Soil and Compost forum: Coffee grounds/tomatoes

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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Mar 28, 2015 4:06 PM CST
I'll be planting out tomatoes in another two months (seems like forever). I want to do some composting before I plant in that area with shredded leaves, coffee grounds and bagged worm compost (which has been mixed with peat moss). Will the coffee grounds have leached out enough nitrogen in two months so that the tomatoes aren't adversely affected?
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Mar 29, 2015 6:32 AM CST
I'm not sure I understand the concern, you'd want some nitrogen when growing tomatoes, and coffee grounds don't contain a great deal in any case. It's also slow release, being in the form of organic nitrogen. In the earlier thread on coffee grounds the concern was that fresh grounds may "tie up" nitrogen and therefore deprive the plants. If the grounds are mixed with the other material and it's all composted (given the weather we are having in the north, cold temperatures might slow that down though) I don't think the tomatoes would be adversely affected either way. Did I understand the question correctly?
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Mar 29, 2015 7:58 AM CST
I generally try to avoid too much nitrogen for tomatoes as I'd like to encourage flowering without going crazy on fertilizers. I wasn't sure if the nitrogen in the coffee grounds would interfere with flower production.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Mar 29, 2015 9:12 AM CST
There shouldn't be enough nitrogen in the coffee grounds to cause a problem, they're only around 2% N and that is organic nitrogen so not available to plants until microorganisms have converted it to forms they can use, i.e. ammonium and nitrate. All plants need some nitrogen, even tomatoes can suffer from nitrogen deficiency.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Mar 29, 2015 11:40 AM CST
Thanks all for the responses. I was adding the coffee grounds to help brown leaves break down eventually and encouraging earth worm activity.
Name: Kyla
Richmond, VA (Zone 6b)
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kylaluaz
May 9, 2015 2:56 AM CST
You might try alfalfa pellets. I rely on them to balance carbs in the soil, like dried leaves or the pine shavings I mulch with at times.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
May 9, 2015 6:54 AM CST
In theory, it would be nice to add alfalfa pellets but there's the whole GE issue.
Southern California (Zone 11b)
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BlondieRides
May 24, 2015 10:28 PM CST
Hi ShadeGardener. What's a GE?
Beth
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
May 25, 2015 8:11 AM CST
genetically engineered or GMO
Name: Jim Goodman
Northeast Louisiana
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Jim41
Dec 26, 2015 8:15 PM CST
Contrary to what most folks say, tomatoes like nitrogen. My dad was the best tomato grower that I've ever known and he used 33.5 amonoium nitrate to fertilize them. He's put a ring of nitrogen around each plant when he set them out (said it kept the cut worms from cutting them) then he fertilized them again with nitrogen when they started bearing. I'm a pretty decent tomatoe grower in my own right and I use 2 tablespoons of Miracle Gro. around mine when they've been out for a couple of weeks and do it over again when they start blooming.

Coffee grounds, I dump right next to the plant, when ever I have them.

The secret of growing tomatoes is to keep the water uniform. Watering with a hose just doesn't work right. You over water one day and under water the next time. The tomatoes don't bear right and you generate Blossom End Rot.

Don't know if this is a help or hinderance but good luck growing tomatoes.
Jim41
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Dec 27, 2015 12:20 PM CST
Thanks for posting those tips, Jim. Ammonium nitrate, huh? I'll have to check into that. I had always heard that if you give tomatoes too much nitrogen that you'll end up with a big healthy plant but few tomatoes. I do plant them with an organic granular fertilizer for vegetables along with crushed egg shells in the planting hole. Usually the first tomato of the season has blossom end rot but not the rest of the crop. I do mulch them with shredded leaves to help with the moisture thing and have a drip hose for when things really get dry. Here, so much of the state of the crop depends on weather - if it's too cool or wet or whatever.
Name: Ken
East S.F. Bay Area (Zone 9a)
Region: California
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CaliFlowers
Jan 4, 2016 7:43 PM CST
Shadegardener said:Thanks for posting those tips, Jim. Ammonium nitrate, huh? I'll have to check into that. I had always heard that if you give tomatoes too much nitrogen that you'll end up with a big healthy plant but few tomatoes. I do plant them with an organic granular fertilizer for vegetables along with crushed egg shells in the planting hole. Usually the first tomato of the season has blossom end rot but not the rest of the crop. I do mulch them with shredded leaves to help with the moisture thing and have a drip hose for when things really get dry. Here, so much of the state of the crop depends on weather - if it's too cool or wet or whatever.


Nitrogen gets an undeserved bad rap, for the most part. It's odd that so many gardening myths exist for the sole purpose of discouraging the use of fertilizers. If you look in most gardening sheds, you're almost guaranteed to find a good number of very old, partially used or unused containers of various plant foods. People are afraid of "burning" their plants, or discouraging fruit production.

At least 20 years ago, when Sunset Magazine had more of a focus on horticulture, they undertook a joint study with the University of California at Davis regarding fertilizer blends and their effectiveness. They ran performance tests on containerized flowering plants, foliage plants and vegetables, using several different formulations of fertilizers, including the high-phosphate "Bloom" fertilizers. It turned out that the best overall performance was achieved with a fertilizer having a high percentage of nitrogen, a somewhat lower percentage of phosphorus, and a lesser amount of potash. Performance was measured by bloom and fruit production. At the time, this macro-element profile corresponded very closely with the formulation of Rapid-Gro, which, at 23-19-17 (with minors), was a little high in P and K for my taste, but I have to say it was amazing stuff. It was sold as crystals intended to be mixed with water, and applied as a soil drench or to foliage. Sunset's conclusion was (paraphrasing) that nitrogen enhanced all aspects of plant growth, resulting in larger plants with bigger root systems and more leaves, which allowed the plants to gather more energy from the sun and, in turn, produce more and bigger fruit or flowers.

Not only were the "bloom" fertilizers the poorest performing of the bunch, but being high in phosphorus, they were the most likely to build up to toxic levels in the soil. Phosphorus is no joke, and should be used carefully, whereas nitrogen and potash tend to be more water-soluble, or transient, in soils. Elsewhere, I read that woody plants generally tend to do just fine with the phosphorus and potash that is present in most good soils. I asked two acquaintances what they used to fertilize their walnut and pear orchards, and they both said "urea".

Rapid-Gro grew everything well, and I was able to sustain under-potted daylilies for years with the stuff. I also used it on my vegetable garden, and everything grew strong and healthy. It was supposed to be mixed at 1 tablespoon per gallon, but I had a friend who (weekly) put over 5 tablespoons in a quart mason jar and poured that around the watering basin of the tomato plants, and then filled the basins with water. Those plants had unbelievably dark green leaves, but never grew rank, and the tomatoes were big and plentiful.

Rapid-Gro was a huge commercial success, but sometime in the 80's the company was "absorbed" by Chevron Chemical, and the product was discontinued. For a while I was buying Miracle-Gro Tomato formula, which was also a high-N, medium-P, low-K formulation, but I see now that their new Tomato food, like most of their fertilizers, is phosphorus-heavy. I just looked at their website, and found that their "new" Liqui-Feed is 12-4-8, which is ideal. Unfortunately, since it's already in liquid form, it's likely to be very expensive. With the advent of "Indoor Gardening", there are a lot of specialty fertilizers available now with good nutrient profiles, and you can even formulate your own.

None of this is to say that you can't get into trouble if your plants aren't getting enough sun and temperatures are high, and then you over-fertilize, but these things are easy to keep track of and compensate for.

Regarding soil moisture, I once grew a crop of the smaller "pie" pumpkins, and as the summer wore on hotter and drier, and the pumpkins matured, the vines declined sharply. It was windy, and under clear skies, it was hard to keep the soil moist. I hauled in some rice hull horse stable bedding, and applied it about 2 inches thick over the "moats" I grew the pumpkins in. That was like magic—the plants perked right up, fresh, new vines sprung vigorously from the bases of the plants, and I got a late crop as well.

Ken
Name: Jim Goodman
Northeast Louisiana
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Jim41
Jan 4, 2016 8:56 PM CST
Last year was a bad one for tomatoes in Northeast Louisiana. It rained every day for weeks. As a result the blooms got knocked off and I made very few tomatoes on the bottom. The first week in June, we got one full week without rain before it started back again. My tomatoes loaded up in that week. I sold 460 pounds, gave away 200 pounds, my son and I put up 100 pounds in Salsa and thats not counting the ones we ate and gave to people to eat. That's not a bad yield off 45 plants when you lose the whole bottom crop. Do I think fertilize works? You bet. Ask Pirl if they were good. I UPSed her a dozen.
Jim41
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
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Newyorkrita
Apr 4, 2016 11:31 AM CST
I don't do coffee grounds but I do compost fall leaves right on the veggie beds. I just leave them be and let the earthworms come and help me make great soil.
[Last edited by Newyorkrita - Apr 4, 2016 11:46 AM (+)]
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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Apr 4, 2016 11:42 AM CST
I also normally leave fall leaves in place but, because we have oaks, it's better if I shred them first because otherwise they take too long to break down. I did clear off my veggie patch temporarily this spring to add some soil minerals but that bed will be covered up with fresh shredded leaves shortly. I don't bring in "outside" mulch for most of my garden.
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
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Newyorkrita
Apr 4, 2016 11:52 AM CST
I am too lazy to shred my leaves. I just pule them on and have been doing that for years. Of course that would not work in a dry climate but we get plenty of rain so no problem here.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Apr 4, 2016 1:32 PM CST
Oh, heck! If I had to shred my leaves, I'd be lazy too. In the fall, DH uses the lawn mower with a bag to catch shredded leaves. I did buy a leaf blower/vacuum thingie but it doesn't shred the leaves that well. I have oak leaves which are quite leathery and take a year or more to break down if not shredded. But supposedly adding coffee grounds is supposed to help them break down and turn into some mighty fine compost.
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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Newyorkrita
Apr 4, 2016 1:55 PM CST
Newyorkrita said:I am too lazy to shred my leaves. I just pile them on and have been doing that for years. Of course that would not work in a dry climate but we get plenty of rain so no problem here.


I have a lot of oak leaves also but they do eventually break down.
[Last edited by Newyorkrita - Apr 4, 2016 1:56 PM (+)]
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Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Jun 2, 2016 12:27 PM CST
I use Oak leaves to cover my roses in the winter.
I got some off of a pile where the city, sucked them off of the parks lawns (This area is full of oak trees) and they were chopped up, but I found full leaves were better for what I used them for.
Now it used to be mostly oak leaves, they work best for insulating factors, but due a change in methods I no longer search them out.
Anyway, when I uncover the roses, I often put them around the plants , or over the potatoes to keep the weeds down, and keep the soil moist.
By fall what was 12 to sixteen inches of mulch is down to less than an inch or simply gone.

As far a Nitrogen on the tomatoes, they are related to potatoes and will put out more green vegetation with more Nitrogen but unlike potatoes it usually does not hurt fruit production.
It can as it did for me last year cause so much vegetation that you will be out trimming off excess, often, or the largest plants will smother those near by.
By near by I mean plants as much as three feet away.
I use mostly cages made out of re-rod and when they top a cage four feet high they head out of for virgin territory.

I also used to save my coffee ground in buckets all winter.
I drink a lot of coffee so by spring I had several containers of odoriferous coffee grounds.
Worms are good for the soil and if you want worms to enrich your soil just put some coffee grounds around the plants you like best.
Now I just walk out in garden and dump them in one spot in the garden all winter. If the snow is not too deep in the compost heap otherwise a spot that is handy.
They do not lose their value out in the frozen pile.
[Last edited by RpR - Jun 2, 2016 12:34 PM (+)]
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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jun 2, 2016 5:18 PM CST
This year, I'm broadcasting the coffee grounds in the perennial gardens more to improve soil and increase worm population. I did some remineralizing in the bed where I grow tomatoes after having a soil test done so I'll be selective where I put down the coffee grounds. I don't cover my roses but then my winters don't get as cold as yours. Plus none of my roses are grafted.

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