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Caffeine, urine, and plant vigour

 
pollinator
Posts: 314
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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So, first off some observations:
I used to drink a lot of coffee. More than 2 litres per day of strong drip brew. I loved the way it tasted and how it made me feel. I loved the ritual of preparation. I idolized James Hoffman... I was an addict.
But, just like many other drugs, there are diminished returns: Eventually, rather than having a pleasant euphoric rush, I was just trying to get back to feeling 'normal' by drinking another cup, and another cup, and another.
My sleep was suffering- to put it mildly, my psoriasis was getting bad, and mostly I just felt 'sludgy' most of the time.

Simultaneously, I was starting to read Sol Viva and Anna Edey's experiments with using dilute urine "Urine Charge" as a fertilizer. This made sense to me so I decided to give it a shot in my gardens.

Of note: The piss I was producing had a strong odour. Not hugely unpleasant, but it had a distinct roasted coffee bean smell. Of course this smell was the metabolized remnants of all that coffee filtered through my kidneys...
And the plants loved it! faster and higher germination, hardening off quickly, producing lots of foliage and in most cases fruit.

I haven't entirely quit coffee. I maybe drink 1 cup every week or less. I do sometimes drink tea. But I've reduced my caffeine intake by 90%. This was not easy!
My sleep is better, my skin is better, my clarity is better, but my plants are not.

Do plants like caffeine and/or metabolized caffeine by-products?

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pollinator
Posts: 767
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Interesting post Chris. This is something I will research in the morning over coffee. You should check out my Permaculture Coffee Farm post.
I’m still trying to figure out the best way to use coffee grounds in the gardens. I tried mixing spent grounds in my homemade potting mix. The results weren’t as conclusive as I hoped. I still add a couple cups to a five gallon bucket but that’s it.
The urine thing is something my family is totally against. They think I’m a heathen for peeing outside and not in a toilet. Why would I want to waste water by doing that? They’re ok with me making comfrey and sow thistle tea that smells like I stuck my head in a sewer. Weird people. Interested to see where this thread goes.
 
Chris Sturgeon
pollinator
Posts: 314
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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Well a little preliminary reading has this to say:
"Caffeine, a chemical stimulant, increases the biological processes in not only humans but plants as well. These processes include the ability to photosynthesize and absorb water and nutrients from the soil... Additional scientific studies have shown caffeine to be an effective slug and snail killer. It also kills mosquito larvae, hornworms, milkweed bugs, and butterfly larvae... the nectar of coffee blossoms has trace amounts of caffeine. When insects feed on this spiked nectar, they get a jolt from the caffeine, which helps etch the scent of the flowers into their memories. This ensures that the pollinators will remember and revisit the plants, thereby spreading their pollen."

Read more at Gardening Know How: Will Caffeine Affect Plant Growth – Tips On Fertilizing Plants With Caffeine https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/will-caffeine-affect-plant-growth.htm

But it's not all good news. Mind you this is not referring to metabolized coffee, but fresh coffee grounds.
My composter seems to like coffee grounds. Perhaps that's the best way to deal with them?
 
gardener
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Location: Southern Illinois
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Chris,

I don’t know how much this helps, but I have my own “vitamin P” technique.

I am also a coffee lover and as I gulp my brew in the morning my bladder fills quickly.  In the past I would take a plastic kitty litter container (it is thick & won’t leak, holds 2.5 gallons and has a wide mouth easy for filling) and go in the container for a day or two until it was 1/2 full.  Since I was in the bathroom, I would store it in the tub and once 1/2 full, fill the rest with tap water.  I then take this out and pour.  

I like to plant in woodchips, but fresh woodchips can be difficult for growing, and a dose of diluted urine provides a great boost to young seedlings, or to established plants looking a little sad.  I think it is a great resource to use and easy to get.

Eric
 
Scott Stiller
pollinator
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Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Thanks Eric. I always assumed that 1/2 strength would be too strong. Glad to know it’s ok. I have also struggled to grow in wood chips. Been giving mine a boost with sow thistle and comfrey tea. Seems to work pretty well. I think it’s time for a side by side comparison!
 
Eric Hanson
gardener
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Scott,

Just a word on growing in chips—the only time I ever have difficulty growing in woodchips are when the chips are very fresh, have no greens in them and no decomposition.  Urine, comfrey tea, compost tea, etc. should all work roughly equally well.  Side by side comparisons would be interesting though.

I typically decompose my woodchips with wine cap mushrooms after which the resulting bedding is amazing.

Just a thought,

Eric
 
gardener
Posts: 1749
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Straight pee (directly from the source) isn't too strong for most established plants.  Tomatoes, in particular, but vining plants like cucumbers and melons do well with straight urine.  Potatoes, sweet potatoes, strawberries, cabbages . . . I've fertilized all with pee and they all thrive as a result. Fruit frees, citrus in particular, LOVE 100% undiluted pee.  The only thing I don't give this "treatment" is lettuces and greens.  They aren't heavy feeders, and frankly, I don't want to risk eating peed-upon greens.

Having said that, I've not noticed any particular reaction to caffeine.  I drink a lot of iced tea in the summer (we've constantly got a pitcher in the fridge cold-brewing a new batch with 4 tea bags) and so that's what gets used in the garden, straight from the tea-hose.  If there's any particular caffeine effect on the plant, it's positive.  

Lately I've been generously fertilizing the herb spiral using this "technique", and the basal is really looking robust this year.  

My hunch is that the plants are reacting to the bio-available nitrogen far more than they're responding to caffeine.  

Great topic!
 
Scott Stiller
pollinator
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Location: North Carolina zone 7
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My wine caps are churning along. Lots of mycelium but no fruit yet. I used chips, chunks and sawdust from a tree I cut for lions mane totems. I attempted to start wine caps in a mysterious mix of chips from a tree company. That was fourteen months ago and nothing happened until recently. Been getting a few here and there but no big flushes. I put one of my compost piles near some under achieving grape vines. It’s a mix of those same chips, grass, leaves and rabbit poop with bedding. It is super rich and is currently growing cantaloupe, pumpkin and ground cherries. The grape vine is doing very well too. Inside the pile is the most earthworms I’ve ever seen!
53FC0D03-AEA5-4945-A628-5BB5D9CA4F04.jpeg
The pile
The pile
 
gardener
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Interesting subject!
I "freshen" the soil in my sub-irrigated planters with urine every year,  along with top dressing  them with  rabbit bedding.
I just planted a new blue berry bush in a wicking barrel.
The "soil" is 100% peat.
The first one I planted this way was slow to grow until I followed a Permies suggestion and fertilized with urine.
This time I've  added a full gallon of pee to the container, just weeks after planting.
I also dump the spent grounds from my cold brew on the surface.

We just planted a bunch of corn into well rotted woodchips.
If the wife is cool with it,  I'll add pee when it starts growing kernels.
I should put a sawdust or biochar urinal in place at our grow yard just for this eventuality.
 
gardener
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Urine is full of nitrogen, but not many other nutrients. It's the only fertilizer that I use.   In the spring especially, I notice that many of my plants have a yellow look that shows they need more nitrogen.  Much easier for me to apply than for my wife.  I can see them gradually green up over the season. As they get green, I distribute elsewhere.  As we get to late Spring and summer, I'm making a lot of biochar, and that is a great thing to put on your crushed biochar.  Here on the wet side of PNW we get a lot of rain every season except summer. In summer, besides the biochar, I still pee on anything yellow, but especially on wood chips or the compost. Ok to pee on trees, bushes, and large vines. They can handle it.  The only time I will dilute it is during the summer.   After the summer, we start to get more rain, and I feel better about distributing undiluted urine throughout the yard.    For the front yard, I leave a bottle hanging on a string on the fence, so by using the bottle,  I can still distribute the "fertilizer" out in public without getting calls to the police.
John S
PDX OR        
 
Scott Stiller
pollinator
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I have wood chips around my fruit trees with herbs planted in the chips. I have peach trees with chives, pears with strawberries, St. John’s wort, oreganos, thyme, and walking onions. The tree’s drip line goes well beyond the mulch and herbs. My thinking says the drip line is the best pee spot anyway. Is this correct?
 
John Suavecito
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yes, it's the place of most rapid root growth.  It's the best place to pee, and it's where I put my biochar.
John S
PDX OR
 
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