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Coffee grounds, egg shells can be added to soil

Q. Growing up in Laguna Beach, California, with my grandparents is still a fond memory for me. One strong remembrance is my grandfather taking the coffee grounds, and egg shells my grandmother had crushed, and watching him spread them over his garden. I still do that now in my own garden, but I wonder, is there any profit by adding this kitchen debris to the soil? Or was/is this just a way to get rid of the garbage? I’ve been doing this for years and I suspect there are other gardeners doing the same thing, especially because of a fond childhood memory. – C.Y., Bernalillo

Tracey FitzgibbonA. You can bet that grandpa was being very “green” with the spreading of the grounds and the crushed eggshells in his garden.

It’s like adding free soil amendments, making the soil healthier in the long run.

Now, I wouldn’t plant directly in a coffee grounds pile, but sprinkled around and turned into the soil, they do add nitrogen to the soil as they decompose. The egg shells, crushed, will add calcium and a few other nutrients as they become part of the earth.

You don’t say whether or not you rinse the shell first and them add them crushed, but I’ve always rinsed first, then allowed them to dry before crushing them.

If you feed birds you can even add the crushed egg shells to their feeders – again making sure they are rinsed and well dry beforehand – giving them a free multi-vitamin-mineral treat in their diets.

Years ago I had chickens and they would gobble up the shells (and any other leftover vegetables) from the kitchen I had to offer.

Keep in mind that the shells will work into the soil easier if they are well-crushed. Also, having larger shell pieces could invite a host of troubles by inviting vermin to the garden.

For containers like pots, I’d be a little light-handed if you were considering adding coffee grounds. Since coffee grounds are fairly high in their nitrogen content, if overdone you could burn tender plant roots.

Continue honoring the fond memories of gardening with your grandparents, knowing that you are doing a good – and for the most part free – thing for your garden soil.

Q. My well-kept garden is being devoured by moles. Is it too early to apply mole granules? It appears as though everything I planted in the fall is feeding them. – N.K.L., East Mountains

A. First, I’m pretty darn confident that you aren’t dealing with moles.

I did some poking about on the New Mexico State University website and learned that we don’t have moles here in this part of New Mexico.

If you were to find any they’d be at much higher altitudes.

So who’s devouring your gardens?

Probably gophers, prairie dogs, pocket gophers or ground squirrels. I can remember being taught at Rowland Nursery by an expert flower bulb salesman that gophers really enjoy eating spring and summer blooming bulbs once they are planted.

So it sounds like you have planted a buffet for any ground-dwelling critters in your gardens. The NMSU site suggested there should be available, printed information, from your county agricultural agent on the ways you can eliminate gophers.

You can find the contact information the old-fashioned way by looking in a phone book, under the government pages listed by county, or I’m sure you can Google it nowadays.

It might require you to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the forwarding of the info sheets, but that would be a small price to pay.

Contact them to see how you can get the information. I do know that “hunting” any ground-dwelling critter is a chore to say the least. You’ll need to be cagey and vigilant when aiming to rid your world of them.

Just please, be very cautious and careful if you are aiming to poison them. Be sure any bait you set out is kept well out of sight and out of range of any precious pet, or even bird life, since that could lead to tragic events.

So whatever critter you’re dealing with, know it’s not moles, and with a lot of consistency you should be able to convince them, whatever they are, to move off.

I know it’s hard when you plan and work hard to create a lovely space only to have it invaded, but you can win the war. It’ll just be lots of long-fought battles for the time being. Good luck, while you’re out there Diggin’ In.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to features@abqjournal.com.

 

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