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Can You Compost Garlic?

By: Angelia Daugirda

Can You Compost Garlic?

If you are new to composting or have been doing it for years, you may have heard that composting garlic is a no go!  Well, that is far from the truth and with a bit of insight, you can carry on and keep composting your garlic scraps without worry!


Can you Compost Garlic?  

No need to stress, every single part of garlic is totally compostable!  You can even compost rotten and sprouting garlic!  You have probably heard otherwise, and yes, there are some limitations, but relax, it isn’t rocket science! Garlic’s strong smell can even be a bonus for some compost systems!

 

 

Can you Compost Garlic Peels?

Garlic peels are the easiest and fastest part of garlic to break down.  The paper-like outer covering on a garlic bulb is so light and delicate that it will rapidly break down in any composting system, even a worm bin.  No need to worry about smell because garlic peels rarely take on that pungent garlicky smell that make the cloves so well known.


Can you Compost Garlic Skin?

As we inch our way through the layers of garlic, the garlic skin is the closest to the garlic cloves, thus coming with a little garlicky kick once removed from the clove.  No worries, you can even compost the garlic skins While they are a bit tougher and more fibrous than the garlic peels, go ahead and toss them in with the rest of your kitchen scraps that are headed for your compost bin.  

 

 

Can you Compost Garlic cloves?

This is the stinky part!  Here is where everyone gets all hung up on the many reasons why you cannot compost garlic. The clove's strong scent  and the natural decomposition of garlic emits sulfur compounds that could potentially deter some of our beneficial garden friends, like worms.  


The key is knowing how much you can add If you have a large cold composting bin or closed bin system, like a compost tumbler, worrying about worms is totally irrelevant.  If you are adding your kitchen scraps to a worm bin, go easy on the garlic cloves and do a little test to see how much garlic your worms will tolerate.  If the worms shy away from the garlic clove, then listen to your hardworking friends and skip adding garlic cloves to your worm bin. 


As for all of the other composting systems, go for it! In fact, the pungent smell of garlic can be a great deterrent for common compost bin visitors like rodents, pesky insects and even racoons and skunks.  

 

 

Can you Compost cooked Garlic?

This is a funny one, and yes you can generally compost your cooked garlic unless it is heavily soaked in oils or butter, or combined with animal products like dairy and meat.  Leftovers like cheesy garlic bread, garlic oils, garlic confit, garlic shrimp, and garlic parmesan pasta, to name a few, should be avoided.  These are not compost bin friendly combos and can throw off the natural balance of your compost.  Remember, things like dairy and meat should never go into your compost bin anyway.  Due to the high protein and fat content of meat and dairy, they may break down at drastically different rates than other scraps in a compost bin, and could potentially attract unwanted scavengers and pests.  


Can you Compost Rotten Garlic?

Garlic in all of its forms can be composted, even rotten garlic!  It happens.  You found a nasty rotten bulb of garlic hidden beneath other vegetables and it is too far gone to save it, now what?.  All good, it can be composted and come back as amazing fertilizer for your garden.  Rotten or not, it is organic matter that will add to the pile, and since it is already rotten, it has a head start on the process!

 

 

How To Compost Rotten Garlic?

Simply tuck that old bulb down inside of your compost bin and in a few months there will be no signs of it.  If there happens to be one single clove in that bulb that is not totally rotten, it may sprout. So, tucking it down inside of the compost is a good idea so it doesn’t try to grow into a new bulb.  With the help of heat, absence of light, some amazing microbes and time, that rotten bulb will break down faster.  Plus, being rotten means that there are some microbes already hard at work breaking it down.  Nothing like a head start before hitting the compost bin. 


Remember, the size of the kitchen scraps that go into the compost bin do dictate how quickly everything breaks down.  Tiny pieces decay way faster than whole pieces or large chunks. If you are worried that a whole bulb will take too long, you can take a good size kitchen knife and chop it up a bit before adding it, but this is optional!


If you plan on tossing rotten garlic into your worm bin, you may want to think twice.  That could be super offensive to your worms.  In this case, go ahead and mix it in with your yard waste, cold compost system, or your closed compost bin.  No need to irritate your worms with a sulfur overload. The last thing you want is for them to stop doing their job.  Only feed them what they love!


Issues With Composting Garlic

Composting is nature’s most natural way to feed the soil and continue the cycle of life.  It is absolutely genius.  The only challenge is when us humans try to over do it and act like we know it all.  Yes, there can be some issues with composting garlic in all of its forms.


Firstly, if you toss whole bulbs in there, they may sprout.  Not that they would really grow into beautiful new garlic bulbs, but if the conditions are right, they may start growing, and not breaking down like we intended.  If this is the case, simply tuck them further down in the bin, cover them well and hopefully the absence of light will deter them from growing. 


Secondly, most alliums, like garlic and onions, may not be welcomed additions to a worm bin.  The strong sulfur emission of rotting garlic could potentially deter your worms from enjoying their job, and thus leaving you with rotting kitchen scraps and not decomposing kitchen scraps.  The best way to know is to test your worms’ reaction to garlic by only adding small amounts of it to the worm bin.  If they don’t seem to mind, then go ahead and keep adding it.  If it goes untouched, then remove it and simply toss your garlic scraps into another compost bin!  

 

 

How Much Garlic Is Too Much To Compost?  

If you have a large quantity, it would be wise to add it to a big open cold composting bin outdoors or to a closed hot composter, like a tumbler.  It will have time to fully decompose in a large bin, and heat to speed it up and neutralize it in a tumbler. If you use a small system, or even a countertop system, it would be smart to keep it to a minimum due to smell, but this is totally a personal preference.   


No matter which system you are using, open and cold or a closed bin, simply toss it in with everything else, turn your compost as usual, and it will break down just like all of your other scraps.  The good news is that it may stink at first but with the help of heat, microbes and time, that’ll be short lived.  


If you are using a worm bin, you may want to totally skip adding it!   It may slow down the process if it irritates your worm friends. You can test them by adding a small amount and if it is left untouched, remove it, and avoid adding garlic to their diet. If they are offended by it, they will avoid it and then it will sit, and stink and not break down as fast as your other scraps.  Not worth the trouble, and definitely not worth risking the work rate and happiness of your worms. 

 

 

How to Compost Garlic

While the hot topic of whether or not to compost garlic may seem daunting, it truly isn’t.  It is no different than your other kitchen scraps if done right.  Just remember, if using a worm bin, the pungent sulfur rich smell of decaying garlic can offend your worms.  On the other hand it can be a great pest deterrent in larger open and closed compost systems.  No need to worry about nighttime visitors wanting to snack on your compost pile with some garlic tossed in there.  


It really is as easy as that.  Simply toss garlic peels, skins, cloves and even whole rotten bulbs into your compost with the rest of your kitchen scraps.  If you are regularly turning your compost pile, you should notice what is breaking down and what isn’t.  If you see whole bulbs sprouting or garlic scraps not breaking down, just tuck them way down inside of your pile and let the magic of heat and microbes get to work on it.  

 

 

How long does it take for Garlic to decompose in a Compost pile?

This all depends on a few factors…what form was your garlic  in, what kind of system are you using, what temperature is it at, what ratio of brown to green matter is in your system, how often do you turn your compost, and where is it, indoors or outdoors?  Garlic isn’t overly fibrous, has high water content and a great balance of dry to wet matter, so it will break down easily in almost any conditions. 


Typically, compost can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 1 year to be ready to use.  If you use your compost system correctly, add well chopped kitchen scraps and plant matter, and tend to it regularly, you can speed up your composts’  natural rate by turning it and even adding water.


How To Know When Your Garlic Is Composted?

If it is wet, sticky, soupy, stinky and hot, your compost needs more time.  If you still see remnants of some plants, it is ok to remove them, but as a whole, your compost should look nothing like what it did when you started.  


If you added whole garlic bulbs to the pile, you may find them sprouting and still looking whole, a good sign that you should’ve chopped it up, and that instead of decomposing, they started growing.  No worries, just remove it, or tuck it way down inside the pile and carry on.  Great opportunity to learn something new! Remember, organic matter decomposes faster in a compost bin with proper heat, moisture and light ratios.  A dark, damp, and warm compost bin will break down noticeably faster than a bin that is in direct sunlight, dry or cold. 



How to use Garlic Compost

Once your compost is ready to use, there should be zero signs of any of the original plants and those garlic scraps that went into making this nutrient dense goodness.  Fully composted matter should have a sweet earthy smell, and be dark and crumbly to the touch.  There should be zero noticeable smell, even from the garlic that you tossed in there months ago. 


Finished compost can be added to almost any plant.  Incorporating it into your garden before the planting season is always a good idea and it is a great way to grow an amazing organic garden.  You can also add a handful of compost into planting holes, top off plants with a handful, mix it into potting soil for your houseplants, and even make a compost tea!  As long as it is fully finished, it is super safe to use in almost any application!

 

 

Have you grown your own Garlic?

Garlic can be an amazing homegrown crop that is totally worth the wait.  One garlic clove will grow into one bulb in about 6-8 months, depending on what region you are in. 


It is generally planted in late October or early November, covered with hay or straw, overwinters beneath the soil surface, and begins to emerge as the soil warms up in spring. Garlic needs a lot of nutrition to bulb out.  Start by adding a generous amount of aged compost, organic matter and sprinkle Organic Plant Magic Soluble Plant Food

https://organicplantmagic.com/collections/all/products/all-purpose-organic-fertilizer

into your soil before planting your seeds in the fall.  This will ensure that they are well fed along the way.  By June, some people in warmer climates begin harvesting their bulbs, and by August, gardeners in cooler climates are ready to pull theirs from the ground.   


Once harvested, the bulbs with leaves intact are dusted off, hung up to cure and allowed to pull the last bit of energy from their leaves.  It is one of the most rewarding crops to grow at home. Best part, if you save the biggest, healthiest garlic bulbs from each crop, you will have garlic seed to plant next season.  It is the gardening gift that keeps on giving, keeps us healthy and tastes amazing!


Conclusion


Well, there you have it, YES, you can compost garlic in every form and in every stage!  If you are a garlic lover and have questioned whether or not to toss it in your compost bin, stop worrying and keep composting.  We love sustainability, and couldn’t think of a better way to do our part, than to compost those valuable kitchen scraps that otherwise would be headed for the landfill.  


No matter what you choose, we want to give you the tools to do the right thing for the planet, the soil, the plants, wildlife, future generations and for all! Happy Composting!

 

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