Coffee Grounds – Mosquito Repellent or Just Gardener’s Gold

There’s a lot of things flying by on the internet these days.

Facebook is adding to it.

But some of it is true, some of it is false, and some of it has a bit of both in it.

I may have stumbled onto something here.

When I moved to South Florida, I ended up with a lot of really fascinating people around me.

My godmother was fresh from being one of the people directly responsible for having pig production being protected so that they do not end up in crates on factory farms.   She’s a gardener and her husband was into making some amazing Bonsai trees.  I’m fortunate to have her and two of those trees in my yard today.

I have other friends here who amaze me just as much as my own godmother.

Some are teaching appreciation for the environment by their own hands.  Others have a strong hand in creating ecological parks.  More are directly involved in horticultural pursuits.

I find life greatly improved as a result.

I do my own part to give back.  I’ve got a pot farm.  Well not THAT kind of pot.  A farm of pots with gardening plants in the back yard.  One after another is growing and taking root to later go into the garden.

The yard is so chock full of plants that I have a lot of trouble finding room for them.

Meanwhile I am trying to figure out how to grow more.  Our hedge is dying back so I am pre-growing Podocarpus for the next hedge.  May as well, I have the time!

I go out in the morning with coffee mug in hand and look for things to improve the yard.

But that coffee.  I was told never to throw the grounds in the garbage.  It’s “Rich Organic Material – Gardener’s Gold”.  May as well just toss it in the gardens, right?

We had gotten a few pots for the front porch, Lemongrass.  It was bought to keep down pests, mosquitoes primarily.  I would splash water on it when I go to wash the dog’s feet off before going into the house, and didn’t think too much more about the lemongrass.

At one point I was having a discussion of how there seemed to be fewer mosquitoes out front as a result.  The problem was that out back where there was another plant, I had a much worse problem with mosquitoes.  It wasn’t working.

But out front was tolerable.  I just would spray a fog of poison out the back door before going onto the Lanai

to cut back the mosquitoes.

There was something different about out front and one of those annoying Internet Memes gave me the answer.

That gardener’s gold – Coffee Grounds seemed to be having its own effect.

You see, to the one side of the lemongrass, I would throw the morning’s coffee grounds onto the top of the soil.  It was right under the bathroom window and the soil was visibly just a sheen of soil over some stones put there over the years.  It was getting thicker.

The picture in the meme said to toss the grounds near where you have a problem spot with mosquitoes, drain your pots.  This was because “Mosquitoes Hate The Smell of Coffee Grounds”.

We may be onto something.

My backyard was a fog of little tiger mosquitoes that I would literally run away from to get out to work in the yard.

My front yard and porch I could work on the windows, even rest my coffee mug on Aunt Betty’s table and not get bit badly.

It’s all relative.

So I got a lightbulb go off in my head.

Why not try coffee grounds in the plant pots out back.  I have more than 30 of them.  Orchids, Podocarpus,

Hibiscus, and Banana Trees.

So I did.  Started on the Lanai, worked my way out.  When I got to the end, repeat as needed.  I even put a stripe of the stuff over by the pool equipment which is a corridor about the same width as my own armspan.  I can touch fence and wall and it collected a cloud of the nasty little blood suckers.

I won’t say that the mosquitoes are all gone.  I would need a dome over the property and then pump it full of pesticides.  That would be no fun because I would never be able to use the thing.

But…

I have to say that since I started doing this, there is a definite difference.

Much fewer mosquitoes.

Much less of a panic.

I can use the lanai out back and my front porch.

Yes there are mosquitoes, but they are the exception and not the rule

My Lanai does not smell like a combination of Brazilian Cerrado and Pumpkin Spice at all.

And I can actually use it!

This is kind of a “Chicken Soup” thing – It couldn’t hurt.  May not work for you, but couldn’t work

But…
I will keep doing it since it IS working for me.

While those folks up North won’t need to think about this since it is getting colder and they’re going into winter, down here we wont’ see 60F/15C for another two months.  By then I will have a nice coating of brown over all my plants and much fewer mosquitoes.

I guess once in a while, those memes have something to them.  At least in my eyes.

Your mileage may vary.

Urban Gardening and Help From Little Friends

Somewhere in the city of San Juan, in Costa Rica, there is a man.

He was out in his yard pulling weeds.  He looked up and said something to the effect of:

Estamos en los tropicos.  Si tu pones unas semillas en la tierra, ellos van a viver.

If my memory and my Spanish serve me correctly, it means or should mean that “We are in the tropics.  If you put some seeds in the ground, they are going to live.”.

Bueno.  Great way to kill time.  Seeds.  Ground.  Water.  Sun.

Estamos en los tropicos, indeed.  We are in the tropics here in South Florida.

As we do our weekend shopping, I see plenty of plants on offer at the big box stores.  This happens everywhere, in planting seasons.  Not exactly every time seeing that some areas have something called Winter.  Ours is blissfully short at two weeks long.  We schedule it for the first two weeks of February and are invaded by something called Snowbirds that will clog our skies and our roads and our hotels.  They pay our taxes so I can’t complain too much, just as long as they stay out of my way.

Well never mind that.  I did “Go Into Production” here.  You see, instead of buying those plants in black plastic pots that are designed to break on the way home, I make my own.  I have my own irrigation chain out back that was designed with prominent citizens with parks named after them and people who work in something called Code Enforcement.  We designed my one irrigation chain to be a drip feed waterer that could be used any given day to mist the orchids.

Now under the orchids that hang on the fence are small muddy patches where the water drips.  May as well use that water too.  In some spots, I have three pots deep.  One pot watering the next and so forth until you eventually hit the deck.

All that nonsense gives me the opportunity to plan ahead.

I take cuttings from plants that I like, and follow my friend’s advice.  Stick them in that wet soil and hope they “take”.

It is possible that I am over-watering things in the yard.  My Night Blooming Jasmine is dying off in one spot so I am starting something that is a temporary hedge made of Hibiscus.

If the big hotels can do it, so can I.

Between the Hibiscus and the Podocarpus cuttings I have in pots and in that bare area in the back of the yard, I have easily 50 plants growing that are destined to be moved.

Great.  I have made myself work.

Every morning between 7AM and 7:30AM, I am inspecting that zone.  Making sure that the orchids are getting watered.  Making sure the Podocarpus and Hibiscus cuttings are getting dripped on with the excess.  Inspecting the Rosemary shrub in the corner.  My In Ground area of Podocarpus and Hibiscus way out back.

I am also being a bit overly productive.  My Condo Mango now has its own cutting to create a tree for a good friend in Key West.  That in itself is like taking Coal to Newcastle, but he liked the idea of a 15 foot maximum mango tree.  The last four mango pits from Mango Season, it is an event after all, were dropped into a pot and have all sprouted.

I will have three trees I have to find homes for since the Mother Plant is currently over 40 feet tall – Think 13 meters for the metrically endowed.

Anyone need a Mango Tree Seedling?

But it is a nice hobby and it does attract attention.  My McNab SuperDog (TM), Rack, will come out with me and water the palm trees writing strings of “M’s” on their side.  It gives me a chance to be watched by the creatures in the yard, my friends the wee little Lizards.

In the case of some of them, they seem to enjoy being watched.  I have been followed rather than being avoided more than once.   The little “Cuban Browns” are harmless and seem to hang out catching rays and insects while watching me watch them.  The worst that a Brown has done to me was to once get surprised and climb up my leg.  Luckily I was in the back yard so I dropped Trowel as well as my Shorts and let the little creature have its freedom.

Just can’t hurt them, they’re too comical.

So if you are fortunate enough to have the room, and the need, you may as well start some seedlings.  After all, they don’t all “take” but many do.  Why not, you’ll have the time!

Podocarpus, Ladybugs, and The Farm

Lately I have been rattling around in my back yard.

I have been rattling around there so much that I have an area I have taken to calling The Farm.

At least that is what The Internet has started.

About a year or so ago, I got the bright idea to start propagating plants.  I have an irrigation chain on the lawn that is perfect for this.  Each sprinkler head puts out a gallon of water or less an hour.  Think of it as what you would do with a watering can.

On a farm, this would be considered Drip Feed Irrigation.

There are about 10 pots on that chain, plus the orchids.  It saves me from pretending that I have it in me at dawn to be out there with a hose every day.  I may be up at 5AM, but I am not that crazy.

Mind you, plants in pots don’t have a long lifespan.  Sometimes the pots just “up and die”.  Other times, they’re helped by critters.  Snakes don’t bother them, but Iguanas, Opossums, and domestic animals may.  Like my Damn Neighbor’s Damn Cat.  Not only have I caught it on my Jeep and inside it, I have caught it inside the pots.

Never mind that blasted cat, I had pots to fill.

I went through a number of iterations of Mexican Petunia, or Ruellia.  I planted so many that I had to stop.  It filled in the border next to the fence on the East side of the property nicely and I have deep green leaves and purple flowers every day.

I then stopped and thought, what would help?  My hedge on the West side was dying.  It needed things to fill in the gaps.  At that point, I had about four pots to start, so I filled one with Podocarpus.  Japanese Yew.  I’d snip off about a six inch portion, dip it in rooting hormone, and stick it in the pot.

While they grow slowly under that condition, they did grow.  I was surprised to find that I got about 3/4 of them rooting.   I would lose another quarter when they got transplanted, and another quarter after that.  Apparently they didn’t like the area that the hedge was in either.

Then, months later, I got The Bright Idea.  Why not just stick them in the ground at the hedge?  Why bother with the pot?   That drip feed irrigation line is under the hedge as well, but is mainly turned off.  Lets try.

Remember that I call this The Farm – I planted 100 Podocarpus cuttings under the existing hedge.  Densely packed.  I did it over three days.

The third day of Cut/Dip/Stick, I noticed something.  The Podocarpus had visitors.  There was a bit of a white dusting of mites over the newer pieces, exactly what I needed to plant.  But feeding on the white dusting were dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of Ladybugs.

My hedge was covered with hundreds of miniature Volkswagen Beetle looking creatures all happily gorging themselves on much less beneficial mites.

Cooooool!

So I merely cut around the Ladybugs.   They would get disturbed and flutter off, sometimes landing back on the plant, other times on me.  No problem there.  I knew how helpful they can be, since they love to dine on Aphids, and if you ever tried to grow ornamental Hibiscus, you know that you will eventually end up with Aphids.

As for my Hedge?  Well I’m about a month into the whole Farm thing.  I’m finding that about 3/4 of the hundred cuttings look like they’re still alive.  I’ll leave them be.  Since the Ladybugs cleaned off the parent plants, I have healthy Podocarpus in the yard.  I will give the Ladybugs the credit for that.  I always thought that Podocarpus were about as close to “Carefree Plants” as I could get in South Florida’s bizarre conditions, and I suspect that as long as they’re found by the beneficial insects, I’m right.

Since the area that I am planting created an empty zone, I’m having a bit of a victory.  More accurately, a Victory Garden.  You see, one of those Internet memes was if you cut the tops off your carrots, you can stick them in the ground and get more carrots.  They’re growing out there too, right in front of the Podocarpus and the dying Jasmine Hedge.

Just keep the critters away.