Fruit scraps, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, coffee filters, shredded newspaper, grass clippings, animal manure, and leaves. All these scraps and materials you generate in and around your home can be tossed into a compost pile. Once they decompose, you’ll be left with a rich, nutrient-dense compost that is the perfect addition to your garden.
So, what about banana peels? They’re considered a fruit, and the peels are scraps left over, so they can go in the compost pile, right? Correct! Banana peels can go in the compost pile. But are they good for your compost pile, or will they do more harm than good? Stick around to find out!
Are Banana Peels Compostable?
Absolutely, banana peels are compostable. Bananas are actually great for your compost pile, as they add multiple elements that are important for the healthy growth of fruiting and flowering plants. They add sulfur, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, and phosphates, all of which are important for growing plants.
On top of that, composted bananas help add healthy organic material to the pile. In turn, this helps the compost pile retain water and makes the soil lighter once it’s ready to add to your garden.
How Long Does It Take For A Banana Peel To Decompose In Compost?
Bananas ripen and go bad rapidly, especially if they’re around other items that release ethylene. So, what’s ethylene? Ethylene is something that bananas release as they ripen, releasing more and more when they’re bruised or damaged. If you set your bananas next to other fruits, like apples, pears, or apricots, your bananas will ripen even faster (since they release ethylene).
In some cases, your bananas might ripen far too quickly for you to eat them in time. While you could toss them in the freezer and make delicious banana bread when you’re ready, you could also use them for compost. Whole bananas or banana peels, it doesn’t really matter.
In the compost setting, bananas and banana peels usually decompose in three to four weeks. This is much faster than if you just tossed the peel on the ground outside, where it could take months or even years to decompose fully.
How Do You Compost Banana Peels?
Composting banana peels is simple – toss them in whole or chop them up before tossing them in. Whole bananas and banana peels take somewhat longer to fully decompose than chopped bananas and peels, but you can always throw in the entire fruit. It’ll just take a bit longer to decompose fully.
In some gardening books and websites, you might find advice recommending you add banana peels to your plants as a direct fertilizer. While you certainly can add peels to the soil around your plants without harming the plant, we recommend composting them first.
Why? The reasoning behind composting first comes down to decomposition. When buried underneath a plant in the soil, banana peels take longer to decompose fully. Since they take longer to decompose, their nutrients aren’t as readily available to the plant.
If you compost the peels first, you ensure the peels are already decomposed by the time they reach your plants. So, your plants can reap the benefits of the added nutrition immediately instead of slowly waiting for the peel to break down in the soil around them.
Once you add the peels to your compost pile, make sure you keep the compost pile nicely aerated. Turn it regularly with a pitchfork or a shovel to ensure proper aeration,
What Should You Not Put In Compost?
Composting isn’t difficult, but a few things can cause the whole process to go awry. For example, if you add certain scraps to the pile, you might end up with unwelcome visitors, like pests and other animals. Some food scraps don’t decompose very quickly, slowing down the entire process.
Here are a few items that should never go in compost:
Dog Or Cat Feces
While certain animal manures, such as chicken, horse, and cow manure, are safe for composting, dog and cat feces are not. Chicken, horse, and cow manures are excellent nitrogen sources for your compost pile, but dog and cat feces can do more harm than good.
If you add dog or cat waste to your compost pile, your final result might become hazardous waste. Why? Dogs and cats can carry parasites and bacteria that cause human disease, so using the feces on your plants isn’t a good idea.
Roundworms tend to be the greatest concern with dog feces, but cat feces are even more concerning, as they can carry the organisms that cause toxoplasmosis. This type of disease poses a threat to pregnant women, as it can cause significant injury to an unborn child.
While not all dog and cat feces will carry harmful organisms, it’s better to be on the safe side. So, toss it in the trash instead of adding it to your compost pile.
Certain animal products, like dairy products, fats, and oils, aren’t a good idea for your compost pile. Dairy products, like butter, sour cream, yogurt, milk, and cheese, attract unwanted visitors. The same applies to fats and oils.
If you add these products and scraps to your compost pile, you might unintentionally invite certain pests and wild animals that smell the scraps. So, avoid adding these products to your compost pile. On top of these, try to avoid adding heavily processed food scraps that contain large amounts of dairy or fats.
Meat And Fish Scraps
Meat and fish shouldn’t be added to your compost pile for the same reason as dairy products, fat, and oil. While decomposing meat and fish scraps smell absolutely repulsive to humans, they’re pretty enticing to flies, rats, raccoons, skunks, and other wild critters. Some of the neighborhood pets might even be tempted to dig around for the smelly scraps.
Aside from the rancid smell, meat chunks can take anywhere from a few months to a year to fully decompose. Finely chopped bits don’t take as long, but larger cuts can take quite a while. Bones from meat chunks and fish scraps will also stick around for a while, so avoid adding those to your compost pile.
Wood And Plants Treated With Preservatives Or Pesticides
Since the whole purpose of composting is to create a nutrient-rich additive for your garden, woods and plants treated with pesticides or preservatives are a no-go.
Plants and woods that have been treated with insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides can unintentionally kill the beneficial organisms hard at work in your compost pile.
On top of that, the residue from herbicides can affect the plants in your garden after you add the compost. The same applies to any wood you’ve pressure-treated, painted, varnished, or stained.
Debris From Black Walnut Trees
For the most part, scraps and waste from your garden and yard are perfectly safe for your compost pile. However, there are a few exceptions you need to steer clear of, one of these being debris from black walnut trees.
So, what’s the deal with these trees? The problem with debris from these trees is the natural substance you find in the tree. This substance, called juglone, is a naturally occurring substance that can stunt plant growth and even kill them.
Some plants are more sensitive than others, including potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, azaleas, hydrangeas, and viburnum. Eventually, with enough time and heat, scientific research indicates that juglone breaks down to the point where it loses its toxicity, but it’s best to steer clear of it altogether.
Weeds That Have Gone To Seed
Unless you want to spread a fresh crop of weeds throughout your garden (or wherever in your yard you add compost), don’t add weeds that have already gone to seed to your compost pile.
These seeds can usually survive in compost unless temperatures reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, which isn’t ideal for your compost pile. So, dispose of those weeds in a different manner and avoid your compost pile altogether.
Insect-Ridden Or Diseased Plants
As with weeds that have gone to seed, you should avoid adding insect-infested and disease-ridden plants to your compost pile. Unless the pile temperatures meet and maintain temperatures between 141 and 145 degrees Fahrenheit for several days, the insects and diseases hanging out on those plants will survive.
Considering most compost bins rarely reach such high temperatures, the pesky insects and diseases will probably survive. Unless you want to introduce those insects and diseases to your garden when you spread the compost, get rid of those plants differently.
Ashes from a wood-burning fireplace or outdoor fire pit are safe for your compost bin in limited quantities, but coal and charcoal ash are not. Coal and charcoal tend to contain large amounts of sulfur, which can be detrimental to plants. In small quantities, sulfur is a good thing, but these materials have enough that it can make the finished compost too acidic for many plants.
In addition, many charcoal briquettes are infused with certain chemicals that may potentially damage your plants after you add the finished compost to the garden. So, skip coal and charcoal ash for your compost bin to be on the safe side.