Over the years, I’ve become a big advocate for composting. It’s easy, nutritious for plants, and helps make sure more nutrients end up in your garden (and not the landfills). However, I’ve learned that certain things shouldn’t go in compost piles such as bones, meat, and other animal products. While banana peels obviously aren’t an animal product, are they good to use in compost? I did some research to find out more.
Banana peels are a good addition to any compost pile as they provide beneficial vitamins and minerals. These nutrients include potassium, phosphorus, and more. Composting the peels is a great way to feed a garden and reduce food waste, and it can be done by cutting them into small pieces and adding them to a pile.
So, why exactly do banana peels make good compost? Also, what’s the best way to compost them, and how long does it take for them to decompose? Let’s find out.
Do Banana Peels Make Good Compost?
Banana peels make excellent compost, as they add healthy material that helps compost retain water and plants fed with quality nutrients. This fruit peel is made up of 91% organic matter, meaning that it is packed with nutritious substances for your garden.
When composting, bananas and banana peels are considered a “green” material, meaning they have a high nutrient content and can break down quickly. Because of this, consider balancing your compost piles by adding a good amount of “brown”, or carbon-rich material. Some brown materials you can use include leaves, bark, and branches.
While high in nutrients, greens such as fruit and vegetable scraps are an important component of any compost pile.
Also, banana peels can break down quickly in certain conditions, which helps the compost gain the nutrients sooner.
Using banana peels in compost is an organic way to feed your plants while providing additional benefits such as strong roots and stems, enzyme regulation, and a natural pest repellent.
Which Nutrients Are in Banana Peels?
Banana peels contain many nutrients that are essential to plant growth and development, such as:
It may be helpful to know that the three main nutrients plants typically need are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (abbreviated as NPK).
While nitrogen is the main nutrient used for foliage and is fairly easy to come by, phosphorus and potassium can be a bit trickier to supply. To help with this, let’s first take a look at what phosphorus and potassium do for plants.
Phosphorus supports healthy plant growth by improving germination, flowering, pollination, and fruit development.
On the other hand, potassium is one of the most important nutrients for plants due to its restorative abilities. This mineral can help promote plant vigor and improve resistance to pests and disease. Up to 40% of banana peels are made up of potassium, making them an ideal source.
Important secondary nutrients include magnesium (encourages plants to photosynthesize) and calcium (makes nutrients accessible to plants from the soil).
Other secondary nutrients in banana peels are sulfur, phosphates, sodium, and trace amounts of iron, zinc, and manganese. Aside from the main growth, proper nutrients are also vital in the healthy production of flowers and fruits.
What’s the pH of Banana Peels?
Banana peels have a basic pH of around 7-9, depending on the stage of decomposition. The high alkaline content suggests that banana peels could reduce soil acidity. On the other hand, if your soil is too alkaline, you can add organic acidic amendments such as coffee grounds, peat moss, and pine needles.
Although quick pH changes can disrupt the nutrient cycle in a garden, using banana peels in a compost pile should not cause any issues. This is because applying the peels with other kitchen scraps will allow the pH to neutralize over time.
You would have to use a massive amount of banana peels in a compost pile to change the acidity of the soil, more than the average household can get through.
How to Use Banana Peels in Compost
You can apply banana peels in compost by first cutting them into 1-inch pieces, or by making compost tea. Both of these techniques will quickly decompose the banana peels to be used as nutrients for your plants. It’s difficult to overdo the number of banana peels in compost, so use as many as you’d like.
If you have any leftover banana peels, it‘s a waste to just throw them out. Instead, consider composting them to help your plants flourish. It’s as easy as tossing the peels in a compost bin with other key materials—greens, browns, water, and air.
The greens, including fruit and vegetable scraps, provide nitrogen and other nutrients to attract decomposing organisms. Woodchips, leaves, and recycled paper or “browns” provide carbon to help sustain bacteria and insects.
Although banana peels can be added whole once the sticker is removed, it can take a while to break down. Cutting the peel into 1-inch-sized pieces will help start the composting process.
Once the banana peel is in the compost pile, additional actions can help accelerate the process. Make sure that the pile is properly aerated for a faster breakdown.
Additionally, the pile should be slightly damp to encourage any decomposing critters to stay. For example, worms will help decompose your banana peels more quickly, and they’re attracted to slightly moist soil.
Another way to use banana peels is to brew compost tea. Compost tea is made by soaking pieces of banana peels in a large container of water. As it sits in the fridge, the nutrients leach out of the fruit scraps and into the water.
After one week, you can remove the jar and strain the pieces of banana out. These peels still have plenty of nutrients to be extracted and can be added straight to a compost pile.
The compost tea can be used to water plants for an extra boost of absorbable nutrients. Before applying the compost tea to a plant’s base, be sure to dilute the mixture in around four liters of water so it isn’t too overpowering.
If you’d like to supply a homemade balance of NPK for your plants, you can use grass clippings for nitrogen, bone meal for phosphorus, and banana peels for potassium.
For more about using other nutrients found around the house, you can check out the table I made on making your own homemade citrus fertilizer (this works for other plants too).
How Many Banana Peels Should You Use in Compost?
Most families can eat one to two bunches in a week and composting that many peels won’t be an issue. The main concern when composting banana peels is if too many would affect the soil’s composition. When in doubt, test your compost pile’s pH. A pH over 7 is typically too alkaline and needs to be amended.
Now that you know how to compost banana peel, you may be wondering how many you should use at a time. It really depends on how many you can get through in a week!
This is because the peels are mixed in with all the other compost components and don’t have a high enough proportion to affect the pH of the soil.
Although increased levels of sodium can stunt plant growth, the average family’s consumption of bananas will not be enough to affect the sodium content of compost.
If you’re adding a lot of banana peels, it may be worth it to check the pH of your compost pile. The easiest way to do this is with a pH meter. If you’re interested in seeing which pH meter I recommend, you can check out my recommended tools page.
How Long Does It Take for Banana Peels to Decompose?
Banana peels can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to years to break down, depending on the soil’s conditions. The peels do not decompose quickly unless they’re surrounded by microorganisms and insects. Adding the peels in a compost pile that’s well watered and aerated is the quickest way for them to decompose.
Decomposition is the natural process by which components of a formerly living thing break down. Afterward, the nutrients are recycled into the surrounding environment.
A whole banana peel could take up to two years to break down. Contrary to popular opinion, they do not biodegrade quickly without help and should not be littered.
Microorganisms use enzymes to break down the material, but banana peels are thick and resistant to degradation.
Insects and bacteria also help to decompose organic material. However, these creatures are not always around to help speed up the process.
Weather also plays a role to create a warm, humid environment that is ideal for decomposers.
A compost pile is the best environment to quickly break a banana peel down in, taking as little as 2 to 4 weeks. This decay can be sped up with proper composting techniques such as adequate water and oxygen.
Some strategies such as vermiculture, the controlled growth of worms, will decompose the peels even more quickly. I have a vermicompost bin, and can say for sure that banana peels don’t last long in there—the worms eat them up!
Can You Add Banana Peels Directly to Soil?
Banana peels can be added directly to the soil to help amend it. Burying the banana peels nearby is better than placing them on top of the soil. However, this can take longer to provide nutrients than composting. The beneficial bacteria and worms in the compost will greatly accelerate the peels’ decomposition.
Aside from these methods, banana peels can also be added directly to soil without composting and without causing any harm to the plant. This can be done by grinding the peels into a powdered fertilizer and incorporating them lightly into the dirt.
Also, the peels could be buried in small pieces underneath the soil. Be sure to bury the peel deep enough to reach the roots without damaging the plant. This method decelerates the decomposition process because there is limited air available to microorganisms.
Both of these strategies will eventually decompose the banana peel and make the nutrients available to your plant, albeit more slowly than composting.
If you are interested in a step-by-step guide for composting banana peels from the comfort of your kitchen, check out this video below by Garden Tips.