Composting Potato Peels: The Do’s and Don’t’s

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New to composting? Wondering what can and can’t go into your compost? Look no further!

Maybe you’ve heard that potato peels can’t go in the bin.

It’s not that they aren’t compostable — just that there are certain situations in which you should refrain from adding them. 

Read on to learn more.

What is compost anyway?

Compost is a valuable resource. It provides important nutrients to plants by feeding the good bacteria in the soil, which also attracts earthworms and other beneficial organisms. 

Microorganisms are responsible for the production of compost. Bacteria, fungi, and other microbes break down organic matter into 

It’s good for your garden and for the Earth.

How can I make compost?

Throw stuff in a pile and leave it be!

Just kidding. Sort of. 

Composting is as simple or as difficult as you make it.

The term aerobic composting refers to the oxygen-loving bacteria that do the work of composting for you. There are a number of ways to make sure they get enough oxygen.

If you’re composting in a bin, you can stir it up daily to introduce oxygen so that your food scraps compost instead of rotting. Tumbler-style bins are one easy way to do this.

If composting in a pile, you don’t have to aerate, but you can. Some people turn their piles often to add oxygen. Aerating piles in this way increases microbial activity, which increases the heat and decreases the time required to get good finished compost.

Don’t forget to add plenty of dry material — for example: twigs, wood, cardboard, and paper — to balance out the food scraps. The rule is about three times as much dry material as food scraps. 

When you’re starting a new compost bin or pile, add healthy soil to introduce the right sort of microbes.

What about worm bins?

Compost methods centering on worms are referred to as vermicomposting. 

Worms constantly aerate the compost and create tunnels that allow moisture to drain, making vermicomposting a wonderful approach if you’re looking to compost food scraps in a small space.

Are potato peels good for compost?

Any and all organic matter can be composted. 

Potatoes are an excellent source of nutrients. As they break down, they donate their nutrients to the finished compost. Potatoes are a great source of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and more.

HOWEVER, there are some situations in which you might choose to omit potato peels.

Can I throw my potato peels in the greenwaste bin?

It depends on where you live! 

Some cities will only accept yard waste: leaves, tree trimmings, grass clippings, weeds, etc. Garbage collectors in these cities won’t take bins that have food scraps.

But between you and me? They’re not going to notice a few potato peels.

Some cities have curbside compost programs. In Austin, TX, people can put any sort of food scraps in their bins, including:

  • meat
  • cheese
  • fruits
  • veggies
  • grains
  • pasta
  • eggshells
  • bread
  • tea bags
  • snacks
  • leftovers
  • and, obviously, potato peels!

The only food scraps that Austin asks its residents NOT to include are liquids (including grease, oils, and fats). They also request that people don’t put whole carcasses or animal waste in the green bins.

Once the bins are filled, city workers pick up the material and bring it to the local composting facility. Microorganisms break down the food scraps and generate quite a bit of heat. It takes about one year to get finished compost.

The bottom line: Go for it! I won’t tell.

Can potato peels go in my worm bin?

You’ll get different answers on this one. 

Some people throw them in with everything else. The worms might avoid them at first, but eventually they’ll break down.

How quickly depends on the unique microbiome of your bin and – dare I say it – the collective personality of your worms.

Some people will tell you not to include them. Potato peels contain a toxin called solanine, which can inhibit the growth of bacteria. It’s the BACTERIA that the worms eat rather than the food scraps themselves. 

Don’t add a huge pile of potato peels all at once. You could cut the peels into smaller pieces before adding them to the worm bin.

This increases their surface area and makes it easier to mix them throughout, which will allow more good bacteria to grow.  

Some people also freeze their potato peels first. Freezing foods ruptures cell walls and makes everything easier to break down.

It’s also a good way to save potato peels if you have too many at one time, because you don’t want to feed your worms too much at once. 

Don’t give them more potato peels than they can handle at any one time!

If your worm bin is inside, you may also want to avoid:

  • meat 
  • bones
  • fish 
  • fat
  • milk
  • cheese

Wondering what you CAN feed your worms?

  • leftovers
  • coffee grounds 
  • paper filters
  • dry leaves
  • egg cartons
  • apple peels
  • melon rinds
  • carrot greens
  • bread and cakes
  • tea leaves

So why do people say not to compost potato peels?

You can add potato peels to your compost pile and they’ll break down just fine.

The reason some people don’t include them?

Potato blight. 

You’ve heard of the Great Potato Famine?

Potato blight can destroy entire crops. 

This disease is caused by a microorganism, and so putting affected potatoes (and/or their peels) into a compost pile can cause that microorganism to proliferate, and the resulting compost could negatively affect future potato plants. 

It affects tomatoes too, as they’re in the same family as potatoes (they’re both nightshades).

If you grow nightshade plants and you’re concerned about blight, you can choose not to put blighted or questionable store-bought potatoes in your compost. 

Good compost practices — turning it frequently, assuring a proper level of moisture, and having the right ratio of greens to browns — will help your pile get hot enough to kill fungal spores.

Compost piles have to be pretty big to get really hot.

In the end, it’s all up to you.

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