Grounds for Gardens Perk Up Your Plants

By National Gardening Association Editors

A thin layer of coffee grounds is a superb mulch for most shrubs.

If you're looking for a high-nitrogen soil amendment, attractive mulch for acid-loving plants, or deliciously fragrant addition for your compost heap, seek no further than your neighborhood Starbucks. The coffee chain is now offering bags of used grounds sporting colorful Grounds for Gardens labels free to green-thumbed patrons at their cafes. Grounds for Gardens are comprised of very fine espresso grounds and do not include filters so they're easy to work with. Here's how to use them to best advantage in your horticultural pursuits.

  • As a mulch for shrubs, trees, and roses. Spread grounds 1 to 2 inches deep. More is not better: A deep layer can keep water from penetrating the soil.
  • As a plant nutrient source. Coffee grounds contain an NPK analysis of 2-0.3-0.2. Mix them thoroughly with soil or potting mix, so the grounds comprise no more than 25 percent of the total soil volume.
  • As a compost additive. Mix grounds thoroughly with other organic materials. For best results, grounds should comprise no more than a quarter of the total volume.
  • As feed for redworms in a compost bin. Mix the grounds with other food scraps or bedding to prevent grounds from caking within the worm bin.

If there's not a Starbucks near you, check with the manager of the corner diner or even the local gas station to see if they'll save up their coffee grounds for you. If your primary goal is to add them to your compost or feed them to your worms, paper filters are no hindrance - worms and microbes will welcome the carbon they supply.

For more information about Grounds for Gardens, visit the Starbucks Web site.

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