Coffee beans

(C) Robert Knapp


In a previous post I mentioned that coffee grounds were great compost for acid loving plants such as heathers. It turns out I was wrong. Contrary to popular belief the grounds are not acidic as the coffee making process takes most of this away. The result however is that you have a very good all round compost or “green” for making your own compost.

It was only a couple of weekends ago that we managed to get some new heathers planted at home and get a good layer of special purpose compost on the bed. One compost heap was fully used on the garden and two bokashi buckets dropped into another for use later this month.

If the cold snap eases off then it could be time to start planting some herb plugs and maybe sow a few seeds. The only snag is after the winter break … remembering to water everything.




Worms are one of the most efficient ways of converting kitchen waste into something you can use in the garden. Worm compost is a very rich source of nutriment for young plants and in it’s liquid form for top dressing the garden in general. The wormery above was bought from our good friend Heather at Wiggly Wigglers and of course Farmer Phil. Basically you start with three trays, a base which holds the liquid sump, a lid, worms and a bedding mix. The worms supplied are chosen as the most suitable for composting rather than others which can be bought for earth working.

The wormery can handle a variety of food waste but is best to go for vegetables, fruit and peelings. Contrary to popular demand, worms do not eat meat, that’s a maggot diet. They are not too keen on dairy produce either, but you can add bread and rice. Citrus fruits should be avoided at all cost as the oils are poisonous to the wormery. In fact you can change the balance of the colony with putting in too much of anything which is acidic or caustic. Too much onion can turn the wormery sloppy and acidic, much like the effect it can have on the human stomach.

To keep this in check, lime can be added to change the acid balance and handfuls of shredded paper. Wormeries are also excellent places to get rid of old egg shells. Simply dry them in the oven and then break them up in a pestle and mortar. Add a handful from time to time.

Harvesting the compost is done from the lowest tray first. Swap this to the top and leave the lid off and the worms should descend into the tray below. The compost collected is perfect for potting and for nourishing containers. One final tip, the worms are not to be encourgaed as a fishing bait by your father in law !!!



Kitchen composting


Every year the UK wastes over 7 million tons of food. What can we do about it? The maxim is “Reduce – Recyle – Reuse”. We can reduce the amount of food we buy by keeping an eye on sell by dates, planning meals and freezing. Some items can be reused as leftovers or as pet food. Reduction was rumoured to be one of the origins of charcuterie and was charged to the garde manger to make what he could of scraps or waste. Once all these options are covered there is either the land fill or recycling left. The good news is that nearly all food can be recycled or broken down naturally in the garden.

The tradition view of composting is the bin or heap in the garden. These are great for receiving garden waste and veg cuttings but after that your other food waste can be used elsewhere. If the compost heap can be thought of as two types of waste, green and brown then it becomes easier to get to grips with making best use. Green waste is quick decomposing and often becomes mushy. Brown waste is slow to rot and retains a lot of structure. Both of these together, almost in a lasagne type build of thin layers of each, form the optimum mix. The green encourages the brown to break down and the brown prevents it going gooey. Typically this would be fresh grass trimmings and leaves / stems. Much of your kitchen waste would be classed as green. What is left over should be crumbly fresh compost.

Other options are available and pretty much specific to food composting. First is the wormery. Basically a layered set of trays with small holes in the bottom of each. The waste eventually turns to worm compost which is great for potting and a liquid which, when diluted down, works as a top feed for plants. Second there is the bokashi bin. Food is put into the bin in one inch layers and then covered in a thin layer of treated bran. The food is pickled for want of a better word. Once full and then fermented, the contents can be dug into the general garden or added to your main compost heap. A liquid is produced at all times which can be used as a diluted feed or poured down drains to neutralise odour producing bacteria.

There are other options out there and these will be covered in the next few days as well as a more in depth look at wormeries and bokashi.


Coffee as compost


I have to admit to being partial to coffee, a strong espresso usually starts my day. After all the grinding and steaming, there is are the grounds left behind in the machine. These get knocked out into a drawer underneath and left there until it gets full. The question is what to do with these next? Most of the time, this is left until bin day and treated as refuse.  There is good news, which even the big coffee shops are taking action on, it can be recycled.

Apparently worms also enjoy coffee and adding a cup a week to your wormery is supposed to be good for the output. You can also use it directly in your compost heap as a green. The daughter in law of one of the old boys in the village collects bags of grounds from her local coffee shop and fertilises her lawn with it. I got to thinking about how we could use our coffee waste and this morning all the herbs outside the house got a top dressing. This is rich in nitrogen, so should produce some good results. (Green) Fingers crossed.

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