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Gardener’s Notebook

Perk Up Your Plants with a Free and Easy Amendment:
Coffee Grounds

Your used coffee grounds can provide a natural and beneficial soil amendment. Add this natural food source to your soil by following these easy steps.

Capture the gold
Don’t just dump coffee grounds in your compost. Separate them into their own bucket, and remove coffee filter if possible.

Identify heavy feeders in your garden
Tomato, squash, pumpkin, corn, apple, pear, plum, cherry, avocado, roses, camellias, magnolias, and azaleas welcome regular nutrients, while many California native plants and Mediterranean plants (e.g. sages and lavenders) do not want such rich nutrients regularly added around their roots. Stick to feeding your perennials and vegetables.

Do the “sugar shake”
Gently sprinkle (also known as sugar shaking) the coffee grounds around plants you want to feed. Avoid clumping a whole handful of grounds in any one area, as they are very acidic.

Repeat once per month
Each time you spread coffee grounds, find new destinations for them.

Don’t have a garden yet?
You can begin to feed and enhance the soil biology of empty plots by sugar shaking coffee grounds on soil anywhere.

Working on a large project?
See if your local coffee shop will let you pick up bags of spent grounds. Shops are usually very willing.

Want to learn more?  Check out Josh’s YouTube video [] on using coffee grounds in the garden.

Joshua Burman Thayer is a San Francisco Bay Area ecological and permaculture landscape designer and consultant specializing in dry-land landscape design. He can be reached at 510.332.2809 or online at

Illustration: Charmaine Koehler-Lodge
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