Making espresso in my yard!

alison(6b/OH)December 5, 2005

Once or twice a week I stop by Wild Oats and pick up a back of juice bar leavings. On the way home I stop of at the drive-thru Starbucks and get some coffee grounds. I layer them with shredded newspaper and leaves in my compost bin.

But yesterday I stopped by a different Starbucks. They didn't have any grounds in the cute little silver bags, so I asked if they had any in the big regular garbage bags. The manager said sure, meet me out back.

When I drove around, he already had 4-5 big big bag, which I was of course, thrilled to take. I dumped one in the compost, but then I noticed the others were filled with just straight grounds, no filters. So I took the rest of the bags and scattered a nice mulch over all the beds.

And this morning my yard smells like a Starbucks!

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storygardener(5/6 central oh)

What a find!!!

Your yard smells like sweet perfume to me!!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 12:42PM
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bakemom_gw(z6 Central Ohio)

Score! I love Wild Oats. Their salads are quite tasty.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 6:30PM
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alison(6b/OH)

The funny thing is that my cat loves -- LOVES -- the smell of the juice bar leavings. When it was warmer, I'd let him out in the yard while I dumped things in the compost bin. When I would pour in the veggie pressings (mostly carrot and beets) he would roll around on the discarded plastic bacg and paw at it as tho' it were catnip.

Who knew a cat could be so healthy minded?

It is a lovely smell, Bev; I don't know how long it will last. While I've pretty much quit drinking coffee, I still love the smell. And it was a nice way to get that olfactory fix.

It's not like anything else in the yard is smelling good right now!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 6:38PM
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Kymie17(z6a/5b NE OH)

Oh, how cool, Alison! I bet it will go away for a bit, but maybe you'll smell a bit during one or two of the first few thaws/rains at least. :)

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 7:07PM
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michigoose(Z5OH)

I never thought to ask! What a great idea! I'll have to do it since I have very little compost yet!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 7:45PM
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alison(6b/OH)

Michigoose, it's a really easy way to build up compost. I just wish my landlord would let me put out a few more containers. I filled and emptied this one twice since last srping. It took about a month to fill it up this time, picking up stuff twice a week. But with the cold weather, it'll take at least a month for this to cook down a bit.

If I had another bin (or two!) I could just keep filling them up. But my landlords brother thinks they would detract from the junked motorcycles, broken stairmaster, rusted grills and wooden packing pallets he's got strewn around the yard.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 1:42PM
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michigoose(Z5OH)

I have two compost tumblers, two black plastic "net" bins and one of those black pyramidal types.....All my neighbors asked what they were...I have them sort of hidden, but they had never seen such a thing. You have to understand that of all 16 houses on this street, only two of us do our own yards/landscaping/gardening and we are the only ones who know about the wonders of compost. Heck, with this clay, ya gotta add organic material to lighten it...Now if only I could get my hands on a cheap source of sand... :)

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 8:00PM
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bakemom_gw(z6 Central Ohio)

I have been going to Starbucks up here on Henderson Road here in Columbus each Sunday and getting several large bags of grounds per trip! The employees are very very nice up there and seem delighted to provide the grounds. I have promised them flowers in the summer.

I've just been mulching with them and composting them in the veggie bed. Alison is right - my yard smells great!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 3:18PM
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michigoose(Z5OH)

Well, I got up the guts to ask the starbucks lady in Krogers....I think my dd wanted to crawl in a hole...they told me to come back and talk to the manager....sigh...

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 11:16PM
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alison(6b/OH)

Don't be intimidated; it's company policy to provide the grounds. They even print up special stickers for the silver bags to explain the "Grounds for the Garden" program. Much as I like the silver bags, I finally asked the staff if they had larger bags -- and they were more than happy to give me regular trash liner bags of the grounds and filters. (Saved them having to pack the silver bags, I imagine.)

That said -- I know it seems a little embarrassing the first time you ask. You might want to try a stand-alone Starbucks where they'll definitely be familiar with the program.

And stand your ground! Er... grounds!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 12:04AM
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danaoh(SWOhio zone 6)

so it is good to put it out as mulch? I don't have a compost pile - would it be too hard to sort out the filters? does it attract rodents or anything?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 12:08PM
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alison(6b/OH)

I don't imagine rodents are too interested; when I layer things in my compost I always make sure there's a layer of coffee on top, completely covering the juice bar stuff. (I sincerely hope they don't like the grounds -- the idea of a highly caffinated rat is a little terrifying!)

It's not hard to separate the filters out. A little gunky, but it's just coffee.

I think it's a decent mulch. I've wondered about the acidity, but a lot of folks I've talked to say it's not a problem; the acid leaches out when you brew the coffee.

On the other, I've talked to people who talk about digging coffee grounds in around acid-loving plants. So... I'm hedging my bets and putting it down -- just not very thickly.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 12:37PM
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bakemom_gw(z6 Central Ohio)

I'm getting bags and bags each Sunday. I hope it's good mulch, because that's primarily where it's going. Starbucks knows the score and my local one seems pleased to help.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 6:55PM
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michigoose(Z5OH)

The filters break down fairly quickly.There isn't a problem with rodents because they are after edible things...hmmm a mouse on caffeine....scary thought, no? I love coffee grounds in my compost because it does breakdown fast. Yummy. Now if only I could get the manager. Sigh. I've tried twice now....there are no stand along Starbuck's in Troy, although I'm about ready to try the local coffee shop and Tim Horton's.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 9:03AM
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mike_g_(Zone 5b OH)

Michigoose go to the local sand and gravel place for cheap sand. One near me has a minimum price of about $10.00 but at about $4.00 a ton you would not likly go over. They will also sell a five gallon bucket at $.50 each.
The other one has no minimum if you load your self. Most people can load ½ ton in less then ½ hr. I prefer they let me load as their loaders think it is funny to over load your truck.

Mike G

    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 8:53PM
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MidnightStorm

I just peeked into this forum because I used to live in Ohio (I'm in North Carolina now) and I saw your post. I use Starbucks leftover grounds for my garden too but you have to be careful. You can overdo it. I read somewhere that too many coffee grounds will change the pH of your soil which could harm some of your plants.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 8:41PM
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alison(6b/OH)

Every year I plant a ton of oriental lily bulbs -- only to lose the majority of them to ravenous, juvenile delinquent squirrels.

This year, all the bulbs I planted in the beds with the espresso mulch came up unmolested. Everything else came up as well, so I'm not worried about the pH of the soil, but I wonder if it was the coffee grounds that kept the squirrels away? Anyone have any thoughts or experience with that?

I'm going to ...ahem... squirrel away that idea, and remember to sprinkle the grounds around when I next plant tasty bulbs!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2006 at 4:44PM
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standbyq13

Okay, this is a new concept to me! I have heard of putting coffee grounds on azeleas, but not using it as a general mulch. Also, I have never composted, but am very interested in doing it. Can anyone help me get started? Can I use things from my kitchen, like banana peels and such? What is the best container. I'm sure it would save me a ton on compost!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 12:14AM
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alison(6b/OH)

You know, I've heard contradictory things about coffee grounds and plants. Like you, I've heard people say you use it to alter the pH of the soil. But I've also been told that all of the acid/akalai/whatever is left in the coffee, and the grounds themselves are relatively inert.

To be safe, I didn't put the grounds down very thickly. Normally I just dump the grounds in my compost bin, but I was so amazed this winter when two of the bags were pure grounds, no filters or anything, that I felt I had to try something different.

Definitely, definitely, definitely get some composting started. You'll thank yourself forever, and wonder why you didn't start sooner. It's like printing money in your yard! (Small denomination bills, to be sure, but money all the same!)

Set-ups can be as simple or elaborate as you want. You can invest in the expensive plastic tumblers, or just pound some stakes in the ground and wrap snow fencing around it. I know folks who carefully measure the percentage of nitrogen, etc; and I know folks who just dump their dead leaves and grass clipping in the fall.

There are some basic rules; you want a pile of a certain size so it can start generating heat and break down the elements faster; you want to make sure it has regular moisture; and you want to keep a mix of 'browns' -- dead material -- and 'greens' -- fresh stuff; but everything else is pretty flexible. (Just to keep things confusing, coffee grouinds are considered 'greens' -- altho' they're brown!)

I've got a big plastic bin my sister bought at OddLots tucked under the fire escape. Since I have a small yard and live alone, I don't generate very much compostables -- so I use shredded newspapers, coffee grounds, and the squeezings from the juice bar in my neighborhood. If I spent more effort, I'm sure I could get compost faster, but for very little effort, I've got a fair amount of the stuff.

Check out the Soil, Compost and Mulch forum here on GardenWeb to get started and ask questions as you go along. They're great!

Here is a link that might be useful: Coffee Grounds and Composting

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 12:37PM
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standbyq13

Thanks so much Alison! That is great information. I'm going to check out the other forum now!
One more question, how big are the bags that you get from Starbucks?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 4:03PM
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alison(6b/OH)

The little bags I get from the drive thru Starbucks hold maybe about 5-10# of grounds; nice silver bags about 12" tall. (I reused about 30 of them I'd accumulated as containers for winter sown seedlings with mixed results.)

The big big bags I got from the stand alone Starbucks were the extra large industrial trash bags -- I had to use both hands and some oomph to toss them into the trunk!

I've only gone to the stand alone a few times, but I do stop off at the drive thru about once a week. They usually have the grounds bagged and sitting beside the counter, and you can snatch them up without even saying anything. If they don't have any out, I'll ask, and they often will hand me one or two medium sized bags, like a kitchen garbage back, of grounds and filters.

Once you get started, you'll have fun!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 4:18PM
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nimblewill(z5 OH)

NO, NO, NO, never use coffee grounds directly on your bed or lawn. It will stunt the growth of your plants just as it did to this little jack in the pulpit.

Seriously, I think the grounds are great stuff, but don't try to use them as a mulch. I put over an inch of grounds almost everywhere the winter before last and regretted it. They form a crust that is impervious to water (like dry peat moss), so I had to "till" the coffee grounds with a garden fork several times. Didn't have this problem in lawn areas or those few places that I blended the grounds with other organic stuff.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 12:17AM
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alison(6b/OH)

Wow! That's got to be at least a "bishop-in-the-pulpit"!

I can see that the grounds would make a crust if they were thick, or in full sun. Mine were in a partially shady bed, and were on top of old pine bark mulch, which broke it up enough that it didn't form a crust. I'm definitely using it around any lily bulbs I plant next year.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 12:12PM
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tootseug(8)

WHAT are juice bar leavings? Is that the rine, seeds, etc?

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 3:46PM
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alison(6b/OH)

Even better than that! It's the pulp left after they juice veggies. Breaks down super, super fast and makes really rich compost. It's gold!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 4:47PM
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