Composting Citrus: Do or Don’t?

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Apparently, there’s a well-circulated rumor in the composting community that citrus is a no-no in the compost pile. I decided to get to the bottom of this to find out what kind of problems composting citrus might cause.

Read on for a quick summary of what I’ve learned.

Wormery workaround

Unless you have a sealed wormery, you can compost citrus peels without worry. It’s true that worms don’t like when their environment becomes too acidic. So if you have a wormery and an affinity for citrus, add some anti-acid lime mix to the compost bin every few weeks to help adjust the pH levels by neutralizing the acidity of the citrus.

Citrus deters pests

Not only will lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange peels not harm your compost, they are actually good for it. The strong scent of citrus can keep scavengers and pests away from your compost.

compost citrus

Speed it up

Some say citrus peels take too long to break down, but you can speed up the process by breaking up the peels into small pieces before adding them to your compost pile or bin.

Mold matters

Another concern I’ve heard is that citrus peels are prone to mold and will thus make your compost unsuitable for gardening. While it is true that penicillium mold is a concern for citrus farmers, most citrus sold commercially has a mild antimicrobial/antifungal coating of thiabendazole, orthophenyl phenol and/or imazalil to prevent mold or blight. Even organic produce contains small levels of these chemicals, according to an analysis by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation last year. This small amount of antifungal coating should be enough to prevent mold contamination in your compost pile, but not enough to cause adverse effects to your garden.

That said, if you are lucky enough to have access to organic citrus with zero antimicrobial coatings — I’m honestly not sure how the peels will fare in your compost pile if you live in a climate where mold is a concern.

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  1. My citrus peels definitely get very moldy in the compost bucket, before they get taken out to the main pile. That being said, I haven’t noticed any issues with the compost. The mold seems to go away just fine under good compost conditions.
    (And I strive for very good compost conditions. Since I have a composting toilet, I want to ensure complete decomposition and high temperatures!)

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