Dumpster Diving for Coffee Grounds

What would make a person don gloves and a shovel to dig through a dumpster for coffee grounds?  This isn’t a case of being thrifty, like the nuns in my grade school who would re-use tea bags and tissues until they disintegrated.  No, I’m not making weak coffee with old filters and spent grounds here.  I have bigger plans.

Coffee grounds are a highly coveted commodity both before and after they’re used.  Walk by any Starbucks and the lines out the door (or in the drive through) will tell the tale.  It’s the “after” part that leaves most people hanging.  Why would you want to use coffee grounds after their used once?  Two words: Nitrogen and Loam.

Coffee grounds, when mixed into compost, or directly applied to your garden soil, add nitrogen for healthy plants.  They also work great as mulch, and can help adjust the Ph levels to some degree.  Like compost, coffee grounds help create loamy soil.  In fact, they fall into the “green” category when mixing brown materials (dried leaves) and green materials (kitchen scraps, garden waste) to make compost.  You can’t really go wrong with coffee grounds.

So – back to dumpster diving.

My husband and I took a drive to a local organic coffee house and drove to the back of the parking lot, where a huge wooden dumpster is filled to the brim with spent organic coffee grounds.  The words, “free – take some” are unceremoniously spray painted along the side of the dumpster, making what we are about to do completely legal.
We opened the trunk, put the back seats down and pulled out the 5 gigantic plastic storage bins in the back.  On went the gloves, out came the shovel, and the excavation began.

We took turns shoveling coffee grounds into the bins and weeding out the unbleached filters, which had already began to compost.  The pile of grounds were steamy and warm, and not from recent use.  This is compost in the making!  How exciting this was.  The most I’d ever taken was a plastic grocery bag full at any given time.  Now we were going for bust!  Reason being – those raised beds we built over summer need soil, and this is part of my secret formula for loamy soil.

The looks we got from passers by ranged from smiley and acknowledging to disapproving and curious.  If only they knew, I thought.

As of this weekend, 1 1/2 bins worth of coffee grounds have made their way into the raised beds.  The rest will be used over time in the garden and compost pile.  We’ll also be giving some away during the Gardenerd Organic Gardening Series that starts this Saturday, Feb. 23, 2008.  (another shameless plug).  Let that be an enticement to join us for what is sure to be a great series of classes.  Click here for more info and registration.

Happy Gardening!

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