All about plant fertilization

How and when to fertilize coffee plants

The coffee tree is a shrub that in ideal conditions can reach 10 m in height, with very intense green leaves and the seeds that are undoubtedly the reason for its popularity. Native to South Asia and the subtropical areas of Africa, its crops are of great economic importance in many countries of the world. In this article we will analyze how to use fertilizer for coffee. And since the use of coffee grounds to fertilize different plants is very popular, we will dedicate a special section to it.

Fun fact: The Dunkin ‘Donuts company did a study to determine which professions are the most coffee consuming in the United States. The result was that scientists lead the ranking, followed by marketing and public relations professionals. Closing the podium are the administrators of educational institutions. I don’t think this information can be of any use to you, but I have no doubt that it is quite curious. 😉

1. Coffee grounds fertilizer

Coffee grounds are nothing more than coffee leftovers after you’ve prepared and drunk a good cup of coffee. In general, the vast majority of people dispose of this waste without using it. But the truth is, coffee grounds have many uses.

Coffee grounds fertilizer
Coffee grounds fertilizer

Among some of the most daily uses that can be given is to prepare masks to combat cellulite, deodorant for the refrigerator, treatment for shinier hair, repellent for ants, multipurpose cleaner, fertilizer for plants, etc. As you will realize, here we will talk about the use of coffee grounds as fertilizer.

1.1 Coffee grounds in compost

Compost is the product of the natural decomposition of organic matter made by decomposing organisms (bacteria, fungi) and by small detritivores such as worms and beetles. If you use natural compost in your garden, you will improve the properties of the soil avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers.

Among the large amount of materials that can be used to make a good compost are coffee grounds. Let’s see within which group of materials are these coffee remains to be used in compost.

  • Rapid decomposition: fresh leaves, bird manure, weeds, etc.
  • Slow decomposition: pieces of fruits and vegetables, plant debris, perennial weeds, coffee grounds, straw and old hay, etc.
  • Slower decomposition: fallen leaves, pruned branches, wood chips, eggshells, hairs and feathers, etc.
  • Other materials: wood ash (small amounts), charcoal, napkins, paper containers, etc.

The use of coal ash, dog and cat feces, disposable diapers, vacuum cleaner remains, cigarette filters, among others, should be avoided.

As you can see, if you want to prepare a very complete compost that meets the needs of a large amount of nutrients, several materials are necessary. Between them it will be useful to place the coffee grounds.

1.2 How to use coffee grounds in your garden

We have just seen how coffee grounds can be used as part of a very complete compost. But as you well know, coffee grounds can also be applied without much preparation directly on the plants in your garden. Or almost directly. The truth is that they need a simple procedure before applying it.

Once you have the discarded coffee grounds, grab some sheets of newspaper and a tray. Place the paper in the tray and on these the coffee remains. Take this tray out in the sun to dry. Depending on the intensity of the sun, drying may take more or less hours.

Once the coffee grounds are completely dry, place them in a jar. Before that, make sure to break up any clumps that have formed, this will help you have a more uniform fertilizer.

With your coffee-based fertilizer ready, you can sprinkle it on the soil underneath your plants. Stir a little to mix the soil with the coffee grounds, this will help a better uniformity of the nutrients. Accompany a watering. This simple fertilizer is useful for a wide variety of plants, among which we can mention; roses, orchids, strawberries, ferns, etc.

If you are reading this post, you will probably be interested in learning about fertilizing these other plants.

2. What are NPK values?

We have already left behind the use of coffee grounds in your garden. It is time for us to talk about how to use fertilizer for coffee plants. But before that I need to explain an essential concept when analyzing the fertilization of any plant. And by this I mean NPK values.

I have no doubt that you have seen a bag of commercial fertilizer on more than one occasion. If so, you will have noticed that on his forehead there are almost always three numbers separated by a dash. These numbers are known as NPK values. Each letter being the initial of the three most important nutrients in the development of a plant.

  • Nitrogen (N): favors the growth of the aerial part of the vegetables (leaves, stems). It is, in part, responsible for the green color of plants and confers resistance to pests.
  • Phosphorus (P): it is very important in the ripening of flowers, seeds and fruits. It participates in the formation and development of roots and has an important role in resistance to drought.
  • Potassium (K): it is decisive in the development of the whole plant, it allows the roots and stems to be strong and the seeds, fruits and leaves, large. It provides resistance to pests and diseases, aids in the circulation of other nutrients around the plant, and regulates the functions of the plant.

On the other hand, each number specifically indicates the percentage by weight of the nutrient with respect to the total weight of the fertilizer. Since I know this may not be entirely clear, let’s look at a simple example:

“If you have bought a 5 kg bag of 10-15-20 compost. This compost contains 500 g of nitrogen, 750 g of phosphorus and 1 kg of potassium. The remaining weight is taken up by minor nutrients and other components.”

With this I think you should have no doubts about these numbers. Now we can go ahead and get fully involved with the fertilization of the coffee plants.

3. Best fertilizer for coffee plants

The coffee plant’s need for nutrients is quite important, not settling for the application of the most important nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Rather, you need more complex formulas that contain other nutrients. Among the nutrients that a fertilizer must have to be suitable for coffee are:

  • Nitrogen.
  • Phosphorus.
  • Potassium.
  • Magnesium.
  • Boron.
  • Zinc.

Let’s see what kind of fertilizers can cover these needs.

3.1 Organic fertilizer for coffee

If what we are looking for is to use organic fertilizers for coffee, and knowing that this fertilizer must contain a fairly wide range of nutrients, the best option we have is compost.

As leftovers, compost is a natural organic fertilizer that results from the decomposition of the mixture of organic waste, whether of vegetable or animal origin, which has been transformed under controlled conditions, it is rich in N, P, K, Ca, Mg , Mo, Fe, S, B and other macro and micronutrients, vitamins and phytohormones.

Without a doubt, it is one of the best options when it comes to fertilizing coffee plants. Although when it comes to large plantations, preparing compost for all the necessary surface can be difficult. That may be one of the reasons they choose to buy commercial fertilizer blends.

3.2 Commercial fertilizer

Knowing the nutrient demand of coffee plants, as well as their response to fertilizers, complete formulas have been developed especially for these plants. They are composed of the most important elements such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and boron, in the appropriate proportions to the specific requirements.

Among the fertilizer formulas for coffee, the following can be found: 18-5-15-6-2; 18-3-10-8-1.2; 20-7-12-3-1,2 and 15-3-22-6-2. Each number indicates the concentration of the elements N, P20, K2O, MgO and B2O3). As you may have noticed, the elements with the highest preponderance within these formulas are nitrogen and potassium.

On the other hand, and to complement the fertilizers applied to the soil, foliar fertilizers can be applied. Nutrients such as boron and zinc are the elements from which you can expect a greater response to foliar application in coffee.

Fertilizer for coffee plant
Coffee plant

The most suitable formula for each particular plantation will depend on the content and balance of nutrients of each soil. It is essential before starting any fertilization plan to carry out a study of the soil to know its exact composition.

4. How and when to fertilize coffee plants

It is useless to know which is the ideal fertilizer formula for coffee if later we do not know how and in what way we should apply it. That is precisely what we will talk about here.

We will start by analyzing the necessary doses of fertilizer. And before we get into that, keep in mind that when we talk about fertilization, the following phrase “less is more” applies. I like to mention it in all articles. And it is easier to solve a problem of lack of nutrients than excess fertilization.

4.1 Fertilizer dose

First of all, I repeat that to manage the fertilizer doses, the ideal is to start with a soil analysis. What I will mention here are the average dosages that are often used in conventional soils.

In general, a dose of 800 kg / ha per year of any of the fertilizer formulas that we saw earlier is quite common. It can then be reinforced with the application of 90 kg / ha of nitrogen annually. Especially if what you are looking for is to obtain a high production.

Depending on the characteristics of the soil and also depending on the harvest that is sought, this dose can vary in a range of 500-1000 kg / ha per year.

Keep in mind that these doses are intended for plants in full production stage. In the case of a plantation that has suffered a very hard pruning, the dose can be reduced or even fertilization eliminated. Something similar happens with young plants that have not entered production.

4.2 Suitable season for fertilization

There are several factors that influence the determination of the right time to fertilize coffee trees, although without a doubt the most important is the rain regime. This is because the rains have a strong influence on the phenology of these plants, being essential to maintain adequate soil moisture that allows the plants to be active. In addition to being an agent that allows the correct solubilization of the fertilizer.

Therefore, coffee trees should be fertilized only in periods of rain. The dose must be divided into at least three applications. With this, above all, what is sought is to reduce the loss of nutrients by leaching, runoff or volatilization.

Therefore, in areas with well-marked rainy seasons, fertilization should begin with the first rains (usually early spring). Carry out a second fertilization in the middle of the season, to finish with a third dose with the last rains.

5. Coffee production and Fertilizer Use

To end this article and as we always do in this blog we have selected a video (from the NUCAFE Uganda channel). In it you will see how to fertilize coffee plants for production. Procedure that, as you will see, must begin in the first stages of the plant. I do not doubt that it will be of great help to watch this video, which will complement much of what has been seen so far.

If you are reading this post, you will probably be interested in learning about fertilizing these other plants.

And with this we already reached the end of this post, I hope it has been of your use. And have no doubts about using coffee grounds to fertilize plants and using fertilizer for coffee plants.

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