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Are Coffee Grounds Good for Vegetable Gardens? Gardening Tips!

vegetable garden

Coffee is one of the world’s favorite beverages. If you doubt that, consider this; over 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily worldwide. That is an awful lot of coffee, and after it’s been sipped, chugged, swilled, or gulped down in a mad rush, one thing is left behind; coffee grounds.

Now, if you’re like most people, those coffee grounds will end up in the trash. After all, they’re virtually worthless, right? That’s incorrect, as many plant and garden enthusiasts will gladly inform you. From improving the availability of minerals to providing nitrogen, balancing alkaline soil, and much more, coffee grounds are great for veggie gardens!

If you have a veggie garden and a daily supply of coffee grounds in your kitchen, read on! The information below will show you how, when, and where to use coffee grounds in your vegetable garden and help your plants thrive.

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What Benefits do Coffee Grounds Provide Your Plants?

What, exactly, makes coffee grounds good for vegetables?

Coffee grounds, first and foremost, add organic material to your soil as they break down and become fertilizer. Coffee grounds also help improve the drainage of your soil by keeping it looser and enhancing water retention. The grounds also help aerate the soil in your vegetable garden, which allows the roots of your vegetable plants to propagate.

One significant benefit of putting coffee grounds in your vegetable garden is that earthworms love them. As any good gardener knows, the more earthworms in your soil, the happier your vegetable plants will be. Lastly, coffee grounds can help beneficial microorganisms in your soil to thrive, which in turn helps your veggie plants even more.

hand showing used coffee grounds
Image Credit: Runrun2, Shutterstock

How to Use Coffee Grounds in Your Vegetable Garden

If you want to try using coffee grounds in your home vegetable garden, the four steps below will show you exactly how to do it.

  1. According to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, you should spread a layer of moist coffee grounds throughout your garden. They should be no more than 1/2 inch thick.
  2. Once you’ve applied the coffee grounds, add nitrogen fertilizer. The fertilizer will help your coffee grounds decompose faster and release more nutrients into the soil.
  3. After adding nitrogen fertilizer, mix the coffee grounds and fertilizer into the soil. Don’t leave them on top because the grounds will dry out, and dried coffee grounds have a nasty habit of repelling water.
  4. Your last step is to spread a layer of mulch over the soil you’ve just mixed with nitrogen fertilizer and coffee grounds. A 4-inch layer is recommended for best results.

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Can Coffee Grounds be Used for Anything Else in your Garden?

Surprisingly, there are several other excellent uses for coffee grounds in your vegetable garden besides providing nutrients for your precious plants.

As a Cat and Dog Repellent

While cats and dogs don’t tend to mess with the plants in your garden, many will use it as their personal toilet. Some gardening experts claim that spreading coffee grounds around your vegetable garden (and flower beds) will keep cats and dogs away.

Food for Worms

We mentioned earlier that earthworms love coffee grounds. If you want to feed the worms in your vermicomposting bin, they will gladly chow down on your grounds.

As a Slug and Snail Repellent

Many home gardeners have horror stories about how snails and slugs ravaged their vegetable plants, including the roots, stems, and fruits. Keep the nasty critters away by spreading coffee grounds around your garden. Because coffee grounds are jagged and rough, snails and slugs won’t slime their way over them.

woman holding a box of used coffee ground to use as compost in her garden
Image Credit: DGLimages, Shutterstock

To Prevent Fungus and Bacteria from Hurting your Veggies

Pathogens like E Coli, fusarium, and staphylococcus can ravage your vegetable garden. Coffee grounds can help since they are a natural antibacterial and anti-fungal. Experts recommend putting coffee grounds into the soil 3 or 4 weeks before planting for the best results.

As Mulch

Mulch is necessary for most vegetable plants, keeping the soil moist and trapping heat for the roots. A thick layer of coffee grounds makes an excellent mulch, with the added benefit of providing vitamins and minerals as it decomposes.

As a Leaf Spray

To give your vegetable plants extra nutrients, soak your coffee grounds in water and put the water in a spray bottle. Spray your plants thoroughly with the java water to keep them healthy and vibrant.

To Decompose Compost Faster

If you compost, you’ll find that adding coffee grounds helps your compost pile to decompose faster. One caveat is that you should not exceed 25% of your total compost heap with coffee grounds.

As Flower Food for Cut Flowers

This might be the most unusual way to use coffee grounds, but many swear by it. Mix a teaspoon of coffee grounds in a vase with water before putting in the flowers. An opaque vase is best if you don’t want to see the coffee grounds. The grounds provide nitrogen that helps cut flowers stay fresh longer.

person composting coffee grounds and food waste
Image Credit: Jurga Jot, Shutterstock

Which Vegetables Like Coffee Grounds the Most?

Most plants and vegetables welcome the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients coffee grounds provide. Some fruits and vegetables, however, are significantly improved with coffee grounds. They include blueberries, strawberries, carrots, radishes, peppers, broccoli, sweet potato, cucumbers, and cabbage.

What Vegetables Don’t Like Coffee Grounds?

There are very few vegetable plants that don’t like coffee grounds. One of the few garden vegetable that doesn’t like coffee grounds are tomatoes. Alfalfa isn’t a big fan of coffee grounds, but you don’t find many people growing alfalfa in their home garden. If you grow rosemary or lavender, avoid adding grounds to the compost.

Can Coffee Grounds be Used as a Replacement for Nitrogen Fertilizer?

Many are under the misconception that, since coffee grounds provide nitrogen, they can skip adding nitrogen fertilizer to the soil in their vegetable garden. While coffee grounds contain nitrogen, it’s not enough to optimally support plant life. That’s why, even if you add coffee grounds, adding nitrogen fertilizer to the soil in your vegetable garden is a necessity.

Do Coffee Grounds Change the pH of your Soil?

Once coffee grounds have been used to make coffee, nearly all of the acidity they had will be gone (it goes into your coffee cup). The used coffee grounds are, surprisingly, very close to ph-Neutral and thus do not affect the soil one way or another.

coffee grounds for compost
Image Credit: jokevanderleij8, Pixabay

Can Coffee Grounds be Used in an Herb Garden?

Like your vegetable plants, the herbs in your herb garden will benefit from the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients coffee grounds provide. They also enjoy the protection from cats, dogs, and snails and the soil-improving benefits of coffee grounds.

Do Coffee Grounds Prevent Weeds from Growing in your Vegetable Garden?

What’s fascinating about coffee grounds is that they have natural allelopathic properties. Allelopathy is a phenomenon in biology whereby one plant can inhibit the growth of another plant. Because of this, coffee grounds in your vegetable garden will naturally prevent some weeds from growing. They do this by stopping the seeds’ germination and growth, making coffee grounds most effective on weed seeds that sprout.

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Final Thoughts

Are coffee grounds good for vegetable gardens? Coffee grounds help your vegetable plants by providing vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They help your soil by keeping it aerated and helping it retain moisture. Coffee grounds also protect your plants by repelling animals and snails and help them attract beneficial earthworms. If you drink a lot of coffee and have a vegetable garden, using your coffee grounds to help your vegetables is perfect. It’s the epitome of recycling! We hope today’s article has been interesting, entertaining, and, most importantly, answered all your questions about using coffee grounds in your vegetable garden.

Featured Image Credit: Irina, Pixabay


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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