Tuesday, November 13, 2007

GAIA LUNA: Grounds for the Ground


Very few people get excited about the potential of rotting organic matter, but I'm one of them.

I'd heard that Starbucks gives away their spent coffee grounds to gardeners just for the asking. So this morning at about 10:30, after exercising, I stopped in and got the morning's grounds for my garden. When I asked, the girl behind the counter didn't hesitate for a moment. She added the filters from the machines into a large bag already full of grounds and cheerfully double bagged the whole lot for me to take. I walked away with about 20 lbs of grounds, which I added directly to the soil in Gaia Luna.

According to several sources (see below) coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen for building the soil. The food I grow and consume gets its nutrients from the ground in which it grows. I'm intent on making my garden soil as rich and healthy as I possibly can, improving it each year.

Last June, I snapped a picture of my compost bins.

At the time there were mostly filled with straw mulch recently removed from the strawberry patch, fresh spring grass clippings and kitchen scraps.

Now they hold the remnants of tomato, squash, and bean plants gone by, chopped up sunflower stalks, frost-killed cosmos and nasturtiums, a large bucket load of fallen apples from beside the driveway, plus several months more kitchen scraps from daily cooking and summer preserving. They're a little short on brown, carbon rich material right now, so when I get a chance I'll rake up some fallen leaves and pine needles to add.

I'll also rake decayed leaves from last fall to add directly to the garden beds, to balance out the nitrogen rich coffee grounds.

I'm not an expert composter by any stretch of the imagination. I just dump stuff in and stir it around every so often with a shovel or pitch fork. It does it's thing, breaking down plant material and egg shells into a rich crumbly brown earthy material that grows better vegetables.

It doesn't stink unless I add too many kitchen scraps and leave them too close to the surface without piling dry leaves and things on top.

To me, it's the ultimate in recycling: today's potato peelings and coffee grounds become next summer's green bean salad.

Here's some more info on composting: