Friday, February 8, 2013

Free Lunch for the BathroomFarm

I have to be a little bit careful about letting people into the inner sanctum of my sustainist lifestyle where doing more with less is a way of life. One day I happened to open my freezer in the presence of a longtime friend who happened to notice an unusual container in there. Not being shy, he had to inquire why I keep garbage in there. Uh-oh.

It wasn't ANY OLD GARBAGE. No-sir-ee. It was the beginnings of a new carefully curated experiment of supplementing specific nutrients in the BathroomFarm. I don't have a worm bin of my own, so I order worm poo (castings) from an Etsy seller which is an ideal all-purpose fertilizer to add to my potting mix. But, it has also come to my attention that plants have specific nutritional requirements for better growth and designer plant food can be pricey. Remember, my goal is to keep the cost of growing an indoor garden as close to being free as possible.

Lucky for me I have a discarded old blender and lucky for me I drink lots of coffee and eat lots of eggs. I'm also really good at prowling the Internet for free samples, so I have a regular supply of organic coffee in small quantities. Any coffee is OK to use, but organic is better if you can get it. Drink the coffee and save the grounds. Likewise, eat the eggs and save the shells. I keep that mess frozen until I have a one-quart container full. Then I put it in the blender and make a frappe which is quite luscious to tomatoes and many other plants.
Mixing this goo into my regular potting mix of dollar store dirt (because its cheap and easy to get within walking distance of most urban Americans) and peat moss, perlite and a bit of worm poo makes a growing medium that's ideal for plant growth. It's very important to have extremely nutrient-rich soil for container gardens because plants deplete the nutrients quickly. It's also important to keep the medium fluffy and help it retain water better and perlite and peat moss help with that. The worm poo works wonders in providing basic nutrients as well as trace minerals. The reason for adding the coffee and eggshell frappe is to supplement calcium which is essential for tomato growth as well as increasing the acidity of the soil thanks to the coffee. You can add this goo to the soil of any calcium-loving plant that grows best in acidic soil. You can also add it to plants already potted to improve the soil.
When transplanting the seedling, I buried its intentionally leggy stem deeply in the pot and and covered it up with the potting mixture, leaving a few leaves protruding from the dirt. In general, tomatoes like being transplanted and their stems can be buried to sprout a better root system.
It seems happy and healthy immediately after transplanting. And, though taking awhile to sprout roots along the buried stem, it has started growing like crazy! I've had less than perfect results with tomatoes, but I am more optimistic than ever after putting more thought into the composition of the soil.

I made a tripod trellis from sticks found in my naturalized yard to wind this vine around to keep it compact and less unruly. Go little tomato plant, go! I'm glad you liked your free lunch from common kitchen scraps!


  1. Yo! Coffee grounds are also a source of nitrogen! I toss mine on my roses to get mad blooms in the summer! Never thought about making a fertilizer smoothie tho. thanks for tha pro tipz. (From @hellyagardening)

    1. Indeed coffee grounds are a source of nitrogen, too. Roses and tomatoes have similar needs so whatever works for one will work for the other. I've read a LOT of references about adding eggshells and coffee grounds to tomatoes but the smoothie idea is my own addition to the plan. Many smaller particles would have a larger total surface area and leach more nutrients faster, I reckon - by applying basic science. So far results are showing.

    2. Besides that, my junk blender needs something to do in the seed-bomb-making off season. ;)