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Citrus peels and a compost pile

 
Posts: 44
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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Hi all. I’m wondering how much citrus one could include in a compost pile before it becomes a problem.

Backstory:
Family of four ..... we looove clementines. In season, we can easily go through a 5-lb box in a day (not that we do every day). We probably eat a box, occasionally three, a week. This year, however, a neighborhood kid was selling citrus to raise money for the high-school band, so we ended up with 25 lbs of grapefruit, and the rinds that go along.

I started a new compost pile at the end of fall, layering  kitchen scraps with shredded leaves and a bit of earth in anticipation of a strong heatup once the weather turns.

We are in eastern PA, zone 6b.

I worry that the volume of citrus will make the pile too acidic. Should I throw a few tablespoons of wood ash here and there? Should I leave it alone, and just keep on with my No Rules 3-bin system?

Thanks!
Daniel
 
pollinator
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I had been told/read not to add it to compost.  I dry peels on a grate on the woodstove.  When they dry out, they make a great addition to fire starting material from the oils in the rinds.
 
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Living in the tropics, I have lots of citrus. And yes, the spoiled stuff goes into my compost. My compost bins are 4 wood pallets secured together. It is not uncommon for me to add a 5 gallon bucket of bad citrus, then cover it with a 1 to 2 foot deep layer of other materials (grass clippings, weeds, manure, etc). I've been doing this for over 10 years and I don't see a problem with it. I now have 32 compost bins in use, so I make a lot of compost.....and dispose of a lot of not-so-perfect limes, lemons, grapefruit, oranges, tangelos, tangerines, and pomelo.
 
gardener
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Every year I dump hundreds of pounds of lemons, limes, oranges . . . basically every kind of citrus there is, into my pile.  It doesn't hurt anything and my compost always turns out great.  Decomposition and heat take care of any PH problems.  We've got 8 citrus trees so there is constantly something on the ground, particularly at this time of year when everything is ripe.  I'll bet I've thrown 300 or 400 key limes into the compost just this past month or so.  I rake them up by the bucket.

No, it won't make your compost too acidic.  If you are only adding the peals (not the whole fruit), it's even less of a concern.

The only problem is that oranges and such roll off the pile.  If you throw a hundred lemons into the compost, they tend to roll around for the next couple of weeks until they soften.  Every year I have to cut hundreds of lemons off the tree because they get so heavy the branches will break.  I'll fill the wheelbarrow with lemons and do that at least 2 or 3 times a season.  I've learned to get a really hot pile going, and then when I turn it, make a nest with the hot compost, into which I dump all those lemons.  Then I'll pile the rest of the hot compost on top.  That usually gets them to turn soft and mushy.  

Throw them in the pile.
 
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Y'all are killing me with all that citrus going into the compost pile!
I'm jealous, only trifoliate orange will grow here.
I have scavenged a fair bit of citrus,  and I've been thinking that it might make for good vinegar, or other fermented liquid.
 
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Citrus in a compost pile is fine and not placing it in a compost pile has long been debunked. Citrus peels can take a long time to break down. You can speed up how fast citrus in compost breaks down by cutting up the peels into small pieces. Another old tale of why you should not use citrus was thought that several chemicals in citrus peels are used in organic pesticides, however, these oils will break down rapidly and evaporate long before you ever use the composted soil in your garden. Citrus also has an unpleasant odor to many scavengers that might like to dig through your compost, making them a plus. As far as vermicomposting, it has long been said that citrus is bad for worms. Not true, however most worms do not choose to eat citrus until it is at least partially decomposed, so citrus will hang around in your worm composter longer than most common ingredients.
 
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I looked in on this thread but there is nothing for me to cover, everyone has brought up all the points I would make.
Dang we have a lot of great folks here.

Redhawk
 
Daniel Ackerman
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Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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Thanks, all! I really appreciate the quality of the information on this site, to say nothing I’d the rapidity with which it was delivered.

I guess my couple of peel pounds a week is pretty small potatoes, compared to most people here. We just have an urban lot of about 1/3 acre....and plans! And compost and a knack for getting fresh wood chips dumped. It’s not a bad start.

Cheers!
 
Tina Hillel
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I realized I didnt mention that I have chickens. I have read not to give them citrus because it can cause sour crop and the chickens are all over my compost. When I started out with the birds six years ago, I did give them citrus.  I had two die, removed the citrus and never lost another with crop issues.  

Since I dont have access to large amounts of citrus (wish we did!) it all gets eaten and the rinds are used as kindling or cleaning solutions.
 
Daniel Ackerman
Posts: 44
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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**googles “cleaning with grapefruit rind”
 
pollinator
Posts: 376
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
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When i started my compost pile, i had it off the ground, so moles wouldn't come in and eat all the worms, was my idea. Don't make that mistake, make it bulky, add manure and resist the temptation to take a lot at first. Let the worms have room to move about and become many, many,many. Many worms make digestion of the feeding easy, it keeps them warmer and safe from freezing and drought, they tuck under, the big mass serves as insulation. Add mushrooms you find and other people's compost, go to the forest and scoop some soil up,add that in. Oh yeah and on topic, if you got that bulky set up you don't have to worry about citrus, the worms don't worry either, and the bacteria, fungi and arthropods either. The more diversity in there, the merrier. Feed the worms!
 
Daniel Ackerman
Posts: 44
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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I wish I had enough material to make a huge compost pile. No ready access to manure (I’d have to buy it in bags), but I have a decent amount of leaves, and I’ve gotten several loads of wood chips That I’m spreading really thickly here and there on new beds and old foundation plantings. We had a lot of worms last year, although they disappeared late summer. We will see how it does this year.
 
Hugo Morvan
pollinator
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It took me quite a while to get my hands on some horse-manure, but my friend was willing to share his source with me. Bless him. Picking up a load tomorrow in my crappy trailer for a 5$ bottle of bio wine. The horse man says it's difficult to get people to pick it up at that price. He says people have phoned him up and asked if he was going to bring it for free. People are nuts. You'll find some sooner or later.
I don't know how thick your shade is? No sun nowhere? I've got a comfrey growing , a wild one that spreads through it's roots system, it does half shade, it's not the famous Bocking 14, and i harvest those leaves in spring and summer and autumn, they're bio-accumulators and help break things down. Look into it if you can find the time, but do NOT buy the comfrey that spreads itself from seed, it's hard enough to control this root one. They're great flowers as well, teeming with bees in spring, when little else flowers.
COMFREY.jpg
[Thumbnail for COMFREY.jpg]
 
                        
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I wouldn't worry about it! I think any organic matter is worth using. Perhaps just add some dry matter on top of the orange peels.
 
Daniel Ackerman
Posts: 44
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA zone 6b
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We have pretty heavy shade around most of the property. 1/3 acre lot, Victorian house square in the middle.

A line of large Norway maples on the south fence line (neighbor’s side, of course), end-of-life sugar maples to the east. Decent sun in the front (west), so that’s where I’m focusing on expanding the square footage for planting.

Comfrey will go in somewhere! Not sure where yet. And we don’t have a trailer, just a Prius and a minivan.
 
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