How to use orange peels for a better garden! This summer’s flavor, as many before it, seems to be orange. So we have a ton of orange peels left over. I got to think that we could be the only family with that problem and thought you might appreciate some information about how we use orange peels in our garden…waste not, want not.
If you aren’t already using all or some of these I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with all you can do to help your vegetable garden with left over orange peels.
- How to Use Orange Peels for a Better Garden
- Types Of Citrus That Can Be Composted
- Do Lemons And Orange Peels Make Good Compost?
- What If My Citrus Scraps Are Moldy?
- Best Way To Compost Citrus Scraps
- In Summary
- Citrus Peels In Compost – Tips For Composting Citrus Peels
- Composting Citrus Peels
- Citrus in Compost and Worms
- Citrus in Compost and Mold
- The Power of Improving the Soil with Agricultural Organic Waste
- Years Later, the Researchers Returned to See What Happened
- Bigger Trees, Richer Soil, Better Forest Canopy
- All purpose Citrus Cleaner – the Citrus solution
- What you need to make citrus solution:
- Orange oil or lemon oil furniture or wood polish
- Other household uses for discarded citrus peels:
- Therapeutic use of citrus fruits
- Method for extracting citrus oil at home for therapeutic use:
- Benefits of home extracted citrus oils
- How you can use your home extracted citrus oils
- Back to you:
- What Is Rot?
- Can I Compost Moldy Fruits & Vegetables?
- Can I Compost Brown, Slimy Lettuce?
- Can I Compost Rotting Plants?
- Related Questions
- Can I Compost Lemons?
- Can you compost citrus and onion? Busting the myths about food scrap composting
- There’s some truth to the rumours
- What else can you put in your compost?
- It’s all about balance
- Eliminating barriers
- Good compost is a ‘joy’
- Summertime Lemonade Stands
- Benefits of Citrus Peels are Too Good to Throw Away—Compost Them!
- Helpful Tips on Composting Citrus Peels
How to Use Orange Peels for a Better Garden
Add Orange Peels to Your Compost
Orange peels are great for the compost. I have heard people say not to add citrus to your compost piles. This is really only true in vermicomposting, the worms don’t like the citrus. But in traditional compost piles, orange peels bring in phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium. It is a good idea to break your peels down into small pieces so they will compost faster, otherwise they can take a lot of time. See more tips about composting orange peels here.
Use Orange Peels to Keep Cats Out of Your Garden
Kitties do not like citrus. You’ll need several peels for a raised bed to make it really effective. You can cut the peels into chunks and spread them around but I have found that shredding them is much better. I am able to distribute the shredded peels more evenly and worry less about rodents finding them appealing. FYI – this works for your house plants too.
Aphids and Whiteflies Beware!
You can make an all natural aphid and whitefly killer with orange peels. Sometimes, no matter how much you do to prevent them…the pests come. But you can battle them with an DIY orange peel solution that won’t harm your plants. Steep a 1/2 cup of orange peels in 3. 5 cups of boiling water for 15 mins. After the 15 minutes of steeping allow the mixture to cool completely. Once cooled remove the peels and put the liquid in a spray bottle; spray aphids, whiteflies, slugs or any other soft-body garden pest. Do this weekly until they are gone.
Make a Biodegradable Seed Starter Pot
Take a 1/2 of your orange, after removing the fruit, fill with dirt and a seed. Free seed start pot that can be planted right into the garden. The orange peel will break down so you don’t need to worry about removing your plants before planting them in your garden. You’ll want to do fast growing seeds in these so you don’t have a lot of mold on your peels before you plant them. But remember one thing, if you’re hoping to get worms into your garden, don’t use too many citrus starters because this could keep them from coming in.
Keep the Mosquitoes off You When You’re Gardening
Did you know that you can rub fresh orange peels on your skin and repel mosquitoes. You can also keep fresh peels around your garden, porches and patios to repel them. See other ways to repel mosquitoes here!
Bonus Using Orange Peels in the House
Sure you can use orange peels for a better garden but you can also use them in the house! Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Freshen your garbage disposal with orange peels – just a few slices and make it smell great!
- Use dried orange peels as kindling to start a fire (great for camping).
- Natural air freshener – simply boil peels in water on your stove for a quick air freshener without any chemicals.
- Make an orange peel candle – directions here.
- Make a powerful and great smelling cleaner – directions here.
I hope these 6 ideas how to use orange peels for a better garden help you in your garden. And the home ideas can be great too!
Many people hear the myth that you should never compost citrus scraps like orange peels and lemons. There’s been a debate within the composting community about this topic, but the final consensus is yes, you can compost citrus.
Why the debate? Vermicomposting methods use worms that shy away from citrus since they don’t care to eat the fruit until it decomposes. But, citrus doesn’t harm the composting worms, and they’ll eventually get around to eating it.
For everyone else, adding citrus to your cold or hot composting routine brings benefits. Continue reading to learn about which types of citrus you can compost, what nutrients they add, and the best way to add citrus scraps to compost.
What to Expect From This Article
Types Of Citrus That Can Be Composted
You can compost every type of citrus fruit including:
You can use the peels, rinds, and pulp in your compost pile, which is a bonus for those who like using their juicer frequently or enjoy having fresh fruit every day.
Citrus peels fit into the “green compost” category, which means it’s a source of nitrogen.
Citrus fruits do take longer than other fruits to break down. Only particular bacteria will chew on the d-limonene chemical found in the fruit skin, but it will happen. See when compost is ready for more information on stages and what it looks like.
A bonus of composting citrus fruits is how they heat the pile, which helps speed up the overall decomposition process.
The strong scent that citrus fruit adds to the compost pile can help deter pesky animals and bugs. The oils in the fruit break down fast enough, so they aren’t harmful to the useful insects you want to keep around.
Do Lemons And Orange Peels Make Good Compost?
Lemons and orange peels make good compost material when you incorporate them correctly, which you can read about in the final section below. But generally, lemons and oranges have specific tendencies that can enhance or harm your compost pile, so use them wisely.
Too much lemon waste added at one time will raise the acidity of the heap, setting off a disruption within your compost pile. Bacteria may have a hard time breaking down the lemon bits fast enough, which could lead to an off-putting odor in your compost heap.
On the other hand, certain plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias love acid-rich soil. Using compost made with lots of lemon and orange waste could work wonders in these areas of your garden.
Oranges introduce nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus into your compost heap. These nutrients aid in the waste breakdown within your pile and help enrich your final compost medium.
What If My Citrus Scraps Are Moldy?
Are you afraid to toss moldy citrus fruit into your composting bin? Don’t worry; rotten citrus scraps are a fantastic addition to your compost pile since they are already starting to break down.
Another point to make is that a properly maintained compost pile should be hot enough inside to kill off any mold spores on the citrus fruit within a short time.
You do have to take extra care with moldy citrus, as it is a very wet waste material. Using additional bulking agents, like wood chips or shredded cardboard, will offset the moisture and keep your compost pile in optimal condition.
You can speed up the decomposing process when you add moldy citrus scraps to the center of the pile on top of dry leaves. Cover the scraps with grass or paper. The extra heat that generates in the center of the heap will break down those moldy citrus fruits in no time.
Best Way To Compost Citrus Scraps
Take the time to break down your citrus scraps into very small pieces, so more surface area has exposure to the bacteria within your compost heap.
Always balance the “wet” waste of your citrus fruits with an equal amount of a bulking agent like dry leaves to keep your compost heap healthy.
Deal with the seeds. Hot composting piles should reach the temperature that will damage seeds and keep them from germinating. See more on compost temperatures and how they affect your piles.
Cold composting piles rarely generate enough heat to kill the seeds in citrus fruits. Always remove the seeds before disposal, or you could find tree seedlings growing in your garden later on.
Do you want to speed up the breakdown process when practicing cold composting methods? Save all your citrus scraps in a lidded bucket and let them sit while they rot out and grow mold. Once you see a healthy dose of mold, toss the contents into your compost pile.
Now that you know it is perfectly safe to compost citrus, you no longer have to toss those orange peels or lemon scraps into the trash that ends up at the landfill.
Yes, citrus indeed takes more time and care to breakdown within your compost pile than other fruits or vegetables. But, you shouldn’t let that prevent you from adding it.
By using the best citrus composting methods you read about above, you can confidently incorporate any citrus scraps to your compost bin.
Enjoy the benefits of the extra acidity, moisture, and nutrients it brings to your compost, and use the finished product to grow beautiful, healthy plants!
Citrus Peels In Compost – Tips For Composting Citrus Peels
In years past, some people recommended that citrus peels (orange peels, lemon peels, lime peels, etc.) should not be composted. The reasons given were always unclear and ranged from citrus peels in compost would kill off friendly worms and bugs to the fact that composting citrus peels was simply too much of a pain.
We are glad to report that this is absolutely false. Not only can you put citrus peelings in a compost pile, they are good for your compost too.
Composting Citrus Peels
Citrus peelings have gotten a bad rap in composting due in part to the fact that it can take a long time for the peels to break down. You can speed up how fast citrus in compost breaks down by cutting up the peels into small pieces.
The other half of why citrus peels in compost was once frowned on had to do with the fact that several chemicals in citrus peels are used in organic pesticides. While they are effective as pesticides, these chemical oils break down rapidly and will evaporate long before you place your compost on your garden. Composted citrus peels pose no threat to the friendly insects that may visit your garden.
Putting citrus peels in compost may actually be helpful to keeping scavengers out of your compost pile. Citrus peels often have a strong smell that many scavenger animals dislike. This smell can work to your advantage to keep common compost pests away from your compost pile.
Citrus in Compost and Worms
Though some people think that citrus peels in vermicompost can be harmful to the worms, this is not the case. Citrus peels will not hurt the worms. That being said, you may not want to use citrus peels in your worm compost simply because many kinds of worms don’t particularly like to eat them. Though it is unclear why, many kinds of worms will not eat citrus peels until they have partially decomposed.
Since vermicomposting relies on worms eating the scraps you put into their bin, citrus peels simply would not work in vermicomposting. It is best to keep citrus peels in the more traditional compost pile.
Citrus in Compost and Mold
Occasionally there are concerns about adding citrus peels to compost due to the fact that penicillium molds grow on citrus. So, how would this affect a compost pile?
At first look, having penicillium mold in a compost pile would be a problem. But there a few things you have to factor in that would lessen the possibility of this problem.
- First, a well tended compost pile would simply get too hot for the mold to survive. Penicillium prefers a cooler environment to grow in, typically between an average fridge temperature and room temperature. A good compost pile should be warmer than this.
- Second, most commercially sold citrus fruit are sold with a mild antimicrobial wax applied. Since penicillium mold is an issue for citrus growers, this is the standard way to prevent mold growth while the fruit is waiting to be sold. The wax on the fruit is mild enough not to affect your entire compost pile (because people have to come in contact with it too and may eat it) but strong enough to prevent the mold from growing on the surface of the citrus.
So, it appears that mold on citrus peels in compost would only be a problem for people who are using homegrown citrus and also using a passive or cool composting system. In most instances, heating up your compost pile should effectively alleviate any future mold issues or worries.
In the mid-1990s, 1,000 truckloads of orange peels and orange pulp were purposefully and legally unloaded onto a barren pasture in a Costa Rican national park. Today, that area is covered in lush, vine-laden forest.
A team led by Princeton University researchers surveyed the land 16 years after the orange peels were deposited. They found a 176 percent increase in above ground biomass — or the wood in the trees — within the 7 acre area studied. Their results are published in the journal Restoration Ecology.
But this story also includes a contentious lawsuit.
Turns out that a competing juice company sued to prevent their competitor from continuing the cost saving practice. The rival accused them of harming a national forest and forced them to stop after only a year.
The Power of Improving the Soil with Agricultural Organic Waste
The study of the area 16 years later showcases the unique power of agricultural waste to not only regenerate a forest but also to sequester a significant amount of carbon at no cost.
“This is one of the only instances I’ve ever heard of where you can have cost-negative carbon sequestration,” said Timothy Treuer, co-lead author of the study and a graduate student in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “It’s not just a win-win between the company and the local park — it’s a win for everyone.”
The original idea was sparked by husband-wife team Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, both ecologists at the University of Pennsylvania, who worked as researchers and technical advisers for many years at Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG, Guanacaste Conservation Area) in Costa Rica. Janzen and Hallwachs have focused the latter half of their careers on ensuring a future for endangered tropical forest ecosystems.
In 1997, Janzen and Hallwachs presented an attractive deal to Del Oro, an orange juice manufacturer that had just begun production along the northern border of Área de Conservación Guanacaste. If Del Oro would donate part of their forested land to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste, the company could deposit its orange peel waste for biodegradation, at no cost, on degraded land within the park.
But a year after the contract was signed — during which time 12,000 metric tons of orange peels were unloaded onto the degraded land — TicoFruit, a rival company, sued, arguing the company had “defiled a national park.” The rival company won the case in front of Costa Rica’s Supreme Court, and the orange-peel-covered land was largely overlooked for the next 15 years.
Years Later, the Researchers Returned to See What Happened
In the summer of 2013, Treuer was discussing potential research avenues with Janzen when they discussed the site in Costa Rica. Janzen said that, while taxonomists (biologists who classify organisms) had visited the area, no one had really done a thorough evaluation.
So, while on another research trip to Costa Rica, Treuer decided to stop by the site to see what had changed over the past decade.
“It was so completely overgrown with trees and vines that I couldn’t even see the 7-foot-long sign with bright yellow lettering marking the site that was only a few feet from the road,” Treuer said. “I knew we needed to come up with some really robust metrics to quantify exactly what was happening and to back up this eye-test, which was showing up at this place and realizing visually how stunning the difference was between fertilized and unfertilized areas.”
Treuer studied the area with Jonathan Choi, who, at the time, was a senior studying ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton. Choi turned the project into his senior thesis.
“The site was more impressive in person than I could’ve imagined,” Choi said. “While I would walk over exposed rock and dead grass in the nearby fields, I’d have to climb through undergrowth and cut paths through walls of vines in the orange peel site itself.”
The research team evaluated two sets of soil samples to determine whether the orange peels enriched the soil’s nutrients. The first set of samples was collected and analyzed in 2000 by co-author Laura Shanks of Beloit College, and the second set was collected in 2014 by Choi. Shanks’ data were never published, so her analysis was combined with Choi’s for the purposes of this study. The samples were analyzed using different but comparable methods.
To quantify changes in vegetation structure, the researchers established several transects within the orange waste treatment area. These transects were 100-meter-long parallel lines throughout the forest, where all trees within 3 meters were measured and tagged. This was done to see how much growth was brought on by the orange peels.
For a comparison, the researchers constructed a similar set of routes on the pasture on the other side of the road, which hadn’t been covered in orange peels. They measured tree diameter and identified all species within both areas.
Bigger Trees, Richer Soil, Better Forest Canopy
They found dramatic differences between the areas covered in orange peels and those that were not. The area fertilized by orange waste had richer soil, more tree biomass, greater tree-species richness and greater forest canopy closure.
“Plenty of environmental problems are produced by companies, which, to be fair, are simply producing the things people need or want,” said study co-author David Wilcove, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute. “But an awful lot of those problems can be alleviated if the private sector and the environmental community work together. I’m confident we’ll find many more opportunities to use the ‘leftovers’ from industrial food production to bring back tropical forests. That’s recycling at its best.”
The paper, “Low-Cost Agricultural Waste Accelerates Tropical Forest Regeneration,” was published August 22 in Restoration Ecology. The research was funded by the Princeton Environmental Institute, the Walbridge Fund, the Princeton Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the Office of the Dean of the College at Princeton University, the High Meadows Foundation, Garden Club of America, and Área de Conservación Guanacaste.
Aerial photo courtesy of Tim Treuer. Orange peel photo courtesy of Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs.
Citrus fruit is very beneficial for cleansing the body, especially after a long winter. The fruit and juice are tonic, and cleansing. It cleanses and supports the liver, and lymphatic system. It is antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, and detoxifying. It is astringent and relaxes the central nervous system. Citrus fruit, especially lemons and grapefruit, are a good addition to your diet, if you are trying to lose weight, too. But if your family eats a lot of lemons, grapefruit, or oranges there are a lot of citrus peels heading for the homestead compost bin. Don’t compost those citrus peels! At least not yet. There are several household uses for them, as well as therapeutic uses — so read this before you waste those rich homestead resources.
All purpose Citrus Cleaner – the Citrus solution
There is a super simple method for making orange oil, all purpose cleaner, making the rounds on Pinterest and in the blogging sphere. Its the perfect time because oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit are in season right now. I first saw it on Pinterest and then several bloggers that I follow, posted blog posts about it. So this is not my idea, but I’m weighing in my opinion because its just amazing, and if you have orange peels (or lemon or grapefruit or lime) you need to do this. I hope this article adds to the conversation and broadens your view of what is possible, in order to make full use of this often wasted resource.
It doesn’t matter whether you use organic oranges or conventionally grown oranges for this recipe, although if you use conventional oranges there will be pesticide and fungicide residues in your cleaner — so you decide how pure you want it. This works with grapefruit peels, lemon halves, that you’ve squeezed the juice out of, or any other citrus peel. You can include the seeds, the pith, and the peel. This cleaner is safe to use on finished wood, as well as counter tops, bathroom fixtures, and floors. It is citrus oil based and once its finished it has an oily feel to it. It smells like the fruit that you put in it, and it doesn’t smell like vinegar. While white vinegar has a pH of 2, once the cleaner is ready to use its pH has risen to 3 or 4, and will only be mildly acidic.
Citrus cleaner is antiseptic, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and it neutralizes odors.
Other citrus fruits that you may have access to, depending on where you live: Seville bitter orange (Its flowers are used to make Neroli E.O.) and Bergamot (another bitter orange). Both are strongly scented and their oils have strong therapeutic benefit.
To use it you dilute it 1:1 with water. Put it in a spray bottle and spritz the area that you want to disinfect or clean. Wipe it off. It both cleans and disinfects. It smells wonderful, too. Are you ready to get started?
What you need to make citrus solution:
Citrus peels, lots of them (you can use lemon, orange, grapefruit or any mixture that you have)
A big glass jar (not plastic)
Lid for the jar
I used a 2 quart wide mouth jar, but if you don’t have one, use what you have. Don’t use plastic. The vinegar will leach chemicals like BPA out of the plastic. Glass is stable.
As you eat or use citrus fruit during the season, put the peels into your glass jar. Cover with vinegar. The peels will float, but that’s all right. Once the jar is filled with peels, and the vinegar is topped up in the jar, the citrus peels will be submerge. Keep a lid on the jar, when you are not filling it, to keep the vinegar fumes down. It smells pretty strongly of vinegar when you start. The vinegar smell dissipates after 2 or 3 weeks. That’s how you know your cleaner is ready. Every couple of days, give the jar an easy shake to move the peels and vinegar around.
The vinegar leaches the citrus oil out of the peels. The process speeds up if the vinegar is warm, so I keep mine in a sunny window, so that the vinegar is warmed by the sun periodically. After 3 weeks or how ever long it takes in your environment for the liquid to be mostly citrus smelling and without any vinegar smell, you strain it, and squeeze the liquid out of the peels. Squeeze as much liquid as possible. You may want to use a make-shift press of some kind to get the most juice out, as possible. You can strain it again before you bottle if it seems too cloudy to you. You will get some pith, with this method, but that can be strained out the second time around. Then you can compost the peels. 1 quart of citrus peels and vinegar yields only 2 cups of citrus oil, so you’ll want to have several jars on your window sill working their magic, while the citrus is in season.
Your liquid citrus solution will now be lightly colored and lightly scented. It will feel thicker and somewhat oily on your hands. Store it in glass jars in a cool, dark place. Citrus oil is light sensitive, so the darkness is important if you are making enough cleaner in the citrus season to last a year.
To use mix 1 cup of citrus solution and 1 cup of water in a spritz bottle. Spray on the surface that you want to clean and wipe off. You can rinse if you want to, or leave the residue to fight bacteria. If you use it on your floors, you’ll want to rinse it afterwards. The oil residue, as light as it is, will attract dirt readily and you’ll have to wash your floors more frequently.
Orange oil or lemon oil furniture or wood polish
Use the citrus solution straight. Don’t dilute it with water but use it as is. It is a potent wood cleaner and furniture polish.
For a more pastey furniture polish, mix a little orange solution or lemon solution in beeswax and jojoba oil — 1 tbsp of each — to get a paste wax consistency. Mix well, while its warm. Store in a shallow glass jar. Apply with a soft cloth and wipe off excess with a clean, soft, cloth. Buff to a shine. Try this on your wooden kitchen cupboard doors to remove the daily grime and leave a shine. It protects as well as cleans.
Other household uses for discarded citrus peels:
Lemon halves, that you’ve squeezed the juice from, can be used to clean silver, brass, and marble. Rub a lemon half in some salt and rub on stained fabric to remove stains. Works especially well on linen. It will also reduce nicotine stains on nails and teeth, and fade freckles. Don’t rub it on a cut, though, it will sting.
Therapeutic use of citrus fruits
Now what if you want to extract the citrus oil for therapeutic benefit or internal use? And why would you want to?
Here we will talk only of organically grown fruit. You want to grow these on your own homestead or have a source close to home, or purchase certified organic fruit only. You can buy essential oils of most citrus fruit and they vary in price with lemon oil being the least expensive, and exotic citrus fruit like bergamot being very dear. Most commercially available essential oils, which are extracted from the peels of the fruit are not organic and will contain concentrated amounts of the pesticides, and fungicides used on the peels, so caveat emptor.
Method for extracting citrus oil at home for therapeutic use:
For therapeutic use, you can extract the oils from your own citrus fruit through the same method as above, however, use unpasteurized cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, and only use organic fruit. You can also use a good quality vodka to extract the oils, instead of vinegar. But follow the method for the vinegar, substituting vodka for the vinegar called for in the recipe. Wash the fruit well before placing in the jars with the vinegar. Most store bought citrus fruit, even organic fruit, has been treated with a fungicide before shipping. You’ll want to wash it off, if you plan to use the oil on your body or to drink it.
Benefits of home extracted citrus oils
- Grapefruit and lemon oils extracted in cider vinegar are useful for cleansing and detoxifying your liver and gallbladder.
- They cleanse the lymphatic system.
- All citrus fruit is tonic, antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and supports the immune system.
How you can use your home extracted citrus oils
You can take a tsp. of this extracted citrus oil in a cup of water or tea for detoxing. Citrus oil can be added to your bath for a refreshing, and uplifting spa experience. It can be added to a carrier oil and used in massage. Lemon, particularly, is known to discourage mosquitoes, from biting, and is a good additive with other E.O.s like tea tree, lemon verbena, and lavender to make a mosquito repellent that works. Use lemon oil in cider vinegar in a hair rinse, after shampooing with Joybilee Farm Chamomile shampoo, to bring out blond highlights in your fair hair.
You can also take the peels and dry them in your dehydrator and then add them to herbal teas as a tonic, immune boosting, and good tasting addition. If you plan to use the peels in baking, however, take the time to remove the white pith from the peel, or you will add bitterness to your sweet dessert.
Back to you:
This is not an exhaustive list of beneficial uses of citrus peels. What’s your favourite way to use up citrus peels, after you’ve eaten or juiced the fruit? Or What’s one thing that you’ve taken away from this article that you plan to try? Leave a comment.
I used The Compete Family Guide to Natural Home Remedies, edited by Karen Sullivan (1997) for the information about the therapeutic benefits of citrus fruits, in this article.
The Complete Family Guide to Natural Home Remedies: Safe and Effective Treatments for Common Ailments (Complete Guide)
This is one of my favorite herbal references. It includes an extensive chapter on making decoctions, tinctures, balms, and teas to convert herbs into medicines that you can make and use at home. While the book is no longer in print, some new and used editions are still available through Amazon’s extensive network of used book sellers. If you are serious about transitioning to a more responsible, and holistic family medicine paradigm, you want to get a copy of this book, while it is still available.
A common question posed by those new to composting is Can I compost rotten fruits and vegetables? While this seems like a simple question, the answer is quite complicated.
Why? Because it all depends on how you define rotten, and what caused that specific rot in the first place. A bruised apple, a bag of slimy lettuce, or a box of moldy potatoes may all be classified as rotting, but all have unique causes that determine if and how they should be added into a compost pile.
Composting rotting fruits and vegetables: In general, rotten fruits and vegetables are safe to put in a compost pile. However, there are exceptions, so we should be familiar with the signs of an unsafe compost ingredient.
What Is Rot?
The official definition of rot is:
“To undergo decomposition”
If you have ever composted, you know decomposition is the goal. We want our entire pile to rot. So, problem solved. Rotten fruits and vegetables are safe to compost.
And… that’s where the answer gets complicated.
There are many different reasons a plant, fruit, or vegetable may rot:
- Changes in enzymes
- Changes in chemicals
- Microbiological activity
- Macrobiological activity
Most causes of rot are beneficial and harmless in a compost pile. However, there are a few that may spread disease or encourage pests.
Enzymes are the driving force behind photosynthesis and fruit ripening. Once the fruit is picked, enzymes will continue ripening it, and this will eventually lead to it being overripe and inedible.
A fruit is anything that came from a flower, so cucumbers, pumpkins, snap peas, green beans, peppers, and squash all count as a fruit.
Overripe fruit is safe for a compost pile.
Chemicals are responsible for changes in flavor, and browning that is not related to being over ripe. This is mostly due to oxidation, or oxygen interacting with a chemical in the plant material. This can cause different reactions, but none are harmful in a compost pile.
Microbiological activity is where things get interesting. Microbes start breaking down fruits and vegetables once chemical and enzymatic changes have weakened them. Most are harmless, but there is one to be very cautious of.
If you process and can your own fruits and vegetables, you must be careful to inspect jars for botulism. If there is any sign that your canned foods have botulism, throw the entire container away using gloves. DO NOT compost the contents. Although rare, botulism can survive the composting process, and then grow in anaerobic conditions inside your pile.
Macrobiological activity is one cause of rot that should disqualify plants from the compost pile. This category refers to damage by visible pests, like insects and rodents.
Most damage caused by insects is frustrating, but not dangerous. However, if you’ve harvested food from the garden that has attracted or been damaged by an aggressive pest, it is best to throw it away.
Many damaging insects can survive in infested plant material and become active again when you use your compost. Burn or destroy plants that have infestations to prevent them in the future.
If your fruits and veggies are rotting due to rodent activity, throw them away. If you put these items in a compost pile, they will follow the food and burrow into your pile. It is best to take care of the rodent problem first, and then you can focus on building a new active compost pile.
Can I Compost Moldy Fruits & Vegetables?
Yes. Molds are a microbiological cause of rot, and most molds that occur on fruits and veggies are harmless.
If your garden veggies are molding, it is probably because they were not harvested in time, and cooler weather moved in. This is what happens in nature when seasons change, and it is perfectly safe to throw those moldy tomatoes and apples in the compost pile.
If produce in your fridge has developed mold, then it is almost irrelevant to composting. The mold that grows in a cold, dark, humid environment will not survive the compost pile. The mold will quickly die, and a new mold will take over to help with decomposition.
Can I Compost Brown, Slimy Lettuce?
Probably not. Spoiled lettuce would surely decompose, but the risks associated with it are too high.
Three common foodborne illnesses are found on leafy greens:
- E. coli
These bacteria do not cause rot. Rather, store-bought leafy greens spoil quickly, and these bacteria can survive on the leaves as they are rotting, or in the liquid that collects inside the packaging.
These bacteria are generally not a concern for home gardens, unless you are using manure. Tainted water supplies and improperly-composted manure are to blame for most outbreaks, and due to the short shelf-life of salad greens, many people will have already consumed infected plants before a public notice can be given.
So, odds are you won’t know you have infected lettuce until weeks after you have thrown it into a compost pile. Due to this, and the incredible ability of these bacteria to survive harsh environments, it is best to just throw spoiled salad greens in the trash, and start growing your own.
Can I Compost Rotting Plants?
If your growing season is coming to and end, and the weather has cooled off, you will notice many plants in your garden will begin to die and decay. This is a normal process, and these plants can be thrown in the compost pile as long as there is no active insect population affecting them.
However, if your plants succumb to a disease that causes rot while it should be growing and thriving, these plants need to be pulled and destroyed. Some diseases cause root rot, others cause stem or leaf rot, and others cause the fruit to rot before it’s ripe.
While not all diseases can survive composting (and, in fact, many cannot survive active composting), it is always best to be safe and destroy material that may infect your garden.
Composting is a great way to reuse materials that could be thrown away. In most cases, rotten produce and plant material will be safe in a compost pile. Even diseased material is usually destroyed during active composting.
However, it is always better to be safe and protect your garden and yourself from harmful pathogens.
Check out our articles on composting newspaper and cardboard to help provide a good balance to your compost pile.
Why are my bananas rotting so fast?
Bananas produce the hormone ethylene, which is responsible for the ripening of fruit. Many fruits give off small amounts of ethylene, but bananas release so much they’ve been dubbed the “killer fruit.”
If you store bananas in a closed space, like a refrigerator or cabinet, they will spoil very quickly from their own ethylene gas. If you store other produce next to them on the counter, that produce will also spoil quickly. You can use this hormone to your advantage, if you are careful. You can put underripe fruit near bananas in order to speed up the ripening process, but watch it to make sure you use the fruit as it ripens to prevent spoiling.
Why is my compost molding?
Because it’s decomposing! This is a good sign. However, there is one mold you should watch for during the composting process. Although rare, Aspergillus spores can grow in compost piles, and these spores can cause respiratory problems. If you notice respiratory issues after turning your compost pile, you should wear a mask.
Can I Compost Lemons?
(From the Fruit category | )
You can compost lemons – but not in huge amounts and there are a few things to keep in mind.
Firstly, the rind/peel is a great protective layer for the fruit – perfect for its journey to us but a hindrance to speedy composting. If for some reason you’re throwing away whole fruit, split them open to aid decomposition.
Secondly, too much citrus fruit/peel can disrupt the balance of your compost heap. If it becomes too acidic, it might cause problems for the bacteria that breaks the stuff down into compost.
Also, many types of compost heap worms or wormery worms such as tiger worms don’t like d-limonene, an antiseptic substance found in fresh citrus peel. The d-limonene disappears as the peel rots though so your worms will prefer it if you leave it out of the wormery/compost heap until it’s green and furry.
Basically, the odd bit of citrus fruit is fine but too much – for example if you’re making acidic juices from a lot of fruit every day – might cause problems. (Some people keep a separate compost heap/bin for problematic stuff – it’ll compost down eventually and won’t get in the way in the meantime.)
In the future, if you don’t think you’ll use up lemons before they’ll go off, squeeze them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays for use in cooking, or slice them into wedges and freeze, to use as combined fruit and ice in the summer’s drinks!
Alternatively, lemons and their juice can be used in all sorts of cleaning activities around the home, or the rind can be used as a garnish, in pot pourri or to fresh up garbage disposals.
Can you compost citrus and onion? Busting the myths about food scrap composting
By Kate Midena
Posted April 28, 2019 08:17:17
If you have found yourself in the middle of a debate around the dinner table about composting lately, you are (surprisingly) not alone.
As navel oranges come into season and onions find their way into slow-cooked meals, can you just throw their peels into your compost bin?
And what about leftover bread, coffee grounds and cardboard?
“There’s nothing to be afraid of when it comes to composting,” host of Gardening Australia, Costa Georgiadis, said.
“Composting is the people’s art. More money doesn’t make better compost.”
While that might be music to the average homemaker’s ears, composting is indeed an artform, and an area littered with old wives tales.
So if you are in the habit of throwing anything and everything into your bin and leaving it to fend for itself, there are a few things you should know.
There’s some truth to the rumours
“The odd mandarin peel or the odd lemon in there, a good thriving compost will manage that no problem,” Costa said.
“But if you’re juicing oranges five or six days a week for three or four family members, that can overload a compost.”
Costa said most backyard gardeners would have a compost heap suited to general household kitchen waste and garden clippings.
But, in order for things like citrus to break down properly and not overload the heap, it was important to take into account the climate of both your compost and the area you live.
“As the cooler months kick in, the citrus is not going to break down as readily,” Costa explained.
“I’d suggest drying your citrus — putting them on a rack and drying them in the sun.”
And, while drying citrus might sound laborious, Costa said people should bear in mind that, once the citrus has dried, you could use it in baking, to make your own citrus cleaners, or even as fire starters.
“You’ll get that wonderful citrus aroma when you cook them off because the oil in them is released, they’re like nature’s little lucifers,” he said.
As with citrus, things like onions, eggshells and garden waste can also be added to your compost, but with caution.
“If you were a French onion soup distributor I’d think carefully about dropping in bucketloads because, like citrus, it’s going to have that same overload impact,” Costa said.
“I get asked the same thing about eucalyptus leaves, and you can put them in, but not all the time as the compost can’t deal with it.
“Think about your ingredients, and think one word: balance.”
What else can you put in your compost?
The usual rule of thumb is that anything that has “lived” can go in your compost, including fruit, vegetables, tea bags and coffee grounds.
Even things like paper and cardboard (including toilet rolls!) can go into your bin as layers, to break up the food waste.
“Think about cardboard as basically something that has lived,” Costa said.
“Anything fresh, like food scraps or fresh green leaves or twigs or grass clippings — they’re all nitrogen because they’re still alive.
“Something like cardboard is basically like a dead tree, so you can use that because it gives you balance; it’s carbon. The worms love it, they get in there and munch it down.”
As well as cardboard, you can recycle your newspapers in the compost, by opening the newspaper up (as if you are reading it) and shredding it down the length of the page as narrowly as you can, before shaking it into your compost.
“You can even put old cotton clothes in there, and the worms will eat it and break it down,” Costa added.
It’s all about balance
The key to a good healthy compost goes beyond what you add to it; you need a good balance between carbon (dry, ‘brown’ materials like cardboard, paper and dry leaves) and nitrogen (moist, ‘green’ materials like garden clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps).
According to Costa, getting a good balance is the area where people fall down 99 per cent of the time.
“At the end of the day compost is usually too wet, or too dry,” he said.
“If you squeeze it and it’s like wringing someone’s hair after they’ve come out of the water, it’s too wet. If you squeeze it and there are sand particles coming through, it’s too dry.”
A general rule of thumb is to have two parts brown material to one part green material, but if even that is sounding too overwhelming, the best thing to do is turn your compost regularly.
“I look for a compost that gets turned regularly, once a week or once a fortnight,” Costa said.
“Use one of those cone barrel composts, or a compost corkscrew or you can buy from the nursery.
“Corkscrew it once a week or once a fortnight, add a little bit of water, about your average watering can’s worth, and when you squeeze it, it should be just moist enough to get a drop or two of juice.”
If the thought of compost “juice” put you off, chances are you are also concerned about things like flies, rats and mice. A few simple tweaks can eliminate all these things.
If you cover the top of your compost you will not end up with vinegar flies, and if you get the balance of your compost right and avoid meat products, you will eliminate smells and rats and mice will stay away.
“You can also place a piece of chicken wire on the ground and put your bin on top of it so all of the liquids and any microbial activity can still move up and down through the earth, but vermin won’t be able to burrow their way up,” Costa explained.
Another thing to consider, especially if you live in an apartment, is a small, indoor composting system like a bokashi bin.
Latest figures show that in the ACT alone, 37 per cent of the weekly rubbish collection consists of food scraps.
Something like a bokashi bin, which can sit in prime position on your benchtop, or even a balcony worm farm, is perfect for collecting that food waste.
Good compost is a ‘joy’
If you do struggle to get the balance in your compost right, the good news is that everything is redeemable.
“When a compost is singing, you can stick your head in the bin and it will not offend,” Costa explained.
“It will be like a lovely, lush, fruitcake-like smell.
“If you do have an anaerobic compost, all you have to do is add carbon, brown material — shredded paper or some soil, to take up that moisture. As soon as you get air back in there the smell goes immediately.
“When you find the sweet spot and it’s humming, it’s just a joy.”
You can watch Gardening Australia on ABC TV 7:30pm Friday or catch up on iview.
Summertime Lemonade Stands
Written By: Katie Bocskor, Digital Marketing Manager for MyGreenGloves
When you think summertime, what adventures, activities and memories come to mind?
I think of bike rides and lemonade stands. Summer is my favorite time of year and has been since I was a kid. As I reminisce about my childhood, I think about sitting in the driveway with my three sisters and selling lemonade to the people passing by. I bet you remember your childhood lemonade stands, as you are probably now helping your children with theirs.
Lemonade stands can teach a child so many things: from how to make lemonade, to running a small business, to sales, communication and teamwork—so why not teach children about food waste and the benefits of composting as well?!
Benefits of Citrus Peels are Too Good to Throw Away—Compost Them!
Did you know that in the U.S. alone, about 150,000 tons of food is thrown out every day?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fruits and vegetables are the most tossed out items, followed by dairy and meat.
The rotting food waste releases dangerous methane gas into the air, adversely affecting the environment. (Reference Article)
So how can you help reduce food waste going into the landfills? Compost It!
Note: If you have a vermicomposting, there are some worms that prefer not to eat citrus, but if you have a traditional compost pile you can throw the citrus peels in without worry!
Composting lemon peels, and other citrus fruit is a simple and easy way to reduce food waste. Even though citrus fruits are very acidic, there are great benefits to adding them to your compost pile, such as:
- The strong scent will deter pests and animals.
- The chemical oils break down quickly, so there is no threat to friendly insects.
- Citrus peels bring in phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium—which helps maintain a nutritious pile. (Citrus peels fall into the ‘green’ part of your pile.)
For composting, your pile should consist of the following combinations:
- Air + Water + Carbon + Nitrogen = Compost
- 1 Part Greens + 3 Parts Brown + Water
Helpful Tips on Composting Citrus Peels
- Cut the peels into small pieces to speed up the composting process.
- If your pile acidity increases, add more grass clippings to maintain a healthy compost mixture.
- Keep your compost pile hot by actively turning your piles every few weeks.(This will keep mold from growing on your citrus peels.)
For more composting tips, download our ‘Guide to Backyard Composting’.
To order your GEOBIN Composter, visit our website: www.geobin123.com.