Cultivating Coffee Beans By Yourself? Yes, It’s Actually Possible
Growing coffee is a fascinating experience. Although coffee thrives well in the tropical climate, it is possible to cultivate coffee indoors in cold climates. You can grow few trees in your backyard or indoor pots and enjoy the aroma and chemistry of your coffee beans. The coffee plant is easy to grow and maintain. You can grow it as an ornamental plant because it stays green throughout the year. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to grow coffee from beans to harvesting.
- Pick the right cherries
The process begins by harvesting cherries for seed. It is best if you pick your beans to ascertain the viability of the seeds. Take only the ripe cherries from high producing coffee trees. Do not pick diseased or bruised cherries and pick cherries from disease-free plants.
- Prepare the cherries for planting
Once you have your cherries, pulp them using your hands, and wash them. Ferment the cherries under room temperature in a sizeable container until the pulp falls off. Wash the beans in fresh water and discard any seeds that float during the washing process. Dry the clean beans on a clean mesh in open dry air under shade. Do not dry them in direct sunlight. Bite into the seed to determine the appropriate moisture content – the outside should be dry while the inside should be somewhat soft and moist. Do not keep the cherries for long because they lose viability with time. If you cannot access fresh cherries from the trees, you can purchase green coffee beans. Ensure the beans are from a recent harvest.
- Germinate your coffee beans
Pre-germinate your seeds. Once you have your dry seeds, soak them in warm water for about 24 hours and drain the water. Plant the seeds in moist vermiculite or sand. Ensure you drain excess water off the germinating medium. You can also opt to germinate the coffee beans between damp coffee sacks. Keep the seeds moist by watering each day, but ensure you drain excess water. Coffee seeds can start germinating anywhere between two to six months depending on the age of the beans. Fresh beans start sprouting in two and a half months, while older seeds can take up to six months. Seeds that do not grow after six months are not viable seeds.
- Move the seedlings
Once the coffee seeds germinate, carefully transfer them from the germinating medium (vermiculite, sand, or coffee sacks) to a larger pot. Sow each seedling in a hole of size 2.5 cm deep in loamy soil with high humus content. You can add well decompose manure, bone meal, or dried blood to improve the nutrient status of the ground. Alternatively, you can use lightweight porous soil. Place the seeds in the hole with the flat side facing up and cover the seeds lightly with soil. Keep the soil loose, and mulch it with about half-inch layer of grass to conserve moisture. Remove the mulch when the seeds germinate fully.
- Transplant to a permanent location
Once the seedling develops to resemble a coffee plant (about nine months), then transplant it in the yard or a permanent container. Plant your coffee seedlings outdoor if you live in a hot and humid climate. Select a relatively shaded planting site with deep, well-drained soil. You want the roots to grow efficiently. Coffee plants are delicate, and the growing site should provide shelter from strong winds.
- Know what to do if you live in a cold area
If you live in a cold region, then you cannot grow your coffee plant outdoors. You can only get a good crop by growing the coffee plants indoors in a large pot. Use a deep gallon, one with a capacity of about 70 to 95 liters. Select a site close to the window where the plant can receive maximum sunlight. You can also consider artificial lighting. Maintain an indoor temperature of between 15 and 27 Celsius degrees. Night temperatures should not fall below 7 Celsius degrees.
- Clear the site and improve the soil
If planting outdoors, clear all the weeds around the planting site. You can add organic well-decomposed manure. You can also mix the soil with basalt gravel dust. Coffee like slightly acidic (PH 6) soils with high nitrogen content.
- Plant the seedling
Make a hole, one that is big enough to accommodate the rooting system of the coffee plant. Carefully move the plant from the pot and gently place it in the new hole. Place some soil around the rooting area of the plant and make it firm. For indoor plants, plant one plant per container. Maintain a spacing of three meters between plants when planting outdoors.
- Mulch the soil
Cover the soil with a layer of mulch to conserve soil moister and nutrients. A layer of grass or rotting leaves will do the job. You can also mulch outdoor plants. Alternatively, you can plant cover crops around the base of the tree. Leguminous cover crops are the best because they enrich the soil with nitrogen.
- Take care of your plants
Basic care for a coffee plant will entail watering. Water indoor plants twice a week but do not saturate the soil. You can reduce the amount of watering to once a week when the tree is established, and cropping becomes steady. Water your outdoor trees during the dry periods and do not water during the rainy period. Another care is fertilizer application. Apply citrus fertilizer six weeks after you plant the tree and do this after every six months. The warmer periods present the best time to add fertilizer. Although not necessary, pruning is essential if you wish to keep the coffee plant small. Start pruning when the coffee plant grows to a height of 20 inches. Cut off the growing tip to encourage lateral growth.
- Harvest the beans
It takes an average of nine years for the coffee plant to produce substantial fruits. However, your plant may begin flowering within three years and produce few coffee cherries. If the cherries grow to maturity and ripen, you can harvest them. However, if they fall off prematurely, the tree is not mature enough to produce.
Written in association with J. Stevens
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