We are learning that when you are running an urban farm, you have to find ways to improve and replenish your soil. While plants need sunshine and water, soil is also a key component to a productive farm. At the Farm at Walker Jones, right now we are focusing on two key ways to improve our soil, coffee grounds and compost tea.
After a recent soil test, it was clear we needed to increase the nitrogen in our soil. Coffee grounds are a great way to add nitrogen to soil and are loved as a soil amendment by acid loving plants like tomatoes. We are using the grounds we collect to build beds, feed our tomato plants and add to our compost.
If you want to collect large amounts of coffee grounds, it helps to create strong relationships and make it easy for the stores. We have been leaving buckets at local Starbucks on 7th Street and Chinatown Coffee (http://chinatowncoffee.com/) on H Street and collecting it every day. The stores love not having to throw it away and knowing that their waste is going towards making a healthy garden. For the last two weeks we have picked up coffee grounds to add to the soil as we have created our four main beds. Collecting coffee waste from local coffee shops is a great way to meet more people close to school, while improving the nitrogen content in our soil. Special thanks to our local Starbucks and Chinatown Coffee!
Farmer Coach from Whole Foods has recommended we brew our own compost tea to improve the microbial content of our soil and to make it more productive. We have just started making the tea and are working on improving our recipe, but Coach gave us an awesome and simple way to make a great batch of compost tea.
Compost Tea Recipe
Aquarium Pump (From Riverdale Pets)
Clear Plastic Tubing
Compost (plus worm casings)
Fill up a five gallon bucket with tap water and let it sit for 12 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate. Place compost (we heard worm compost works great!) into stocking, tie and place in bucket. Place tubing attached to pump with filter stone in the bucket. Let pump run in bucket for 24 hours and then spray or soak plants in the tea.
– Braden Kay