Tree speak: Water please!!

Thirsty coffee plant.JPG

This will be the beginning of a short series of the many ways our coffee trees talk to us and tell us what they are needing, or what I like to call "tree speak". I am still underway in my green thumb training, so often I make mistakes, try to fix them, and then learn something. In dabbling with these extremes I am able to learn the limits of my coffee plant. 

The story behind today's lesson: when your coffee tree is thirsty. Notice in the photo above that the leaves are droopy and are hanging almost perpendicular to the ground. The leaves are soft, very bendy and delicate to touch when they are lacking water. Luckily, as this stage, the tree can be saved by a full water bath. I simply unwrapped my package (if new and just arrived) or planted pot and filled it with water so that water drips out from the bottom. If necessary, the leaves may need a misting as well. However, be careful not to damage them as they are fragile in this state. Within a few hours you will see those leaves perk right up! 

This sorta thing happens for a variety of reasons: extended vacations, being forgotten for a week or two at a time, or because of very intense heat. Very high temperatures will evaporate water in soils faster and thus your plant may need watering more frequently. 

Risk: Planting your tree too deep!

When you get around to repotting your new coffee tree, one thing we really want to emphasize is not to plant it too deep into the soil. If you didn't get a chance to see our "How to Repot Your Tree", make sure that you do! 

The basic rule is place your tree less than a half a fingertip below the top of the soil, leaving about a full inch of room between the soil and the top of the pot for irrigation.  Make sure that the top of the roots are not fully exposed, but that you can find them pretty easily without getting much soil under your fingertips. 

The risks are root rot, leaf discoloration, dieback and general plant malnourishment. If it's not taken care of, the tree may even die. Some signs are that the leaves are a bit yellow, the stem is wobbly and even seemingly water logged. We found this great article written by Hawaii Coffee Quarterly if you'd like to see some examples and more advice regarding the topic. 

Hawaii_Coffee Disease_Planting too deep

 

Pests: how to deal

All plants, indoor and outdoor, are susceptible to some pests. Many of them don't cause any actual harm until they are over populated. However, they are a nuisance and something to watch out for. 

The most common indoor pests include: aphids , mealybugs, and other soft-bodied houseplant insects. The good news is: when these guys are around it's a sign your tree is rich in nitrogen and thus adapting well to the new home you are providing. But let's get into how to eradicate them safely and for good. 

First step: Spray a small and diluted amount of neem oil onto the infected area.  Neem oil is used in a variety of products, including skin care, natural insect repellents and also as a safe pesticide for indoor and greenhouse plants.  This oil is extracted from the seeds of the neem tree and disrupts the digestive and reproductive systems of common soft bodied insects. You can buy pure organic neem oil or an already diluted spray bottle from the internet. Let the neem oil do it's thing for up to a week then proceed to step 2. 

Next: Wash off your plant with an organic dish soap, or any regular natural dish soap you can buy at the supermarket. The soap will dry out the pests inhabiting your plant and will get rid of their current population.

Note: Make sure to check all around your pot for signs of the pest you wish to get rid of. Should the pest return, just repeat the steps above. 

Preventative measures: As a watering tip, we recommend keeping the soil moist but also to give your tree a full bath from the top down once every two weeks to once a month. This is for a few reasons 1) this helps flush the root system of any built up salts from fertilizers or abnormal water quality and 2) allows you to shake off any pests and their eggs should they have started moving in. Hosing your plant down will injure these common pests and also make it hard to set up shop in the first place.  

Hope this helps those of you who may be encountering these pest-y guys on your new coffee houseplant! If you have any questions, comments or advice to share, please feel free to comment below. 

Sayanara pests! 

*photo cred: mealybug1 - Sweet Marias, mealybug2 (center) - Bodhi Leaf Trading Coffee Traders (Two excellent sources of green bean for home roasters & coffee shops)

 

Food for your coffee plant

Plants are a lot like people. They need almost all the basic sources (food, water, oxygen and some sunshine) to grow healthy, resilient and tall. A plants basic needs are a mixture of N (nitrogen) P (phosphorus) K (potassium) , and a number of different secondary nutrients and micronutrients (calcium, magnesium, sulfur).  To compare this to our basic food needs, you could call this a healthy diet of protein, carbs and vitamins. In search of a well balanced fertilizer <that doesn't stink like emulsified fish or manure>, I came across this awesome and easy to use option that you can get on Amazon for only a few bucks! Simply pump, water and watch you little soldier grow. 

You are now a home coffee grower!

Your tree is a third generation California coffee tree, grown from seed, from our farm in Santa Barbara County. We have spent the last 11 years refining our coffee crop and the last 4-5 years proving to the world that we are legit. We have recently proven that not only are we growing healthy trees, but also QUALITY tasting coffee. This year, we received scores that broke the 90pt barrier (refer to SCAA cupping standards). We have arrived. 

We are now inviting you to join us.

This little soldier, "keiki", or baby coffee tree is one year old and will need to be replanted to maintain a healthy growth pattern. Within 3-5 years (yes painfully long - but standard development time for all fruit trees) a small bud will emerge. Shortly after, the buds will bloom into delicate white flowers with an amazing resemblance to jasmine. The green cherry will then develop in its place. That green cherry will begin to grow and ultimately change colors to a deep ruby red when ripe. Ripe coffee cherries are incredibly delicious, with flavors ranging from peach, sugar cane to tropical fruit. 

At this point, you can process your coffee cherries to make your first cup of coffee. This will take a lot of work but will provide an indispensable "hands-on" learning experience about coffee.  This coffee tree will give you ample reason to boast about your green thumb, spark amazing conversations, and be a fun hobby for your home. 

Enjoy the experience, and welcome to the growing network of CA Coffee Growers.