Sunday, June 29, 2008

Give the tomatoes a kick

Last year we had slugs and snails in our garden and yard. Hundreds and hundreds of them. I went to the gardening aisle at the local EverythingMart and got some slug bait. Once home I started reading the directions... and the thousand Words O' Warning. That is really scary stuff! I ended up taking the slug bait back and dealing with them the old-fashioned way - we picked them up and threw them out into the road for the birds. Joe and I each averaged about 50 slugs per day. No kidding. We still only ended up with a few measly tomatoes but that might have had less to do with the slugs and more to do with our novice gardening skills.

With little kids running around the garden, I have serious misgivings about fertilizers, pest sprays and other chemicals to spray or sprinkle about. Still, I've lost all but 4 spinach plants and a handful of carrots to bugs. I finally had to find a safe-ish spray to help them. Now my tomato plants, while bushy and full of flowers, are just begging to be eaten by creepy-crawlies.

I was pretty excited to come across this idea while browsing gardening sites. Sprinkle used coffee grounds around the base of your tomato plants. There are some good tips and information here and here. Coffee is slightly acidic and tomatoes love acidic soil. Plus it provides a slow release of nitrogen as it breaks down - perfect fertilizer! The smell is strong and unusual and can repel some birds, squirrels and other animals looking to snack on your precious garden. Some people also claim that the caffeine in coffee will deter or even kill slugs. You can also use it in your compost pile, if you're into that (this image came from a site about coffee composting).


Local coffee places, Starbucks especially, will reserve their spent coffee grounds and offer them free of charge, to whatever gardener goes in and asks for them. I stopped off at our local Starbucks to test this out and sure enough - they emptied all the filters into a large plastic sack for me. I probably got 5-7 pounds of spent grounds and it would have been free, except Bart and Lisa spied some shortbread cookies that they couldn't live without.

Hmmm, those were quite tasty and I'll need to find a recipe to be making some more of those...

After a cookie break, I mulched around the base of the tomato plants with the grounds and let the sprinklers do the rest. The smell is strong and heavenly (not everyone loves the smell of coffee but I do). Now only time will tell if this helps.

Happy planting, etc...

jeri

2 comments:

The Mathews Four said...

Please let us know how well this works for you! I'm so excited to try it because I love love LOVE the smell of coffee! Mmmmmmm....
-Jessica

AMS said...

i didn't think the snails and slugs have been that bad this year, but we went for our walk last night and the Greer and Keen kids have been collecting them... they must have had over 100 snails in their buckets, plus they were hatching more!!! I told them I'd donate to their cause so I'm going on a snail hunt today!