Industry News: Tree Care Tips (Pruning, Water, and More)

Q: Is it beneficial to use coffee grounds as fertilizer?

Friday, July 29, 2016  

Q: I was told that you could save used coffee grounds and sprinkle them on the ground under your trees for fertilizer. I was wondering if this is true, or could be damaging? I also have a hickory nut tree that I estimate to be close to 100 feet tall. The problem is that the tree canopy at the top has gotten noticeable sparse over the past two years. The leaves on the lower limbs are large like they should be, the upper leaves are smaller. We had a bad infestation of tent caterpillars the past two years. In 2015, we had a severe cicada outbreak. They were up to two inches deep around the base of the trees before it was over!

So I was wondering if either of these two pests could have caused the issue with my tree. I love this tree. It shades my backyard and part of my house, and I would hate to lose it. What do you think could be causing it? Oh, it is also close to my septic tank, and I live in far western Kentucky.

A: Small amounts of coffee grounds will be beneficial. If you are grinding industrial amounts of coffee, however, do not put them under your tree. On the hickory, most trees that die are a result of multiple stresses that built up over time rather than one acute event. Based on the information you have provided, I would recommend having a qualified arborist inspect the tree, as there is no reasonable way to assess it properly from the desk. Reducing any summer drought stress with proper watering is the best recommendation without seeing the tree. Water the root zone for five or six hours and saturate the soil, and repeat once per week if there is not at least one inch of rain during the week.

Responder: Jon Butcher, RCA #486, Milford, OH