Interested in learning how to make banana peel compost tea? Before you get too far down the road, consider if it’s actually effective and the best option for your plants and the soil.
Banana peel compost tea might be overrated; I think there are better options to feed your plants and amend the soil. Read on to find out if banana peel liquid fertilizer is the right answer for your blossoming blooms.
Banana peel compost tea is a hot trend in the compost world. I first started seeing banana peel compost tea on social media about a year ago. While it looks pretty on the ‘gram, the oversimplified recipe of banana peels and water in an airtight glass jar to make rich compost tea seemed dubious to me.
Despite my hesitations, I tried out this banana water trend and experienced disappointing results, to say the least. Since sharing that initial post, I have received many helpful (and not so helpful) comments from readers also interested in this trending sustainability hack.
While I’m pretty certain the simple but Instagram-friendly recipe for banana peel compost tea is ineffective at best (and gnat-breeding at worst), I’m inclined to believe that properly-managed, aerated banana peel compost tea might be a reasonable liquid fertilizer for flowering plants.
Why Social Media’s Version of Banana Peel Compost Tea Doesn’t Work
First, let’s debunk the popular ‘banana water in an upcycled jar’ sustainability magic. I can’t imagine how this would actually work.
In order to make nutrients in food waste accessible to soil and plants, the effective breakdown of food scraps requires oxygen. Even Bokashi composting, which is specifically designed to thrive with anaerobic bacteria during the initial fermentation process, requires oxygen during the last stages of decomposition to work properly.
Banana peels drowning in water in an airtight container prohibit effective growth and reproduction of aerobic microorganisms that break down the banana peels.
Furthermore, pretty Pinterest or Instagram banana peel liquid fertilizer apparently takes just a few days to make. I know that banana peels break down pretty quickly relative to other types of food scraps. It’s precisely why we prefer them over other food scraps in this landfill emissions demonstration experiment over at Raising Global Kidizens (a sustainability education company I co-founded). But knowing that most forms of compost take weeks or even months to process, the timeline of this method seems suspect to me.
Will Aerated Banana Peel Compost Tea Work?
Many readers of my initial banana peel liquid fertilizer post commented that they use banana peel compost tea effectively in their gardens. They offered anecdotal evidence that their plants flowered and bloomed better than ever after using banana water liquid fertilizer. Maybe… but compared to what control? How do they really know?
While none of them could refer to scientific analysis or studies that supported the effectiveness of banana peel compost tea, I suspect that well-managed, aerated banana peel compost tea might work. I can’t say for sure because I haven’t tried to make it, but the method makes sense. Yet I’m still not sure it’s that great in the grand scheme of soil amendment alternatives.
Aerated Compost Teas in General
Aerated liquid compost teas are definitely legit. Plenty of composting experts have shared recipes and detailed their extensive experience with useful compost tea methods in books, in podcasts, and online.
The book Compost Teas for the Organic Grower by Eric Fisher provides detailed recipes and analysis of compost teas made with rhubarb leaf, marestail, garlic, onion, marigold, and more. Notably, there is no mention of banana peel compost tea anywhere in the book, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work.
Troy Hinke of Living Roots Compost Tea has a series of podcast episodes called What’s Brewing on the Farm Small Farm Smart podcast show. In these episodes, he takes a deep dive into compost teas: what they are, how they work, how to make them, and more.
If you’re interested in making your own compost tea, Hinke has several episodes that dive into step-by-step instructions about how to make good compost tea. As you might expect, none of them say “leave banana peels in an airtight jar for a few days on your counter.”
It’s worth noting that most of the compost tea recipes and methods I’ve seen require extensive aeration, or continued addition of oxygen over time, using something like an aquarium air pump (what basically looks like a bubble blowing machine). You could probably achieve aeration through regular stirring as well, but that could be a fairly manual process.
It’s possible someone has made an effective compost tea without adequate aeration, but it’s not the norm. And it’s definitely not in a jar sitting on the counter.
Is Banana Peel Compost Tea Worth The Effort?
Before diving headfirst into a batch of banana peel compost tea, consider if it’s worth the effort. Compost tea is often most useful to extend the fertilization impacts of a set amount of active and microbial-rich compost. By using finished compost or other feedstocks to create a compost tea, soil managers can spread a compost tea filled with biodiverse microbes and rich in nutrients across a larger swathe of soil or growing space than they might be able to treat with compost itself.
This works well for a compost tea full of varied nutrients to feed microorganisms in the soil. Bananas, however, are not a complete source of nutrients for the soil. Bananas offer lots of potassium, manganese, and other nutrients, but they lack significant nitrogen, one of the most important elements in healthy soil.
In other words, banana peel compost tea is not a complete fertilizer. If a soil test indicates that your plants only need additional potassium, a compost tea made from banana peels may fit the bill. But if you’re looking for a more broad soil amendment, you’ll need another type of compost or compost tea to complement the banana peel compost tea in order to give the soil a full array of necessary nutrients.
In short, if you’re looking to add general amendments to your soil, banana peel compost tea is not your most efficient option. A compost tea made from a wider array of feedstocks will naturally provide a more diverse combination of nutrients and beneficial microbes.
Does Banana Peel Compost Tea Actually Work?
If you’re an avid gardener, botanist, farmer, or soil manager, and a soil test confirmed a specific shortage of potassium relative to the needs of the plants you’re growing, you may be able to make good use of potassium-rich banana peel compost tea. Some plants do love a burst of potassium-rich liquid fertilizer. But only dedicated plant experts will likely know when, how often, and how much banana peel compost tea to apply and to which specific potassium-loving plants.
For most of us, however, who are simply doing our best to keep plants alive and blooming, banana peel compost tea is overly fancy (if effective). Banana water alone will not suffice to satiate a plant’s thirst for nutrients. Plants need other compost or fertilizer to thrive. Even if banana peel compost tea works, most of us don’t know how to make it or use it properly. There are far better and easier alternatives for amateur plant parents to feed their blooming plant babies.
What To Do With Banana Peels Instead of Making Banana Peel Compost Tea
If you’re looking to reduce food waste and tired of chucking banana peels into the trash, consider using banana peels in other ways. Besides banana peel compost tea, you might consider:
- Composting banana peels in a bin or bucket straight away. There are loads of different ways to compost your food scraps depending on where you live and the resources to which you have access.
- Eating banana peels. Did you know that was a thing? You can puree banana peels right into your smoothies. You can also bake recipes like banana peel bread and banana peel blank.
- Burying your banana peels. If a traditional compost bin isn’t your style, consider trench composting, through which you dig holes and bury your food scraps directly in the ground. It’s simple, effective, and critter-free. If you have the means, you can even ferment food scraps in a Bokashi bucket before burying them to expedite decomposition.
Banana peel compost tea is only a partial solution to the food waste dilemma anyway. After letting the banana peels soak in water, they still need a permanent home. Hopefully, that’s a compost system of some sort.
We know all too well that our trash cans (and ultimately the landfill or incinerator) are not the best options for food scraps. Without proper access to oxygen, food scraps generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas and contributor to climate change. Compostable items also make up over a third of the waste languishing in our landfills. We can do better (and banana peel compost tea isn’t really an effective solution).
Aerated Banana Peel Compost Tea Recipe
If you’re still set on making banana peel compost tea, the easiest compost tea mechanism is a DIY aerated system in a 5-gallon bucket. There are many tutorials online to make your own DIY aerated compost tea brewing bucket.
Additionally, the compost tea book I mentioned earlier by Eric Fisher has simple DIY instructions to make a 5-gallon bucket compost tea aerated system with an air pump.
After you’ve made your own DIY compost team bucket, generic instructions to make DIY banana peel compost tea are as follows:
- Hang the bananas in a mesh bag below the level of the water from a bar laying across the top of the bucket.
- Let the air pump bubble the water for 3 – 4 days.
- When the compost tea gets frothy, it should be ready for use.
- Compost the banana peels.
Note that I have not made this banana peel compost tea. I don’t think I will, because (as I mentioned above), I don’t think it’s the best option for my garden or for most gardens. I just want to include the recipe to give a general idea of how the process works in theory.
If you’d like to try to make your own banana peel compost tea, I recommend testing out some recipes from other sources online or books you find at your local library.
Have You Made Banana Peel Compost Tea?
If you’ve made banana peel compost tea and had success, I’d love to hear how you did it. Leave a note in the comments with a link to your favorite tutorial, some tips for your favorite recipe, or how you knew that your banana peel compost tea worked for your soil and plants.
So far, I’m not convinced it’s all it’s cracked up to be. I think there are better and easier ways to amend the soil and help plants thrive.
About The Author
Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.
You can find more of her work at WasteWell, a company that provides composting resources and local curbside compost collection services, and Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.