GARDENING | Bean thinking about growing coffee in your garden?

ROBUST: Taking a love of coffee to the next level. Picture: Shutterstock.
ROBUST: Taking a love of coffee to the next level. Picture: Shutterstock.

If you love your coffee and your garden, you can take your obsession to the next level and grow a coffee plant.

Coffea arabica is a small evergreen tree that can be kept pruned and manageable in the home garden without a lot of effort. It has attractive glossy green foliage and white star-shaped flowers with a sweet scent, which grow along the stems of the plant in late summer and autumn.

Coffee plants are triggered into flower with rain, just like murraya (orange jasmine). The fruit will ripen over six months, from autumn to spring. Rain can also trigger another flush of flowers, and plants can often have ripening fruit and flowers at the same.

In temperate climates coffee can be grown in part-shade positions with protection from cold winds and frosts, which can damage the plant and reduce yields.

Fertile, well-structured, free-draining soils are ideal for coffee, but they will not grow well in dry, sandy soils.

They prefer a slightly acid soil with a pH of 6.0 and respond well to fertilising, a complete citrus fertiliser is ideal. Keep soils moist as dry conditions will prevent plants from flowering.

Coffee plants can be pruned in the early stages of growth by cutting back the growing tip to encourage lateral branching, this will promote more flowers and fruits. Mature plants can be cut back quite hard every three years to manage size and encourage lateral growth.

Coffee makes an attractive container plant and is ideal as an indoor plant due to its tolerance to low light levels and shady conditions.

You won't get enough fruits off one plant to produce the volume of beans required for a daily cup, however even one plant can yield a crop of high quality fruits worth preparing for a great cup of coffee.

Coffee "cherries", which is what the fruits are called, can be eaten when bright red directly from the bush. The flavour is quite tart, but palatable.

Preparing coffee beans for roasting is an intricate process, but even for small volumes of fruit the effort is worth the result.

A good cup of coffee takes time and growing coffee requires patience. Plants can take up to six years to flower from seed - but with the promise of the best coffee you are likely to taste, it's definitely worth the wait.