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Can You Compost Citrus Peels? The Answer May Surprise You!

Can You Compost Citrus Peels? The Answer May Surprise You!

Composting is perhaps one of the most fascinating and overlooked subjects in gardening.

For some gardeners, composting is more than just putting food scraps to good use; it’s an art in and of itself.

Those new to the world of composting are sometimes unsure about what can and can not be added to the pile.

Peels from oranges, lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits are often wondered about in particular.

Can you compost citrus? Contrary to popular belief, citrus peels are a great addition to your compost. Adding citrus to the pile accelerates the breakdown of organic materials since it releases a lot of heat into the pile, and thanks to their strong odor, citrus peels are a natural repellent to bugs and animals.

It’s true that adding too much citrus to your compost would increase the acidity of the pile, but you can balance the acidity by controlling how many citrus peels are thrown into the pile.

Read on to find out how to compost citrus and get the most out of it.

Citrus in Your Compost

Much like all the other green and brown ingredients you add to the compost pile, you can use citrus peels to speed up the composting process.

The added benefit is that citrus will help repel foraging animals and bugs attracted to the food scraps in the pile.

Citrus peels are considered part of the green layers in the pile, but you should add them to the compost sparingly.

Benefits of Composting Citrus

The orange and lemon peels you add to the compost are naturally rich in nutrients that end up in the compost. Here are some of the benefits of composting citrus.

  • With its strong smell, citrus keeps rodents and pesky flies off the compost pile.
  • Citrus peel is rich in potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus, which are essential nutrients for many garden plants.
  • Citrus leftovers are eco-friendly since they break down and leave nothing behind.
  • The peels tend to generate a lot of heat that helps speed up the composting process, prevents the buildup of mold, and kills any seeds in the pile to prevent their germination.

What Types of Citrus Can Be Composted

You can practically compost any citrus leftovers and peels you have.

These include oranges, limes, lemons, Buddha’s hand, calamondin, citron, clementine, grapefruit, kaffir lime, pomelo, and tangerine, among others.

Moreover, you don’t have to just throw in the peel of the fruits. You can even add pieces of the fruits and seeds. The organic materials will break down quickly, leaving nothing behind.

How To Balance the Acidity of Citrus in Your Compost

Since citrus is an acidic fruit in general, adding too much peel or fruit pieces to the compost heap will result in a highly acidic compost.

This is not the result you want. Your compost should be balanced to avoid impacting the soil and possibly damaging your plants.

To balance the acidity of citrus in your compost, add the citrus peels sparingly as part of the green layer. If you still feel the compost might be too acidic, add more brown ingredients to the pile.

You can also sprinkle wood ash to lower the acidity of the pile. Other materials you can use to balance the acidity of the compost include well-hydrated white lime or ground lime.

Moldy Citrus in Compost

Citrus can get moldy rather quickly. The peels are rich in nutrients and have a high concentration of moisture that attracts fungus.

So even while the peels are breaking down in the compost pile, you’ll often find them covered with mold. This often happens when the peels are not getting enough heat from the compost. 

To prevent moldy citrus in the compost, stir the pile of compost regularly every few weeks. You can also add brown materials such as wood chips to reduce the moisture content in the compost.  

In case you’re wondering, any moldy fruit you find in your kitchen can be added to your compost bin safely.

How To Compost Citrus Correctly

Peels from several oranges lying on top of a compost pile.

To compost citrus, just follow the same tips and rules that apply to other ingredients you add to the compost pile.

However, remember not to add too many citrus peels since they will increase the acidity of the compost. Here’s how to compost citrus correctly in simple steps.

  1. Cut the citrus peels into small pieces to speed up the composting and prevent mold buildup.
  2. Dry out the citrus peels and fruits before adding them to prevent moldy citrus.
  3. Citrus is considered part of the green ingredients; add one part greens to every three parts browns to the pile.
  4. Stir the compost layer every few weeks to spread the heat evenly and kill any pathogens or mold.
  5. Every time you add a few citrus peels, balance them out with grass clippings or wood ash to offset the moisture and acidity concentration.
  6. Add some water to the compost to help with the breaking down. Make sure the compost is not too wet. If you squeeze it in your hand and it drips, then it’s too wet. Add some brown ingredients to offset the excess moisture.
  7. Keep stirring the compost pile to improve aeration until it’s ready.

Citrus and Vermicomposting – What To Know

Vermicomposting relies on worms to break down the organic materials and food scraps you add to the compost pile.

By adding citrus to a worm bin, you’re not helping either the worms or the vermicomposting process itself.

At best, the worms would avoid the citrus peels altogether, but the acidic citrus could kill the worms, which is the last thing you want. So avoid adding citrus when vermicomposting.

Related Questions:

What Fruit Cannot Be Composted?

You can easily compost any fruit you have, including citrus. However, there are a few caveats. When using citrus, you should use it sparingly to avoid killing the good bacteria in the compost pile.

You should also avoid composting any pesticide-treated or diseased fruits and plants. 

Can You Compost Onions?

You can add onions to your compost pile, but add them sparingly. Onion is an odorous veggie that attracts pests to the compost pile.

Make sure to bury the onion scraps at least 10 inches deep inside of the pile. 


Citrus peels are rich in nutrients and will speed up the breaking down of the organic materials in the compost pile.

However, you should add them sparingly to avoid increasing the acidity of the compost.