Bananas are delicious and healthy, and we love them! We buy so many bananas each week, we get Christmas cards from the Chiquita Banana company!
Of course I’m kidding, but we do typically have at least one hand of bananas on the counter. (Did you know “hand” is the technical term for a bunch of bananas?)
We used to just throw banana peels in the compost or the trash until recently. Using banana peels in the garden provides your vegetables with loads of nutrients that plants need to thrive, and it acts as a pest repellent, too!
Why Banana Peels Are Good For Your Garden
Banana peels are packed with nutrients plants need to thrive. The “big three” macronutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium), as well as a handful of micronutrients banana peels contain, help your garden plants in all stages of development — from seed germination to production of blooms and fruit. Because of these nutrients, banana peels also help plants resist many diseases.
Here is a breakdown of some of the nutrients in banana peels, and what they do for your plants:
Potassium – This is the main nutrient found in banana peels. Potassium helps with root development, encouraging a good flow of nutrients and water in your plants. It is also involved in regulating enzymes within a plant, which helps promote stronger plant stems and thicker cell walls in the fruit. Because of these factors, potassium helps your plants to become more drought-, disease- and pest-resistant.
Phosphorus – The second highest mineral in banana peels, phosphorus is important in seed germination and viability. It is a necessary element for the production of blooms, pollen, fruits, and healthy roots. Because it is essential for good root and shoot growth, phosphorus lends to overall plant strength.
Calcium – Calcium is another nutrient important for proper root and stem development. It helps with the breakdown of other necessary nutrients in the soil like nitrogen. Because it helps other minerals move throughout the plant, Gary Zimmer calls calcium the “trucker of all minerals.”
Magnesium – The nutrient which helps with the production of chlorophyll, magnesium keeps plants green for photosynthesis. It is also used by plants for the metabolism of carbohydrates, meaning it helps to actually feed the plant.
How I’m Using Banana Peels In My Garden
Any time you soak a solid in a liquid for a couple of days or more, that liquid leeches some of the nutrients out of the solid. This is called a compost tea.
Since we don’t eat enough bananas at one time to warrant running the dehydrator, I put the peels into one of these 2-quart pitchers about 3/4 full of water and let them sit in the fridge. In this case, the water is drawing out some of the potassium, phosphorus and other micronutrients from the peels, making the compost tea rich with nutrients.
When we eat a banana, I’ll tear the peeling into narrow strips and chop them up into small chunks. Those chunks go into the water and sit in the fridge until we have eaten enough bananas to fill the pitcher. At that point, I let the pitcher sit for one more day until we eat another banana — at which time, I strain the liquid off the banana peels (using a wire mesh strainer like this) into another pitcher, clean the first pitcher, fill it 3/4 full of water again, and repeat the process.
I keep the banana tea in the fridge so that it doesn’t go bad until I’m ready to use it (which is about once a week). One way to use the mixture is as a liquid fertilizer. Just mix a cup into a gallon of water, and water the base of your plant.
Oh! Don’t let the peels themselves go to waste though! We’re about to put our dehydrator to good use.
Another way I intend to use banana peels in my garden is as a dry fertilizer.
When the banana tea has steeped long enough, and I have strained the solids off the liquid, I break out our Nesco Snackmaster food dehydrator! (Have I mentioned lately how much I love my dehydrator?!)
I cut parchment paper to fit in the trays, spread the chopped up peels on each tray, and dry them at 160ºF. It usually takes about 8-10 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can spread the peels out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 8 hours at the lowest setting on your oven (mine only goes down to 170ºF).
Once dry, you can store them as is in an air-tight container, or do what I do and pulverize them with a mini chopper (similar to this one). Really, you would get a finer grind on the peels if you used a coffee grinder (this is the one I want), but since I don’t have one the chopper will have to do for now. Just understand the smaller particles break down faster and becomes more readily available to the plants.
When I plant something new, I’ll be adding 2-3 tablespoons of the powdered banana peel in the planting hole with the seeds or seedling. The powdered peels will feed the seedling slowly and not scorch or burn the roots like commercial fertilizers may.
Natural Pest Control
Aphids (also known as “plant lice”) will treat your garden like a buffet. However, they cannot stand banana peels. Just using peels in the garden is enough to deter aphids, but if you want to give your plants a little extra protection, use that banana tea we talked about earlier!
I mix the banana tea with water at a 5:1 ratio (5 parts water to 1 part banana tea) in a spray bottle. The spray bottle I use has measurements on the side, so it’s easy to dilute the mixture to whatever I need.
Spray the diluted tea directly on the leaves and stems of your plants. Any aphids that are on or near your plants will soon vanish and won’t return. (The spray also absorbs into the plant and helps feed it, as well.)
Other Ways to Use Banana Peels In The Garden
As a Fertilizer Slurry
If you want to do things the super easy way, you could just make a slurry with your banana peels. Save as many as you would like in the freezer until you’ve got enough, then put them into a high speed blender with some water and liquefy the mixture completely. I would recommend using this under the soil so it doesn’t attract harmful insects and other pests looking for a quick snack.
As Compost Material
Probably the most popular and easiest use for banana peels is to just toss them into the compost pile. They are classified as green materials that add a healthy dose of nitrogen to the compost as well as the other nutrients and micronutrients we’ve already discussed.
As Mild Plant Food for Seedlings
If you’re starting seedlings in a greenhouse, or even indoors in a mini greenhouse like this one, use the diluted banana tea or a pinch of the powdered peels as plant food for your tiny starts. The nutrients will ensure your plant gets a good start with a healthy root system and a strong main stem.
As Soil Amendment
If you don’t have a compost pile, you can actually use banana peels as a soil amendment. Add them directly to your garden in late fall just before (or after) you have cleaned out the bed for winter.
The rich organic matter will add those valuable nutrients directly to the soil, and the decaying material will attract beneficial microbes and worms to help create air pockets in the soil (and leave behind their free fertilizer in the process).
Final Notes About Using Banana Peels in the Garden
If you don’t eat a lot of bananas, don’t fret. Store peels in a gallon size zip bag in the freezer all season long until you have enough to use. When spring rolls around, you can give your new plants and seedlings a healthy start.
Many other plants (like roses and staghorn ferns) also benefit from the minerals found in banana peels. Feed them regularly to give them a boost of healthy nutrients!
Use dried banana peels with other homemade fertilizers (like crushed eggshells, Epsom salt, and used coffee grounds) for a super nutrient dense, DIY plant food.