During the great depression my grandparents raised chickens and always had a large vegetable garden. It was in this garden where I first had the excitement of putting a seed into the ground and watching it grow into something to eat. I also have vivid memories of seeing a chicken having its neck rung!
I began to think, as I regularly throw away the byproducts of breakfast, that my grandfather wouldn’t have been pleased to see me being wasteful. He always had a gigantic compost pile that he turned regularly with his large pitchfork. After some research, I want to share some uses for those breakfast items like egg shells, coffee grounds or tea leaves and banana peels. Each of these items can improve your soil and some have additional benefits.
Most of us start our morning with a cup of brewed tea or coffee. Try using coffee grounds mixed with dead leaves or hay to create a healthy mulch which you can blend into the garden bed. Avoid using straight coffee grounds as these tend to cake together. The grounds contain phosphorus, potassium and magnesium which will help improve your soil’s fertility. Be warned that they can inhibit the growth of some plants, for example geraniums and asparagus fern. When adding to your compost, the grounds should only comprise 10-20% of your total compost volume. You also might like to use coffee grounds in your worm bin if you have one.
Brewed tea leaves contain trace minerals that promote healthy growth in plants. You can reuse old tea bags to brew a weak tea and use it to water your pot plants. It will provide your plants some nutrients and may deter pests and fungal diseases as well.
Egg shells have many uses in our gardens. The shells are 34% calcium along with vitamins and minerals. Drying, crushing and adding them to your bird feeders will please and promote good health in the wild birds. Dried partially crushed shells generously sprinkled around hostas or young seedlings can help deter slugs and snails. For a potting soil additive, include finely crushed dried shells which will break down quickly.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good banana with their breakfast, but why throw away all those peels when they too have good benefits! By chopping up your empty peels and working them into your soil they will break down quickly. They add a powerful cocktail of nutrients including calcium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphates, potassium and sodium, all of which help plants to grow well and develop their fruit. Another idea for your left over fruit parts it to set them out on a platform near your plants to attract butterflies, birds, wasps, bees and caterpillars. Butterflies are particularly fond of sliced rotting oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches, nectarines and apples.
Obviously any and all of the items in this article are a great addition to your compost pile. Choose any idea above that suits you best and take your breakfast to the garden.
The Smith County Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization in connection with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Smith County Master Gardener