How to Repurpose Food Scraps in Your Garden
Food waste is a major problem, with the average American household throwing away hundreds of dollars worth of edible food each year. As a gardener, you can help reduce food waste by repurposing food scraps in your garden. Not only is this good for the environment, but it can also improve your soil and produce robust plants. In this guide, I will discuss different ways to recycle food scraps into your garden, as well as tips for using them effectively.
Composting is the most common way to reuse food waste in the garden. Many types of food scraps can be added to a compost pile, including:
- Fruit and vegetable peels
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags
- Nut shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Grass clippings
Compost adds valuable organic matter to soil. It slowly releases nutrients to plants and helps retain moisture in the soil. To start composting, build or purchase a compost bin or pile. Mix green materials (food scraps, grass clippings) with brown materials (leaves, cardboard) in layers. Turn or stir the pile occasionally and keep it moist. In 4-6 months, it will turn into rich compost for your garden.
Bokashi is a composting method that ferments food scraps anaerobically (without oxygen). It uses a special inoculant containing microorganisms that help break down the scraps. Bokashi allows you to compost meat, dairy, and cooked food – items regular compost piles cannot handle well.
To bokashi compost, add food waste to a special fermentation bucket, sprinkling inoculant on each layer. Seal the bucket to keep air out. After a few weeks, the fermented scraps can be buried in soil to finish decomposing. Bokashi compost improves soil structure and adds beneficial microbes.
Direct Soil Application
Certain food scraps can be buried directly in garden beds as you produce them. Good options include:
- Crushed eggshells – Add calcium
- Citrus peels – Deter pets from digging
- Banana peels – Provide potassium
- Coffee grounds – Increase acidity
Bury the items 2-6 inches deep. Over time, they will decompose and enrich the soil. Pay attention to pests, as some may be attracted to the fresh scraps.
Sheet mulching involves layering compostable materials directly on top of the soil, where they slowly break down. Collect food waste in a bucket over days or weeks. When ready, spread the scraps in a 2-4 inch layer in a garden bed and cover with burlap sacks or cardboard to block light.
The food waste will compost in place, feeding the soil below. After a few months, pull back the cover and plant. Sheet mulching with food scraps builds excellent planting beds.
Vermicomposting uses worms to break down food waste. Red wigglers are ideal composting worms. Keep them in a bin with bedding like shredded paper or leaves. Bury food scraps under the bedding and the worms will consume them, producing nutrient-rich worm castings. Vermicompost contains higher levels of nutrients than traditional compost.
Ideal foods for vermicomposting include fruit and veggie scraps, bread, coffee grounds, and egg shells. Avoid meats, dairy, oils, and spices. Keep the worm bin moist and in a warm area. In 3-6 months, the rich castings can be harvested for your garden.
Tips for Using Food Scraps
To safely and effectively use food waste in your garden, keep these tips in mind:
- Chop or shred scraps to increase surface area for decomposition
- Bury scraps under at least 2 inches of soil or compost to deter pests
- Avoid cooking oils and meat scraps to prevent odor and pest issues
- Alternate location of buried scraps to prevent nutrient imbalances
- Allow at least 2 months for scraps to compost before planting in the area
- Mix composted scraps into soil – do not leave clumps
- Monitor for odors and pests; adjust burying depth if issues arise
Repurposing food waste not only benefits the environment, but enhances your garden soil and produce as well. Composting, bokashi, vermicomposting, and direct soil application offer diverse options for recycling food scraps naturally. With proper management, you can drastically reduce waste while cultivating robust, healthy plants. A food scrap recycling system is easy to implement and offers lasting rewards for your gardening efforts.