Can you compost orange peels? The answer is usually yes even though some experienced composters may believe differently.
Oranges are a common kitchen staple people snack on throughout the day. The citrus fruit is also an ingredient in many recipes, but what do you do with orange peels. Recipes only call for a little zest, leaving most of the rind behind.
Can You Put Orange Peels In Compost
Putting orange peels in compost is a great way to increase nitrogen levels, which in turn, boost microorganism activity.
Active microbes keep the compost’s internal temperature high and speed up decomposition.
Keep Your Compost Balanced
Putting orange peels in compost adds nitrogen, but you don’t want the acidity levels to get too high. Not all garden plants thrive in acidic soil.
A good rule to follow is to only add a few orange peels at a time to the compost. Try to keep your compost around 1 part greens to 3 parts brown, adding moisture to each layer.
Orange and other citrus peels go in the green layer. The brown layer produces carbon and contains items like leaves, twigs, wood chips, and coffee grounds.
A pleasant, fruity aroma coming from the compost indicates a healthy, well-balanced pile. If the odor is unpleasantly strong, your compost is unbalanced. Adding another brown layer often resolves the problem.
Are There Benefits to Putting Orange Peels in Compost?
Putting orange peels in compost gives you several benefits that include adding nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. These minerals support healthy plant growth and also increase composting times.
Other benefits you get from composting orange peels are
- The citrusy aroma from the orange rinds repels some pests like flies and rats
- The heat generated from the decomposition process destroys roots and seeds in the pile, preventing weeds and other plants from regrowing in the garden.
Orange peels are 100% biodegradable and will not harm your active compost pile.
How to Put Orange Peels in Compost
Tossing orange and other citrus rinds on the pile is not an effective composting method. Instead of speeding up decomposition, you may end up slowing it down. You can also throw off the pile’s mineral balance, making it ineffective as a garden fertilizer.
Composting orange peels is a breeze, even though it takes a couple of steps.
- Alternate the layers: Alternating between green and brown composting layers helps keep the pile’s mineral content balanced. Adding grass trimmings, leaves, and other kitchen waste with the orange rinds will help even out the carbon, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate.
- Aerate and check the internal temperature: Keeping the internal temperature high is crucial for decomposition. Heat and oxygen get the process started and keep it going until the material completely breaks down. Aerating the pile with a garden rake or fork allows for airflow. It also ensures all of the material eventually decomposes.
- Add moisture: Adding moisture can resolve two issues. It helps initiate decomposition and it can also cool down a too hot pile. You want the internal temperature to stay around 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Compost piles in sunny locations can occasionally become overheated. An overheated compost pile can dry out, becoming a potential fire hazard.
Orange peels are harder material and take a while to decompose, even in well-regulated compost piles.
A helpful trick to speed up decomposition is to cut the orange peels into smaller pieces. It accelerates decomposition, so everything in the compost pile is ready to go into the garden at the same time.
Are There Downsides to Putting Orange Peels in Compost?
Some composters refuse to put orange and other citrus peels in their piles, even if they aren’t using a vermicomposting method.
Vermicomposting uses worms to break down the materials, instead of microbes. Orange peels aren’t harmful, but most worms aren’t fond of citrus fruit. The worms typically ignore the rinds until they decompose. You are stuck with unbroken-down bits of orange peel in the compost.
Putting orange peels in a traditional compost heap has some people worried about mold. When mold gets into compost, it ruins the entire pile. Thankfully, penicillium mold appearing in a healthy compost heap rarely occurs for a couple of reasons.
- Healthy compost piles have an internal temperature of around 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and the heap can get warmer in the sun. Penicillium mold thrives in cooler temperatures and will not grow in properly maintained compost. Aerating the pile every three days or so will help keep the temperature high enough to prevent mold from growing on the citrus peels.
- Most store-bought citrus fruits have a light waxy coating on the rind. The coating prevents mold from growing on the fruits between harvesting and your kitchen. The same wax also stops harmful mold from growing in the compost. It also isn’t going to harm the pile.
Problems with mold from orange peels typically only occur in cold composting. The internal temperatures are not high enough to prevent the mold from forming.
Frequently Ask Questions
How Long Does it Take for Orange Peels to Decompose in Compost?
Orange peels are biodegradable, even with a waxy, protective coating. The citrus rinds aren’t going to decompose in a few days or weeks, even in high temperatures.
On average, it takes around six months for orange peels to break down in compost.
Can I Put Orange Peels Directly in the Garden?
Not everyone is comfortable putting orange peels in compost. The fear of mold and attracting unwanted pests have some composters tossing their citrus rinds in the trash. Others skip composting and head directly to the garden.
You can put orange peels in the garden, but only after drying the rinds. A food dehydrator works great for drying citrus peels. The next step is crumbling the dried rinds into a powder. You can use the powder as a garden fertilizer.
You can compost orange peels without worrying about mold. Remember, to keep the pile’s internal temperature high.
It also helps cutting the peel into smaller pieces. It speeds up decomposition, reducing your chances of encountering any composting problems.