I hope I don’t alienate myself with this statement, but as sacrilegious as it may be to some, I don’t like coffee. There, it’s out in the open now. It’s not the flavor per say, but it makes me really jittery and sweaty (which isn’t very attractive). Black tea does the same thing. I generally avoid caffeinated things with the exception of my addiction to dark chocolate, but even with that I have to be careful not to eat it too late in the afternoon or I’ll be up all night jabbering away. So then, why am I writing about coffee? Because it is cold outside and I just drank a cup of hot chocolate (kind of the same thing) and more importantly its great to use in the garden and safe for young children to handle.
This is an illustration I did of coffee berries and sprouts for my book’s lesson on food origins.
I actually do like the fresh coffee berry which has less caffeine and a nice light fruity floral taste with a kind of slimy texture. I have eaten these on my adventures in the tropics, but rarely. The history and growing of coffee is very interesting though. If you ever have the chance to take a tour of a shade grown coffee plantation it is very interesting, albeit very touristy, but worth the while.
So onto coffee in the garden. Used coffee grounds are a great addition to the compost pile as you probably have heard, but they can also be added directly to the soil around plants to deter some pests such as slugs. And just as too much coffee will make your stomach hurt from its acidifying nature, this same acidity is great for acid loving plants such hydrangea, azalea, hibiscus, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, gardenias, and camellias.
Using coffee in the soil is a safe and effective way to allow young children (or children working with school gardens) to participate in feeding their garden plants. They can handle it without any worry of exposure to anything harmful. This is important to remember that even when organic gardening, some products can irritate the skin (such as when using cayenne pepper) and are inappropriate for young children to handle or accidentally ingest (like fish emulsion, ew!).
Coffee grounds, and tea bags as well, can be saved at home in a container for smaller quantities or collected (usually for free) from local coffee houses for larger quantities. (Use a container with a sealing lid and put in the fridge if you are going to collect them at home for a while to prevent mold from growing and the coffee smell from taking over.)
Coffee grounds have so many uses around the home and garden and is a resource almost always available so put them to use! Remember, organic and fair trade coffee is best for the health of you, the garden, and the Earth if you can get it. Brew up a cup and get to brainstorming all the ways you can use coffee and tea in your home and school gardens today!
Seeds to Sprout:
Check out this blog post on 20 ways to use coffee and tea
Learn more about the benefits of coffee in the garden here.
Discover which plants are acid loving to which you can add coffee grounds
Learn more about the coffee plant and the history of coffee here.