As a daily coffee drinker and long-time advocate of composting, coffee grounds generated in my kitchen go into the compost pile. But, apparently, gardeners are increasingly using coffee grounds, collected from coffee shops, as mulch.
This is not a practice I had considered until I read Linda Chalker-Scott’s peer-reviewed fact sheets on this topic. As one of The Garden Professors, Linda is a huge proponent of science-based gardening information.
Her newest fact sheet, Using Coffee Grounds in Gardens and Landscapes, provides valuable advice for home gardeners. I strongly advise you follow the link and read the entire fact sheet, but here are a few of her points:
- fresh or composted coffee grounds can be safely used as mulch, but no deeper than a 1/2″ layer and not on seed-starting beds as the grounds tend to reduce germination.
- to prevent the grounds from compacting and limiting moisture to the soil, they should be covered with a coarse mulch of organic material.
- coffee grounds are not always acidic and, therefore, should not be used to alter soil pH.
- only composted coffee grounds should be worked into the ground as a soil amendment.
- coffee grounds should compose of no more than 20% of the volume of a compost pile.
The Informed Gardener by Linda Chalker-Scott … a must read for all gardeners.
Want to read more of Chalker-Scott’s science-based advice for gardeners? Check out The Informed Gardener. It is easy reading and pares scientific research against gardening and landscaping myths.
Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Joene Hendry
Sowing seeds indoors is a March-April-May ritual for me. After perusing seed catalogs during cold January/February days, and ordering what I need/want to add to my collection of seeds saved from previous years, it’s really nice to finally start sowing seeds into soil.
Gardeners develop their own routines for starting seeds. Here’s mine, slightly updated from a January 2013 post explaining the same.
- The container: black plastic flats saved from prior nursery purchases. Paper cups, rectangular plastic vegetable containers, small pots, or just about any food-safe container that holds a couple of inches of soil and has drainage.
- The prep: fill containers with light weight potting mix, gently packed down so the soil gives a little … like a sponge. Cut-to-size newsprint will keep soil from escaping through holes.
- The planting: I plant seeds into dry potting mix. Scatter small seeds, such as lettuce and radish, in rows or over the entire flat, then sprinkle with a light coating of soil. Larger seeds are inserted a bit deeper into the soil. Use a blunt pencil to create rows and push larger seeds to the correct depth. The general rule: plant as deeply a seed’s diameter.
- The watering: place flats into a larger, leak-proof tray containing about an inch of water. The soil absorbs water through the drainage holes in the bottom of each flat. After sowing, moisten the top of the soil with a gentle spray from a sink sprayer or a clean spray bottle. Thoroughly moisten the soil initially, then keep the soil moist – not soggy. Cover the flats with clear plastic to maintain moisture until seeds sprout, then remove the plastic to allow air circulation.
- The lighting: Most seeds don’t need light until after they sprout – there are some exceptions but the seed packets should explain this. Indoor-started seedlings usually become leggy; very few homes receive enough light to prevent this. Grow lights, kept as close to the plants as possible, without actually touching the top leaves, will insure plants do not grow tall and spindly before it is time to harden them off outside.
Keep indoor grow lights this close to seedlings to prevent tall and spindly growth.
I use a home-made light rack (thanks to dear Hubby) that allows me to adjust florescent lights to the height needed. As seedlings grow, I raise the lights.
Home-made grow light rack for indoor seed starting.
- Continued care: Even under grow lights, rotate seed flats to encourage even growth. Water when the top half of the soil is dry, preferably a little at a time into the bottom of the tray. Add only enough water for the flats to soak up through their holes. If you come back an hour or two later to find flats in standing water, drain the tray. Plants, especially seeds and seedlings, will rot in constantly over-soaked soil.
Some additional tips:
- Label all flats/pots. Repurpose saved plant tags from previous purchases, create labels attached to toothpicks for each flat, or attach sticky labels to the outside of each flat.
- Keep a calendar, journal or some sort of plant diary to track your methods, planting dates, successes, and failures. I find it useful to note, in the upper right corner of each seed packet, the year they were packed, and note date and number of flats sowed for future reference.
- Most seeds are viable for more than one year if stored in a dry place. I’ve had success with seeds up to three years old. If unsure, test plant just a few older seeds to see if they sprout.
Newly planted tomato seeds and their seed packets.
When to sow seeds indoors: Seed packets recommended indoor sowing periods, usually listed as x to y weeks from last frost (find your hardiness zone and average frost dates). I tend to indoor-sow closer to lesser suggestion – if the packet suggests 6-8 weeks, I sow around 6 weeks. Smaller healthy seedlings transplant and adapt better than overly leggy seedlings.
The ever-critical hardening off: Indoor grown seedlings must be gradually acclimated to outdoor sunlight and conditions to prevent sun-scald and shock. This requires exposing them to outdoor sunlight and temperatures a little at a time. Shade, but bright light for the first 3 days, gradually increasing exposure to full sun a few hours every few days. Also protect seedlings from harsh winds. I prefer giving seedlings two weeks of hardening off before planting them into their permanent summer home.
Learn from your mistakes: Don’t beat yourself up. A mistake is not wasted if you learn from it. Everyone makes mistakes, even seasoned gardeners.
Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Joene Hendry