Bananas are a delicious source of many nutrients our bodies need, but when we’re done with them, nearly half the fruit is thrown away. At a minimum, most of us will at least compost the peels to eventually unlock and add those nutrients back into our gardens.
But for an immediate boost, or maybe for those indoor growers who don’t have access to a compost pile, we can actually tap into these free organic nutrients – and one in particular – in three easy ways. Here’s how.
What’s In A Banana Peel That Makes It So Special
We have to look at the biology of plants to understand why this one fruit and not the hundreds of other fruit skins that we discard every day. We know that plants require dozens of elements, compounds and nutrients to function and thrive, let alone produce viable crops for us. But there are three specific elements that are required in larger amounts than any other – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Banana skins, while having moderate amounts of calcium, phosphorus, manganese and even trace nitrogen, are known to be disproportionately higher in potassium.
But unlike its two sister macronutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus, organic sources of potassium are not as readily available to the backyard gardener. Cue the banana peels – potassium is used by plants to sustain growth and specifically aids our crops by increasing root structure, improving drought tolerance, increasing disease resistance, and is necessary by photosynthesis itself.
Three Ways To Use Banana Peels In The Garden
1. At the Bottom of Pots and Containers
This is as crude as it gets. When potting up new plants, it’s best to chop the banana peel up into pieces so they can decompose faster. I find this solution less than ideal and really at this point, I’d rather just put the peel on the compost and let the entire garden benefit.
2. Powdered Fertilizer
It’s really easy to make a powdered fertilizer from banana peels. Dehydrate the skins to the point of them being completely hard and crumbly – you can use a dehydrator, your oven, or even just set them outside in the sun for a couple of days if your climate is warm enough. Once your peels are dry, crush them using a mortar and pestle into a fine powder. This powder can then be used as a fantastic organic potassium soil amendment. I apply mine at a ratio of one tablespoon per gallon of soil and I do that once per crop cycle. You can mix the powder in with your favorite potting soils, or you can add it to the topsoil of existing pots or crop rows.
I also love to mix the powder with rock dust at a one to one ratio and amend my micro green soil with it. The plants go absolutely nuts over it – I’m not joking!
3. Liquid Fertilizer
This one is even easier than the powder – it requires no extra machinery, heat, or even manpower. Simply soak the skins completely submerged at room temperature for at least two weeks.
The longer you soak them, the more nutrients are going to be extracted, but I find two to three weeks to be the ideal trade-off between time, smell, space, and the amount of nutrients that you’re actually getting.
Strain off the spent peels (putting them in the compost, of course) and then use the liquid at a one-to-one strength for either a foliar feed or just watering in your plants directly. Foliar feeding can get the nutrients into your plant slightly faster, so if you think they need an immediate boost, this could be a great way to inject that potassium right into the crop right away.
Whichever method you choose – foliar feed or direct watering – just know that it’s completely safe. Unlike synthetic chemical fertilizers, at no concentration are you really in danger of burning your plants. To me, that says something.
Bananas are great and the potassium boost that they can give us and our plants is fantastic. Just don’t mistake this as a complete fertilizing solution – at best, this is a really good way to add some free organic water-soluble potassium to our soils and gardens.
It’s not a replacement for our compost or complete potting soils or their amendments, but it is another tool in our arsenal to grow the best fruits and veggies in a self-sufficient, sustainable way. It does work, however, and I’ve seen the benefits first hand. I hope you will too!