original idea was to do bokashi of the grinds to increase their microbial value in the soil. Great idea, well worth doing, but for me at the time just too hard work. So what I did was just dump the buckets of coffee grinds under our multitude of bushes, one bush at a time. Sometimes the buckets were frozen because they’d been stored outside, I just dumped them under the bush as they were. Come spring the weird collection of coffee towers mushed together and I could rake them out a bit.

Given that we produce bokashi bran here at home it’s not something we have a shortage of. Each spring I’d go around with a wheelbarrow of bokashi bran and throw a handful or two under each coffee bush. The microbes could spend the summer doing their good work.

Obviously you could get the same result using bokashi juice (the runoff from a bucket with drainage tap) or using EM in activated form. Either way, pretty cost effective and hard to overdose.

In the autumn I usually pile up a lot of leaves under the bushes and rake a lot straight into garden beds. Partly because I’m lazy and it’s easy to shuffle them up into the first best spot, but mainly because with such an active soil the leaves are rapidly absorbed into the soil around the bushes. They also keep the worms warm and happy for a good while into the late autumn and that’s always a good thing.

People around here say that coffee grinds are a great way of stopping snails in their tracks. I haven’t tested it myself so can’t say for sure, but it seems reasonable. Tugging a slimy snail body over a barrier of coffee grinds is probably not the most pleasant of options for a snail. Have you tested it? (Not dragging yourself through the grinds, obviously, but spreading them in the garden.) Is it worthwhile giving it a go?

So, all up — a lot you can do with coffee grinds without it being such a chore. Great for the garden but the greater good is probably getting them out of their landfill destiny and into the food/soil loop. Well worth giving it a shot in other words.

And you can always reward yourself with a steaming hot latte the next time you’re there to pick up your grounds!


How do we feed a growing world population?

It’s a good question. So, how do we?

If the chemical companies could decide the solution would of course be easy. Which is of course the angle here on this poster. According to them…

We can grow more using less water and land through technologies that unlock the potential of plants. These include drought-tolerant seed varieties, products that enhance plant performance and products that protect against insects, diseases and weeds.

Scary if you ask me.

How about we just start looking after our soil properly? Put everything back into the soil that we possibly can, find smart new ways of hanging onto nutrition so it’s not lost from the food chain, cool ways of working in our local communities so we can grow more food locally in the space we have using the resources we’ve already got on hand.

More common sense and less chemicals would be a good start. And Bokashi is definitely on the common sense side of the balance sheet. We just have to find ways of getting it all moving faster, so we really can feed this growing world population.

In time. Without taking scary shortcuts.

Bokashi in Dubai

Photo: www.gulfnews.com

Time for a complete change of subject when it comes to Dubai. You won’t read a word here about palm tree islands and financial dreams gone awry. This is Bokashiworld!

So it turns out that in Dubai there’s a couple of commited women starting up a Bokashi business. Changing the way people see their rubbish and doing something good with their foodwaste so it gets back into the soil. You only need to think about it for a couple of seconds to realise that Dubai is one place that must be screaming out for soil improvement. You don’t get that far trying to grow vegetables or have a nice flower garden when you come up with shovelload after shovelload of sand. It’s probably a very nice antidote to the island’s consumerism too.

Janine Sheard and Jo Marengo are the women behind Bokashi in Dubai. They’re enthusiastic and determined to make a difference . But one thing they didn’t mention in the article in Gulf News which Janine mentioned in a mail was their climate battle  — not something you’d think about normally. Dubai temperatures of up around 45 degrees C is more than Bokashi can deal with, so the process has to be handled indoors under air conditioning. But I imagine the in-soil process goes incredibly fast and the transformation must be quite wonderful to see. Anyone out there testing this in a hot sandy place like Dubai please let us know how you get on!

I have to admit it all seems quite surreal to me as I sit here freezing in my office surrounded by a snap-frozen frosty landscape and temperatures down around -9 degrees. Dreaming of sun, sand and palm trees…