| Lynsey Harley

Grow your own coffee plant at home

So you want to grow your own coffee plant...

It's Bank Holiday weekend and that first Spring Bank Holiday generally brings with it a fresh start and new ideas at home whether it's painting the bedroom or getting mucky in the garden. But for the coffee lover who likes to try something different, growing your own coffee plant could just be the ticket.

Coffee plants, in theory, can be pretty resilient given a few correct variables, but most of all they love warmth which makes them perfect for growing in a greenhouse or indoors. There are a number of 'grow your own' kits available, for me the jury is out on whether these things actually work and going through the whole process yourself can be far more rewarding.

Coffee plants come in two forms Robusta and Arabica - although there are literally thousands of plant variations, Arabica plants produce the best beans. In an ideal world any new coffee plant begins with a ripe cherry freshly plucked from the branch of another. But seen as most of us are unlikely to have a coffee farm on our doorstep, the best option is probably ordering fresh green beans from a supplier - a few reputable roasteries in the UK do sell green beans. Always ask for the freshest ones, the older they are the slimmer your chances of achieving germination.

This is what coffee looks likes before it's roasted. I wouldn't try drinking it though as it basically tastes like straw.

Here's how you germinate your seeds...

1. Give the beans a good soak in fresh water for at least 24-hours. If you live in an area where the water is particularly hard you might want to consider using bottled mineral water for this first step.

2. After a day you can sow them in a soft planter (you can get the fabric ones from most garden stores) or some damp sand. The key here is tucking them in but also allowing for good drainage as you'll be watering them twice daily (top tip, jute is actually perfect for this job!)

3. There's a lot of factors that'll determine how long a seed takes to germinate, so it's really just a case of watering and waiting. Once it does, you can transfer it to some good quality soil packed with lots of nutrients. Make a hole about 1.5cm-2cm deep, pop the germinated seed in and gently place some soil over the top.

4. At this stage it's very important get the water levels right, not too much, but not too little. As long as the soil is always moist to touch your OK.

5. Once your seed has fully germinated it's time to move your plant to a bigger home. Choose one with porous, nutrient-packed soil with low-acidic content - just ask at your local garden centre for this and let them do the leg work! Adding a layer of sand to the bottom of your pot will promote good drainage, you can also mix a little bit in with the soil.

Coffee flowers and a ripe red cherry.


Nurturing your coffee plant...

1. Coffee plants thrive in unique tropical climates like the mountains of Brazil and Columbia - in fact it was first discovered in Ethiopia and then exported to these countries. You'll need to recreate these conditions, so a heat lamp is always recommended. Failing that, a very warm home or greenhouse with plenty of natural light could suffice.

2. Water twice a week or as often as you need to keep the soil moist. Good drainage is essential here as sitting water will most likely cause your roots to rot. So keep an eye on your soil at these early stages to make sure it drains well. Each time you move your plant you'll want to keep an eye on this.

3. If you're hoping to enjoy a fresh cup of your own coffee in a hurry here's the kicker, coffee plants on farms take 5 years to mature so they can be harvested. In-fact the chances of your cherries actually producing good quality coffee are very slim, unless you live on a mountain with the perfect microclimate (air quality, humidity, water quality, altitude, etc...). Your plant should reach maturity within about 3 years, depending on how big you let it get and its environment, rewarding you with beautiful flowers and even a few colourful cherries.

So for something a little more out-there than potting a few herbs why not give coffee growing a go? This is just a few simple steps to help you get started, there's tonnes of websites like Seed Pantry and gardeners forums out there to help you hone your inner horticulturist.

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