There are several reasons that banana waste would be a great source of plant nutrition, but you might be wise to avoid using banana peel fertilizer in organic gardening. In any garden, really. Knowing what I do about the banana industry I wouldn’t even put them in the flower garden or the compost pile. There’s some things you need to know about this DIY fertilizer, especially for those frugal souls out there trying to make a small budget stretch.
Banana Skins Are Toxic
Not the skin itself, but the pesticides applied to them on the plantations have made them unsafe. Are they are organic bananas? Did you grow them yourself, or pick them in the wild? Only then would the peels be safe to compost or use for fertilizer.
The familiar market banana, the big yellow ones sold the world over, are brought to harvest only by using a boatload of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The only crop that is grown using more insecticides and fungicides is cotton. Banana growers are all located in developing countries, and use pesticides that are banned in North America and Europe. If it was banned in the leading countries of the world – you know it’s toxic stuff. And while most of the food on your store shelves is grown without these pesticides, most bananas still are. The skins are coated with chemicals, and some are absorbed clear through into the part you eat. The FDA has tested bananas and found only 4 pesticides to be present in the edible part of the fruit, and at apparently safe levels, since they are still for sale in the USA, and in every other country on Earth. But they didn’t test the skin, and why would they? No one eats banana peels, but if you’re composting them or adding them to your garden, those chemicals will stay in the soil.
The Skinny On Bananas
It takes over 400 agrochemicals to bring a banana crop to harvest. FOUR HUNDRED. While some of those will be fertilizer, most of them are used to stop pests and diseases from ruining the crop. Market banana plants are needy things! They deplete the soil, because they are heavy feeders, so it takes a lot of fertilizer input to pull repetitious harvests out of a banana field year after year. The fruits are rich in potassium only because they consume a lot of it themselves. Banana farmers have to restore adequate amounts of things the fruit is rich in continually to produce an ample harvest of big, beautiful bananas for export.
Then there is the nature of the banana variety that produces these particular fruits, and how they get new plants. Every banana plantation in the world that grows market bananas has the exact same plant. They are weak, and sickly too, because every one of them is a clone of a single freak banana plant. Bananas that have no seeds can only be propagated by division or tissue culture. It takes a lot longer for a tissue culture banana plant to produce fruit than it does a division of a mature plant. So the majority of plantations get new plants by dividing established ones.
Since they are all identical duplicates they have no resistance to disease. Banana growers make up for this weakness with an artillery of chemicals. Chemicals that have destroyed the environment around banana plantations – the rain forests, the water, the air, and the soil. The portion of the harvest that is not of a quality that will be accepted for export is piled on the plantation – a toxic soup compost pile. Between the continual overhead spraying of all these pesticides and the rotting waste of imperfect harvested fruits the soil is contaminated.
And you want to put this in your garden or compost pile? Feed it to your worms? Make banana peel tea? No organic gardener wants to contaminate their soil, or their plants with an additive that has this many chemicals applied to it. Even conventional gardeners wouldn’t if they knew better, because some of them compost too to improve their soils drainage or moisture holding qualities. Whatever you put in your soil winds up inside your plants, and some of these chemicals never go away. They were banned for good reason, and are harmful to one or more of the following: humans, the environment, and wildlife.
You Don’t Need Banana Peel Fertilizer
If you’re not buying organic bananas, then you need to use other sources of potassium fertilizer. There are plenty of other sources of potassium (K) for your garden and compost pile. Consider these as a start:
- Greensand (0-0-3)
- Granite Dust (0-0-3.0 to 5.5)
- Hardwood Ashes (0-1 to 10-0)
- Potato Skin Ash (0-5.18-27.5)
- Alfalfa Meal (2-1-2)
- Pea Pod Ash (0-3.0-9.0)
- Kelp Meal (1-0-1.2)
- Cucumber Skin Ash (0-11.28-27.2)
- Coffee Grounds (2.0-0.36-0.67)
- Sheep Manure (0.7-0.3-0.9)
Maybe it’s time to start drying out peels of organic fruits and vegetables and burning them. As you know, the skin of fruits and vegetables contain the highest concentration of nutrients – for you, and the soil. It just so happens that their ashes is an ample source of water soluble potash or potassium. Look at the numbers HERE – or learn the NPK of everything HERE.
Put your dehydrator to use 😉 Burn the dried to a crisp peels in an old pie cake pan and you’ll have a safe source of potassium from kitchen waste that your plants can access immediately. But be sure to use only organic fruit and vegetables to do this with, otherwise it’s not organic gardening.
Want To Know More About Bananas?
There’s an article about bananas in the Spring 2016 issue of Garden Culture Magazine (UK 11 / US 9) that you’ll be glad you read. It will be available on Our Magazines page soon.