Can you put garlic in the compost?

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Can you put garlic in the compost?

Also: Can you compost food that has garlic in it?

Does garlic affect worms?

Does garlic deter vermin?

Does garlic keep flies away from compost?

Garlic is a popular ingredient for cooking. Those who understand it know that it has many health benefits and that it makes that extra -special difference to flavouring a number of dishes. But what do we do if we have garlic that’s starting to go bad because it’s been hanging around for too long. Can you put garlic in the compost?

You can put garlic in compost. Garlic cloves are bulbs, like onions, that can sprout in compost and grow new plants. To avoid this you need to chop the garlic cloves before you put them in the compost. Putting garlic cloves in the compost may be a waste of garlic. Consider planting the garlic cloves to grow them on.

Garlic will break down over time, along with everything else in the composting process. When people mention garlic they often refer to garlic cloves. There’s something about garlic that puts it out there on its own. It’s a strong tasting ingredient. I chew a garlic clove occasionally because it’s apparently good for just about everything. The experience of chewing a raw garlic clove has been described as ‘like chewing a red-hot rivet’.

This leaves us to wonder what would happen if we ever need to dispose of garlic cloves and put them in the compost bin. We don’t want to put anything in a compost bin that tastes and smells like it’s one of nature’s ‘chemical bombs’, subjecting it to the very thing that makes people unpopular for their hot breath.

We don’t want to risk the purging of the much-needed multiple life forms that live in a compost bin. A compost bin that’s a waste-land because of a reckless moment when we thought it was okay to throw in some garlic that’s gone a bit mouldy.

Can you put garlic in the compost? Yes. Garlic won’t upset the microbes.

The amount of garlic that you are likely to be throwing out will be very small. It will be a tiny fraction of what makes up the entire mass of your compost heap. It won’t affect your compost in any way at all.

There is another form of garlic that can be used when you are lucky enough to get it. This is wild garlic leaves. They’re only available in the Spring of the year and can be found growing in damp, shaded areas e.g. along a tree-shaded river bank or in damp shaded woodlands.

Can you put garlic in the compost?_03

They are available to pick for about 6 weeks. As the season progresses they flower, producing a dazzling white display to accompany the dark rich green of the wild garlic leaves.

The leaves and the flowers work well in a salad. When there is any left over that has to be discarded, this to can go in the compost. Garlic leaves aren’t as pungent although the flowers, particularly when they’ve gone to seed, can be quite hot. The seeds can almost be compared with hot chilli peppers.

Garlic cloves, wild garlic leaves and the seeding flowers can all go in the compost whenever there is a need, without  having any adverse effect on the compost. 

Can you compost food that has garlic in it?

You can compost food that has garlic in it. Cooked or raw food that has garlic traces in it will not affect your compost. Raw garlic cloves may need to be chopped to avoid regrowth in the compost.

Any dish that you’ve prepared that has garlic of any type included, can go in the compost bin. The strength that the garlic element may have, will be very local. It won’t affect the heap as a whole.

Does garlic affect worms?

It’s probably safe to assume that garlic will affect worms. Worms have a very delicate skin. They’re easily affected by the extremes of the naturally-occurring chemicals that garlic can generate. Garlic can be used to remove worms from a digestive tract. Here we look at the affect that garlic has on composting worms.

Worms won’t show any interest in fresh garlic. They don’t go for anything that’s fresh. They wait for it to become mouldy or until the food-waste material has rotten enough. They can only ingest material that has decomposed to a point where it’s soft enough for them to swallow and digest. 

Garlic is something which they will avoid when it’s a new addition to the compost. They will probably be put off by the smell that it gives off but it won’t be enough to drive them away from the compost bin completely.

They will leave it and come back later when the cloves have deteriorated enough.

Does garlic deter vermin?

Garlic will deter vermin but only if you keep applying it. To deter mice, the best results happen if you use powdered garlic. Fresh garlic will deter vermin but only until it dries out. Mice find the smell of garlic particularly disturbing. Using garlic to deter rodents will only work for low levels of infestation.

It takes a lot to deter a lot of rats or mice. There won’t be enough garlic in compost to make any difference. So, it won’t be much use trying to use garlic as a rodent deterrent in a compost bin. If you have a big problem with vermin you need to put down some poison or start laying traps.

Does garlic keep flies away from compost?

As with vermin, the inclusion of garlic in a compost heap will have no adverse effect on flies. If the conditions are right for flies, they will be there. The best way to prevent both flies and vermin from getting into the compost is to use hydrated white lime

It’s good practice to sprinkle a dusting of white lime on fresh waste every time you put anything in the compost because it reduces acidity and accelerates decomposition. If foods that attract vermin and flies are treated with white lime, it quickly becomes less appetising to them.

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What else would you like to know?


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How do leaves decompose faster? Do worms help compost? What does lime do to compost?

What do I add to compost to help break it down? Can you compost leaves? What is carbon in a compost pile? 

Image sources:

Garlic cloves

Wild garlic

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