Since I have recently taken up an interest in the topic of home gardening, I’ve done some research on the different types of kitchen waste that can be used for this purpose. So, I put some of my thoughts together in order to come up with a full guide on how to make compost from kitchen waste.
How can kitchen waste be used for gardening? Kitchen waste can be used for various purposes around a garden including composting the soil, repelling insects and pests, and even serving as a vessel for planting anew seed.
Any kind of leftover organic materials or edible food scraps can be classified as kitchen waste. However, the best items for providing gardens with helpful nutrients are fruits, vegetables, and other naturally grown substances.
10 Kitchen Items That Can Be Used In a Garden
To begin the discussion of how kitchen waste can be used for gardening, it is important to understand what can actually be healthy and beneficial to your garden instead of just being thrown away. As a general reference, take a look at this list of 10 kitchen items that can be used in the garden and what they can all be used for:
Paper Towel/Toilet Paper Rolls
The cardboard cylinders from the center of a paper towel or toilet paper roll can actually be used to grow plants in your garden, believe it or not. In order to do this, you will just need to use scissors to trim them until they are only a few inches long and firmly push them into the soil.
The exact placement of the roll should surround a newly planted seed so that the new plant will grow through the empty space in the middle. This will serve as a protective barrier against insects and other pests such as slugs.
They can also be used separately as a pot to plant aseed in standing on its own, instead of being planted into the ground in anexisting garden.
Crushed up eggshells can be added to the regular compost you already use in your garden. Eggshells offer benefits to worms in specific because they help them to reproduce. This is also great for the plants because the worms naturally break up the soil to aerate it, which allows the plants to receive all of its moisture and nutrients.
Eggshells also give calcium to the surrounding plants and help to aerate the soil even further. If you are growing tomatoes in your garden, using crushed up eggshells as compost will be increasingly helpful in order to produce the best results at the time of harvest.
Instead of throwing your used coffee grounds in the garbage every morning, you can take them outside to your garden and put them in the soil instead. Coffee grounds have a high concentration of nitrogen, which is increasingly beneficial for summer vegetables like bell peppers and tomatoes.
However, it is important that you only place used coffee grounds in your garden, because the fresh ones will raise the acidity of the soil dramatically. Unless you are growing plants that require higher acidity levels, you will want to use watered down coffee grounds with more basic pH levels.
If you have shells from the outside of any nuts, including pistachios and peanuts, you can use them to aerate the soil in your garden. Even though they are not technically considered to be nuts, the shells from sunflower seeds can also be used for these reasons.
Walnut shells should not ever be used as compost in a garden, because the material that coats them will have a hard time breaking down and could ultimately cause more harm than good to your soil.
Whether you crush them up or sprinkle them over your soil whole, you should always make sure that any flavorings or excess salt are completely rinsed off of the shells before you put them in your soil to avoid any adverse effects in your crops.
The outer peels of citrus fruits are great for gardening as well. Citrus fruits include oranges, lemons, and limes. For the best use within your garden, the fruits can be squeezed with the pulp still inside or completely carved out with only the peel being spread through the soil.
The citrus peels are not exactly used to fertilize the plants or give nutrients to the soil, however. They actually work very well to attract garden pests like slugs and snails.
To effectively lure these critters away from your plants, you should place the citrus peels in a location that is close enough to the garden to where they will be successfully led away from it, but not close enough for them to damage your crops.
If you are not having any particular problems with pests in your garden, you can use the empty shell of citrus fruit or melon as a vessel to plant a new seed in.
Any kind of hot pepper, including jalapeños and red chili peppers, can be used to repel insects away from the plants in your garden. Regardless of the spice level, the stems, seeds, and any other waste products from the peppers can be used for this purpose.
In order to most effectively keep the pests away from your garden, you can put all of the pepper waste into a blender in combination with equal parts of water. The mixture can then be poured into a spray bottle and used just like any other insect repellent product.
Once you are done spraying the affected areas, the additional pureed peppers can be poured directly into the soil or mixed in with your compost to help your garden grow in the absence of pesky insects.
Milk and Juice Cartons
Similar to the way a paper towel and toilet paper roll can be used in a garden, milk and juice cartons can serve the same purpose. This is most ideal for paper cartons with a gable-top and a rectangular body.
To plant a seed inside of used milk or juice carton, make sure to thoroughly wash and rinse all of the leftover liquid out from the inside of the container. Next, you can use scissors to cut several inches off of the top and use the bottom portion to plant your new seeds.
If you have a traditional plastic milk jug or water gallon instead, you can poke a series of small holes into the top of the cap and fill the body with water. Once you close it, you will be able to hold the handle and use it just like a watering can in your garden.
If you ever find yourself boiling vegetables in the water on the stove, keep in mind that the excess water can be used to fertilize your plants in the garden. Instead of pouring it down the drain, you can distribute it across the soil to help your plants maintain their health.
The same process can be followed with water that is used to boil eggs, due to the amazing properties that the shells possess as mentioned earlier in this section. Just make sure that the water is completely cooled down before you pour it into the soil in order to avoid any damage or wilting that boiling water could cause to the plants.
Just like the lemons and oranges, banana peels can be especially useful in all types of gardens. They can either be composted or tossed directly onto the top of the soil for the best effects.
Some of the wonderful benefits that banana peels can provide to your garden are fertilization and insect repellent.
Other Fruit and Vegetable Scraps
Even though chopped up parts of used vegetables and fruits can be placed in a compost pile, they can also be blended up in your kitchen and distributed across your garden. This can include any kind of fruit or vegetable waste and is especially helpful for tomatoes and pepper plants.
Instead of throwing out your vegetable scraps after cooking dinner, you can place them in a blender or food processor and pour the mover the soil in your vegetable garden for an especially juicy and optimum harvest at the end of the season.
Compost Bins: How to Use Food Waste In Your Garden
Compost is categorized as an organic material that has been decomposed over time with the help of oxygen and water. These materials are usually made of leftover fruits and vegetables, which serve the purpose of providing nutrients to the soil and fertilizing the plants in a garden.
The use of compost also helps to moisturize the soil to provide more water and energy to the plants that are growing out of it. The most common method of creating a garden compost is to use something called a compost bin.
Creating compost within a compost bin is as simple as placing kitchen waste and food scraps into a large container and waiting for it to decompose. Over a series of chemical and physical reactions that the food waste will go through when it comes in contact with oxygen and water, it will eventually turn into very fine soil material.
Although homemade compost can be very beneficial to your plants and save you a lot of money on fertilizer, many people are hesitant to create their own organic materials because of all the work that is involved. However, composting can be much easier if you follow through with a simple planning process.
The first step involved in making your own compost is to find the most convenient location in which to start your pile. A common mistake that is made among beginning gardeners is placing this pile too far away from where the waste will come from, even though this could be easily avoided.
For example, if all of the waste for your fruit and vegetable compost pile will be coming from the kitchen, but your compost pile is located all the way across the yard, you will be more likely to just throw away your scraps instead of making the trip to composting them.
The most obvious solution for this problem would be to start your compost pile closer to the back door of the kitchen for increased convenience. Additionally, you should make sure your garden hose can reach the pile because you will need to water it every so often.
The best time of the year to begin a fresh new compost pile will be in the spring and summer seasons, so your compost pile should. Planned accordingly for the highest probability of success.
It is up to you whether you will leave your compost pile out in the open or place it in a container, but you should always know how large you would like the capacity to reach. It is faster to create a basic pile of food waste directly on the ground, but your organic materials will decompose fully in a more timely manner if they are placed in a compost bin instead.
Once your compost pile or bin has been created, you can place almost any kind of waste inside of it, however, you should always avoid anything that can rot or collect disease, and should keep a steady balance of brown and green materials. When in doubt, fill your compost pile with plant-based and organic materials such as fruits and vegetables, or anything that can be grown in a garden.
The waste in compost piles should be rotated and watered periodically on a schedule of every 4 to 6 weeks. The new compost can be shredded or left whole and will decompose faster with an increased presence of heat since the organic materials will need to completely rot in order to transform into a fertilizing substance.
Trench Composting: How to Use Kitchen Scraps for Gardening Without aCompost Bin
Many people fall victim to the common misconception that you can only use fruit and vegetable waste in your garden if you have a compost bin. However, kitchen waste and other organic matter can be used to provide nutrients to the soil without being composted at all.
In comparison to the traditional compost bin, this method is known as “trench composting.” In order to use kitchen waste in this way, there is not a lot of space that is needed. Additionally, the waste will not be visible from the ground level and will not fall victim to heating and rotting from the sun.
The first step involved in trench composting is obviously to dig the trench in which your organic waste matters will go into. The most ideal dimensions of an effective trench will be approximately 12inches deep into the ground.
Once your trench has been successfully created, you will be able to throw the scraps from your kitchen into the empty hole. The trench should be only half filled up with kitchen scraps before you cover it up. Anything above the halfway mark can be too close to the surface and potentially make your yard smell.
The best kitchen waste items to use in your garden are any kind of fruits and vegetables because they are filled with tons of natural and organic nutrients, as well as large percentages of water moisture.
The worst products to put in your soil, on the other hand, are the more unhealthy items that you might have in your kitchen. These items include bread and oils that will have a hard time breaking down below the ground level.
Additionally, you will not want to add anything to your trench that will become rotten and possibly attract unwanted guests to your garden. The kitchen waste products to absolutely avoid in your trench compost are any kind of rice, dairy or meat products.
Although this may seem self-explanatory, you should never place any kind of human or animal waste into your trench compost, as it will not be healthy for your soil or plants. Waste from the outside of your house such as sawdust should also be left out of your garden soil.
The only thing left to do after you have filled your trench up with all of the desired waste products from your kitchen is to cover the hole. Simply cover the trench back up with the dirt that was taken out of it and leave the waste to decompose itself under the ground.
Trench composting can be great for multiple seasons of gardening, with so many of your plants and crops benefitting from the organic vitamins and nutrients you have placed underneath the soil.
Since you will obviously not be able to dig your entire trench directly within your existing garden, you will need to move your garden around the yard every year for the seeds to be able to use the composted soil. The process of trench composting should be done at least once a year, and new seeds should always be planted in the areas you have already composted.
Alternatively, you can dig a more narrow trench insmaller areas between existing plants or around flowers and vegetables. Aspecial shovel tool would be ideal for this task to avoid any disturbance ofexisting soil and plants.
Why do certain plants require more acidic soil than others?
Just like almost any living thing on the earth, the soil on the ground holds a certain pH level throughout it. pH levels are a measurement of the concentration of hydrogen ions. The numbers on the pH scale are between 0 and 14, from the most acidic levels all the way to alkaline.
The soil is an essential material in every garden that provides water and nutrients to seeds and helps them to grow. However, not all soil will have the correct levels of acidity for each plant and will sometimes need to be changed for this reason.
As a result, you might come across certain plants throughout your gardening career that prefers more acidic soil in order to grow and produce the best possible results.
Some of the flowers and plants that require higher levels of acidity in the soil in which they grow include azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, gardenias, camellias, wood anemone, calla lilies, and pine trees.
On the other hand, the fruits and vegetables that thrive in highly acidic soil are blueberries, sweet potatoes, radishes, peppers, parsley, rhubarb, apples, and basil.
How can the acidity and alkalinity levels of soil be tested?
The first step that should always be taken before mixing any substances in with the soil in your garden is to test the current PH levels. It is important to get accurate information about the acidity or alkalinity of your soil before disturbing it chemically.
In order to get the best and most accurate results, you will need to send a sample of your soil off to a professional lab to get it tested. Although there are many options for home pH tests that you can easily perform yourself, there is much more room for error when this option is selected.
The home pH testing options include using testing strips, pouring vinegar and baking soda over the soil to get a reaction, or purchasing a real do-it-yourself pH test with a screen that will display the accurate levels.
The testing strips and vinegar and baking soda methods will only tell you whether your soil is more acidic or basic, instead of letting you know the exact number it falls into on the pH scale.
It is also very important to test the water that you use on your plants regularly. This can come from your garden hose or your kitchen sink, whatever the main source of water for your plants is should be tested before moving forward with testing the soil.
This is a necessary precaution to take, just in case the water from your garden hose is causing the problem, and a simple solution can be offered instead of altering the pH levels of the soil in your entire garden.
Is it possible to make the soil in a garden more acidic?
If you have accurately and correctly tested the pHlevels of your soil and the water from your garden hose and have found them tobe too alkaline for the needs of your garden, you will have to take actiontoward changing the soil’s pH levels yourself.
Soil can be acidified both chemically and naturally, using chemical elements or kitchen waste items that were mentioned in the above paragraphs.
A bag of elemental sulfur can be spread across the soil to reduce the pH level significantly by almost 4 numbers. However, this will not be a fast process in any way. This step should be taken at least one year before the planting season will begin to see any kind of substantial changes in the acidity.
Alternative methods of acidifying clay soil include using iron sulfate or sulfate of ammonia. Iron sulfate can be applied to the soil in the same way as elemental sulfur but will require almost 10 pounds for every 100 feet of soil in your garden. On top of that, it will only move the pHlevel down by just one number.
If you would rather use a more natural method of acidifying the soil in your garden, you can use white vinegar or fresh coffee grounds with an acidic pH level.
For the vinegar, you can mix one cup into a gallon of water and pour it over the top of the soil. One of the easiest ways to do this is to fill a watering can with this mixture and water your plants as you normally would.
If there is some type of irrigation system present in your garden already, you can add the vinegar there instead. This can be done by using an injector tool to insert the substance into the irrigation lines for a more even and hands-free distribution to all of the plants in your soil.
The natural pH of coffee grounds can be an average of 4.5 to around 8.5 on the scale. The type of coffee grounds you get and where you have purchased them from will have an effect on the pH levels they contain, so it is always important to make an informed purchase.
Coffee grounds can be used to acidify soil simply by being sprinkled over the top of the garden, but there are a few restrictions when it comes to this process. Fresh coffee grounds have the potential to possess a very acidic pH level, but this will not be true for coffee grounds that have already been used. In fact, after coffee grounds have been used they will lose a significant number of points on the pH scale and will no longer be useful in your garden.