Having a compost bin can help you reduce food wastage and make homemade fertilizer out of kitchen scraps.
But can you add orange peels to your compost pile? Will it not impact the pH of the compost, or can it kill worms or other microorganisms?
Orange peels are good for compost. Like other leftovers, it adds essential nutrients and minerals to your compost. To speed up the decomposition process, chop peels of citrus fruit into small pieces.
You can compost orange peels either traditionally or by adding to worm composting.
It may take around 6 months to decompose orange peels completely. In some cases, it may take several months.
Are Orange Peels Good for Compost?
It is safe to add orange peels to the compost pile. It makes your compost nutrients rich.
Don’t toss those citrus peels next time; chop them into small pieces and add them to the compost.
However, a few people claim orange peels aren’t good for the compost. Many anecdotal reports state that orange peels are good for the composting bin.
Why is adding orange peels to your compost good?
Orange peels belong to green material and make your compost rich in nitrogen.
- When decomposed, citrus peels add nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the compost. These are essential nutrients that are important for plant growth.
- Along with NPK, orange peels add calcium, magnesium and sulfur to your composting pile.
- Limonene, a colourless liquid component of citrus oil, has a strong turpentine scent that can deter pests like aphids, ants and whiteflies off the compost.
- Balance citrus peels with brown or alkaline material to make the compost neutral.
Like any other kitchen scrap, too much orange peel isn’t recommended for composting.
You should always maintain a balance.
Is Composting Orange Peels a Gardening Myth?
This is an old myth that dates back to years.
Most people, even a few government sites, refrain from adding citrus peel to their home compost.
Larry Hodgson, a gardener who has been composting for 40 years, says it is false.
So, why do people think you shouldn’t compost citrus peels?
- Reason #1: Peels contain natural chemicals that suppress earthworms or microbes.
- Reason #2: The decomposition process of peels should be shorter.
- Reason #3: Citrus fruits are acidic and can make your compost too acidic.
- Reason #4: Chemical fertilizers used on oranges can poison the compost.
On his blog, Larry Hodgson, a laidback gardener, answers every wrong claim.
- If used in moderation, earthworms have no problem with small pieces of orange peels.
- You must chop orange peel and pulp into small pieces to speed up decomposition.
- As you should maintain a balance of green and brown material, adding a few orange peels won’t make your compost acidic. Not just citrus; even tomatoes are acidic, but we add them in moderation.
- If you opt for organic fruits, you don’t have to worry about chemical fertilizers. However, even if you bought an orange from the store, rinse it off with water and microbes in the compost can decompose anything perfectly.
Orange peel is decomposable like any other kitchen scrap.
How long do orange peels take to compost?
It takes 6 months to decompose orange peels with the right balance of nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich material.
Citrus fruit peels include compounds like hemicellulose, cellulose and pectin, which take time to break down.
The decomposition process is influenced by temperature, aeration, amount of moisture and, most importantly, the size of the orange peel.
Therefore, cutting kitchen scraps into small pieces and regularly turning the compost to improve aeration is recommended.
You can’t expect the well-rotted compost within a few weeks. Though it takes several months, the end product is worth waiting and is filled with essential nutrients and minerals.
The decomposition process can be reduced to fewer months if you add chopped orange peels to worm castings.
How to Compost Orange Peels?
How you compost can impact the rate at which kitchen leftovers like orange peels decompose.
Add fresh orange peels to the compost bin, or use dried orange peels.
As mentioned earlier, orange peels are considered green or nitrogen-rich material.
Step 1: Collect Orange Peels
Instead of tossing those peels, collect them in a basket.
You can either dry them or use them directly in the compost.
Arrange a separate basket or countertop compost bin to collect food scraps. When the bin is full, you can add them to your compost. So, your compost will have a balanced nutrient from leftovers.
Step 2: Chop them into small pieces
Large peels take a longer time to decompose.
Smaller peels reduce the composting process. Microbes and bacteria can easily break smaller materials.
Take a sharp, sterilized scissor to cut orange peels into smaller pieces.
Step 3: Regulate aeration and maintain the ideal temperature
Good aeration is crucial for composting.
When green or brown materials decompose, carbon dioxide is released. Not providing good aeration results in a build-up of carbon dioxide under the compost pile, thus resulting in bad bacteria that slow down the decomposition process.
Use a pitchfork to turn compost regularly, or you can use a compost tumbler.
Step 4: Add 1 part green material + 3 parts brown material + 1 part water
Good compost will have a balance of green and brown material.
If your compost has more green material, then it will stink.
Greens like orange peels, grass clippings and coffee grounds add nutrients and moisture to the compost. Brown materials like woodchips, sawdust, shredded papers and brown leaves add energy and absorb excess moisture from the compost.
Orange peels are good, but anything more than recommended isn’t good.
Step 5: Have patience
Microbes and bacteria take time to break complex organic compounds into nutrient-rich compost.
You can fasten the decomposition process by adding compost accelerators.
Adding orange peels to worm castings can speed up the decomposition process. However, many people aren’t sure about how worms would react to orange peels.
Some anecdotal reports claim earthworms eat orange peels but in moderation.
Step 6: Harvest the compost
It may take months to harvest the nutrient-rich compost.
You can create multiple compost bin systems for a regular supply of nutrient-rich homemade compost in your backyard.
Are Orange Peels Good for Vegetable Garden?
Orange peels add essential nutrients and minerals to your compost.
A well-rotted compost supply requires certain nutrients for your vegetable garden, including tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and peppers.
Apart from adding orange peels to the compost, you may wonder if you can use them directly for tomato plants or other vegetable plants.
Yes, you can use orange peels to fertilize tomato plants.
Apart from adding nutrients to the compost, citrus peel helps to deter pests, improves soil pH and can be used to clean tools.
Are rotten oranges good for compost?
Rotten fruits can be included in your composting material. They still add nutrients to the compost.
Microbes and helpful bacteria break the complex compounds into odourless, nutrient-rich compost.
But, if you notice a white mouldy layer on oranges, then it may not be a good idea to include it in compost.
Oranges with mould should be tossed to avoid fungal growth.
You can learn how to identify mouldy fruits here.
Do Worms Eat Orange Peels?
Yes, worms do eat orange peels, but in moderation.
Few popular websites recommend not using citrus peels in vermicomposting, as they influence compost pH.
It is right that worms prefer neutral pH. When you add acidic material, it is important to use it in moderation and balance it with brown material.
Worms move out of an acidic environment. In worm composting bins, they get killed due to their acidic nature.
If you’re a beginner, avoid adding orange peels to vermicomposting.
However, you can add a few small orange peel pieces and check the pH regularly.
Too much orange peel to vermicompost isn’t good for your worms.
Add orange peel or flesh to worm composting, but with caution.
Other ways to use orange peels in your garden
Orange peels are a valuable source of nutrients for your backyard. Don’t toss them, apart from composting. There are plenty of other ways to use this citrus peel.
Composting is the best way to reap nutrients from orange peel.
Microbes decompose essential nutrients housed in orange peel and flesh in several months.
If you have a lot of peels and want to add only a few to the compost, you can find other ways to use them in your garden.
- Chop orange peels and spread them around the garden: Dry orange peels, ground them and spread them around the plant. It acts as a fertilizer to enrich acid-loving plants.
- Deter Pests: Limonene in the oil of citrus peels helps deter aphids, slugs and whiteflies. Just spread chopped orange peels around the plant.
- Acidify Your Soil: Adding orange peels to the garden decreases soil pH. But, use around acid-loving plants.
- Keep Cats and Dogs off the garden: Critters don’t like the smell of citrus fruits. Spread orange peels around the garden space where dogs or cats often dig.
- You can use orange peels to clean gardening tools. It has antibacterial and antifungal abilities that can efficiently cleanse tools.
Important: Check this while composting orange peels
Before adding orange peels to your compost, maintain the right brown and green material balance.
Too many orange peels can make your compost acidic, and you will impact the decomposition process.
Also, while chopping, ensure oranges aren’t moulded.
Fruits with fungal growth should be kept away from the compost.
Orange peels are good for compost when used in moderation.
Like any other kitchen scrap, peels of citrus fruit take several weeks to decompose. However, you can fasten the composting by cutting the peel into small pieces.
As orange and other citrus fruits have citric acid, it is recommended that you maintain a balance of brown and green material. Else, your compost can turn acid.
You can also add orange peels to worm castings but with utmost care. Worms don’t like to stay in acidic environments.
Limonene in the oil of citrus fruit helps to repel and deter pests.
Instead of adding to compost, you can directly add orange peel to vegetable plants like tomatoes, potatoes and other acid-loving plants.
Khaja Moinuddin, a computer science graduate, finds joy in gardening and homesteading. Join him on this blog as he shares his experiences in homesteading, gardening, and composting