7 Ways to Upcycle Food Scraps in Your Garden
Turning food scraps into treasure for your garden is easier than you think. With a little creativity, you can upcycle kitchen leftovers and turn them into nutritious additions for your plants. Here are 7 ways to upcycle food scraps in your garden:
1. Make Compost
Composting is the classic way to recycle food waste. Collect your fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, and more in a compost bin or pile. Over time, these materials will break down into rich, organic compost to mix into your garden beds.
Compost feeds beneficial microbes in the soil, improves drainage and aeration, and slowly releases nutrients to plant roots. It’s one of the best amendments for helping plants thrive. I like to add a couple shovels of finished compost to my vegetable gardens each spring and fall.
Some key tips for composting food scraps:
- Chop or shred large items like corn cobs to speed decomposition.
- Mix “green” nitrogen-rich waste (food scraps, grass clippings) with “brown” carbon-rich waste (dead leaves, straw).
- Turn or stir the pile occasionally to circulate air.
- Keep the compost moist but not saturated.
In as little as 2-3 months, you can have finished compost to use around your yard and gardens!
2. Feed Worms
For faster waste recycling, try a vermicomposting system right in your kitchen! This involves using red wiggler worms to eat through food scraps in a bin, turning them into exceptional worm castings. The castings are like super-charged compost you can sprinkle around your plants.
I keep a small worm bin under my sink. I add a bit of food waste each day, such as produce trimmings, crushed eggshells, and soggy bread. The worms demolish these leftovers within a few weeks!
Vermicompost contains higher levels of nutrients than traditional compost. It also has beneficial microorganisms that boost plant growth. Use about 1 cup of worm castings per square foot of garden space. Your plants will reward you with bigger blooms and abundant vegetables.
3. Make Garden Mulch
Turn food discards into garden mulch with a simple technique. Place scraps like citrus peels, apple cores, broccoli stalks, carrot tops, and stale bread in a blender or food processor. Pulse into smaller pieces.
Spread a layer of processed food waste in empty garden beds or around the base of plants. The mulch will slowly break down and enrich the soil. It helps retain moisture, keeps down weeds, and adds organic matter.
I like to save my food processing for the end of the week. A few pulses in the blender turns potential waste into garden treasure! Coffee grounds and crushed eggshells also make excellent mineral-rich mulch.
4. Bury Kitchen Leftovers
For a direct dose of nutrients, bury your food discards right where your plants can use them. Vegetables love nitrogen-rich kitchen scraps worked into the soil around their roots.
I simply dig holes or trenches between rows and add food waste like crushed eggshells, fruit and vegetable ends, tea bags, and coffee grounds. Then I cover everything back up with soil.
As the food decomposes, its nutrients go directly to the plant roots. This trench composting builds up my garden beds over time. It’s zero waste and free fertilizer!
5. Make DIY Seed Starters
Give discarded food scraps new purpose by using them to grow seedlings! Many fruit and vegetable pieces can be upcycled into DIY seed starters.
Some of my favorites include:
- Avocado halves – Clean out the inside and fill with soil to grow petite seedlings.
- Citrus peels – Fill with soil and use as mini planters to start herbs and flowers.
- Eggshells – Carefully fill cleaned shells with soil and add seeds.
- Melon halves – Scoop out and grow starts in these nutrient-rich bowls.
These biodegradable vessels gently decompose as the plants grow. Then you can transfer the seedlings directly to the garden without disturbing their roots. It cuts down on waste while letting you grow more plants!
6. Create Garden Teas
Steep food scraps in water to make fertilizing garden teas. Leave waste like banana peels, apple cores, and celery ends in rainwater or dechlorinated water for 1-2 weeks. The nutrients will infuse into the water, creating a mild liquid fertilizer for plants.
Strain out the solids and pour the leftover “tea” at the base of plants. The nutrients will help feed flowers, herbs, vegetables, and more as the plants drink up the enriched water. This helps reduce waste while giving your plants a nutrient boost.
7. Attract Pollinators
Certain food scraps can be used to draw helpful creatures like bees and butterflies to your garden. They will happily feast on these leftovers.
- Overripe fruit – Place cut up fruit scraps in a shallow dish and set outdoors to attract pollinators.
- Stale bread – Toast bread crusts and spread with a thin layer of honey or jam. Hang in fruit trees or bushes.
- Sugar water – Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water and pour into a shallow dish for butterflies.
Attracting pollinators benefits the whole garden by increasing pollination. And giving food waste new life as bee and butterfly snacks keeps it out of landfills. It’s a win-win for my garden and the planet!
By getting creative with leftovers, you can nourish your garden instead of trashing food scraps. Try composting, worm composting, burying, mulching, and crafting seed starters. Your plants will love the meals you make from unused food! With a little imagination, it’s easy to upcycle many kitchen scraps to boost your garden and reduce waste.