The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Coffee To Wake Up the Gardener and Garden


Today I was talking to a coffee expert on using coffee grounds in the garden. I used some extra coffee on some new plants and saw good results, especially with rainwater added. I began adding more used coffee grounds on other plants that needed attention.

My Crepe Myrtle twigs have various heights. The tallest receives regular rainwater and coffee grounds. In the front, the tallest is at the bottom of the slope and the shortest at the top. Today, the light went on. Although Crepe Myrtles are drought tolerant and sun-loving, any plant at the top of the slope will get less water than at the bottom. In fact, the back yards drain down where the myrtles are lined up in a row, the bottom one getting the best runoff and a big of soil as a bonus.

The rescue operation will consist of more grounds for the shortest myrtles, plus extra stored rainwater.



Benefits of Coffee Grounds
No, I do not think coffee grounds will drive slugs away and do other magical tricks. But the grounds are organic sponges, a convenient way to lighten the soil and add some nitrogen material.

I am more interested in their contribution to lightening and hydrating the soil. Coffee grounds as mulch on top of the soil will be pulled down by earthworms, contributing to water infiltration and the conversion of the grounds to castings.

Earthworms alone have a powerful effect on the soil, by tunneling, sweetening the soil with their Caltrate glands, adding nitrogen waste, and leaving their castings, which are considered the best of all fertilizer. Although they seem too tiny to make a difference, the earthworms on one acre of land add up to a one-ton creature moving a ton of soil every day.

To hold water longer for each myrtle twig on the slope, and to improve the soil below, I will add more grounds, dried leaves and grass around each plant. The initial effort will hold moisture in the soil. The long-term effect is to leaven the clay soil with organic material and to increase  microbe activity. Earlier I thought the wood mulch was having an anti-nitrogen effect, because wood absorbs nitrogen as it rots, then gives it up again. That may still be true, but the ability of the backyard myrtle to absorb water and grow made me think of the regular doses of rainwater turning that one plant into a champion when all the others were planted at the same time. And they varied by their position on the slope.

Plants have to be given their due, since each has different Creation gifts. Even the roses vary in what they like and tolerate. I failed with one Chaste Tree when I watered it all the time and left it in semi-shade. That is one bush that wants lots of sun, no water added, and enjoys pruning. I cut the Chaste Tree drooping branches, placed it in the sun, and banned all watering near it. The plant responded with health and steady growth.

This crisis reminded me of the couple whose roses, planted at the top of a small hill on their property, did not grow well. I said, "You planted them in the driest spot in your yard. Water drains downhill." One was a chemical engineer. He said, "Oh."

The myrtle fence was planned to keep some neighbor kids off the rose garden. It worked, because the family moved away.



Free Plants - Some of the Best Around
Our Army Ranger friend really liked the roses I gave him for the cemetery. He especially likes the Veterans Honor rose - glowing red, fragrant, long-lasting.



"Where did you get yours?" I said, "From the Net, but I can grow some on potatoes." He was startled, even though he had worked in landscaping. (Every time he has a landscaping story, it is enhanced by the toxic chemicals he handled - all very effective. I nod in agreement.)

I will root roses and some other plants in potatoes - by drilling holes in the spuds. A rooting compound is supposed to help, so I will try that. The cane goes into the potato and forms roots. The potato is planted in the soil, possibly in a pot before transferring it to the garden. The potato provides moisture and food for the new plant.




Elderberries Ten Feet Tall
Almost Eden sold me two Elderberry plants last year, and they grew and formed fruit. This year they grew much taller and formed even larger berry umbrellas.

I found a plant that grows faster than weeds and spreads, too. Like Blackberries, the Elderberries sprout along runners. I may have botched the transplant, but I took some sprouts and moved them deeper into the Wild Garden, to make an attractive, green, bird-feeding screen.

 Photo source.