Most plant-based materials can be composted, either industrially or in a backyard composter. However, some materials have characteristics that require special handling. This includes most kinds of food scraps, which are more prone than yard waste to create odors and attract pests. Fruit peelings are an excellent example. They can be composted outdoors in a traditional pile or bin or indoors in a worm bin, but it's important to respect their special requirements.
Chop your fruit peels, scraps and trim pieces into small pieces before composting them, especially tough varieties such as citrus peel and melon rinds. They'll decompose more quickly, with less risk of creating odors or attracting pests.
Bury your fruit peels at least 10 inches deep in the pile. Covering the fruit waste will also help reduce odor and pest problems.
Layer your fruit scraps with carbon-rich "brown" ingredients such as straw, hay, dry leaves or sawdust. These balance the nitrogen-rich fruit, helping keep the pile balanced and its beneficial bacteria active.
Chop your fruit waste into small pieces before adding it to the worm bin. Smaller pieces are easier for the worms to consume.
Add no more than a half-pound of waste to the bin for each pound of resident redworms. That's as much as they can eat in a day, so adding more increases the risk of flies and odors.
Bury citrus peel and banana peel deep in the bin. They often contain fruit fly eggs and larvae, and burying the peels minimizes the fruit fly population (see Reference 2, page 14).
Cover the surface of the bin's soil with plastic wrap to further reduce the likelihood of fruit flies (see References 3).
- If you find that fruit flies have populated your vermicomposting bin, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental protection recommends building a banana-peel trap. Place a banana peel in a clear plastic container and make several small holes in the lid with a toothpick or finishing nail. Place it near your bin. Within 24 hours, you'll have trapped most of the fruit flies and can release them outdoors (see References 4).
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.