Using used coffee grounds in your garden/compost

coffee_posterI have wanted to leverage used coffee grounds in my garden/compost but not being a coffee drinker myself I never seemed to be able to have the right timing to find any at local coffee shops.  Recently a colleague taunted me with a picture from his cell phone of a few bags in the coffee shop in our cafeteria at work and my quest began.

After just two days I have accumulated 40 lbs of coffee grounds, now how can I use this stuff in my garden?

  • Throw it in your compost: Coffee grounds are 1.45% nitrogen and contain calcium and magnesium to add some trace minerals you may not get from your other organic material.  Coffee grounds are a green material (I know coffee is brown, but same idea as grass clippings) so you should add with at least equal amounts of brown material (leaves) but if you are like me my browns are way to high already.
  • Add it directly to your garden: I have seen some arguments that coffee grounds are acidic, but others claim it loses most (or all) of its acidity during the brewing process.  Due to my natural curiosity I need to know the answer.  So the answer is, it has an average pH of 6.9 so for all intents and purposes, it is neutral. Though if you are really tired and forget to brew it, it will be somewhat acidic.
  • Fertilizer: Sometimes your plants need a little boost in the morning as well.  Simply add a couple cups of coffee grounds to a bucket of water and let it seep for 24 hours and apply to plant in the same way you would compost tea.  Using gardener terms I can’t think of any better name for this as “coffee tea”  If you are busy/lazy you also can use it as a side dressing on top of your soil and let the rain seep it for you.
  • Annoy your pests to stay out of your garden: It has been said that coffee grounds can deter cats from using your garden as their own personal commode.  There are also reports that it can deter slugs as well.  I am not sure if it is the abrasive soil effect on their sensitive underside or just the cruel reality that with their slow pace they can’t do anything with the caffeine rush they get.  Coffee grounds may annoy ants to convince them to move their home elsewhere.
  • Feed your worms: To worms this stuff is like ice cream, if you listen carefully you may hear them cheer your name when you add a handful to your worm bin when your greens from the kitchen may be a little lacking.

According to Starbucks brochure I picked up on my last visit, you should use the coffee grounds within 3 weeks to get the most nutrient value, though if you are composting I am sure you can start out the process in the bag if you really want to.  Given that 16.34 billion pounds of coffee is produced each year there is plenty for you to save from ending up in a landfill.  This is a great way to help the environment while also adding value to your garden without affecting your pocketbook.

33 Responses to “Using used coffee grounds in your garden/compost”

  1. Karen Says:

    After a lifetime of avoiding the Seattle city near-mandatory brew, I caved and am now a morning addict. Having a baby and stopping being able to sleep will do that to a person sometimes! Anyway, I have been giving all my compost stuff to the city and need to get my own bin back in shape so I can stop paying for compost at the garden center. You are inspiring me!

  2. VP Says:

    It’s great stuff – potatoes love it + slugs hate it = result!

  3. Daphne Says:

    A couple of years ago I got coffee grounds every week from Starbucks. Sadly they don’t save it for me anymore. However my husband is getting annoyed at how ungreen his workplace is. So he is thinking of getting all the coffee grounds and tea bags for me, to keep them out of the landfill. Yeah! Free fertilizer can’t be beat.

  4. Chiot's Run Says:

    We’re avid coffee drinkers here at Chiot’s Run, so we have a decent supply for our compost bin (we also put around the blueberries, they LOVE it). I suppose I could get my local shop to save them for me as well. Can’t beat FREE stuff for the garden!

  5. Robj98168 Says:

    I have been a starbucks composter for a while now. I am also know to mic it up in a flower pot and plant things in it. Can’t get enough of the stuff. If i am always wired, why not pass it on to my garden?

  6. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Karen, great thing about the coffee it starts out looking like finished compost and you can add directly to your garden. At the rate I am going probably won’t be buying any soil amendments this yearVP, I can use all the help with slugs I can getDaphne, I know people who simply leave an old coffee can (labeled) by the coffee maker. After a couple days have a full can of grounds. Think the fact that can is probably closer than garbage can so natural laziness wins.Chiot’s Run, my original thought was to use them for my blueberries until I learned they lose their acidity. Seems there might still be something left in them for the plants.Robj98168, do you grow with 100% coffee grounds or do you have a secret recipe.

  7. Marty Says:

    I save my coffee grounds for my garden too, but in the winter I usually do not want to trudge out to the garden to spread out the grounds, so I save them in a container. I soon found out that they get moldy quickly-what to do? Well I solved this problem by first keeping them in a old yogurt strainer (a fine mesh bag) that allows the ground to dry out. Then I transfer to a bigger container, and once a month or so, I can take them out to the garden,

  8. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    They also smell much better than steer/chicken poo

  9. Alison Mothes Says:

    Hey-this is really great! I run a small coffee shop in my home town and I’m looking for info to print out on this very subject – do you mind if I use your research to promote the grounds? I have bags and bags and need to get rid of them. My email is if you just want to check in about it. Thanks so much!

  10. Sydney Says:

    I need help with my research project on coffee grinds being added to soil to help plants grow faster.
    I need a few questions answered…
    Does coffee(caffeine) help plants to grow faster?
    Is it best to add the coffee into the soil or other ways?
    Do many people use coffee and other forms of caffeine to spark a plant growth?
    Do you think it is a good idea to add coffee or just use regualr soil?
    How long do you think it is before I will see noticable changes in the plants exposed with coffee?
    Also what are your job responsibilites?
    Is education neccessary?

  11. wren Says:

    for all intensive purposes! Good one. I collect malapropisms.

  12. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Ah, can’t believe I did that…fixed with the correct “for all intents and purposes” at least it is a “Common” misuse of the english language..Common Errors in English Usage 2nd Edition

  13. Eco Garden – Reusing Your Coffee Grounds | The EcoMaker Says:

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  14. cfield farmer Says:

    gonna try that around strawberries…the slugs have been destroying them these past couple of years . thanks for the advice

  15. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    cfield farmer, you might want to try egg shells as well

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  17. Eco Garden – Reusing Your Coffee Grounds « Thoughts from The EcoMaker Says:

    […] Add the used grounds within 3 weeks of brewing (I usually pile up the used filters/coffee for the week in a Gladware and take it to the garden at the end of the week.) and add directly to your garden. Believe it or not, coffee grounds contain magnesium, calcium, potassium among other minerals which are great for the garden. Enjoy! For more information on using coffee grounds in your garden please visit cheapvegetablegardener. […]

  18. Rebecca Says:

    I love the idea of using something natural and using it for fertilizer. Although, with the growing popularity of single cup brewers it might prohibit a lot of people from using this method of fertilizer. Hopefully people can find a local shop to get there grounds from to be more “green.”

  19. MrsSarge Says:

    In the winter, I just toss my coffee grounds out onto my back lawn, or into one of the flower beds on either side of my porch. I don’t know if it does any good, but I know it doesn’t do any harm, and that it’s not going into a landfill.

  20. LA Says:

    I read that cats hate coffee grinds smell.. anyone with a garden might have this issue… so i will sock up on coffee grinds now in my veggie garden :o)

  21. Connie Says:

    Do any of you posters know if the coffee grounds deter other garden pests such as squirrels? My sister in law lives on a canyon and the pests are eating all her veges.

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  23. Edwina Says:

    So how often do you put the coffee grinds around the blueberry plants? Weekly? Can you use coffee grinds that hasn’t been brewed yet as a spring fertilizer?

  24. Darlene Says:

    Can you freeze the coffee grounds to us at a later date? Are they good for a lawn? I don’t have a lot of flower beds but my lawn doesn’t look to great I am wondering if it would help it along.

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  28. thomas Says:

    thanks so much for info on coffee grounds.

  29. thomas Says:

    love your answers to coffee grounds.

  30. Earnie mcdowell Says:

    Thank u so much for the information, it will be a great help to me. I’m trying to make me a compost site, this will give me a place to start.

  31. Simon Says:

    I’ve been collecting the single cup coffee packets from work. I open the lid with a knife, and scrape the grounds out with a spoon, I’ve accumulated lots of grounds. I hate see those things just go into the garbage at least this is a small part to do.

  32. Testing your garden soil - The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

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  33. Amanda Perl Says:

    You could call it “coffee infusion” since you are soaking it cold-ish rather than with boiling water.

    I have used coffee grounds as mulch but they tend to mold if strewn thick enough to function as mulch because there’s not enough air.

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