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Banana Peel Compost | Debunking Myths

Banana peel is another organic material that you can compost. It can take longer to breakdown and possesses less nitrogen than most other kitchen scraps but the skin of banana contains some useful nutrients, although is almost certainly not the super ingredient for compost that you might read about.

Can You Compost Bananas?

Banana peels can be added to your compost bin along with any other organic waste are one of the few fruits which contain potassium, so they’re great for growing plants. They’re also rich in vitamin B6, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.

There are some who skip adding them to composting piles and instead add them directly to soil as a fertiliser. Provided that the peels are chopped into small pies this is fine as they will gradually decompose, although it may take a month or two for this to happen.

There is no additional benefit to doing this and generally, it is best to add them to your compost pile.

The Effect of Bananas on Soil Compost

Banana peels contain contains more nutrients than other kitchen scraps. Indeed in some parts of the world banana skin is eaten, although it might be a little hard to digest.

The main nutrients are potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, biotin, choline, beta carotene, vitamins C and E, folic acid, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, phytosterols, polyphenols, flavonoids, saponins, tannins, alkaloids, phenolics, terpenes, and essential oils.[1]

Constituents of the dry matter Percentage
Protein6.1
Ether extract8.7
Crude fiber10
Nitrogen – free extract63.1
Total sugar (as invert sugar)22
Total ash12.1
Soluble ash11.7
Calcium 0.35
Magnesium0.23
Sodium trace
Potassium5.72
Phosphorus0.32
Sulfurtrace
Chlorine0.64
[2]

It is because of the number of nutrients that banana peels in some quarters are considered a super ingredient that will turbo power your compost. Bananas are often cited for their potassium and they do contain around 5% potassium and plants need potassium as healthy growth is impossible without the presence of this essential element.

Saying that potassium is found in relatively large quantities in most soil, accounting for up to 2.1 per cent in terms of weight. Unless you have particularly potassium deficient soil the addition potassium gained from composting banana peel will be marginal.

In terms of the other nutrients  present in banana peel, there is no scientific proof that they are particularly beneficial as they exist in such small amounts

Having said that, banana peels are a good organic material to put into your composting pile. Their compounds may improve soil quality by increasing microbial activity and nutrient availability.

How to use banana peels in your compost

Although a kitchen scrap and thus probably considered by many as a green organic matter, it actually sits on the cusp of what would be considered a green and brown material. It has, in fact, got a much lower nitrogen content than other green materials with a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 35:1 (C/N) and so is better classed as a brown material.

In many ways, this can help with the overall ratio of your composting pile without upsetting the composting process.

If you are cold composting you would be looking for an overall pile ratio of between 30-35:1 (C/N), so you could add plenty of banana peel without having to worry about upsetting the ratio. If you are hot composting the ratio would come down to around 25:1 (C/N). In this case you would need to also add nitrogen-rich material, such as food scraps or banana leaves if you have them, both of which are around 20:1.

If you want to add banana skins to your compost bin, it’s best to cut them into small pieces first. This will allow the banana skin to break down more quickly.

Make a compost tea with your banana peels

Make a compost tea with your banana peels

Compost tea or banana peel tea is something a lot of gardeners make. This is done by is made by steeping the leftover peels in water. The resulting liquid has many uses including fertiliser, cleaning products, and pest control. If you want to make your own compost tea, simply add one part banana peel to two parts water and let it sit for at least 24 hours before using.

There is an argument that using this process, the the nutrient value of the banana compost tea is minimal. This is because during the steeping little or no decomposition occurs meaning that the peels retain the majority of their nutritional value making the banana peel tea made in this manner of little use.

The best way to make banana peel compost tea

As we have noted, steeping your banana peels in water will have limited beneficial results as there will be very little decomposition. Therefore, the key is to agitate the decomposition process to allow more nutrients to leach out.

This problem can be solved though, with the use of a few household items to create an activator for steeping the banana peel.

The first step is that rather than using water you should instead steep the peels in beer, which is itself an organic material. Into this, you should add a small amount of ammonia which is nitrogen-rich and finally add soda (carbonated soft drinks) to the mixture will allow bacteria and microbes to feed on the sugars produced during the breakdown process.

How long does it take for the banana peel to compost?

Much will depend upon the composting method chosen. Composting can be both aerobic (with oxygen) or anaerobic (without oxygen).

If it’s aerobic, the banana peel will compost (or break down) in about three to six months. Anaerobic composting, on the other hand, is a process where microorganisms break down the organic material in an environment with limited oxygen. This process can take a very long time, sometimes up to several years. The banana peel will break down much faster in an aerobic environment.

Ways To Use Banana Peels In Your Garden As Fertilizer

There is an argument that the best way to use banana peels is to add them directly to your garden soil. The idea is that they will break down quickly, releasing potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, boron, molybdenum, sulfur, and many other minerals into the soil.

Sadly, this is a myth. They certainly won’t breakdown quickly, the process could even be slower than putting them on a traditional compost pile.  Yes, they will decompose and create fertilizer eventually. 

The only possible reason for putting the peels directly on the ground is if you don’t have room for a composting pile and or don’t have a bucket to compost with.

If you are going to apply banana peels directly to the soil this you should shred or cut up the peel into tiny pieces. This will aid the decomposition process and allow the soil to aerate properly.

Summary

There is a lot of myth and mystic when it comes to banana peels and using them in compost or even using them directly on plants.

In truth, banana peels are merely another kind of organic material that you can add to your composting pile. They will give value to both the soil and the plants and contain a lot of nutrients but they are not a magical ingredient that will superpower your compost.

Notes

[1] International Journal of Advanced Research in Chemical Science: Exploring the Potentials of Banana (Musa Sapietum) Peels in Feed Formulation

[2] J. G. ARCHIBALD: Nutrient Composition of Banana Skins