I love all things coffee. Not in a coffee snob kind of way, but in a “I can’t start my day without a cup (or two) of coffee.” But when that coffee is done there are 14 different ways you can use your coffee grounds for your garden to give them a second life.
I have used coffee grounds in my yard and garden for years. In the gardens, on the lawn, while planting new shrubs and flowers… basically anywhere there is soil. It’s part of the how I managed to bring my back yard from the brink of ‘yuck’.
I can’t give coffee grounds ALL the credit for this transformation. There was also a lot of hard work and a lot of garden shopping that went into this.
But coffee grounds definitely helped!
Coffee grounds provide multiple benefits in the garden, including improved water retention, attracting earthworms which provide your plants with vital nutrients, and unused coffee grounds can increase the PH level in your garden .
How to Use Coffee Grounds in Your Yard & Garden
Coffee Grounds as a Soil Additive
According to the EPA, coffee grounds contain a large amount of nitrogen, a nutrient that lawns and gardens love, although it does take a while for the coffee grounds to break down and release that nitrogen.
Adding this organic material to the soil will also help improve drainage, water retention and aeration in the soil.
Simply scatter the used grounds on your garden or lawn just before it rains and they they will slowly release nitrogen into the soil. If rain isn’t in the forecast, watering the lawn right after applying coffee grounds does the same trick.
But don’t overdo it. As in life, too much coffee can be a bad thing.
Coffee Grounds to Repell Slugs & Snails
Coffee grounds or cold brewed (re-brewed from old grounds often works) coffee is a popular home remedy for keeping snails and slugs out of your garden. However, it appears to the caffeine that is the deterrent
factor for slugs & snails, so decaffeinated coffee would not likely be as effective.
Coffee Grounds in Your Compost
Research has shown that using coffee grounds in compost piles tends to help the pile reach higher internal temperatures, which speed up the composting process.
Coffee grinds will also helps kill weed seeds and pathogens that may be present in the compost pile.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to back yard compost piles is the Power of 3s. 1/3 leaves + 1/3 grass clippings + 1/3 coffee grounds.
For compost bins, you always want to add an equivalent amount from a carbon source, including that coffee filter… which can go right into the compost bin along with the grounds.
Place 2 cups of used coffee grounds to a 5 gallons of warm water. Set the mixture aside and allow it to steep overnight.
The next day, you can pour the mixture – grounds and all if you wish – right into the garden.
If you and your family go through a significant number of coffee grounds on a daily basis, you can layer several inches of coffee grounds as a nice, dark brown mulch around your garden bed.
Not only does this help control weeds, but the coffee grounds will slowly disperse and compost to provide rich nutrients for your garden.
Several four-legged critters, including cats & rabbits, are not fans of the smell of coffee grounds, and this can help keep them out of your garden.
I mean, kittens and bunnies are both VERY cute, but not when they’re digging around in your garden or using it as their litter box.
Add Coffee Grounds to New Grass Seed
If you’re over-seeding your lawn, growing a brand new lawn, or patching bald spots, mix grass seed, rich soil, peat moss, and coffee grounds to create a nutrient-rich grass-growing power-house.
They Make Great Worm Food
We know that earthworms love coffee in the yard, but according to Gardening Know How, they are also perfect worm food if you do vermicomposting.
Fresh Coffee Grounds for Acid Loving Plants
Although used coffee grounds have a PH of 6.5, which is nearly neutral, fresh (unused) coffee grounds are much more acidic and can make a nice additive for acid-loving plants such as Azaleas and Rhododendrons.
Granted, unless you’ve accidentally spilled an entire canister of coffee on the counter, the availability of fresh coffee grounds – without dipping into your daily coffee supply – may be limited. Or maybe that’s just me.
Burn Them as a Mosquito Repellent
Coffee grounds are a safe and effective way to keep flying pests, such as mosquitoes, away.
You’ll need dry grounds, for obvious reasons wet or damp grounds will not burn well. You can store your used coffee in a cool, dark place until the grounds are completely dry.
Image Source: Death Wish Coffee
Once the grounds have dried, place them on a heat-proof bowl or flat surface (aluminum foil works well) outside. Burn the coffee grounds like you would incense.
They are also other effective at deterring annoying insects such as wasps and bees.
When Cutting Flowers for a Bouquet
Cut flowers last longer when you add coffee grounds to the water in the vase. Simply add some grounds to the bottom of the vase, fill with water and add your fresh-cut flowers.
Cleaning Gardening Tools
You can turn your used coffee grounds into a natural scrub to scour dirt and rust off of your gardening tools.
Used in combination with some vinegar, it will clean gardening tools and keep them looking like new (well, as new as possible for tools that get put to good use).
Cleaning Your Hands
A day working the soil and/or pulling weeds can take its toll on your hands. Not only do coffee grounds make a great scrub cleaner for heavy dirt, coffee grounds can help absorb the odor that can be left on your hands after a busy day.
Simply rub grounds onto your hands before washing to eliminate strong smells that might otherwise linger for hours – or days.
On the BBQ
Simply add used coffee grounds to your favorite dry-rub recipe and apply the rub to the meat two hours before cooking.
The grounds will get cooked onto the meat and form a dark, crispy crust.
Alternatively, you can rebrew used grounds, allow it to cool and use it to marinade meat in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before cooking.
Where to Get Coffee Grounds for Your Garden
There are several quick and easy sources for coffee grounds that can be used in your gardens.
Your Home Brewed Coffee(s)
Don’t dump those coffee grounds in the garbage, used coffee grounds can be set aside in a container or bin for use in the garden.
Even if you have a Keurig coffee machine, you can still capture and use the coffee grinds.
I use one of those refillable Keurig K-Cups, so I keep a glass bowl beside the Kuerig coffee maker to dump the grounds into before refilling the pod.
Local Coffee Shops
Many local coffee shops, including local locations of the Starbucks chain, will keep the large amount of coffee grounds and bag them up for customers to use in their garden.
These coffee grounds are most often readily available in a basket or bin near the back of the store. If not, ask the barista if they are collecting grounds for the garden, and they will usually set some aside for you to pick up later.
Many gas stations have fresh-brewed coffee available for their patrons. Some, if you ask nicely, will set aside the used grounds in a container that you provide which you can swap out on a regular bsis.
Local Businesses & Offices
Any office with a coffee station or cafeteria (other than those that set up pod-coffee stations) will have an abundance of coffee grounds available, and some will be happy to put those grounds to better use than getting added to landfills.
This, of course, includes your own office.
As a School Project
Consider tasking your school-age children with the job of helping their school become more green by collection and reusing old coffee grounds.
Granted, if they go all green on you, they may end up using the grounds for their own school garden. But, even if that happens, the world wins!
Collecting Coffee Grounds Year Round For Use During Gardening Season
One last tip to remember is that you can collect coffee grounds all year round, even in the dead of Northern Winter.
Simply allow the coffee grounds to dry and then store them in a cool, dark place, and they’ll be ready to add to your yard & garden when the warmer weather arrives.
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