Perk Up Your Plants with Coffee Grounds

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.

Permaculture designer and educator Joshua Burman Thayer is a regular contributor to Edible East Bay. In his monthly Gardener’s Notebook feature in Edible East Bay’s free e-newsletter, he offers lots more advice on how to implement gardening ideas like this one. Sign up for the newsletter here. Josh has also written for Mother Earth News and Edible Silicon Valley. Find him and his work at, and follow him on Twitter at @nativesungarden.

Illustration: Charmaine Koehler-Lodge