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Oily Rag: Coffee capers

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Frank and Muriel Newman

An oily ragger contacted us recently to share their excitement about a recent visit to their local McDonalds. It was there that they noticed a "free coffee grinds" sign. They came away with a couple of bags and some useful advice from the friendly McStaff.

There are in fact many uses for coffee grounds: from in the garden through to facial treatments! Here are some simple uses that will get you thinking about your morning coffee - or have you scouting around for free grinds from local cafes!

For gardeners who can talk about fertilisers in N-P-K language, the coffee grounds are 2.5 - 0.3 - 0.6. Various studies have different numbers but what it shows is the grounds are not highly concentrated as a fertiliser, with much more nitrogen (N) than anything else. That's good for leaf growth but it isn’t going to do much for flowering or fruiting. Blending coffee grinds and wood ash from your fire (untreated timber of course) would add more balance and result in a pretty good general fertiliser.

Coffee grinds are appreciated by plants that like an acidic soil. Common hydrangeas are a natural litmus test and will turn blue in acidic soil (and pink in soils that are alkaline). Roses will also benefit from coffee grinds as will camellias. If used more generally, the grinds can be combined with lawn clippings or leaves to reduce the acidity.

If grinds are added to compost then they should account for no more than 10% to 20% of the composted material. Despite being brown, coffee grounds are "green" matter because they are heavy in nitrogen, so make sure you have plenty of brown matter too (like fallen leaves).

When added directly around plants, coffee grounds will act as a slow release fertilizer providing long-term nitrogen input.

Coffee grounds are an excellent growing medium for mushrooms. Carrots and radish are also coffee lovers, so mix the grounds into their seed trays and beds. One oily ragger uses coffee grounds on their edible banana plants and says they are doing well.

They can also be used as a repellent for home and garden pests like ants, snails, and slugs. The grounds can be applied as a diluted spray solution or directly. Apparently ants are not coffee drinkers because sprinkling coffee grounds at their entry points in a home or in the garden will keep the blighters away.

One suggestion - that we have not tried - is to place moist coffee grounds into the bottom of a jar, then line the top inside of the jar with double sided sticky tape which acts like flypaper and catches cockroaches, which apparently, are coffee lovers!

Coffee grounds can be used to deter wandering cats from ‘using’ your garden instead of theirs, so sprinkle the grinds around potential crime scenes.

Grounds can be used as an odour sponge. Place some in a small open top jar and leave in the back of the fridge - or drop a tab or two into your food waste bin to absorb smells. Keep a little cup of coffee grounds near or under your sink, and rub a handful of them on your hands after chopping garlic or onions - or other smelly things.

Add some grounds to your dish cloth to use as a cleaning abrasive. They will act like a soft sandpaper to get rid of stubborn stains on pots and pans - or on handyman tools.

Grounds can be used as a hand scrub or an exfoliating body scrub! Or what about making coffee soap?

They can even help your dog - a tablespoon of used coffee grounds added to their shampoo on bath day, will help to repel fleas.

And for a kids’ activity, try dipping a sheet of paper into a cold brew of coffee grounds. It gives the paper an old look which is great to use for story books.

An oily rag family from northland has written to us about their no cost family activity. Grandma and four kiddies packed a picnic lunch and had a great time at their local reserve. The kids each made a stick raft from dried flax flower stems, which they dropped off a bridge for a race down the stream. On their way to the bridge, they discovered a remarkable number of coloured rocks that had been hidden for children to find. They then had great fun in hiding them again for others!

If you have a favourite frugal tip you would like to share - or a question you want answered - please drop us a note via oilyrag.co.nz or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

- Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Read our wealth of tips on the Oily Rag website at www.oilyrag.co.nz.

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