Saturday, 6 February 2010

An expensive habit

It all started nearly 4 years ago.

On coming back from Nepal my husband, John, and I planted 8 coffee beans in sandy soil as per instructions. We waited and waited and waited and six months later shoots appeared.

Coffee plants are absolutely extraordinary as they do the opposite of what would be expected (at least by me!). The beans rise up through the soil and then the beans split and the leaves come out from the underside of the beans. They look like tiny spaceships on the top of a spindly leg.

Six of the plants grew separately, but there were two that grew together... and known to us as 'the twins'.

They were repotted and lovingly watered daily, sprayed weekly and talked to as much as possible... and their growth was the slowest I have ever seen in a plant. Nevertheless after almost a year a dear friend of mine, Jenny, had built herself a hideaway and as a moving in present I wanted to give her a plant. The only problem was I didn't know whether we had the type that needed a companion to germinate or not. So I decided to give my friend the twins just in case, but in a strange way it felt like giving away a pet!

Anyway, I went on the web to see if I could talk to someone about growing coffee and the expert I eventually found from somewhere down in the South of England told me that she had never heard of anyone being successful at growing coffee plants in their own home in the UK. When I told her I lived in the North of Scotland... well she was shocked.

The only problem I found was that the plants do not like change... not one tiny bit. And then we moved. We left our home of 22 years just north of Inverness to move 34 miles south of Edinburgh. The coffee plants really objected and showed us by dropping most of their leaves and we were left with spindly stalks and a few shiny leaves on the top. And so it has been for the 18 months we've lived here in The Scottish Borders. They have started growing leaves at the bottom of the stalks, leaves going brown and then dropping off. Growing leaves at the top of the stalks, going brown and then dropping off.

Finally I decided that perhaps they were not getting enough light and went to Dobbie's giant plant emporium to see what we could find. We found a really helpful assistant who told us we needed the kind of lights that are used for growing marijuana... of course they didn't sell such a product!

A web search showed that there were plenty of lights to choose from and eventually we decided on a £59.99 light contraption (including p&p... what a bargain!). John then took our Ikea clothes rack (£29.99) and rigged it all up. Then the plants were repotted into larger pots (don't know the cost as we had them for a number of years) and Westlands West Plus Advanced (£3.91).

A grand total of £93.89!

Luckily they love it and have perked up no end... so nearly 4 years, almost £100 and if we're lucky at this rate in 10 years time we'll have enough coffee beans for a cup of coffee... can anyone beat that for the price of an espresso?

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