Used tea leaves, egg shells, and coffee grounds in garden?

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A year ago I asked a friend who has several restaurants to save me some spent tea leaves, coffee grounds and egg shells since I was told it was good free fertilizer. He brought me 5- 5gal buckets of spent, dry tea leaves, twelve buckets of egg shells, and two buckets of wet coffee grounds.
I figured it would take far too long for egg shells to break down in the garden so I ran each bucket through a small hammer mill and grinder, which knocked it down to about 4 1/2 five gallon buckets of crushed egg shells ground to the consistency of flour. I tried doing the same with the tea leaves but they're already pretty finely ground, and after trying just a little bit I was loosing to much to the wind.

Now, is any of this any good for this years garden or does it all need to be composted first?

I was thinking of using the egg shells in place of lime this year.
My buddy said that the guy who was saving them for me was keeping a metal pan atop the one oven so the shells dried out fast,
and the egg shells maybe evens got cooked a bit. They broke down into fine dust fairly fast.
I've always needed to add lime to the garden early on to prevent blossom end rot on the tomatoes. Could the ground egg shells replace this years lime?
I usually used coffee grounds around my evergreens but was thinking it may be good in the veg. garden as well?
I grow mainly tomatoes, jalepeno peppers, zuchini, and cucumbers.
 

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Those are all good for the garden, but I would hot compost the eggshells just to be safe re salmonella. Whether that would replace the need for lime depends on how much is used and how much is needed but for sure it can help. I've heard a pile of crushed eggshells around plants can repel some pests such as cutworms.
 
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I figure that since they've been sort of cooked and then ground to a powder any chance of salmonella would be long gone.
I just got done tilling the garden. I was half thinking tilling it wasn't needed but it was like cement. my 50 year old tiller got a good workout. I hadn't used it since this time last year and it started on the second pull, sitting right along side the garden where i left it last year. The best thing i did two years ago was to lose the points and add a magneto triggered ignition module instead. In years past it would have taken cleaning the points and priming the carb to get it going again each season. That tiller is the best $6 I ever spent at an auction. The module came off a junk Kawasaki powered JD mower. I'll have to get around to servicing it one of these years, its likely due for an oil change soon.

Its tilled my garden for the past 32 years, (and my whole front lawn a few times after I burned and replanted it).
Everything but the spark plug and ignition is original. Even the rusted out muffler.

I guess the tea leaves go in the compost bin for now. I've been trying to avoid buying fertilizer and chemicals as much as possible.
Every fall I grind up all my leaves and all season long i mulch with my grass clippings, which get turned into the ground when the season is over. The dirt is pretty well loaded with organic material but for some reason I have trouble getting enough calcium into the soil.

After all the rain we had all weekend and over the past few days I was expecting mud, but the ground was dry and hard as stone as if none of the water soaked in. I was making dust clouds while tilling.

They're predicting high winds and rain the next few days, so I'm holding off putting my plants in till that storm is passed. My luck is they'd all wash or blow away. Every year it seems I have to plant later and later, 15 years ago I had my plants in by the first week in May. The last three years were too cold. (we had frost only last week).


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I got to thinking a bit while burning some downed branches in my burn barrel last night.
I took a metal bucket, and boiled up the ground egg shells while burning the wood. It gave me both sterile egg shell in slurry form which i poured down the row where I plan to put my tomatoes, and it gave me a few buckets of clean potash for fertilizer as well. Not mention it got rid of a load of downed branches from the other day's storms.

The question still is what to do with the pulverized used tea leaves.
I'm wondering if its of any use this year or does it definitely need to be composted for a year or more before using on the garden?

My yard is full of maple trees, every fall I get loads of maple leaves which I leave till after the first good freeze, then I pile them up in the garden area for the winter. Once frozen I grind them up in two batches, the first of which looks about like coffee grounds, running them through the hammer mill with a fine grate in the bottom. The second batch is just run through the mill with no grate, they come out roughly in 3/8" pieces. I load them into a bin and I use them for mulch through the season.
At the end of the season, before planting a cover crop of barley, I till them under. The cover crop gets cut tilled in and turned under each spring, which I just did.

I've done the same thing for years, but in the past I've put a fair amount of lime in each hole before planting my tomatoes and peppers.

An old timer told me that ground egg shells release calcium faster than dolemite lime does but it does not add magnesium. Both are something my soil seems to need the most of each year despite how much organic matter goes into the soil each year. The dirt is dark brown with a ton of worm activity. Though something I did notice this year while tilling is that there were no grubs, something I had a ton of last year. It being the first year in which the ground got a chance to freeze and with multiple snows and more than a month of snow cover, it may have killed off a lot of the grubs I saw last year which had been the 9th season without a good freeze in a row here.

The only reliable soil test I've found is to take a cup of soil and have it tested, nothing else seems accurate. The problem is the soil changes as the season goes on due to rain and plant uptake of nutrients, plus I suppose a certain degree of natural organic material decay at the surface. The problem is I don't think the tests I get back in April or May relate to what I'm dealing with after tilling and a month or so of plant growth. From past experience here I find that my tomatoes like a lot of nitrogen, nitrogen makes for more leaves, more stems and thus more plant to grown more tomatoes. I keep getting told that too much nitrogen makes for all leaves and no tomatoes but no leaves and no green growth makes for a sickly plant and sun burned tomatoes.
a good supply of nitrogen makes for huge plants though and in turn huge plants need more of all the nutrients so the best result I've had is to fertilize with 12-12-12 at planting, then again when they start to set fruit, and then monthly with a handful of 10-10-10 till the weather starts to cool down and the plant start to fail. Last fall I was picking tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers up to a week before Thanksgiving. Something that seems to happen more and more as planting gets later each season due to cold weather hanging around longer. (It got down to 49 degrees last night here) and this is mid May. Its 6:30 am and its still only 52 outside. I'm sort of glad I didn't plant my tomatoes yesterday. Hopefully we saw the end of the cold nights though.
Of course they're predicting 93 degrees during the day over the next few days. We haven't had much spring weather in recent years, it seems to go right from cold to sweltering hot these days.
 

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My thoughts on your above thoughts:

1) the tea leaves can go directly into the garden or can be composted...just depends on how fast you want the nutrients to be used by your garden plants.

2) your use of cover crops is a good thing but could/should be expanded to include other types and used for aids in rotation/soil building. Rotation is absolutely critical if gardening in same location year after year.

3) I don't see the large variability you seem to have in your soil tests. The N2 seems to be most variable and needing to be replenished often but P, and K and micronutrients are surprisingly stable in my space...and many years we have more than 60 inches of rain. Getting a good diverse sample is very important as results can indeed vary within the same garden space.

4) I personally don't use much if any commercial synthetic fertilizers but instead rely on my own proven organic methods. As a result, Nitrogen is something I'm constantly seeking to improve on. I have found incredible results using alfalfa in a rotation program...increasing soil Nitrogen as measured in soil tests by over 200%. This summer I'm trying out Sunn Hemp which is reputed to be even more effective at Nitrogen fixing than alfalfa.
 
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My thoughts on your above thoughts:

1) the tea leaves can go directly into the garden or can be composted...just depends on how fast you want the nutrients to be used by your garden plants.
I've read both that tea leaves in the garden 'uncomposted' could reduce nitrogen just like adding uncomposted leaves pr grass would?
I just don't see them being that bad because of how finely ground these are and they would likely break down fast. The grounds are dry and pretty finely ground when I get them, about half the consistency of coffee grounds, after a run through the hammer mill they're the consistency of corn meal or finer.
It seems I can have an endless supply of tea grounds too, several buckets a week if I wanted them.
2) your use of cover crops is a good thing but could/should be expanded to include other types and used for aids in rotation/soil building. Rotation is absolutely critical if gardening in same location year after year.
I've always used barley because its what i get free. A buddy uses it on his farm fields, and gets it in bulk, I only need a few handfuls of seed to cover my whole garden here, he spills more of it then I use.
I never much thought of using anything else mainly because it was always a free and easy to obtain solution.
3) I don't see the large variability you seem to have in your soil tests. The N2 seems to be most variable and needing to be replenished often but P, and K and micronutrients are surprisingly stable in my space...and many years we have more than 60 inches of rain. Getting a good diverse sample is very important as results can indeed vary within the same garden space.
I send out a soil sample every so often just to check, its never been really bad, but the weak point is always nitrogen, and sometimes calcium. Its never horrible but they recommended adding nitrogen rich fertilizer and lots of lime.
The presents of blossom end rot almost every year in the first few tomatoes to ripen sort of confirms this. This is even with me putting several bags of lime on a 20x20ft garden every spring and one just before planting the cover crop in November.
I have the best results using high nitrogen fertilizer, the plants are healthier overall and I get few mid season issues.

4) I personally don't use much if any commercial synthetic fertilizers but instead rely on my own proven organic methods. As a result, Nitrogen is something I'm constantly seeking to improve on. I have found incredible results using alfalfa in a rotation program...increasing soil Nitrogen as measured in soil tests by over 200%. This summer I'm trying out Sunn Hemp which is reputed to be even more effective at Nitrogen fixing than alfalfa.
I'd like to avoid all synthetic fertilizer but have never been able to.
I save every last bit of my fall leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen waste for the compost and I turn under the last seasons mulch but soil tests always show nitrogen levels fairly low early into the season.
The soil ph stays around 5.8, even large amounts of lime don't do much but prevent it from dropping lower.
calcium was around 300 the last test last July and nitrate was 41ppm that will be lower now. Organic matter was at 6.0. Magnesium was at 310. Iron was at 101. The report was through a service provided to local growers.
I was told that I need to add nitrogen and calcium but the ph was okay for tomatoes. The one side of the garden gets more shade from a nearby tree and an nearby shed, that area always reads higher in nitrogen and its where I used to plan lettuce and other leafy vegitables.
I gave up on those because I got tired of fighting the ground hogs. When I stopped growing lettuce, spinach, and such the ground hogs went away. They either starved or died from lead poisoning.

I grow Tomatoes, usually about 24 plants, about 6 of which are Better Boy or similar, the rest are plum tomatoes for sauce.
I do a full row of pickles and a row of zucchini and a half dozen or so Jalepeno plants. I did peas in the past but last year they were so bad and this year we had a late winter so I didn't bother. The weather turns too fast here and lately they haven't amounted to much. This year, in the shaded part of the garden I planted a row of sunflowers and two rows of Okra. (I've had problems with ants in the past with okra so I've not done any in about four years). I got a bag of free seeds so I'll be putting in at least two rows. Its always been very productive here.

Two things I avoid here, one is grape tomatoes, the other is seedless cucumbers.
I planted two grape tomato plants 12 years ago, I've been fighting back wild grape tomato plants all over the yard ever since They've become like a plague, all from two plants that ran wild all those years ago. Three years ago I put in two cucumber plants that a neighbor was going to throw away. I planted them both in one tomato cage as an experiment, but Sept, they had taken over more than half the garden. I found runners shooting all over the yard and was finding supersized cucumbers that escaped picking when I pulled up the plants in Nov. One was growing almost 20ft from the garden under a boat trailer. It was the size of a watermelon when I found it.
I stick with Kirby pickles now and keep them spaced well away from other plants.

Two years ago I planted Kirby pickles from a flat of plants I got at the local farm supply. It was a flat that got dropped and left in the parking lot. I picked it up and planted about half the plants in that tray. What I found out was that it was half Kirby pickles and half zucchini. I had planted the plants two and three per cage assuming they were pickles. To my surprise, the zucchini grew in the cages very well. I had 6ft tall zucchini plants that grew in stages up the inside of the cage. The plants never got any powdery mildew, they didn't rot from ground contact and the production was insane. The plants growing up high in the cage also kept groundhogs from eating the blossoms as well.
I had always done zucchini on small mounds or hills in threes but by late July the plants would either get mildew or the stems would rot from ground contact as the winding stems got further from the parent plant. In the cages, the plant just kept adding on and going upward. The base stem got huge, it was like a tree trunk by the time I pulled out the garden that Nov.
 
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This the first year in about the last ten or so which I didn't do a couple rows of snow peas but we had such a screwed up spring I didn't bother. Last year wasn't much better. By the time the plants were mature and putting on peas it got hot and they started to die off.
I put in a row of green beans later in the season but they did okay but not as good as in past years. Those plants all got chopped up and turned over.

With only about 20x20ft or so, there's only so much space to rotate things around. My garden area is between three buildings, my shed, a neighbor's garage and my house. I generally only get five rows east to west. Any rotation is never more than switching rows year to year. One problem with that is taller plants have to be planted to the southern most row so they don't shade out the shorter plants and plants toward the east side always do better than those on the west side of the garden. Its been that way from day one.

I've also always kept and composted all my leaves and grass clippings, plus any organic matter from the kitchen since the soil here is pretty sandy yet according to soil tests its always low in nitrates and the pH stays around 5.8 for the most part.

I have a 5lb bag of string bean seeds from last year and will likely do a few rows again this year if for nothing more than for part of the cover crop but the recent long running tomato seasons have made getting a cover crop established before it freezes tough.
Last year I put a row of beans on both sides of the tomato plants in early Sept. They gave me a few bags of beans to eat and the last picking got dried for seeds.

If I had another 20x20ft area I'd likely do all beans but I just don't have the room to grow enough to where they're worth the trouble.

I lost my free soil test source here, the local facility closed up and was eliminated.
I don't know how well I trust the little test kits from the garden center.
Besides, I know what I've been doing and what fixes what symptoms anyway.
Heavy on lime and nitrogen rich fertilizer and things do well. Back off on either and I start seeing issues.

All I need now is the weather to stay warm enough at night so I can put my plants in. (Its 90 here now but their predicting high 40's a few nights this coming week, plus a huge storm tomorrow afternoon. I don't want to put in a bunch of plants and seeds only to have them wash away. Last year I didn't get my plants in till the last week in May, almost a month later than I used to plant ten years or so ago.
I keep pretty good records in a notebook, and in 2010, I was done planting everything on April 24 and picking peas by May 21st from seeds that I planted on Feb 22 of that year. This year the ground was still snow covered then, and we had snow on and off well through March and even the second week of April, thus no peas got planted.

We keep getting longer, later winters and short hot humid summers these days with almost no spring weather without a lot of wind and rain.
 
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I've read both that tea leaves in the garden 'uncomposted' could reduce nitrogen just like adding uncomposted leaves pr grass would
Matter is neither created nor destroyed, the nitrogen may get tied up in the fungi and bacteria breaking down the material, but they in turn will break down, so what goes around comes around eventually.
 
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Matter is neither created nor destroyed, the nitrogen may get tied up in the fungi and bacteria breaking down the material, but they in turn will break down, so what goes around comes around eventually.
This was sort of my original theory but I keep getting told that putting uncomposted organic matter into the garden will rob the plants of nitrogen. I seem to have done better years ago just grinding up everything I had and tilling it in each spring and fall.
While I won't put 'raw' foods in, or anything likely to attract critters I figured that the more organic material I could get suspended in the soil the better. Mostly with the feeling that whether or not it breaks down this year or next, its doing the garden some good no matter what.

I have one two hammer mill type leaf and brush shredders, one is a McKissick, the other a Kemp. One turns leaves into tiny bits and dust, the other makes confetti. A second pass through either one makes whatever I dump in there unrecognizable rather quickly.

A buddy uses one to grind up chicken bones he gets from the soup plant he works at. They get boiled, and ground up and used for his Roses.

We had a long power outage back in 2012, one local fish market had a lot of loss, I buried several hundred fish in the garden for free fertilizer. I ran a plow down each row and tossed in the fish about a 18" deep or so. I had the best tomatoes that year I ever had up to that point.

I did learn not to use anyone else's grass clippings, a neighbor who put in a fancy sod lawn next door years ago was cutting his grass twice a week, I was short on mulch material so i said i'd take some of his clippings, I think he must have been using some sort of weed killer on his grass because it wiped out my zucchini, eggplant, and squash plants in three days. I had to scrape it all up, dig out a bunch of that dirt and replace it to replant.

I put nothing on my lawn but the occasional coating of lime and fertilizer when I get it for free. I'm not a fan of fertilizing things I can't eat, and wild fescue or kentucky blue just isn't on my menu.
(The only grass that takes hold well here is what ever grows wild. When I have a spot to seed, I just let a patch of grass outback go to seed, then mow and bag that patch and spread the clippings and seeds over the bare spot. Its fixed it every time.
 
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If you only have a 20x20 area, rotation is a waste of time.
If you are going to grow the same crops every year, better to concentrate on building fertility and humics in your plot, & using hydrogen peroxide, (which breaks down to water & oxygen & is completely organic) to take care of nasties.
 
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So why does ash weigh less than wood?
Because a large part of wood is made of hydrocarbons. When the bonds joining those complex molecules are broken the carbon and hydrogen join with oxygen from the air to make carbon dioxide and water. The ash has none of them in it, they went up as gas with the heat and the ash is all the other things which stay inert when they get hot.
That matter can not be created or destroyed is not quite true anymore, it is where the energy from nuclear fission and fusion comes from, but it is true in everyday life.
 

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If you only have a 20x20 area, rotation is a waste of time.

It does not matter if the area is 2x2, 20x20, or 200x200, if one grows the same plants in the same location year after year after year, one will see a steady decline in production and quality and will see an accompanying steady increase of fungus and insect problems.
 
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That's why I exchanged the dirt a few years ago. The problem I had with that though was getting the soil right again afterwards.
Over time the garden looses soil. Even with adding so much organic material the garden area loses elevation compared to the surrounding lawn. I tilled in two buckets of ground tea leaves today before the rain started, and I put about a yard of fresh dirt from back in the woods to bring the garden up to about level with the surrounding area. (I've got a pile of 'woods dirt' I brought with me for just that purpose, there's about 4 or 5 yards left in that pile.) Its dark black dirt scrapped off the surface of a very old wooded area behind my old house.
I also mix that soil in with my compost and I till in compost.

I've also tried planting in other areas, such as putting tomato plants in one spot peppers in another, squash in another, but they all do better in the original 20x20 garden.
 

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