Coffee grounds are one of those things that you just assume need to be thrown away.
This is far from the truth!
Grounds from your coffee pot have a great nutritional makeup that can not only wake you up in the morning, but do absolute wonders for your yard.
If you are looking to start going organic in your lawn care regimen then using coffee grounds is a great way to start.
Used grounds will not only provide the nutrients that your grass needs to start growing correctly, coffee will also help the amendment process of your soil.
Coffee Grounds Used For Fertilizer
Conventional synthetic fertilizers are great for making your lawn green extremely fast, and in the hands of a certified professional they are perfectly okay when used in the right circumstances with limited use.
These fertilizers provide your lawn with macro-nutrients that when applied are immediately accessible, and are great if you are trying to get new lawns established fast, such as a newly sodded or seeded lawn.
The bad thing about these fertilizers is that they are widely misused by homeowners and uneducated lawn maintenance companies – in the hands of these individuals these fertilizers create runoff into our waters and burning of the homeowner’s lawns.
Synthetic fertilizers can also promote susceptibility to disease, infestation and contamination from fungus, pests and bacteria, if they are applied at the wrong times and at the wrong amounts.
I recommend that if you do decide to continue on a synthetic regimen then either hire a certified professional like Georgia Lawn or at the very least get a soil analysis done so that you will know the proper amount of macro nutrient to apply safely.
If on the other hand you would not like to worry about nutrients leeching out of the soil, burning your lawn or creating a succulent state that promotes disease – then look no further, coffee grounds are the answer!
Used coffee grounds can provide your lawn with many great benefits:
- Coffee grounds provide your lawn with both the major nutrient group N-P-K and the macro nutrient group in a slow release form. This is an important factor because unlike fast release synthetic fertilizers, the nutrients in coffee grounds will take time to break down and require microbes to break them down. This one aspect will change how your grass feeds, more than you can imagine. Since the nutrients will be available over a period of time instead of all at once your grass will grow strong and stay that way.
- Used grounds are a delicacy for earthworms. The earthworms use the grounds and in return aerate the soil with their castings. This not only helps break up the soil, it aids in the beneficial microbial activity that a healthy lawn craves.
- Coffee grounds are also being researched to deter certain wilt and rot fungi and bacterium from forming.
Where To Find Coffee Grounds – For Free!
Starbucks is a great place to get a hold of substantial amounts of used coffee grounds.
Most Starbucks have a Grounds For Your Garden program that you can get at least a five-pound bag of used coffee grounds that they would otherwise be throwing away. This not only helps your lawn but it helps Starbucks keep waste out of landfill.
You can also check out the cafes participating in Ground to Ground, or better yet, approach your local coffee shop and ask them if they want to help you out.
According to E-importz – “Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world.”
In there somewhere is the single American household coffee pot that is putting out just enough used grounds every day to use in your fertilization program. If you can set-up a kitchen compost bin you will be able to save your grounds everyday and before long will have enough to take care of your needs.
Another great thing that you can do is start up a community coffee grounds pile. Doing this you will be able to acquire a larger amount of grounds while sharing with the rest of the neighbourhood.
How To Mix And Dry The Coffee Grounds
Once you have gotten up enough coffee grounds you can now begin to start making them work for your lawn.
The first step is to spread them out evenly onto either a tarp or old sheet and let them dry in a sunny dry spot.
The next thing that you need to do is using either a hard rake, leaf rake or shovel, go through and turn the grounds so that what was exposed is now mixed into the pile. It usually takes a day or so for the grounds to completely dry, but this depends on what part of the world you are in. Dry and hot conditions work the best.
Once you have your grounds dried you will be able to mix them or apply them straight – both have their benefits.
Applying the grounds directly to your lawn is good if you are going to be doing some core aeration or are only going to be applying a light amount of them.
Coffee grounds are highly compactable and can smother the lawn if applied too heavily. If you are looking for a heavy application of grounds mixing them with pelletized lime for acidic lawns, or with compost for topdressing for any other lawn, should allow you to dump the grounds on without smothering the grass.
If you are going to be mixing the grounds with lime, the mixture we follow is to mix ten pounds of dry grounds to forty pounds pelletized lime.
To do this you can pour the lime onto the same tarp or sheet that you used to dry the grounds and mix it in with the grounds. Now use a shovel or a hard rake and mix the grounds and lime.
Make sure to mix the grounds in really well with the lime and then use a shovel to put the mixture into either a drop or broadcast spreader.
If you live in the Southern United States where there is a lot of clay and acidic soil, then you will want to put out about twenty pounds of mix per thousand square feet.
Calibrate your spreader setting by either looking at your manual or looking on the Internet for a quick reference sheet that most spreader manufacturers should have on their sites. Once you have your spread ratio, start walking at a medium pace and then open your spreader’s shoot, releasing the mix onto the lawn.
You will want to go around the perimeter of your lawn first and then in straight rows through the lawn.
When you get to the edge of each row, close the shoot on your spreader and turn around – once you are walking forward again open the spreader’s shoot. Doing this will give you a nice even coverage with no dump spots in the corners, which smothers your grass.
If you are using the grounds for topdressing, then mix ten pounds of grounds to 40 pounds of compost. Mix the same way as the above, making sure to get a good even mixture throughout.
Once you are done, put the mix into a wheel barrel and grab a shovel. Try and spread as even as possible, to avoid spots where piles will accumulate. If that does happen, grab a leaf rake and try and rake them into the lawn as good as possible.
After Care Instructions
After you have spread your grounds a good watering will do them good. Not only will it help the grounds get into the soil, it will help the high spots level out.
You will only want to water the lawn enough to get the top one to two inches of soil wet. A quick way to test this is to get an old screwdriver and mark it at two inches. Now sink it into the ground until you feel it stop – this is dry ground.
Any time is a good time to add coffee grounds to your soil, as it will love the boost in organic material and nutrient makeup.
You should apply the grounds every couple of months if you want optimal results. After a while you will be able to see substantial changes from all the microbe, earthworm and beneficial fungi activity that has come from adding material, that would otherwise end up in landfill.
Saving coffee grounds from k-cups letting them dry in small bowl transfer to leg. Zip lock bag. Getting a lot of white mold in bag, any answers
Hi Earl, sounds like they are still too wet and sealing them in plastic makes it worse. Paper bags might be better to avoid the mold unless you really dry them out.
Never think about this, then did it yesterday, good idea
I read your post about boiling water and weed and my question is what about poison oak?
Hi Shari, yes it’s the best way to do it. Get as much boiling or near boiling water over as many of the leaves, stems and roots as you can. Repeat as required until it’s cooked!
For a sustainable planting soil my plan is to use this recipe, please let me know if you think it is on point or missing a nutrient, thank you!
Coconut coir, coffee grounds, eggshells, compost, top soil
Love that I found this website!!
I am working on a compost system for work and we go through 100lbs of coffee a week!
Please let me know if I am on track or what else I can change
Any feedback is welcomed and appreciated!
My plan is 2-3 days a week, to dry out the coffee grounds. Once dried spread around the flower gardens and hopefully to veggie garden and lawns in the future.Will store whatever is left over, if any
My question are, how often can and do you apply the dried coffee to flowers, crops and lawns? every month week season?
does it have to be dried out or can I sprinkle it directly on the flowers crops and lawn? If I can sprinkle moist coffee grounds, how often do you spread, is it the same as dried?
Is there less acidity from the coffee grounds when dry? or is it more to store and use regularly?
The 2-3 days I don’t dry them out, I will put in compost. That would average 40-60 lbs. What would I want the ratio to be green and brown compost to coffee grounds? I don’t want to add too much. we produce 20 lbs on average of food waste in the kitchen daily and don’t have a weight yet on the brown, we have leaves piling up out back to have a stock pile once we start.
40-60 lbs of green compost (we have an arrangement where a woman who owns a farm has been taking the food waste home for her animals 5 days a week, we will keep this arrange and only be composting 2-3 days a week to still accommodate her) and an increase of brown waste to balance out the added coffee, will that help lower the acidity in the coffee grounds/compost pile?
If that is too acidic for the pile. I can dry out 1-2 extra days, only putting in 1 days worth, 20 lbs of coffee grounds into compost weekly. Drying out the rest, to store and disturb to the staff for their gardening/lawn care needs.
I appreciate the answers to my questions and feedback! Looking forward to the responses! 🙂
Can coffee grounds be used straight from the can? we are not coffee drinker and everything says “used’ coffee grounds
Sure, but that’s very expensive.
I JUST LOADED 36 YARDS FOR MY NEIGHBOR TO AMEND HIS SOIL BEFORE PLANTING GRASS.I COLLECT 15 YARDS A MONTH IN LARGE 200GALLON TOTES. THE STUFF WORKS GREAT.
Wow, that is a heap of coffee grounds! Do you have any photos you could share, or even write up a little story about the good work you are doing there?
we save the grounds at work by dumping them in empty coffee containers. By the time I get them home and get to dumping them on the lawn, there is mold in the grounds. I have probably 10 containers in my garage to spread. Does the mold hurt? Should I throw them away?
No that should be find Elaine. Them going moldy is what they would start doing on the lawn in a couple of days anyway. Although depending on how thick the mold is within the coffee grounds, it might make it difficult to spread them our evenly over the lawn. Do you have a compost bin or worm farm? 10 containers sounds like a lot to go around!
Love this website! I’ve been adding my used coffee grounds to my back yard all summer..I just figured it’s GOT to be good for the grass..and wow..it looks great! Question- will my emerald cedars benefit from the used coffee grounds as well? My soil contains a lot of clay..thanx!!
Hi Betsey, thanks for writing in. Your emerald cedars will enjoy coffee grounds, either directly (and scratched into the soil), or via compost. If going directly, start out with small amounts and take it from there. Cheers – Shane.
Why do you have to dry the coffee grounds? I’ve been saving each 2 day’s usage and then going out and broadcasting them on the lawn by hand.
Just so I can store them Jim. When dry, coffee grounds will store for 2 years +
Hi, I see it’s been a long time since your post, but I just started to take an interest in gardening. You wrote that dry coffee grounds store better, but does that mean that you would say it’s fine to use damp grounds directly in the soil once I collect the grounds?
I may just try them anyway to see what happens since I don’t know where I’d be able to dry them out or what I could dry them out on to be more precise.
Also I’m doing research on all of this and I can say, children’s books like one called “How is soil made?” (ISBN: 978-0-7787-5401-5 (hardback) 978-0-7787-5414-5 (paperback)) have been really stellar in giving me the ground knowledge so I can call myself a fledgling farmer / gardener!
To me, a child’s book with its so clear, straightforward, and direct knowledge makes a great learning material over some stuffy textbook any day!!
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Superb site you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get responses from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Many thanks!Weatherford Roofing & Roofers, 1880 Mineral Wells Hwy, #102, Weatherford, TX 76088 – (817) 330-8551
Hi Jade. You will find plenty of coffee grounds experts on this very site. Just post any questions you have and you will receive an answer!
I always had a guilty feeling about throwing out coffee grounds every single day. Now I know why and what that was all about! Thanks for the instruction. And about the boiled water for weeds, just pour it on? Can you elaborate? Thanks also for stopping by my post.
Hi there, how you doing? Yes the boiling water will kill almost anything. I normally boil the kettle and then get that right into the root ball of the weed – it cooks them like you would boil lettuce. Have also heard of other effective ways with bicarb soda and/or vinegar, but have not does this due to fears it will overly alkalise the soil.
Will the boiling water methods work for pokeweed? There is a HUGE one growing under my deck.
Yep go boiling water one day and the vinegar the next. Repeat until dead 😉
I’m in Southern Georgia and just tested the soil in my raised beds while prepping them for this year.
The pH is just over 7, the phosphorus is good, potassium is a touch high, and the nitrogen seems to have gone on vacation.
I know coffee is a good nitrogen source, but will using grounds throw off the other levels? Also how quickly does it break down for the plants to use? I was hoping to put my seedlings into the beds in a few weeks at most.
This is my first year trying to do this without buying lots of supplies from the garden centre…
Hi Elonda, thanks for writing in. You might be leaving it a bit late for the coffee grounds, because they can take about that long to break down and then a bit longer for the soil to start using the nitrogen. If you need a quick nitrogen hit, I’d actually recommend diluted urine (1 to 5), or very well diluted chicken manure (1 to 10).
The coffee grounds will not throw off the other levels, but do be mindful how much of it you use – better to compost first, and if you do apply it directly try not to apply too thickly or it will form a crust.
Would you say that there is an ‘expiry date’ so to speak for the coffee grounds and are any of their benefits lost the longer they aren’t used?
If you keep them dry Scott, they will last for years in a container or paper bag. I’d say that eventually (5 years+) it would loose its potency, like any other organic material, it has a shelf life.
great question. i would only add that no matter how long they stay “on the shelf”, coffee grounds will still benefit the soil due to their organic (i.e. carbon) nature. sounds like it could be fodder for a more in-depth article.
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hi…can you use the grounds on palm trees in SoCal? Med palms? Should I dry or toss on top of soil around palm trunk? Need to mix with lime?
No lime required Paul. Just throw around the trunk with some leaves or straw, give it a soak and that should do it.
My lawn is looking better already! Thank you.
Awesome! Thanks for the feedback Lisa.
Lisa…d you have pictures of your lawn. I just started and would love to see the before/after results.
I got fired from Starbucks for taking some expired coffee grounds that were going to the trash, so be sure to ask your supervisor before “stealing” any kind of waste.
That is terrible news Lee. Did you raise it with management? I don’t think that is the kind of thing they want to see from people who are helping to make a difference.
“Man Gets Fired for Composting”. send me some details. would love to tweet it. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorry to post a general question but has anyone tried dried used coffee grounds on lawn/garden and been turned off? I am trying to see if I can simply use the coffee grounds from Starbucks (sun dried) and mixed in with lime (like this article).
I reached out to the OSU research program that was done 3 years ago on the subject and the response I got seemed a bit tempered down about the usefulness of coffee grounds.
Has anyone tried used tea leaves as part of the coffee grounds mixture? Curious on the mixture results.
Hi George, thanks for stopping by the site.
I can comment as someone who has used 7+ tonnes of coffee grounds in my garden over the past couple of years. Coffee grounds are not the most complete fertilizer available, in fact you could find a heap of products with more nutrients in them. To look at it in those terms defeats the purpose of why I garden…
What you will get with coffee grounds is an incredible nitrogen based fertilizer that conditions the soil unlike anything else I have ever used. Add to that the fact that it costs nothing to use as much as you want, that it attracts earthworms and other micro-organisms into your soil, and you do public good by removing it from landfill.
As an overall benefit to your garden and society in general, I could not recommend anything as good as coffee grounds for your lawn.
Now I don’t use lime in my soil as per our lawn expert, but I have never had the need and live in Melbourne Australia, so I guess that comes down to what kind of soil you have your way.
And yes you can add tea leaves to your coffee compost and it will turn to lovely soil.
All the best mate, and please write back if you have any more questions.
Thank you Shanegenziuk, I am glad to hear there is still support for coffee as an additive. The good news is I live in Atlanta, USA so I think the article might literally be right up my alley. Unfortunately I dont have much of an opportunity to compost so I am looking organic material I can easily get my hands on thats why I was looking at just coffee and tea leaves.
Well George this is a great way to do it. If you can’t get hold of anything else besides coffee grounds or tea leaves, at least add to it some shredded newspaper and water, and that will create soil.
I’m wondering what happens when the coffee gets tracked back into your house by pets or children. That could be quite a mess. Not that chemical fertilizers aren’t worse. I don’t want those in my house either, but I’m wondering how long it takes for the coffee to break down. Do you have to deal with weeks of coffee on your feet? This also may not be very practical given that we live on 10 acres with at least 2 acres of open green space. I usually use CORN GLUTEN that I can buy in a huge bag from the farm supply. CORN GLUTEN is my fav, but some places don’t carry it anymore because the local “landscapers” don’t use it. I am interested in trying the coffee grounds around shrubs. What about using them with roses?
Can’t say that I’ve ever had that problem Kris, because it is not laid down that thickly, and sort of falls into the lawn. If it is sitting over the lawn enough to get stuck on your shoes then that is using too much. Hope that helps as a guide.
Regarding the use of coffee grounds and roses – here is a link to an article I wrote on that subject last year.
I work at a small Starbucks and someone came in the other day asking if we did the “free used coffee grounds” and I had no idea what she was talking about. Before I could ask for details, she left to go to a larger Starbucks. After asking a friend, she told me she was aware of coffee grounds being used as fertilizer and suggested I start saving them for my new, small herb garden, which is doing well but will have it’s work cut out for it once it hits the Georgia clay! When I expressed my concern to her about not knowing exactly what “to do” with the grounds, she directed me here and now I have a few ideas 🙂
That is just great Lauren, thanks for writing in. Clay is a tricky thing to counter, and I have found that coffee grounds do a great job of helping to build up the level of topsoil, keeping plant roots in that rather than into the clay.
Keep in mind that your Startbucks is sitting on a mountain of coffee grounds! Make use of it and best of luck with your herb garden.
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Is there any harm from using flavored coffee grounds? My family goes through a lot of K-cups and most of them are flavored.
No Mike, as long as you can get the grounds out of those K-cups it will break down in compost like any other type of coffee grounds.
What a great idea! I’ve always put them in the compost pile but never thought to spread them on the lawn.
Give it a try Libby and I am sure you will be happy you did. Thanks for stopping by the site!
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How long does it take for the coffee grounds to break down when on top of the lawn? How long can I expect to wait before seeing results? I would like to fertilize the lawn without using chemicals this year, any ideas on how to get rid of the weeds and other unwanted plants that grow in the yard?
Thanks for the help!
Hi there Jon – that all depends on how much moisture is around and the time of year. Hot and damp will break it down very quickly – after a week. You need to wait longer in the middle of Winter – at least a month.
You will start to see results as soon as it starts breaking down, and this will continue for as long as there are grounds there.
My favourite way to remove weeds is to pour boiling water over them, or if there are alot to remove, put down newspaper with a few inches of coffee grounds and soil over it.
I really enjoyed your note on getting rid of weeds! Thank you for sharing that.
sustainability project idea for work thanku guys..
No worries Jo, hope the project works out for you!
How good is this. I have a couple of acres of land heaps of lawn and close to 3 coffee shops. Free fertlizer from now on!
Sounds like you are up for saving a heap of money, and reduce landfill at the same time. Well done David.
Have lots of house plants….can I add dry grounds to potted plants? Thanks, great site!
Thank Kah, yes you can add grounds to pots – jusr be mindful of how much you use. Just a handful every month or so.
Fantastic to know – I currently have SO many grounds I don’t know what to do with them, and I don’t want to stop collecting them!
Music to my ears Charlotte 🙂
question what benefit is there in drying the grounds before you put it on your lawn. Is there any benefit in drying before putting on trees or compost?
Hi Sam. Let me find out exactly why they dry them out for lawn. Could be so they can store them away for when they need them (will store for at least a year and counting), and then mix them with lime or whatever else they need to add.
Can be good to add dry coffee grounds into compost that has gotten too damp or to remove bad odour.
Will get back to re your question. Be well.
The benefit of drying the grounds is so that they spread a whole lot easier, farther and more even in a spreader. If you just throw them in a spreader they will clump really bad.
One more thing sorry – The other benefit of drying the grounds is that you can transport a whole lot more dry grounds at one time than you can wet grounds. You can also spread a whole lot more dry grounds at once than wet ones.
Thanks for that info Jason. I never considered using the grounds that way, even though I dry them myself.
I knew I could use the grounds this way, but thanks for all the info on how to use them in my lawn! Thanks!!
No worries Ed. This is a great post and really do appreciate experts contributing knowledge like this. The author of the post is a lawn care professional, so if he’s happy with coffee grounds, then so am I!
Any ideas on natural nutrients that I can add to my dried coffee grounds to be a more “well-rounded” fertilizer?
Also, any thoughts on how to kill weeds in my yard without using harmful chemicals?
Thanks as always!
Hi Jon – adding some seaweed or fish emulsion to coffee grounds is a great way to balance it out. Add some warm water to that and let it sit for a week. Use away!
Kill weeds – boiling water 🙂