If you’ve been in the habit of throwing your banana peels in the trash can for someone else to take away, you may find yourself holding a banana peel in your hand and wondering if you can put it in the compost bin and what will happen if you do.
So, can I put banana peels in my compost? Yes you can. If there is one thing that will rot faster than anything else it’s probably banana peels. It will, very quickly, turn black and then become unrecognizable.
I’ve been looking around to see what others are saying on the subject. If you want to know the chemistry that goes with returning banana peels back to the local ecosystem of your compost bin and garden, there’s an impressive list of useful elements.
In banana peels there is calcium, magnesium, sulphur, phosphates, potassium and sodium. All of these have their uses as plant feed, some more than others.
Calcium resides in the form of calcium-pectate salt. This plays a big part in the strengthening of the plant’s cell walls. When there is a deficiency, new growth at the shoot and root tips tend to be stunted because the cell walls haven’t formed at their best. Calcium also plays a part in activating enzymes that, in turn, progress plant growth.
Magnesium plays a big part in the photosynthesis of plants. Having enough magnesium available will assist the chlorophyll to complete the process of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. Magnesium is largely responsible for giving leaves their green colour.
There will be a magnesium deficiency where there is little or no organic material in the soil. This will be noticeable in sandy soil where the rain will rinse the magnesium out due to the open structure of sand.
Sulphur helps with the production of plant proteins. A plant doesn’t need very much but if there is a deficiency it will show in the plants general health and appearance. If we consider field-scale crop growing, an acre of land would need no more than 30 pounds (15KG) on an acre.
In the parts of the world where coal is burnt on an industrial scale for national energy production, sulphur is released into the atmosphere and is spread over a very wide area. This has been very useful to farmers growing crops over the years. Their only problem with this has been when the coal-fired power stations were closed down and the airborne supply of sulphur stopped. In these cases, where sulphur is required, the farmers are having to use purchased forms of sulphur in artificial fertilizer.
Then we look at phosphates or, specifically, the element phosphorus. It’s one of the important basic inputs required for plant growth. It’s the ’P’ in NPK. the ‘N’ being nitrogen and the ‘K’ being the symbol for potassium.
You will know more about it if there is a phosphorus deficiency. You will notice the plants will appear weak and have a washed-out look about them with little or no flowering.
Potassium is another required plant nutrient. It’s considered to be the most important of all, second only to nitrogen among nutrient inputs. Potassium plays a part in regulating the intake of CO2 by influencing the opening and closing of the stomata. These are the entry points on the green leaves where the CO2 is taken in and converted to hydrocarbons during photosynthesis.
Then we have sodium. This isn’t needed too much by plants, just a small trace amount is enough to help with the overall metabolism. Too much sodium, especially in the form of salt, will be detrimental to any plant possibly resulting in either killing it or severely stunting its performance.
For any of this to have any noticeable affect, you would need to add a huge number of bananas to the compost mix. Most households will get through just one or two bunches of bananas in a week. The peels from these, when mixed in with everything else, will be lost in the mire that is compost.
There’s a whole load of other ingredients that can go into making compost. We have a post that goes a long way into covering the subject. Check out ‘What goes in a compost bin’ to find out more.
Banana peel compost tea
There appears to be things you can do with banana peels that will bring an immediate benefit to your plants rather than just throwing them in a compost bin and waiting for them to rot down completely. Take some banana peels, chop them into small pieces then leave them soaking in water for a couple of days. Then extract the pieces which can be thrown in with the compost. The liquid will be banana peel compost tea. This can then be used in a watering can for plants of your choice or, if you can filter it enough, you could use it as a foliar feed and spray it on plant’s leaves using a hand sprayer.
An alternative way of using banana peels as a plant feed is to chop the peels and dig the pieces into the ground where you want to place plants. If you’ve just made some compost tea, you could use the solids that you extract from the ‘brew’. This will still have some nutrient value that can be used as it won’t have all been soaked out in the tea.
Bury the pieces about 4-5 inches (120mm) down in the ground. Do this before you sow the seeds for vegetables because digging it in beside established vegetable plants may damage the roots. The peels will easily rot down, releasing all those nutrients that we looked at earlier.
Another option is to dry the peels completely then grind them down into fine particles to use as a fertilizer. To dry them, spread them out on a baking tray and put them in an oven at about 140°C, leaving the door slightly open. Keep checking on them until they are hard and dry. Grind the dry peels in a spice or coffee grinder.
Doing this you could use the grindings as a dry fertilizer to apply around plants or store it to dissolve in water to use as a foliar spray.
You could also make an insect trap using banana peels as an attractant. Gnats and fruit-flies will go for banana peels, especially if it is becoming over ripe. You need a small plastic container with a lid. One of those throw-away containers that contains mixed fruit peels or cherries would be ideal.
Then you place some chopped pieces of banana in the container and add enough vinegar to just cover the banana pieces. Make a few holes in the lid of the container, big enough for gnats to go in. Wherever you place it the gnats will find it. They will go in and drown in the vinegar. It won’t get rid of the gnat and fruit-fly problem completely but it will take a bit of the pressure off if you’re having a problem.
Are there spiders in bananas?
This is something that came up when looking around on the subject of bananas. There have been reports of people seeing non-native spiders creeping out from a bunch of bananas. This is more likely to happen if you buy a bunch of bananas that come in a plastic bag.
If you are really unlucky with this, you may encounter a nest of spiders in a bunch of bananas. There are spiders that specifically nest in bunches of bananas. These are, apparently, safe. They appear not to bite and aren’t venomous. However there is another variety that we should all be looking out for.
They are known as the ‘Brazilian wandering spiders’. These spend their time wandering around on the forest floor under the banana trees. They are one of the most venomous spiders out there and must be voided. Bunches of bananas aren’t their first choice when it comes to places to hide. However they do tend to find their way into a bunch and become a stow-away, finding their way into a supermarket near you.
This is something that happens very rarely, if at all these days. Importers and shops that handle bananas are well aware of the potential problem and have been for some time. There are procedures in place to check through bunches of bananas before they set off from plantations. That having been said, it will always make sense to proceed with caution if you buy or recieve a bunch of bananas.
Banana peel and eggshell fertilizer
Banana peels and eggshell fertilizer is a useful combination. It’s a way of mixing the calcium of eggshells with the potassium, and other elements, to make a fine, powdered banana peels and eggshell fertilizer that’s extremely useful to any plant.
The procedure is very simple. You need to dry out the banana peels. If you are in a hot country or doing this in a hot period of weather then it can be done outside. If you can’t make sufficient use of the sun then you will have to dry out the banana peels in an oven. Heat at about 140°C, leave the oven door slightly open and keep checking on the drying progress. When the peels are crispy hard then they’re ready.
The eggshells also need to be dry. If you want to, you can wash the eggshells to remove any remaining egg-white that may be there. Then allow the eggshells to dry completely, one way or another. Both ingredients must be completely dry to be able convert them into the fine dry powder that we want.
The process involves using an electric blender which also needs to be completely dry before you load in the ingredients. So, with everything dry as a bone you can commence by breaking up the dried banana peels and lightly crush the eggshells. This can all go into the blender. Put the blender going and watch as the two ingredients mix while being pulverized to a dust.
You can then store the powder in a dry jar until you want to use it as a plant feed. The video here probably explains the process more clearly.
Eggshells are, mainly, calcium carbonate. It will have the same effect as hydrated white lime. Banana peels and eggshell fertilizer should only be used for plants that prefer low-acidic soil. If you have a soil acidity problem, you may not have enough eggshells to make a difference. While the amount of eggshells that you have will help, you may need to get a bag of hydrated white lime.
Can worms eat banana peels?
Worms can eat rotting banana peels. They won’t do anything with them when they’re fresh. The peels, like everything else, have to be rotten before the worms can eat and digest it. Worm composting is also known as vermicomposting. There are worm composters that are specifically designed to turn kitchen waste into vermicompost.
These can operate in the kitchen and involve trays that stack in a vertical column. The fresh waste will be in the top tray and the finished vermicompost will be in the tray at the bottom. The lowest tray will be emptied of the vermicompost when it’s ready to go. The empty tray can then go to the top of the stack. You can then place your banana peels and everything else in the top tray. When this has rotten down enough the worms will move up to it and start to consume.
You can feed banana peels to the Rolypig and they will work their way through, along with everything else. Whatever you feed to the Rolypig will go on a journey from the mouth end to the tail end, being occasionally agitated as it goes. There will be worms in the Rolypig which migrate in from the ground.
The Rolypig sits directly on the ground so this make it easy for worms to get in unlike most other tumbler-style composters that are off the ground and mounted on stands. When the worms move in they don’t leave. They feed and multiply in numbers to match the amount of fresh waste that you feed in.
Can you throw banana peels on the ground?
This really depends where you are. If you are out in the middle of nowhere and no one is likely to see it, then there won’t be a problem. It is right to say that banana peels will rot away and become plant-food compared to paper and plastic which will stay in one piece for a long time. The thing is, whatever you throw on the ground will be unsightly litter. It’s very antisocial to leave litter behind when you visit anywhere and banana peels will look like litter for long enough to make it look unsightly. So, if you’ve just eaten a banana and you’ve got the skin in your hand, either put it in the nearest litter bin along with any other rubbish that you may have or if you’re out of sight of everyone and there is no litter bin for miles, then it won’t hurt if you dispose of it among wild vegetation. Another option is, of course, to feed it to a Rolypig.
Can citrus peels be composted?
Citrus peels can be composted but you need to be mindful that citrus peels are going to add acidity to the compost. This won’t be a big problem unless you are adding large quantities of citrus material. Acidity has the tendency to preserve rather than allow for decomposition, which is what we want to happen for compost to be formed. The best way to neutralize the acidity is to add white-lime. This will react with the acids and create the ideal conditions for composting.