Wish your plants a ‘Happy Earth Day’ with a food scrap feed

Wish your plants a ‘Happy Earth Day’ with a food scrap feed

Are your potted garden and house plants struggling on bravely in exhausted soil? Reserve a few food waste items and give them a good (free!) feed to mark Earth Day on 22nd April, this Easter Monday bank holiday. 

Plants draw nutrients up through their roots as they grow and develop, gradually depleting the pot soil until it can no longer sustain them. Unless we step in at this point with some fresh potting soil, a layer of compost or a dose of fertiliser, the plant could become stressed, leaving it prone to disease.

Fortunately for us and our gorgeous green friends, we can source free pot soil fertiliser right from our kitchens… used coffee grounds and eggshells!

Pot bound succulent removed from its pot

First things first… check if your plants have become ‘pot bound’

Every healthy, growing plant will become ‘pot-bound’ eventually. The roots outgrow the available space, wind about themselves and break down the soil in the pot. The loss of soil results in water washing through the pot too quickly for the roots to absorb, so your plant may wilt even if you’re watering regularly.

No point fertilising a plant if it hasn’t got enough room to do its thing, so give the roots a quick check and use an appropriate potting mix to re-pot your plants into a larger container if necessary.

Woman spooning used coffee grounds into a potted plant

Used coffee grounds

Gritty old coffee leavings get a bad rep, since many folks think they’re too acidic to be of benefit to any but the most acid-loving plants, however this is a misunderstanding. Fresh coffee grounds are very acidic, true; yet used coffee grounds have a near neutral pH of 6.5 once rinsed.

When adding grounds to your pot, don’t do what I did initially and just chuck the clump onto the surface of the soil in a houseplant, expecting some magic transformation to occur. You’ll end up with a similarly gross, mouldy clag of grounds lurking around, and no visible benefit to the plant.

Instead, gently scoop out an inch or so of the soil from the top of the pot, taking care not to damage the stem or roots. Mix your rinsed grounds with the soil and reapply to the pot. In the short term, the coffee grounds will improve drainage, aeration and water retention; in the long term, they’ll add a welcome boost of nitrogen as they slowly break down.

Man spreading washed egg shell onto the soil of a pot plant


Another nutrient that plants flippin’ thrive on? Calcium! And where can we find a bounty of free calcium? Eggshells!

Next time you use eggs in your cooking, set the shells to one side for washing out with the last of your dishwater. Try to preserve as much of the thin, translucent membrane inside the shell as possible as this is the most nutritious part. Leave the shells to dry then either grind them in a mortar, whizz them up in a food processor or carefully break them into small pieces with your fingers.

If you’re potting on a plant, mix the eggshell bits into the potting mix for a slow-release fertiliser direct to the roots; otherwise, simply scatter the shell over the surface of the soil. Four to five eggshells is a decent amount for mulching a medium-sized pot.

Remember, food waste isn’t just rubbish. Through ‘use it up’ cooking tricks, reuse around the house and garden, home composting and kerbside food waste recycling collections, let’s make sure this useful resource doesn’t end up languishing in landfill. 

What are your frugal gardening tips and tricks? Do you know any other food waste gardening reuse tips? Keep us posted at Greenredeem on Facebook or Twitter.

>> How to keep your compost heap happy

>> Why we should all hug a tree (no, really!)

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