Posted by: Bill Stoneman | July 30, 2009

Cup of Joe with those grounds?

Starbucks bin is emptyAs many soil mavens know,  Starbucks (and other) coffee shops give away coffee grounds.  A regular reader, however, who snapped the accompanying picture with a cell phone camera, wonders about the etiquette. It seems that our gardener friend was waiting on line to buy some coffee before politely requesting grounds when someone else ran in and snatched bags of grounds and ran out, leaving nothing but an attractive sign to look at. So the question for this day is do paying customers deserve first dibs on Starbucks’ coffee grounds?

The urban gardener in the snowy north might like picking up coffee grounds for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is that spreading grounds is a good cost-free way to enrich soil. The conventional wisdom that coffee grounds are especially good for acid-loving plants may not be right, according to a number of online sources, including Science Daily. On the other hand, grounds are rich in nitrogen, one of the Big Three elements we’re usually after when we buy fertilizer.

Gardeners might like picking up coffee grounds for a couple of other reasons as well, though they don’t reap as direct benefits.  Less use of industrially produced nitrogen-rich fertilizer means less energy consumption. Natural gas is a big part of factory-fixing of nitrogen to make it accessible to plants. In addition, coffee grounds on garden beds means a little less waste in the landfill.

Of course, you’d have to believe that every little bit helps to be swayed by these arguments.

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