Fertilizers/Coffee Grounds/Egg Shells/Banana Peels

gardenmommy_2010April 13, 2011

In my quest to find inexpensive fertilizers for my tomato plants (and garden in general) I've heard some odds & ends that people do that sound strange - but are free everyday items. Is there anything to them? When I go to plant my tomato plants will it really help to add banana peels, egg shells, coffee grounds into the hole and surrounding soil? If so count me in! These days it helps to find economical ways of fertilizing our gardens - otherwise it'll be cheaper to buy them at the store! Thanks!

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I put tea or coffee grounds on my garden pretty much every day, after I've finished my morning cup. No idea if it actually helps anything, but it can't hurt, and it saves me from having to throw it down the disposal or in the trash, so why not? I've also gotten bags of coffee grounds from Starbucks, they're usually pretty happy to give that stuff away.

I don't know about the banana peels or egg shells, I would think you'd want to actually compost those, but I don't compost yet, so I don't really know.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 9:09AM
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Well I use banana peels (dried). bone meal, blood meal, green sand, Epsom Salt, and calcium pills (ground up).

I use to use egg shells but found they do not break down fast enough, so I switched to calcium tablets.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 9:09AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Is there anything to them?

If composted first, sure. Otherwise no.

Nothing in them is available to the plants to use until AFTER they are fully decomposed and the soil bacteria can go to work on them to release the nutrients. Decomposition requires time.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 9:59AM
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used coffee grounds are a source of nitrogen after they are composted. used coffee has neutral ph of 6.8, fresh coffee/ unbrewed will raise the acidity of your soil.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 12:05PM
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Over the years I have probably put a thousand eggshells in my garden. I just throw them as is in the garden and they get ground up when I rototill.

The main ingredient in eggshells is calcium carbonate (the same brittle white stuff that chalk, limestone, cave stalactites, sea shells, coral, and pearls are made of). The shell itself is about 95% CaCO3 (which is also the main ingredient in sea shells). The remaining 5% includes calcium phosphate and magnesium carbonate and soluble and insoluble proteins.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 1:20PM
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Has anyone tried using chalk? Like childrens street chalk? I have a ton of that in my garage. hmmmm????

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 9:45AM
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I grew up on a farm,
We raised almost all of our food.

Most kitchen waste went to the pigs & chickens.
But things they wouldn't eat,
(Or when there was too much,
or we didn't have any pigs or chickens)
Were buried 'as is' between the rows in the vegetable garden
It was thoroughly mixed in by tilling, in the spring.

It is amazing just how fast things like
coffee grounds, fruit & vegetable parings, etc,
completely decompose.

Here in S TX, in town, with no pigs, chickens, etc,
I bury all my kitchen waste
(well, almost all. No meat or meat trimmings)
in the garden.
Usually a fairly shallow hole,
& spread it thin.
In our heat it breaks down in a few weeks time!

I do it this way because I know I would probably never
Keep up with a compost pile.
Turning it periodically, etc.
This method works fine for me.

So I say yes, putting your waste in your garden is a very good idea!
I'm not sure I would put it in the same hole as the plants,
But it will definitely enrich your soil,
And feed your plants.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 10:32AM
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ediej1209(5 N Central OH)

Coffee grounds may not specifically feed your plants but they will feed the worms, which WILL feed your plants. Great, great stuff.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 12:31PM
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gardenman101(Z6 Spingfield, Ma)

What about if you ground up all these items in a food processer or blender then poured into the hole at planting time and mix well. Would this make the nutrients and minerals more readily avalible? Just a thought.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 8:09PM
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bluebirdie(Z8 SF E Bay)

Tea, coffee grounds, banana and peels, leftover fatfree yogurt, etc for my raised beds too. I usually collect a large bowl of these, dig a hole between plants and burry them. After rotating the spots, a few months later when I dig into the old holes, they're like earthworm heaven. Like gardenman said, I do chop up the peels into smaller pieces.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 3:33PM
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I think I'll try this, this year. I have been trying to keep a compost pile going, but not very successfully and I feel like I am only feeding the trees that are near it. I dont have a sunny space to waste on a compost pile. As I see it, even if the kitchen waste doesnt break down fast enough to feed the plants this year, it will be feeding next years plants. I'll just use my fenced in compost pile for leaves (which I have huge amounts of) and lawn trimmings.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 3:41PM
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I am buildinga worm box (cheap worm bin on google) it will not help this year but next year I will be ready. I grind banan peels and too over ripe bananas in blender and water roses with mixture. I have great plants. Also use starbuck free coffee grounds on clemantis and other plants gorgous flowers.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 2:37AM
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Just start a compost bin. The options are practically limitless and you'll be able to incorporate a lot more "freebies" than the above list. While it may seem like too much trouble or mess at first, if you have the skills, time, and interest for gardening, you'll also succeed at composting. The results will be worth it.

Here is a link that might be useful: composting forum

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 5:56PM
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Everything needs to be broken down, as mentioned by others. Depending on the heat and humidity of your area, they may start to offer nutrients to your plants. Eggshells in the hole probably will not give calcium or pH buffering until the following year, they are fairly resistant. Banana peels are not particularly "rich" in anything, but they will offer organic content just as any other plant waste would.
I would start a compost pile with all your scraps and as it decomposes you can top dress the soil with it

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 6:54PM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

What about if you ground up all these items in a food processer or blender then poured into the hole at planting time and mix well.

Then it's no longer FREE.
Personally I wouldn't stick anything in the food processor or blender I wasn't going to consume.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 9:59PM
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tomakers(SE MA Zone 5/6 or ?)

All my garbage, other than meat, goes into the garden. I just put it under my permanent mulch of leaves, sawdust, whatever I can find, or bury it if I am feeling energetic(not often lately). :-)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 6:11AM
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I use all of the above items in my worm bin. Then I get lovely worm compost to add to my garden.

It does take some time to get it started but the compost is amazing!!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 10:32AM
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Bets(z6A S ID)

eplina (and others)

Adding eggshells whole or ground, to the planting hole, or even to the soil will not help with BER (Blossom End Rot). The cause of BER is calcium distribution within the plant and is rarely related to lack of calcium in the soil. Never mind the fact that it takes more than a single growing season to break down eggshells.

BER Articles from reputable sources:

Cornell Fact Sheet

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

North Carolina State University

Virginia Cooperative Extension

If you are interetested in reading more technical articles on the subject of blossom end rot, you can check out the articles at this link: Google Scholar Search results for blossom end rot


Here is a link that might be useful: FAQ page on Blossom End Rot

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 10:42AM
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Tip... I dry them out completely in the full sun and put them in a blender when they are completely dry, and it easily goes to a very fine powder that mixes in and can be better absorbed by the plants and does not have that untidy white specs over the whole compost or garden.

In fact just yesterday I did about 3 months or egg shells and you will be amazed how well it works.

BE WARNED this can change the PH values in the soil so a little goes a long way when you crush it this way.

Also gravity and rain only bring it down so don't bother digging in too deep just spread a bit on the top around the plant stem and ruffle the soil and water it in...

Over time and each rain it gets brought down deeper. Many people use this and dig the soil over often deeper then the plants roots will ever grow.

Hope this helps some

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 3:14AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Other than egg shells, sea shells, most kitchen scraps will be composted easily. When I was running fireplace, I would throw egg shells in it. I thought temperatures might break them down faster. Things like oyster shell would not budge. But , regardless, how long it takes for coffee grounds to break down, it is a good soil amender anyway.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 5:15AM
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I've heard that putting egg shells in water for a while to make a tea was good. ?? As an experiment I put egg shells in a 5 gal. bucket, added water and I'm useing an aerator for a few days. Will this be good or am I wasting my time??

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 4:33PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Wasting your time. The calcium in eggshells is not useable by plants.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 1:14AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I agree. There are cheap and easy sources of calcium. Why bother with eggshell ?! Gypsum is cheap, lime is cheap and both are proven to works.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 4:24AM
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Worms use egg shells for their gizzards so I save all my egg shells, smash them up using a mortar and pestle and sprinkle some around my tomato plants when I plant. I hope that I have lots of happy worms in my veggie garden!


    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 8:34AM
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i think its good gardening/composting practice to add all our vegy leftovers to our gardens..:)
i drink alot of coffee..and i have a local source i get around 5 gal coffee grounds a week.. it all goes in the gardens..vegy..and flower/tropical plants..
i have friends give me there egg shells..but i now use oyster shell flour as a calcium additive to my gardens..
as posted here.. sea shells will take longer than we live to break down..there are some good sources online for oyster shell flour..and i like it..
i also get about 15 gal of banana peels a month from a friend.. in the fall i just spade them into the vegy garden. during growing season..they go in the compost.
i think i read somewhere..it takes 17# of banana peels to equal 1 # of gardening value potash..what that level was ..i cant remember.. but..that would be ALOT of peels to put any kind of potash in the soil..
of course..always good idea to have your local extention service do a test on your soil..see how it is every 5 yrs..

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 9:55PM
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not on thread topic necessarily.but..i was going to say..
i have been using fish bone meal last couple yrs.. and my tomatoes respond well to it..
so do the racoons too..:( so..i fence around the tomatoes at start of growing season.keep them from digging around my plants..
fish bone meal has good levels of phosphate,and calcium
plus helpful for good soil bacterial levels..
seem the more diverse soil is in humus levels,good bacteria,worms..helps fend off problems..

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 10:00PM
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The word is "Hugelkultur".

That's what my mom used to practice, on a small scale.

When preparing a vegetable bed, she would strip the area of all the top vegetation - weeds, ferns, shrubs, saplings. She then strips the layer of top soil and put this aside. Next she would dig a trench in the ground - orientated north-south lengthwise. How deep this trench is depends on how difficult the soil is to work on. In this trench, she would throw in all the woody twigs, small trunks, and rotten debris. Next, she would cover this with the weeds/ferns/saplings that she collected from clearing the area. She compacts this down with a "hoe". She uses the top soil she had previously set aside to complete the final layer.

The final result is a long mound on which she would grow her spring onions, pak choi, chilli, etc. The mound usually ends up about 20 feet long, about 3-4 feet wide, and approximately 2 feet high. It often ends up not looking all that pretty - it would be crooked, and the height and width would vary. But, boy didn't it produce good crops!! (She would grow sun/heat loving crops n the west side of the mound, and the less sun tolerant types on the east side.). She uses fern leaves to mulch the soil. A heavy tropical down pour would easily wash away the top layer of good soil if left unmulched.

I did not know, until recently, that this technique of vegetable growing that my mom used to practise more than 40 years ago actually has a more fancy name "Hugelkultur", done on a much larger scale.

Now-a-days, in addition to maintaining a compose bin, I collect the larger chunks of organic waste by setting them aside in a pile through the growing season. In the winter, I trench the beds, throw in all the organic materials, together with any kitchen wastes that may be sitting around, and build up my "Hugelkultur" bed - albeit on a small scale.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 3:20AM
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