Bananas may be a near-perfect food because they are easy to store and can be used in many ways, but they make a lot of waste. The peel of a banana makes up more than a third of its weight. It would be great to get something good out of it, wouldn’t it?
It’s not a crazy thought. Banana peels can be used to feed animals or blended into smoothies (wash them first, since pesticides are used a lot in banana production). Vegans who work hard even make “carnitas” out of banana peels.
If you don’t want to eat the peels, maybe there are other ways to use them before you throw them away. If you’re a gardener like me, you might have heard about banana peel water on “garden Twitter” and other social media sites. No, not to drink. To give your plants food.
It’s a simple idea. Put water in a jar, put banana peels in the water, and wait. Two days later, put the water in your watering can and use it to water your plants.
Does it work? Does the idea have any basis in science? I decided to try it out on two houseplants and ask a master gardener about it.
Are Banana Peels Good for Plants?
Yes, but probably not through banana water.
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Banana peels are made of organic matter, which is just a fancy word for the remains of carbon-based life. This could be dead plant leaves and roots, dead animal parts, or waste. Organic matter is a big part of healthy soil because it gives plants nutrients that they can take up and send to other parts of the plant.
But before plants can use organic matter, it has to be broken down into chemical elements like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients are used by plants in the form of certain ions that must be close to the roots. What’s the point until the elements can be used by plants?
Think about a pile of rotten food. You put eggshells, banana peels, and coffee grounds in the pile and turn it every so often. After a while, all of those scraps break down into something else that is rich and full of nutrients. Depending on the conditions, it can take months or even years to make good compost.
If it takes the right mix of microbes, air, and water to turn organic matter into nutrients, then letting a banana peel steep for a day might not do the same thing.
If you boil banana peels, you might be able to get potassium out of them to help people with kidney disease. But without a controlled process, it’s impossible to figure out how much nutrients are in homemade banana water.
Still, what’s the harm? It’s just a banana peel. Putting a peel in water must be good for plants in some way. The University of Maryland Extension says that there have been no studies that show that water from banana peels is good for plant growth.
So, yes, banana peels can give plants what they need to grow. But no, there is no proof that putting a banana peel in water for a day or two will help.
How to Help Plants with Banana Peels
The best way to use banana peels for plants is to add them to your compost pile or put them in a countertop compost bin. Then, use the nutrient-rich compost to top-dress houseplants or strengthen the soil in your garden. Also, you should cut up the peels. When organisms have more space to work on, organic matter breaks down faster.
Since houseplants can live their whole lives in one pot, they use up the nutrients in potting soil pretty quickly. If your houseplant has been in the same pot for a while, it might be time to re-pot it.
If it’s happy where it is or really big and hard to move, put compost on top. To keep the pot from getting too full, you might have to scrape away a little bit of the soil at the top.
Compost is also good for the garden, but you should test the soil first. Putting in too many nutrients is bad for the soil and the plants.
If you want to know if you can just throw banana peels into the ground, which is another popular Internet trend, don’t bother. It’s not a good way to get nutrients to the roots of plants. Fruit and peels that have gone bad will break down over time, but they make the soil unstable and attract pests.
The verdict: Did giving plants banana water work?
Inconclusive. Banana water didn’t hurt my ponytail palm or dracaena. They’re doing fine, but I’m not sure if I can tell a difference in how they look. For a few weeks, they drank water that tasted like bananas, but that was about it.
There were no gnats or other bugs on me. I didn’t kill my plants. These things are good. But I think I’ll just keep throwing the peels in the compost bin.
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