A civilised twist on the term ‘Home Brew’….
It’s really not as hard as you might believe.
Coffee trees, or shrubs to be accurate, are really quite efficient survivors and will generally tolerate a reasonable amount of abuse or neglect.
They require much less work to grow than do their cousins the Gardinia’s.
Firstly we only use (and sell) seed from the last harvest.
The seed that we keep for germination, is kept with the skin of the cherry still on.
The seeds are shade dried and allowed to experience the changes in humidity, moisture and temperature that make up the seasons.
Secondly, we only plant seed from October until March. (Late Spring to late Summer)
While is is possible to germinate coffee seed at almost any time of year, given heated germination trays and enclosed hothouse or propagation tunnels, the strength and robustness of the plants is compromised and the trees are often unfit.
Thirdly, we sow one cherry or two beans, into a pot of quite coarse potting mix. (They are very fond of lots of organic matter in the mix). Some ‘Perlite’ or ‘Vermiculite’ is quite OK in the mix but soil is not necessary, and can be detrimental at this stage.
Seed raise mix, jiffy pots, between sheets of wet paper towel and even damp hessian are often recommended, but are so unreliable that it is ridiculous to try.
Sowing in pots does hide the process of germination from view, but, if it is going to happen it will, and you just have to be patient.
Do not plant the seeds too deeply in the pot.
A hole the length of your finger to the second knuckle is all that is necessary. Cover lightly and then walk away.
Sit the pot in a lightly shaded spot, water each day and walk away. Do not poke around in the soil to see how it’s going.
When germination does occur, your heart lifts with pride but, it is time to put your parental instincts aside and NOT help the little unfurling infants to get their heads out of the soil.
If, for some reason, and it does happen, the curled head of the plant, bearing it’s seed case as a hat, does not completely open it’s leaves by itself, it will be sickly for a very long time.
Shedding the seed case seems to be part of the process and cannot be denied.
Soon the dicot leaves will be fully open to the sun and the growth of your plant can continue.
Something to remember after the plant has surfaced, is that before and during the process that you have been watching, the roots have been busy establishing themselves and getting into position to support and feed the emerging plant.
The most important thing to do at this stage is to feed the roots, not the plant.
Nitrogen based fertilizers will push much growth up and into the leaves, but the balance of the plant will be inadequate for later robust growth.
Once again, we prefer to be patient and we feed the pots with a seaweed based fertilizer rather than a fish emulsion.
Generally speaking, if the pot that you have planted into is large enough (roughly a 6′ pot), then you will not have to repot or transfer your plant until it is time to go into the ground.
We recommend allowing the plant to reach approximately 30 cm in height before planting out.
The young plants will require little from you during this period and are best enjoyed without bothering them or fussing over them.
Because the seedlings are emerging in Summer they should only take one month to germinate, at most.
There is quite a lot of flexibility in this timeline and you can expect different germination periods from the same batch of seed.
They are very social plants and once one is up, more will usually come soon after.
Even young Coffee plants are not voracious feeders and, while they grow at a reasonable pace, it is unlike anything you would have in your vegetable garden.
Most Coffee trees keep their leaves for several years without replacing them, so they do not produce more than they need.
This time in their lives should ideally be spent in part shade and watered often, as needed. Once again, not wet all the time, but they do not take well to drying out.
As in their native environments, they thrive on organic matter and love to have leaf mulch at their bases.
The root system is comparatively high in the soil and while they will send some roots down to anchor themselves, their main feeding roots are only just below the surface.
This explains why they do not like to dry out and why coarse, loose mulch, is coffee friendly.
If you have a shade house or protected outdoor living area, then they will be happy there until late Winter.