Updated: Mar 22, 2022
As a gardener, commitment to Mother Earth comes as part of the deal for loving plants. Sustainability is a practice we can bring right into our homes with a little bit of intention: from growing food, to using all the parts of the plant and recycling when necessary. Here are some ideas for how to use your most common kitchen leftovers in your garden.
Experiment with your kitchen waste and you’ll be surprised just how much you can do with them:
Eggshells are a popular garden staple, for good reason. They’re high in calcium and break down easily, with a ground up consistency that makes them a good soil additive. Crush eggs and add to your soil, or sprinkle the ground up powder on the surface of your plants and let the soil absorb it as it breaks down.
2. Coffee grounds
Another close second that’s most popular as a soil additive are coffee grounds. They work as a kind of slug repellent, adding vital nitrogen to plans both when added to the soil or added to water for plants. They also increase soil acidity.
3. Paper towels and paper bags
Paper towels come in handy as a sieve for the bottoms of plant pots with big drainage holes that lets soil seep out. Along with paper bags and cardboard, they are also a vital addition to your home compost setup, adding much needed carbon to the mix.
4. Banana peels
Have you heard of banana tea? Simply soak your banana peels in an airtight jar with water, allow to sit for 2 days then use the water for plants. Bananas are magnesium and potassium rich, and so the peels can be recycled back into your compost pit or buried in plant beds to encourage fruiting.
5. Onion peels
Instead of throwing away your onion skins, toss them into a jar with water and let it sit for a couple of days, then use it as an organic plant tea for micro dosing houseplants and vegetables in pots with vital nutrients. It goes without saying that onion peels are a very welcome addition to your home compost pile too.
6. Citrus peels
It might be an old wives’ tale, but peels of citrus fruits like oranges, limes, lemons and others are said to repel insects away from garden beds. More importantly, they are a deterrent for cats, protecting your garden beds from being dug up or used as a litter box.
7. Cooking water
This tip will not just nourish your plants, it also saves water. Instead of throwing away water used to cook things like eggs and veggies, potatoes, pasta, rice, etc, save the water for your plants.
Only make sure to let the water cool before adding it to your garden.
Cooking water contains some of the nutrients from the food you cook, and those nutrients can enrich your soil and your plants.
8. Nut shells
Dry peanut and walnut shells are excellent mulch for your container garden. They can also be ground up and added to your potting mix to add a bit of organic chunk to your soil, and aid with soil aeration.
9. Tea leaves and tea bags
If you’re a tea drinker and a gardener, chances are you have thought about whether your tea leaves belong in your plants. They do!
Tea leaves can be added to home compost setups for a quick boost of organic material and nitrogen. You can also use your dried tea leaves directly in your potting mix. Make sure they’re dry first, or they might clump together in your soil mix.
10. Vegetable peels
Veggies of all kinds have one great quality: they decompose fast in an anaerobic setup! That makes them perfect for home composting. Chop up your veggie peels, stems and roots and add them to an airtight compost jar, and regularly turn your compost so it decomposes evenly.
11. Pepper and garlic water
Did you know that you can repel plant pests and other insects by regularly spraying them with pepper extract?
You can make yours by blending and straining the juice of fresh or dried pepper (hot peppers with a bit work best) or garlic, and applying the spray directly on leaves. This works for houseplants and veggies.
What to note:
● With home composting setups, try to keep it to just vegetables and plan organic materials. Animal waste like bones, meat and fish skin, etc are not suitable for home compost setups.
● Also avoid adding food waste with cooking oils into your soil or compost.
● For kitchen waste items that go directly into the soil, make sure they are in small, degradable sizes. Chop up vegetables and other materials and mix well with the top soil.
● When in doubt, add to your compost rather than soil! Some materials take longer to break down and could compact your topsoil.