Banana: How much is too much?

So you're a gardener. You have a compost pile, right? You're diligent about collecting kitchen scraps for the compost pile, even through the coldest part of winter. Coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags, orange peels, apple cores, that half head of lettuce you left in the fridge too long and it started to turn -- none of this goes into the trash bin. It's all valuable and essential to the future health of your plants, so onto the compost pile it goes. What do you do when you produce a lot of kitchen scraps though? Like, banana peels maybe.

What if you have a couple of bunches worth of banana peels -- do they all go onto the pile? What if it's more than a couple of bunches worth... maybe 10 lbs of peels. Is that too much? What about 40 lbs?


I don't know, but I'm going to find out soon.

You see, my wife is currently working at a bakery (well known for its St. Louis classic "gooey butter cake"). Early on she noticed that they often generate large amounts of kitchen scraps, so started bringing a bucket to work on "bread days".

Each week she brings home a bucket stuffed with peels. Sometimes she'll bring boxes of eggshells home too. This last week though she brought home the bucket, two "small" boxes and one BIG box full of banana skins, eggshells, zucchini peelings, and a single orange peel (somebody must have had a snack).

I'm going to estimate that this haul was around 40 lbs of organics. That's a lot of banana, especially since it's just the "take homes" from a single week.

I'm a little concerned about the Carbon to Nitrogen ratio ("greens" to "browns") of my pile, as it seems I might have much more Nitrogen (greens) than Carbon (browns). That will lead to a stinky pile. It currently smells surprisingly like bananas back here, but we'll see (or smell) once it warms up. How do you know how much Carbon or Nitrogen your pile materials contain? There are some references, but they're not entirely clear. Are banana peels "fruit waste" (high carbon to nitrogen ratio) or "vegetable scraps" (low C to N ratio)?

My gut feeling is I'll need more Carbon, so luckily I have some piles of dry leaves to mix in:

Hey, there's a potted bamboo in there I forgot about!

These have been protecting some of my bamboos -- will it be enough? No worries, as I'll soon have much, much more "browns" -- I'll be cutting down all of my ornamental grasses and putting them through the chipper. That's always a fun time!

My compost pile is already about 5' tall. Good thing I'm planning on building a compost bin soon, as it seems like I'll really need the room this year.

I'll worry about C to N ration later, but for now I'll just enjoy the aroma of ripe bananas as I work in the nearby veggie garden this weekend.


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Carol  – (March 12, 2011 at 7:39 AM)  

Impressive pile Alan! I do so hope those are organic bananas!

Alan  – (March 12, 2011 at 9:06 AM)  

Carol: organic? I doubt it but I'll have my wife check (I already recycled the boxes). I'm not overly concerned if they're not.

Steve Lau  – (March 12, 2011 at 10:59 AM)  

Nice. With that much stuff, you could probably build a massive in-ground worm bin especially because you already know how to build those raised bed boxes. That would equate to hundreds of lbs of castings/yr.

Masha  – (March 12, 2011 at 11:18 AM)  

It is great that you can have such an impressive compost pile. I have heard there are commercial compost starters, maybe those can help? I wish I could fit a compost pile into my tiny lot...

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax!  – (March 12, 2011 at 1:14 PM)  

The answer?

Are banana peels really a problem? Teabags take ages to vanish. Citrus fruits need to be broken open and go mouldy before they compost (it seems). Eggshells don't smash, the skin beneath them holds them together. Squash seeds don't decompose - they grow. But . . . bananas . . . if I had that pile, I'd worry about the shells. Neat little houses for slugs?


Potted Farm  – (March 12, 2011 at 3:26 PM)  

Bananas are very popular in my house. We go through about 10 or so a week and we put all the peels in our worm bin. No complaints from the worms so far!

Christine  – (March 12, 2011 at 6:00 PM)  

Just this week I read that banana skins thrown on the ground under Camellias, Roses (and I forget what else) makes these shrubs flower profusely. So if you have too many banana skins ...

Cat  – (March 12, 2011 at 10:39 PM)  

You do have a most impressive compost pile but I'm smitten with the idea of having my own wood chipper - lucky! Your wife's pretty lucky to work at a bakery too ;)

Helen Lewis  – (March 12, 2011 at 11:58 PM)  

Banana peels! You'll have a potassium-rich compost!

Donna  – (March 13, 2011 at 3:24 AM)  

I miss my 5 foot high compost I have a bin but your pile is impressive...I am toying with a red worm box to break down the excess kitchen scraps since they can overtake a pile or bin..

Diana Studer  – (March 13, 2011 at 5:22 AM)  

If you are really concerned, spread the peels around, one to each plant. In days, ours fade and scrumple to a bit of black mulch.

Alan  – (March 13, 2011 at 7:45 AM)  

Thanks for the comments! I like the idea of using the peels on plants, but I'm concerned about that because raccoons love bananas. They'd probably nab them all or dig them up if I buried them. Maybe if I chopped them up first...

Compost Queen  – (October 26, 2011 at 1:25 PM)  

Reading this post made me want to do my "Happy Mad Scientist Dance" What a fun experiment! If I were you, I'd try out bokashi composting - it should speed up the process dramatically.

On another note - I am the Outreach Coordinator for the Master Composter Program at the Cornell Cooperative Extension. I am working on some new graphics and need a nice picture of a bunch of banana peels - yours would be perfect! Would you be willing to send me a high resolution version of the first picture on this post? And would you be willing to let me use it for some new signage?

If so, you can contact me at ymf5 (at)

Thanks & Keep on Rotting!


Anonymous –   – (April 29, 2014 at 3:26 PM)  

So what happened? My toddler eats more bananas than I ever thought possible. Can I compost the peels?? Thank you for this post!

Alan  – (April 29, 2014 at 4:23 PM)  

Anon: it all broke down without issue. Not sure why I was concerned, but it never got out of balance. :)

Anonymous –   – (April 30, 2014 at 10:20 AM)  

Thanks for the update! Love your blog. Go Bananas!

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