6 Kitchen Scraps You Can Use in the Garden, According to Experts

From coffee grounds to banana peels, use your food scraps to improve soil quality, repel pests, and more.

<p>SbytovaMN / Getty Images</p>

SbytovaMN / Getty Images

Rather than throwing your kitchen scraps away, use them in your garden instead. Many of the items that don't make it into your meals can be used for everything from keeping pests and animals away from your plants to boosting the nutrients in your soil. Here, gardening experts share a few common kitchen scraps you can use to boost the overall health of your garden.

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Egg Shells

Don't throw out your eggshells after cracking them—crush them up and sprinkle them over your garden beds instead. "Eggshells are almost entirely made of calcium carbonate; this provides calcium, but the carbonate will neutralize soil acidity and make the soil more alkaline," says Damon Abdi of the Hammond Research Station at Louisiana State University's AgCenter. "This is good for some plants, as it provides calcium and can be used to lime the soil (make it more alkaline) if it gets too acidic." But avoid using eggshells around acid-loving plants like azaleas.

Spicy Foods

Try placing spicy scraps near plants to help deter pests. While some food scraps can attract animals, like raccoons, possums, and rats, others can emit odors or contain compounds that repel them. "Spicy peppers, such as chili peppers or jalapeños, contain capsaicin, a compound that repels mammals and insects," says Carrie Spoonemore, co-creator of Park Seed's From Seed to Spoon app. Be sure to monitor their effectiveness and adjust your methods to see what works best for you.

Citrus Peels

Another food scrap you can use to prevent animals from bothering your plants is citrus peels. "Citrus peels, such as those from oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, contain natural compounds that repel ants, aphids, and cats," says Spoonemore. "Scatter citrus peels around the base of plants or use them to create a barrier to deter unwanted animals. Reapply the peels as the scent may fade."

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds can contribute helpful nutrients to your soil. After brewing your coffee, sprinkle the grounds around the base of your plants. However, you should avoid spreading thick layers of coffee grounds, as it is a fine textured material that can block water and airflow, says Abdi.

Banana Peels

Use banana peels to feed plants—they are rich in potassium, phosphorus, and calcium, which are essential nutrients for plant growth. "Burying banana peels in the soil allows them to decompose gradually, releasing these nutrients into the surrounding soil," says Spoonemore. "Chopping them finely beforehand also speeds up the decomposition process." Bury banana scraps a few inches deep near the base of plants to minimize attraction to animals.

Vegetable Scraps

Hold onto vegetables like lettuce, celery, and root vegetables and use them to grow vegetables in your garden from their leftover roots or stems. "Place the scraps in 1/3 cup of water and place them in full sunlight," says Spoonemore. "With time, new roots and shoots will develop. Transplant into the garden for continued growth."

Related: How to Grow Celery from Scraps

Read the original article on Martha Stewart.