Let’s see a raise of hands (maybe in the comments under this post on our Facebook page?) for who’s excited to garden this year! I suppose if you’re a Hot Mess Press subscriber who lives in Australia or similar geographical zones, you’re reaping a harvest as we speak. If you live in the U.S. in states like Florida, California, Arizona or the like, you probably garden year ’round. For those of us who live where there are four distinct seasons (which, for us Pennsylvanians, sometimes occur all in one day!) this is the time of year when we typically start ordering seeds (preferably non-GMO) and planning our gardens. It’s also a good time to start saving three kitchen scraps that will help you nourish and strengthen your garden plants.
These three kitchen scraps are typically abundant in the average household. There are a few tips to keep in mind for storage, so they don’t get icky or moldy. If you start collecting them now, you’ll have plenty on hand when planting time comes around and to provide nourishment to your soil and plants throughout the summer. Each item is beneficial for garden vegetables, but you can also use them for indoor plants, as well.
Coffee grounds are valuable kitchen scraps to boost garden health
If yours is one of the rare households where no one drinks coffee, you might have to get creative to obtain these kitchen scraps. Perhaps you can ask a relative or friend to start setting their grounds aside for you. Most family households have at least one, if not more, people who drink coffee. It just so happens that used coffee grounds are an amazingly beneficial natural garden booster. In fact, if you start your plants indoors, you can mix coffee grounds into your potting soil.
Coffee grounds are beneficial to your garden plants in several ways. They absorb and retain moisture. If you mix grounds into the soil around your plants, it helps keep water where your plants need it most: near the roots. Another benefit of using coffee grounds in your garden is that they’re loaded with nutrients and trace minerals that help plants grow. Nitrogen is a chemical element that keeps garden plants healthy. Coffee grounds help regulate nitrogen levels and make it easier for your plants to absorb it. Finally, regularly using coffee grounds in your garden helps strengthen the structure of the soil.
Two ways to store coffee grounds so they don’t get moldy
If you start saving coffee grounds in an airtight container on your countertop or in the refrigerator, they’re likely to start molding before long. The last thing you want to intentionally add to your garden is mold! You can do a couple of things to avoid this problem while collecting grounds to nourish your garden. If you have space in your freezer, you can freeze your coffee grounds. Using gallon-sized freezer baggies allows you save grounds in flattened bags, which are easy to stack in a freezer. You don’t even have to thaw them out before using. They’re easy to break off and crumble, as needed.
You can also save a week’s worth of coffee grounds by spreading them out on a cookie sheet. Each day, spread out your used grounds onto the sheet, until you have a full pan. (Don’t worry. In the short amount of time it takes to save up a full cookie sheet of coffee grounds, they’re not likely to mold.) When you have a full sheet of grounds, set your oven to 175 degrees – 200 degrees. Place your cookie sheet on the middle rack of your oven. In an hour or two (Keep an eye on them.) they’ll be nice and dry. You can then store them in an airtight container without worrying about mold.
Banana peels are kitchen scraps worth saving if you’re a gardener
As long as you’re saving kitchen scraps in your freezer, you can start adding banana peels to the mix. Again, just flatten them out as best you can and store them in large freezer bags. When you’re ready to plant tomatoes or peppers, take your banana peels with you to the garden. You might want to chop them into smaller pieces first, but it’s optional. Many people use them whole. Banana peels are rich in Phosphorous and potassium. Simply place a peel into the bottom of each hole before adding tomato or pepper plants. You can also chop banana peels into small bits and use them as mulch around your garden plants. The potassium helps protect them from disease.
Nutrient distribution and strong growth are important aspects of a healthy garden. In addition to potassium, bananas are an excellent source of magnesium, too. If you save banana peels, you can turn it into a fertilizer that boosts stem strength and plant growth. It will also help with nutrient distribution. To make banana peel fertilizer out of kitchen scraps, you place peels into a bucket of water, then let it ferment for several weeks. Strain the liquid into a spray bottle and use it throughout the garden by spraying the base of the plants. The longer you let the peels steep, the more acidic the water will be. If you’re using it on plants that are low in acidity, you can steep for less time, then dilute the finished liquid even further. Blueberries and other highly acidic plants may benefit from a longer-brewed fertilizer. This spray is known to help repel aphids and other pests, as well.
One more banana peel tip worth trying
Another way to use your banana peel kitchen scraps in your garden is to chop them up and add them to your blender. Pour some water in and blend it all into a slushy mixture. You can then pour this banana peel slush around the base of your garden plants. Work it into the shallow layer of soil all around your plants.
Start saving egg shells for your garden
Egg shells are abundant in calcium, which is much needed for a garden to be healthy. In humans, calcium helps fortify cartilage and bones. In fact, some people consume egg shell powder as a supplement for this purpose. While your garden plants don’t have cartilage or bones, calcium is still a much-needed component to boost plant health. You can grind egg shells into powder to sprinkle throughout your garden. You can also make a liquid fertilizer in much the same way you would make banana peel spray, with one difference. Simply soak chopped up egg shells in water for several days or longer, then strain the liquid into a watering can to pour into soil rather than spray.
Because eggs may carry salmonella, it’s recommended to rinse egg shells well and dry out in a 200 degree oven. Approximately 30 minutes should be sufficient to kill any bacteria that happen to exist. If you store ground-up egg shells in an airtight container, they will last a very long time — pretty much, indefinitely.
Mix and match these kitchen scraps to boost garden health
You can try each of these ideas separately, throughout your gardening season. Some people like to combine kitchen scraps to use at the same time. For instance, you can add each of the items mentioned in this post to compost. This article explains how to build your own compost pile. You can also include all of the items in the same bucket of water to make your fertilizer. It’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time. Gardening is a process that is unique to each person’s growing conditions. Your location, type of soil, health of soil, etc., all affect which types of kitchen scraps may be most useful to you.
Learn as much as you can about your growing conditions and about each of these natural garden health-booster ideas. Then, you can decide whether to use them one at at time at various times throughout your gardening season or all at once in a combined compost or brew. If this will be your first year as a gardener, congratulations! And, don’t worry — we’ve got lots of gardening posts in our Hot Mess Press archives that you might find helpful, like this one!