Mad About Berries

Can You Compost Citrus Peels?

Yes, most citrus fruits can be composted just as other organic waste can be. However, when composting citrus peels, one must be sure to maintain the proper carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.

Thus, one must not compost too many citrus peels at one time.

Composting is a wonderful way to reduce your kitchen waste as it is an effective method for recycling organic matter such as fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Published: November 7, 2022.

citrus fruits

Citrus peels, however, have a sticky reputation in the world of composting. This article clears up this reputation.

The idea that citrus peels cannot be composted because of the D-limonene that naturally occurs in citrus peels is nothing more than a myth.

Citrus peels must simply be managed properly, and then they are perfectly fine to compost along with the rest of your pile. In fact, many citrus fruits have excellent benefits which can boost the efficacy of your overall compost pile and speed up the decomposition process.

If you are looking to add to your compost pile but are worried that the product could harm your garden or disrupt the balance of your heap, then read on to learn how to properly compost your lemons, limes, oranges, and everything in between.

Which Citrus Peels Can You Compost?

The following list goes through each of the most common household citrus fruits and explains how they are best composted so you can rest assured that your compost pile will decompose efficiently and effectively.

Lemon

The lemon is a household staple in most homes. It is great for our health and can even be used as a natural cleaning product or scent neutralizer because of its naturally occurring D-limonene. However, its tart taste may lead some to believe that it mustn’t be composted because it can overpower the other items in a compost bin.

washed lemons

In moderation, the D-limonene, which occurs naturally in the lemon peel, won’t mess with the rest of the macroinvertebrates in your compost pile because it is quickly taken over by other microbes or leaves naturally as mold.

Thus, you can recycle your lemon peels alongside your other fruits, veggies, and compost items so long as you maintain a sound ratio. For more on this ratio, scroll down to the “Notes to remember when composting citrus peels” section of this article.

Mandarin

One of the best parts of Mandarins is the fact that they have a long harvest season.

mandarin peel

From November to April, you can enjoy this juicy citrus fruit. But will indulging in this citrus fruit all winter long affect your compost pile?

The answer is no. Just as with the lemons, the acidity in the mandarin lime will be neutralized by other macroinvertebrates.

Sweet Orange

Orange is actually the most common citrus fruit in households across the country. It has wonderful nutritional values, including a significant amount of Vitamin C, fiber, and Vitamin A. But many wonder if the benefits stop at the peel.

orange peel

In fact, orange peels are high in nitrogen which can increase the overall productivity of the microorganisms in your compost bin.

Grapefruit

Grapefruit is a popular citrus fruit for more than its delicious taste but also because of its many fantastic health benefits. Some of these include its fiber-rich properties, which promote a healthy heart as well as a healthy gut, along with it being rich in antioxidants which help to fight off viruses and bacteria.

Another benefit of grapefruit is that its peel does not need to contribute to unnecessary waste as it can be composted along with the rest of your organic waste.

Just as with the other citrus peels, be sure you have a decent number of other items in the compost pile as grapefruits alone will not decompose efficiently.

Clementine

Yes, just like the other citrus peels in this list, clementine is fine to compost. However, as we tend to eat clementines in large amounts, be sure not to fill up your compost pile with too many clementines.

Read our “notes to remember” section on the proper compost balance below for more on this topic.

Lime

Lime rinds are compostable just as the rest of the citrus peels in this list however, with limes, it is particularly important not to include too many in one compost cycle.

Lime peels are extremely acidic and can therefore slow the composting process if they are the dominant product in a composting pile.

lime peel

So, if you’ve used 1 or 2 limes, then go ahead and throw them in your compost bin but if you’ve made a huge batch of margaritas, you may need to hold a few back until the next cycle.

Our suggestion: place the excess lime peels in an airtight Tupperware container and keep them in your fridge until you’ve switched compost piles and can add the next batch of limes.

Notes to Remember When Composting Citrus Peels

Now, there are certain key considerations when it comes to composting citrus peels to ensure the benefits are realized. Bear in mind the following when adding those peels to your pile:

Ensure the balance is maintained

Composting piles are dependent on a certain carbon-to-nitrogen ratio in order to decompose effectively. Carbon-rich compost items are often referred to as “browns,” while nitrogen-rich compost items are called “greens.”

The ideal carbon-to-nitrogen ratio is 7:3 however, as this ratio can be difficult to achieve, many compost connoisseurs suggest at least a 50/50 mix if the 7:3 is not possible.

“Browns” include leaves, grasses, paper towels, sawdust, newspaper, and other similar products. While “greens” include all those fruits and vegetables as well as tea bags and coffee grounds which means your citrus peels are part of the green ratio.

Thus, if you’ve made a fresh batch of lemonade every morning this week, you mustn’t compost all the peels if you do not have at least the equivalent amount of “brown” compostable items.

Why? Effective composting is dependent upon the right mix of carbon to nitrogen, so a compost bin that is 90% lemons will not decompose efficiently.

Regulate the ventilation and temperature of your compost bin

If you are in search of the perfect composting conditions, then you should consider the amount of ventilation and heat your bin has.

Adequate ventilation is very important to ensure particular molds do not grow. While temperature is key as well: a very hot or very cold compost pile will not decompose properly.

To ensure a proper temperature, be sure your bin is either in direct sunlight (if the climate is otherwise cold) or out of direct sunlight (if the climate is otherwise hot).

As a general rule of thumb, your compost pile should not exceed 170°F, nor should it get below 60°F.

Caution: vermicomposting

Now, this list is true only for standard composting. If you use a vermicomposting method, you may need to be cautious with citrus peels.

They have been shown to repel worms that are vital in the vermicomposting process. So, if you are using the vermicomposting method, you may wish to look closer into how citrus fruits impact the worms.

Benefits of Composting Citrus Peels (When Done Properly)

  • Citrus peels are filled with minerals that can speed up the composting process. Some of these nutrients include Potassium, Phosphorus, and Nitrogen.
  • Citrus peels will decompose completely and are, therefore, 100% recyclable.
  • The heat of the citrus peel will deter germination, meaning that if you throw your compost into your garden, you won’t find any peculiar or unwanted growth.
  • Citrus peels have a strong and pleasant odor which often overpowers less pleasant odors, so your compost bin won’t smell up your kitchen or garden.
  • This citrus scent works both ways as it is unpleasant to pests such as mice, rats, and flies, so it will deter them.

How Long Do Citrus Peels Take To Compost?

The average decomposition time for citrus peels is approximately 6 months.

Now, this timeline can be sped up depending on the conditions we have described above. If your citrus peels are mixed with the proper ratio of “browns” to “greens” and kept at the optimal temperature, then the pile is likely to decompose at a quicker rate.

Also, bear in mind that this timeline is with a standard composting method. Many technologies now exist that compost food waste faster, such as industrial composting machines.

orange peel 2


Final thoughts

Citrus peels have a tough reputation in the world of composting. However, as composting becomes increasingly mainstream as a great method for reducing unnecessary food waste, it is important to understand the facts.

Many recent studies have proven the efficacy of citrus peels as aids in the composting process. Not only are they rich in minerals such as Potassium, Phosphorus, and Nitrogen, all of which contribute to the overall decomposition of the pile, but they are also great for keeping away unwanted critters and helping reduce any unpleasant smells.

Key takeaway: it is fine to compost your citrus peels so long as there isn’t an overwhelming amount of them in the compost pile.



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