When you think of composting, you probably picture logs, twigs, and leaves. But did you know that the peel from a lemon or orange also counts as compost? You just need to know how to compost citrus. Citrus can be a little tricky to compost because of their high acid content. If left uncovered while they break down, they can release an unpleasant smell. They also attract fruit flies if not stored in a sealed container after cutting or juicing them. But with the right conditions, it’s quite easy to compost citrus and get amazing soil as a result!
Before we offer tips for this major aspect of kitchen scrap composting, let’s expand on the most important question of all - can you compost citrus?
Can you put citrus in compost?
Yes. Citrus composting is an easy way to get more out of the peels from your citrus fruits. They’re a great source of nutrients that your plants will love. Just make sure you know the best way to compost citrus and how to use the compost when it’s finished.
Can citrus be composted? Yes, but you’ll need to go about it the right way to enjoy the benefits and prevent potential drawbacks. Learning about the different types of citrus fruits, for example, is an excellent place to start.
Types of citrus fruit that can be composted
Can citrus peels be composted? Absolutely, but does that include peels from every type of citrus fruit? Knowing what to compost is essential for creating healthy compost, so let’s discuss whether or not these different citrus fruits should be added to your compost heap.
Orange and orange peels
Are orange peels compostable? Yes, you can compost orange peels and entire oranges of all varieties, including navel oranges, valencia oranges, blood oranges, and more. Oranges introduce potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus to your compost pile. They’re loaded with the nutrients plants need to thrive and will enrich your final compost medium.
Lemons and lemon peels
You can definitely compost lemons and lemon peels. Like oranges, lemons contain lots of plant-friendly nutrients. The key difference between the two, however, is their acidity. Lemons are more acidic than oranges, which could increase the acidity in your compost pile. They can still be added to your compost, but you should do so in small quantities. You can also add carbon-rich brown materials to balance out the acidity.
Limes and lime peels
Composting limes and lime peels is similar to how you’d compost other citrus fruits. Like lemons, they have a relatively high acidity level. Carbon rich materials like dried leaves and shredded cardboard can help keep the pile in neutral conditions, which allows compost microorganisms to thrive. Limes are like other citrus scraps with high acidity levels in that they can be composted safely in small quantities.
Grapefruit and grapefruit peels
Can you compost grapefruit? Though noticeably larger than most citrus fruits, composting grapefruit essentially comes with the same set of rules. It can be composted, but you should only add small amounts and balance them out with brown materials. Also, be wary of how much moisture your large grapefruit rinds are adding to the pile. If the moisture is excessive, soak up some of the liquid with a paper towel before adding it to your compost.
What you need to know before adding citrus to compost
Putting citrus peels in compost is perfectly safe, especially when done in small quantities. Here are a few tips to help you compost your citrus fruits faster while maintaining the health of your compost.
- Choose the right citrus: The best citrus for composting is any type of orange. Lemon and grapefruit are also good, but avoid any other types.
- Cut the peel: Citrus peels can be composted whole, but it’ll take much longer. Cutting them into smaller pieces makes them break down much more quickly.
- Add nitrogen: You can also add nitrogen-rich materials, like coffee grounds or peanut shells, to help your citrus compost break down faster.
- Contact with soil: Citrus peel needs time to break down in the soil so it can release its nutrients. Composting is one way to ensure this happens, as long as the citrus peel comes into contact with soil.
- Moisture: Citrus peels are very high in water content, so they need to be kept moist while they’re composting. If they dry out, they can start to smell bad and attract pests.
- Temperature: Citrus composting happens best when the temperature is between 122 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below or above this range can take too long or kill off the microorganisms that make compost.
How to compost citrus in 5 easy steps
Composting citrus is simple if you follow the correct steps. This step-by-step breakdown of the process will help you create healthy compost while avoiding several composting don'ts.
- Choose a composting method: There are several ways to compost citrus peels. The simplest is to just add them to your existing compost pile (if you have one). If you don’t have a compost pile, you can also create a compost heap or use a compost bin.
- Compost citrus peels separately: Even if you’re just adding the peels to your existing compost, you should do so in a separate container. This will help control the smell and keep the peels from getting too wet.
- Add water: Citrus peels are very high in water content, so they’ll need to be kept moist while they’re composting. If they dry out, they can start to smell bad and attract pests.
- Control the smell: The biggest issue with composting citrus is the smell. It’s best to wait for a cool period, like fall or winter, before starting your citrus compost. If you have a compost pile, add the peels towards the center, away from the outside where they might draw pests.
- Cover the compost: If you don’t want to smell the citrus and don’t have a separate container, wrap the peels in a plastic bag and put them in the corner of your compost pile. This will contain the smell until it gets turned into compost.
3 ways to compost citrus at home
Now that you know how to go about composting citrus fruits, you’ll need to select a method. There are a few ways to compost your citrus waste at home, whether you live in a small apartment or have a home with lots of yard space. Here are a few popular indoor and outdoor methods for composting citrus effectively at home.
1. Compost pile
An outdoor compost pile is essentially the easiest and most eco-friendly composting method there is. If you know the basics of composting 101 you can have a very successful compost pile in your backyard. These basics include how to balance your green and brown materials, maintain the right level of moisture, prevent pests, and more. They do require some maintenance, however, as you should be turning your pile once or twice a week.
With a compost pile, you can simply take your citrus scraps outdoors, pour them onto the heap, and head back indoors. Outside of turning the pile occasionally, there isn’t much maintenance to do. The major downside of both hot and cold composting piles is that the composting process takes anywhere from a few months to an entire year.
Pro tip: You can speed up the decomposition process by chopping up your citrus fruits and other food waste before adding it to the pile. You should also turn your pile regularly if possible, as hot composting is much faster than cold composting.
2. Electric composter
If you live in an apartment building or don’t have enough yard space for an outdoor pile, you should consider investing in an electric composter. Electric composters are also a great choice for couples and people who live alone. They typically have a small capacity, but this should be more than enough space for one or two people.
The best electric composters are odorless, silent, and fit on your kitchen countertop. Lomi is a fantastic example, as it has all of these qualities while also being highly efficient. Using heat, abrasion, and oxygen, this kitchen composter can transform your peels and other scraps into natural fertilizer in less than a day.
Pro tip: Lomi can break down much more than just citrus fruits! Check out this list of what can go into Lomi so you can decide if the device is right for you.
3. Composting bin
Looking for another way to compost your rotten citrus scraps? Whether you intend to compost regularly or just once in a while, there’s a compost bin suited to you. There are outdoor bins, kitchen bins, and vermicomposting bins available at all price points. It’s important to note, however, that citrus fruits aren’t a good choice for vermicomposting bins. Their acidity can be dangerous to the worms in your bin.
Composting bins rely on either an aerobic or anaerobic method to break down your food scraps. Some of the best kitchen compost bins use the anaerobic method, where your waste is deliberately deprived of oxygen. Many people prefer bins that use an anaerobic method, as the pile doesn’t have to be turned every few days.
Pro tip: Before buying a compost bin, keep in mind how much food waste you actually produce. If you create large amounts of food waste, you’ll probably need something bigger than your standard kitchen bin.
Try Lomi - a quick and convenient way to compost citrus peels
With Lomi, you can dispose of your citrus fruits and food waste without having to step outdoors. There’s no extra maintenance required, you simply pour in your waste and activate the device. Within a day, your kitchen composter will create nutrient-rich dirt that you can add to your garden and potted plants.
The acidity can be managed by adding other ingredients, so why not compost citrus? If you’d like to use an electric composter to dispose of your citrus waste, then check out this guide of tips and tricks for using Lomi. If you’d prefer a compost heap or a regular bin, you’re now much more equipped to start composting citrus fruits safely.
Written by: E Sawden