Composting can be a complicated business, and you may have seen long lists of all the things that you should not put in your compost bin under any circumstances.
If so, ginger is one you might have seen on the list.
However, these lists are often longer than the lists of what you can compost, and they should be taken with a pinch of salt because actually, composting is a very forgiving process and you can compost a lot more than you think as long as you do it well.
Anything organic can in theory be composted.
If you’ve come across these lists, you might ask can you compost ginger, and the answer is yes, you can in certain circumstances, as long as you do so carefully.
Ginger isn’t going to cause any problems in your compost bin, so it’s worth a try.
Why Do Some People Say You Can’t Compost Ginger?
So, what’s the first secret behind why you “can’t” compost ginger? Lots of people like to say it, but why?
After all, ginger is an organic plant like so much of the other material you might add to your compost heap, so what’s the problem?
Well, firstly, ginger root is quite a woody thing to put in your compost, which means it will take more time to break down.
It has a hard exterior, and even the interior is quite tough and fibrous, so it isn’t easy for the worms and microbes in your compost to deal with.
There’s a bit more to it than just that, however. After all, you can compost sticks, twigs, woody plants, etc., with no problem.
They take time, but nobody says they aren’t suitable for the compost heap just because they are slow and present a challenge.
The issue is more with the flavor of ginger, believe it or not! Compost bins rely on worms to do a lot of the work in breaking down their contents.
Worms don’t like spicy foods or anything with a very strong flavor, which certainly applies to ginger.
That means they won’t generally tuck into your ginger and break it down very fast, which can result in it sitting in the compost for longer periods of time.
Worms may actively avoid large pieces of ginger, which can result in parts of your compost where there are no worms, potentially affecting the decomposition of other foods.
This is true for other spicy or strong foods too. Remember that what seems a small amount to you is a mountain to a little worm.
Garlic, onions, chilies, and even things like citrus fruits can overwhelm them, and they will take a long time to process these back into soil.
However, you certainly can compost ginger, so let’s look at how to make this easier.
So What’s The Secret To Composting Ginger?
Secret 1: The best way to deal with anything “not compostable” that you want to compost is to break it into small amounts (it does need to be organic, though!). This helps the worms and microbes in the soil to handle it.
With ginger, this could mean peeling it, chopping it, or even grating it. How much you can afford to add will depend on how big and forgiving your compost heap is.
If your compost heap is working efficiently (hot), has lots of worms, and is large, you should be able to compost ginger with no problem.
If you’re composting ginger peels, you will already have created small pieces, so you shouldn’t need to worry about adding them to the heap, though you could still chop up any large pieces to make them easier for the worms to handle.
Secret 2: Spread them out in the heap. One worm will deal with a small amount of ginger. Another worm will deal with another bit.
By stirring your heap often, you will ensure that the ginger gets dispersed, exposed to the air regularly (which helps the soil microbes do their work), and that no single worm ends up with a face full of hot ginger root for breakfast.
Secret 3: Get your compost pile hot. A hot compost heap works much more efficiently, because the soil microbes are more active.
They will help the worms deal with the ginger, and anything else in the heap that the worms are finding distasteful.
You can get the pile hot by stirring it often.
The work of the microbes is what generates the heat, so if you can keep them active and make sure they are functioning, your compost heap will naturally get hot on its own.
Adding lots of nitrogen is another good way to raise the temperature levels.
Grass cuttings and lots of other greens provide this, and will help your whole compost pile to break down quickly.
However, it’s important not to add too many or you’ll upset the balance and disrupt the heap’s productivity. Too hot can kill the microbes.
If your compost heap is functioning at a good temperature (135-160° F), it should have no problem handling ginger, garlic, onion peels, and anything else.
Secret 4: You can also add it slowly. If you have a sudden need for a lot of ginger, don’t tip all the waste into the heap in one go and hope for the best.
Add a little at a time over the next few days/weeks. You can even freeze the scraps if you have space, and just keep chipping away until they’re all gone.
This trick can be applied to anything you have too much of, as you can overwhelm a compost heap with almost any ingredient if you aren’t careful.
Balance is important, so use the strategy of adding scraps over a period of time if you don’t think your compost heap can keep up with something.
What Else Can I Do With Ginger I’m Not Using?
If you’re still a bit concerned about ginger not breaking down in your compost heap or upsetting your wriggly pals, perhaps you’re looking for another solution for what to do with waste ginger.
Unfortunately, ginger peels are pretty much headed for the bin or compost heap, as there isn’t much you can do with those.
Peels from store-bought ginger don’t tend to be edible or appealing, and you probably won’t find recipes that call for them – that’s why you peel the ginger in the first place.
However, if you have a lump of ginger that you aren’t going to use, have you considered planting it?
This is secret number 5: ginger is super easy to grow! Even if you live in a tiny apartment, you can have a ginger plant on a windowsill.
Choose a knobbly piece of organic ginger, cut off a small chunk, and set it in a little bit of water.
You’ll need to change the water every day or two while you wait for it to root, but you should eventually see a green shoot creeping out from the ginger.
Once this root has got going, you can grab a plant pot with some soil, and you’re well on your way to having your own ginger plant.
You will want a fairly big pot with plenty of soil, as ginger likes a lot of food and water. Plant your little ginger nub and cover it with soil so that just the tip of the sprout is poking up.
Water it well and put it on a sunny windowsill to grow. You can even use soil from your compost heap.
Secret number 6: if you use homegrown ginger, you may find you don’t actually need to peel it.
The skin of baby ginger is often very soft and thin, unlike the tougher peel you might find on store-bought ginger. Experiment with this and see what you think.
If you’re lucky, you may find this is the ultimate solution to not composting ginger; you won’t even have the peelings left over!
So, can you compost ginger? 6 composting secrets (well, four composting secrets and two growing ones) say that you can.
You need to do so with the comfort and happiness of your little compost worms in mind, but it can be done.
Chop your ginger compost up into small amounts, disperse it through the heap, and ensure your compost is working at maximum efficiency by keeping it hot, and you should have no problem getting an established heap to deal with ginger, even if you end up adding quite a lot.
If you do find that the ginger isn’t being broken down, it’s not a disaster – you can either toss it back when you come to use the compost for further processing, or discard it in the normal waste bin.
Composting ginger won’t hurt your compost heap, so there’s no harm in trying.
Composting can feel a daunting process, especially if you spend too much time worrying about what can and can’t go in the heap.
Instead, try to trust your instincts and work on the overall health of the heap, not worrying excessively about the small things you might or might not add.
In short, a bit of ginger will have no impact on a healthy, established compost heap, and will quickly disappear even if it isn’t a favorite food for your worms.