Are coffee grounds good for roses, plus why you should attend Meet the Authors

illustration for Meet the Authors in Buffaloby Connie Oswald Stofko

Does sprinkling coffee grounds around roses really help the plants grow?

Yes, it’s true that roses like coffee grounds, but they also like banana peels and egg shells, said C.L. Fornari, author of the book Coffee for Roses: …and 70 Other Misleading Myths About Backyard Gardening.

In fact, roses like any kind of organic matter.

“People have been throwing their breakfast leavings around roses for years,” she said, but if you don’t want your roses to look as if they’re growing in a compost pile, it’s better to just spread aged compost or manure around your plants.

Fornari will be one of 24 gardening authors who will be selling and signing their books at the Meet the Authors event to be held from 2 to 4 p.m. this Friday, Aug. 4 at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin St., Buffalo. It’s the only part of the annual conference and expo of GWA: The Association of Garden Communicators that is open to the public. And it’s free!

Round up your garden club, neighbors and gardening friends and carpool to the event.

You’ll see a wide range of gardening books. There are books about gardening later in life, flowers you can eat, container gardening, pollinators, indoor plants, good and bad bugs and more. There’s even a children’s book about monarchs. See the entire list here.

There will be some hometown authors there. If you have never met Sally Cunningham, author of Great Garden Companions, or Kathy Guest Shadrack and Mike Shadrack, authors of The New Encyclopedia of Hostas and The Book of Little Hostas, this is your chance. They’re all delightful people.

You can buy books as gifts and have each inscribed for your special person, which makes it a more thoughtful gift, Fornari noted.

“Conceivably, you could get all your Christmas shopping done!” she said with a laugh.

Fornari also encourages people to go to the event to find out what GWA is all about. The group isn’t just for writers, but for garden communicators. Master Gardeners, speakers, bloggers, photographers and garden center employees are all garden communicators, she said.

More tips from C.L. Fornari

Fornari will have her two most recent books at the event: Coffee for Roses and The Cocktail Hour Garden.

In Coffee for Roses, she debunks gardening myths. As she became more expert in gardening and horticulture, she began to question things she had learned along the way.

“So much of what we learned was wrong,” Fornari said.

Many of us have learned to layer rocks or shards of ceramic pots at the bottoms of our planting containers, but she said it’s not only unnecessary, it’s bad for the plants.

You don’t need rocks at the bottom because the hole in the pot already provides drainage, she explained. And it’s bad for the plants because when the roots get down to the layer of rocks and shards, there’s no soil, so they can’t access nutrients. There’s no water either, because it stays in the soil or drains out of the pot.

“There’s no water, there’s nothing for them,” Fornari said. “You’re cheating the plant.”

What if you use a pot with no drainage hole?

Unless you’re growing an aquatic plant, “You shouldn’t be growing a plant in a pot with no drainage!” Fornari said. “Snap out of it!”

You might have heard that clematis, that wonderful flowering vine, needs its head in the sun, but its feet in the shade. Yes, they need sun, but you don’t have to shade the roots as long as you water them, she said. Folks at garden centers will tell you they can grow clematis in pots on top of black asphalt– Just water them.

In addition to wondering whether these ideas were right, Fornari wondered where we got these ideas in the first place.

“I went through old books and old magazine articles to tease this out when I could,” she said.

One myth for which she was able to find the origin was the idea that you have to deadhead rhododendron, that is, remove the dead flowers to help the plant flower more.

At one time there was a popular species of rhododendron that bloomed well every other year, but if you deadheaded it, it bloomed better. So this used to be good advice, but not anymore.

“Nobody grows those anymore,” Fornari said, and the hybrids that we have now don’t need deadheading.

The idea for her other book that she will have in Buffalo, The Cocktail Hour Garden, started on her back deck. Fornari is a busy garden communicator who writes about gardening, talks about gardening and hosts weekly radio programs. Her husband, a scientist, does of lot the landscape work at their home.

“We’re both always working,” Fornari said. “We needed time to just sit and put aside our shovels and phones and computers and reconnect with each other and the natural world.”

They enjoy taking time in the evening to just sit on the deck and listen to the sound of the wind and the birds singing, to notice how the light plays on the foliage, to enjoy the fragrance of the blooms.

“Sometimes we weed and we harvest but we forget to sit down and absorb all of what’s going on in the landscape,” she said.

Yes, there are cocktail recipes in the book, but the important thing isn’t what kind of drink is in our hand, she said.

“The important thing is to set aside distractions, to be here now,” Fornari said.

I mentioned that my husband and I sometimes sit with the blooms in the backyard, but we also like to sit on the front porch so we can chat with neighbors passing by. You can have more than one cocktail hour garden, she agreed. You might have a spot in the vegetable garden, one in the shade on a hot day and one where you can see the sunset.

“Just fully appreciate what’s going on,” Fornari said.

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4 Comments on “Are coffee grounds good for roses, plus why you should attend Meet the Authors

  1. I don’t drink coffee and at times, my can of coffee grounds go past expiration date – so can I use them? Or do I have to brew them? Also I heard I can use them on hostas- true or false?

  2. Connie, are you asking if you can sprinkle unbrewed coffee grounds around your plants? Well, unbrewed coffee grounds are more acidic than brewed coffee grounds. Neutral is 7, brewed grounds are about 6 and unbrewed grounds are about 4.5. Still, I don’t think that will do much to change the pH of your soil. I don’t think there is anything magic about coffee grounds, just like there isn’t anything magic about orange peels. It’s all organic matter. Sprinkle them around your plants or throw them on the compost pile.

  3. Our tomatoes are terrible this year. We have fruit but the leaves & branches at the bottom turn yellow and have spots on them, and then fall off and wither. We added new topsoil in the spring after we roto-tilled. When we put in new plants, we dig the hole and then put in a mix of Miracle Grow soil and manure. What did we do wrong? We always have a great veggie garden?

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