Can You Compost Citrus? Everything You Need To Know

When it comes to composting, there’s a wide range of organic materials that can be added to your compost pile or bin to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. However, one common question that arises is whether you can compost citrus peels, lemon and orange peels, and other citrus scraps. Citrus fruits, known for their vibrant flavors and high vitamin C content, have long been a staple in our diets. But what about their place in the composting process?

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the world of composting citrus. We’ll explore the benefits and potential drawbacks of adding citrus peels and scraps to your compost, discuss different methods of composting citrus, and provide tips to ensure your composting efforts are successful. So, whether you’re a seasoned composting enthusiast or just getting started, let’s unravel the mysteries of citrus composting.

Compost bin containing citrus fruit peels such a lemons and oranges

Understanding Citrus as Compost Ingredients

Before we dive into the details, it’s important to understand the nature of citrus peels and how they interact with the composting process. Citrus peels, such as lemon and orange peels, are organic materials that can contribute to your compost pile. They are rich in nutrients, primarily composed of organic matter, and can be a great addition to your compost.

Citrus Peels as Organic Materials

Citrus peels are primarily composed of organic matter, making them suitable for composting. They contain essential nutrients like potassium, calcium, and vitamin C, which can enrich your compost and, ultimately, your garden soil.

The Composting Process

To effectively compost citrus, it’s essential to understand the composting process. Composting is the natural decomposition of organic materials into nutrient-rich humus—a valuable soil conditioner. This process involves the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and earthworms.

Can you Compost Citrus?

Contrary to popular belief, citrus peels and scraps can indeed be composted successfully. When managed properly, they offer valuable nutrients, balance to your compost heap, and can even help mask unpleasant odors. Whether you have a traditional compost pile, a worm farm, or a Bokashi bin, there’s a method that suits your needs.

Benefits of Composting Citrus

Composting citrus offers several benefits, making it a worthwhile addition to your compost pile. Let’s explore these advantages in detail:

Nutrient-Rich Compost

Citrus peels add valuable nutrients to your compost, including phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. These nutrients enhance the quality of your compost and promote healthier plant growth when the finished compost is added to your garden.

Balancing Your Compost Heap

Composting is all about achieving a balance between “green” and “brown” materials. Green materials, like kitchen scraps and citrus peels, are rich in nitrogen, while brown materials, like dry leaves and wood chips, are rich in carbon. Citrus peels contribute nitrogen to your compost, helping maintain the right balance for effective decomposition.

Increased Surface Area

Cutting citrus peels into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost pile increases the surface area available for microbial activity. This leads to faster decomposition and more efficient composting.

Citrus Peels as Brown Material

While citrus peels are considered green materials due to their nitrogen content, their dry and fibrous nature can make them function similarly to brown materials when it comes to moisture absorption. This can be particularly helpful in maintaining moisture levels in your compost pile.

Masking Unpleasant Odors

Citrus peels have a strong scent, which can help mask any unpleasant odors that may arise from your compost pile. This can be especially beneficial if you’re composting food scraps that tend to emit strong smells.

How to Compost Citrus

Now that we’ve explored the benefits of composting citrus, let’s delve into the various methods and tips to ensure successful citrus composting:

1. Small Pieces Are Key

To expedite the decomposition process, chop or shred citrus peels into smaller pieces. This increases the surface area, allowing microorganisms to work more efficiently.

2. Mix with Other Organic Materials

Citrus peels should not be the sole ingredient in your compost pile. To achieve a balanced compost, mix them with a variety of organic materials, including kitchen scraps, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and dry leaves.

3. Balance Green and Brown Material

As mentioned earlier, maintaining a balance of green and brown materials is crucial for effective composting. Citrus peels contribute to the “green” side due to their nitrogen content.

4. Composting Citrus Scraps

Citrus scraps, such as leftover fruit after juicing, can also be composted. However, ensure that they are cut into smaller pieces to facilitate decomposition.

5. Citrus Rinds and Whole Citrus

While peels are commonly composted, you can also compost whole citrus fruits or citrus rinds. Again, cutting them into smaller pieces is advisable for faster decomposition.

6. Use in Vermicomposting

If you have a worm compost bin (vermicomposting system), citrus peels can be added in moderation. Worms will consume citrus peels, but they should be balanced with other materials to avoid overloading the bin with acidic waste.

7. Citrus Oil and Chemical Oils

Be cautious when composting citrus oils or products containing chemical oils. These can disrupt the composting process, as some microorganisms may struggle to break them down. It’s generally best to avoid adding such items to your compost.

8. Citrus Peels in a Bokashi Bin

A Bokashi bin is an airtight container used for fermenting kitchen waste before composting. Citrus peels can be added to a Bokashi bin, as the fermentation process is less affected by acidity.

9. Consider the Size of Your Citrus Trees

If you have citrus trees in your garden, composting their fallen leaves or pruned branches is a good practice. However, if you have a lot of citrus trees, be mindful of the large amounts of citrus parts you may accumulate.

Potential Drawbacks of Composting Citrus

While composting citrus offers numerous benefits, there are also potential drawbacks to be aware of:

1. Slow Decomposition

Citrus peels can take a relatively long time to decompose compared to some other compost ingredients. To address this, cut them into smaller pieces and ensure you have a well-balanced compost pile.

2. The Acidity of Citrus

Citrus fruits are known for their acidity, which can potentially disrupt the composting process, especially in large amounts. However, when properly balanced with other materials, the acidity of citrus is less of an issue.

3. Strong Smell

The strong scent of citrus peels can be both an advantage and a drawback. While it can mask unpleasant odors in your compost pile, it may also attract unwanted pests. To mitigate this, ensure that your compost pile is well-aerated and covered.

4. Moldy Citrus Fruits

Moldy citrus fruits should generally be avoided in composting, as the mold can introduce pathogens and hinder decomposition. If you have moldy citrus fruits, it’s best to dispose of them in the trash.

5. Chemical Treatments

Citrus fruits can be treated with chemical pesticides or preservatives. Be cautious when composting citrus that may have been exposed to these chemicals. It’s best to compost organic citrus or wash and peel conventionally grown citrus.

Choosing the Right Method for Composting Citrus

The best method for composting citrus largely depends on your specific circumstances and preferences. Here are some options to consider:

1. Traditional Compost Pile

If you have a regular compost pile, citrus peels can be added along with other organic materials. Remember to cut them into smaller pieces and mix them well with other compost ingredients for balanced decomposition.

2. Hot Compost Pile

Hot composting involves maintaining higher temperatures in your compost pile, which can help break down citrus peels and other organic matter more quickly. If you’re experienced with hot composting, this can be an effective method.

3. Vermicomposting

A worm compost bin is an excellent way to compost smaller amounts of citrus. Worms can gradually break down citrus peels, but it’s essential not to overwhelm the bin with acidic materials.

4. Cold Composting Piles

For those who prefer a low-maintenance approach, cold composting is an option. Citrus peels will eventually decompose in cold composting piles, although it may take more time compared to other methods.

5. Bokashi Composting

A Bokashi bin is a sealed container that ferments kitchen scraps, including citrus peels, before they are added to the compost pile. This method can help manage the acidity of citrus.

The Role of Citrus in a Healthy Compost Pile

When used in moderation and with proper care, citrus peels and scraps can be valuable additions to your compost pile. To ensure a healthy compost pile, remember these key points:

1. Balance is Key

Maintain a good balance of green and brown materials in your compost heap. Citrus peels contribute to the green side, so complement them with brown materials like dry leaves and wood chips.

2. Cut into Smaller Pieces

Chop or shred citrus peels and scraps into smaller pieces to speed up decomposition and make it easier for microorganisms to break them down.

3. Avoid Overloading with Citrus

While citrus is beneficial, avoid overloading your compost pile with excessive amounts of citrus peels and scraps. This can disrupt the composting process and lead to imbalances in your heap.

4. Monitor Moisture Levels

Regularly check the moisture content of your compost pile. Citrus peels can help retain moisture, but ensure that your compost remains adequately aerated to prevent it from becoming too wet.

5. Be Mindful of Pest Attraction

The strong scent of citrus can attract pests. Keep your compost pile covered and well-aerated to minimize this risk.


Composting citrus is not only possible but also a great way to reduce food waste and enrich your garden soil. By understanding the potential benefits and drawbacks, choosing the right composting method, and following best practices, you can effectively incorporate citrus peels and scraps into your composting routine. So, don’t let those lemon and orange peels go to waste—turn them into valuable compost for a healthier garden and a greener planet. 

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