Coffee/Ammonia Fertilizer

DaveG

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For a bit over a year now, my typical fertilizer for all of my plants has been some combination of leftover brewed coffee and household ammonia. Usually, I fill the bottom of a gallon jug with about a half inch of coffee, half or less that amount of ammonia (usually leaning toward less), then fill the jug to the top with water.

I usually give plants about half as much of this solution as I would water in a normal watering. If they started out close to dry, I usually give them enough water afterward to get them to where they'd be after a normal watering. During the growing season, I'll usually give them this stuff about every week or two, depending on whether or not they seem to need it at the time.

My process isn't very scientific yet, but it seems to work pretty well. I've found that the easiest way to go wrong is to use too much ammonia. Not that the consequences were ever very severe so far. Also, I'm considering gradually bumping up the amount of coffee to see if they respond well to it.

The only major downside that I've found to this fertilizer so far is that It does stain a lot of things. If you're planning to raise the roots of a tree later, expect them to be a lot darker than the other bark. The inside of the pot and everything it drains on will get stained a little as well.
 
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John Ruger

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That's an interesting combo. Do you know what the NPK ratio is? Another interesting solution is the un-buffered asprin dilution.
 

DaveG

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I have no idea, John. But one of these days, when I'm closer to figuring out the ideal quantities of the ingredients, I'll probably try to figure it out.
 

rockm

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So, Um...

Why do this?
 

DaveG

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Why do this?

In terms of being a fertilizer, coffee has a lot of good stuff in it that's readily available to plants. It has nitrogen too, but not enough of it is readily available. It's also a bit on the acidic side. The leftover brewed coffee and leftover grounds are both still popular as organic fertilizer, as you may be aware. I tried diluted stale coffee alone for a while before I first tried adding ammonia to it. The results were at least better than not fertilizing at all.

Ammonia, obviously, has a lot of readily available nitrogen. But it's too basic to use alone unless it's very dilute. I figure it's also something the all-organic fanatics would never try mixing with their coffee fertilizer.

Both ingredients are easy to obtain and very cheap. The work involved in preparation is minimal. Combine them and they become close to neutral in terms of acidity. And they have a lot of what our plants need in fertilizer, possibly nearly all of it. I'm not sure how close the proportions are to ideal, but I've had good results with it.
 

mcpesq817

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Do you supplement with trace elements?
 

rockm

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So, why bother if all this stuff has already been worked out in a form that's precisely balanced and prepared with plants in mind and is readily available and cheap--see the prepared fertilizers in the sales bin at the local Home Depot...

To each his own, I guess...
 

DaveG

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Do you supplement with trace elements?

The answer to that question is complicated. The simple version of the answer is "no, coffee contains trace elements", but my soil also usually has some combination of compost, bone meal, egg shell, crushed or whole seashells, and chopped up bits of galvanized steel wire. When I either move to a slightly cooler and wetter part of the country or get some kind of automatic watering system set up, I'll be making the transition to something closer to bonsai soil for my trees and some of those soil components will have to go. I'll find out at that point if the coffee alone has enough in it.
 

mcpesq817

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Interesting mix. Thanks for sharing.
 

DaveG

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So, why bother if all this stuff has already been worked out in a form that's precisely balanced and prepared with plants in mind and is readily available and cheap--see the prepared fertilizers in the sales bin at the local Home Depot...

To each his own, I guess...

"Why bother?" The effort involved is minimal. It's just two ingredients instead of one.

I also think the implication that this isn't prepared with plants in mind is a bit silly. Both ingredients are commonly used as fertilizer. The coffee specifically is directly coming from the ground-up seed of a plant, which may be viewed as the coffee plant itself making the decision for us about what is a good ratio of most of the ingredients. I'm also being mindful of the current needs of my plants when I'm preparing it.

And you want cheap? So far I spend about $1.50 to $3.00 a year doing this, which is entirely in the cost of the ammonia. Financially, I think the biggest risk involved, aside from any risk to the plants, is that if I bought too much at once someone might get suspicious that I could be making meth. I don't have enough trees for that, but I suppose it could be a risk for someone with a lot of trees. Still, it's something that shouldn't be too hard to clear up.
 

garywood

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Hi Dave, ammoniacal nitrogen is a common source,as you know but for those that are interested in alternative fertilizer, it requires break down from microbes in the soil to a nitrate. It is just a little slower to be available to the plant and works best in warmer weather.
Wood
 

irene_b

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So would the type of coffee be a issue?
 

Bill S

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Irene, only the tempreture, if it is hot enough that you shouldn't put it between your legs, don't use it on your tree. At least don't think you'll be able to sue over it if you don't cool it first.

The HGTV channel had this Paul guy on for a long time that would give different home grown mixes for use around the lawn and garden, soda, beer, amonia were common items if I remember correctly. I don't think that this approach would be good if you don't clearly understand the health or lack thereof of your trees.
 

DaveG

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Hi Dave, ammoniacal nitrogen is a common source,as you know but for those that are interested in alternative fertilizer, it requires break down from microbes in the soil to a nitrate. It is just a little slower to be available to the plant and works best in warmer weather.
Wood

Thanks for sharing that, Wood. I've considered trying something like calcium or potassium nitrate powder instead of ammonia, but I haven't yet found a good local source that's cheap and in small quantities and buying on eBay would require that I pay shipping. The ammonia is still a better deal for me until I get more plants. It's been reasonably fast-acting for me, as I'll sometimes see a change in color or vigor within two days.
 

irene_b

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Bill I wasn't talking about the temp of the coffee but the grounds....Different roasts/brands, etc.
 

Bill S

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I realize Irene, I should have put up one of these - :D - to make you think dum dum at McDonalds burning her thighs with hot coffee.:D

Good thought though, I guess some coffees might have different stuff in them, Chicory comes to mind. Starbucks when you first open a 2 # bag of beans they have so much oil on them they are litterally wet.
 

DaveG

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Irene, only the tempreture, if it is hot enough that you shouldn't put it between your legs, don't use it on your tree. At least don't think you'll be able to sue over it if you don't cool it first.

The HGTV channel had this Paul guy on for a long time that would give different home grown mixes for use around the lawn and garden, soda, beer, amonia were common items if I remember correctly. I don't think that this approach would be good if you don't clearly understand the health or lack thereof of your trees.

Bill, I've used the coffee while it's still hot in the pot, but remember that I'm adding quite a lot of water to it. By the time I put it on my plants, it's cold to the touch.

I'll agree that this isn't for someone who doesn't know their own trees pretty well. If someone is just starting to experiment with this method, I'd say a weaker mix is definitely better.
 

DaveG

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Bill I wasn't talking about the temp of the coffee but the grounds....Different roasts/brands, etc.

I haven't been picky about that so far, but I've had the same question in mind. I doubt it has a big influence of the quality of the result, but I'd love to know.

Most of the coffee I've used for this has come from the flavored varieties of HEB's Cafe Olé brand.
 

irene_b

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Good God you wasted coffee???????????????
Don't you know coffee is the lifeblood of America!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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Dave....

Chopped up bits of steel?

'Splaine Lucy.... ! :eek: lol :D

Kindest regards,

Victrinia
 

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