Friday, April 2, 2010

Speeding up the compost with coffee

Continuing the theme of free local resources for gardening, and making the garden more productive and easier, I'm going to share the secret to making those oak leaves decompose more quickly. At least I hope it works. Last year it worked very well for the marsh hay that was rotting in a corner of the garden. I thought all that hay would take forever to break down, especially mixed with the leaves (ash and maple) that had just come off the garden beds, but after adding the magic ingredient, that pile became hot. I took the lid off the bin, and I could feel the heat coming off the pile. Soon enough, the hay was almost gone, and all the other compost ingredients were also well on their way to being decomposed - and ready for the garden.

So what is this magic ingredient? Coffee grounds. Lots of them. 

I've been tossing my coffee grounds in the compost pile for years, but last year I ramped it up by getting bags of grounds from my local coffee shop. Ancora on University used to put their grounds in big black garbage bags, and people would come pick them up, but they said they produced too much, and not enough people were picking them up. Now I leave a large bucket with them for a day, and they fill it up. Most coffee shops will be glad to do this for you, especially if you are a neighbor or regular customer.

Mixing 10-25 lbs of coffee grounds into the compost will really boost the nitrogen in the pile, and that means things start moving really quickly. A good compost pile should actually be hot - that means the decomposition is happening, and it also helps kill any seeds from weeds.

Coffee grounds can also be added directly to your garden soil. The worms adore the coffee grounds - just like me - and you will find a much higher number of worms in areas that have been supplemented. Just be careful not to burn tender plants by putting the grounds right on them.

Here's some comments from others about using coffee in your compost or garden.