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Can Garlic Go in Compost?


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Garlic is a widely used cooking ingredient. Those familiar with this vegetable know that other than adding a unique flavor to dishes, it also offers numerous health benefits. Garlic is known to prevent and treat many diseases and infections.

But is there more to garlic? Can you use garlic to add nutrients to the soil and other plants? This article will cover everything you need to know about composting garlic.

Can You Compost Garlic?

Garlic is one of the oldest vegetables known to man, with over 7000 years of existence. Today, garlic is still one of the most popular vegetables, loved for its fiery taste, smell, and numerous health benefits. But as you probably already know, garlic has a strong smell and releases volatile gases when chopped. Also, as garlic decomposes, it releases gases that lead to a putrid smell. This is probably why most people are skeptical about adding it to their compost pile.

If you are still wondering whether you can add it to your compost, the answer is an absolute yes! Garlic cloves break down over time together with everything else in the compost bin. No matter how old or fresh the garlic is, it can go into compost. Every part of the garlic plant can be composted, including the cloves, skins, and scalps.

Also, composting garlic creates rich humus and fertilizer, adding nutrients to any soil. It also helps deter vermins from the compost bin. Mice, for instance, find the smell of garlic particularly turning off. Note, however, that using garlic to deter mice only works on low levels of infestations.

Also, remember that garlic can affect worms, which work to decompose the matter in the compost. So make sure to balance the equation, so you are using enough to deter vermins but not too much to ward off worms. Although fresh garlic cloves can deter vermin, we highly recommend using dried-out or powdered garlic for best results.

Cautionary Measures to Take When Composting Garlic

Chop or Mince Your Garlic Cloves Before Composting:

This step is important as garlic cloves tend to re-sprout when left whole. Chopping or crushing the cloves ensures they do not start growing inside the compost bin. Also it also enhances the composting process.

Do Not Use Garlic or Any Other Allium in a Worm Bin:

Onions and garlic belong to the allium family and are known for their pungent smell. Like most insects, worms are put off by the pungent smell of garlic. As such, they will avoid compost bins with garlic.

This will cause your composting process to either slow down or be incomplete because the garlic will not decompose fully. The best way to avoid this is by limiting the amount of garlic you add to the compost.

Can You Compost Garlic Skins?

As mentioned earlier, every part of the garlic plant can be composted. Garlic skin is a great addition to the compost pile and breaks down over time. Garlic skins add nutrients to compost and, subsequently to the plants. Also, the best part about garlic skin is that they do not have most of the negative side effects against the microbes found in the compost pile.

As such, they are a perfect ingredient in any compost. So the next time you are making some delicious garlic soup, do not discard the peels since you can add them to your compost. Other than adding to your compost pile, garlic skins offer several alternatives. For instance, they can be used for cooking as well as skincare.

Can You Compost Garlic Mustard?

Yes. You can compost garlic mustard. But like wild garlic, garlic mustard is an invasive plant that prevents other plants from accessing sunlight. It also competes with other plants for moisture and other vital nutrients. It is a threat to biodiversity affecting forests and fields. It spreads easily as its seeds are dispersed by wind.

But even with all of its negative effects, as compost, garlic mustard is part of the green components, providing nitrogen to the compost. Just be careful not to add in the seeds as they can start germinating. Also, these seeds can still continue to live once they are placed in the garden. So be very careful when adding garlic mustard to your compost.

Ideally, we recommend crushing them into powder form so that they cannot regrow. You can also add them to hot compost where there is no chance of germinating but rather will be killed by the heat.

Can You Compost a Whole Garlic Bulb?

Yes. Garlic bulbs are compostable, but note that they can easily sprout; it takes a while longer to decompose fully. So consider splitting it into individual cloves and then chopping them into thinner slices.

Can You Compost Food That Has Garlic in It?

Sure, you can compost food with garlic in it. Whether the food is raw or cooked, the garlic traces will not affect your compost. However, if the garlic is from some leftover salad, chop them first before adding them to your compost to prevent them from regrowing. Chopping them will also boost the rate of decomposition.

With cooked food, the strength of the garlic element will be very mild and safe enough for the worms in the compost pile. The only problem with cooked garlic is that they have probably come into contact with cooking oil. Compost heaps have difficulty breaking down anything with fat or grease. The fat may also spread over to other plant matter or the entire compost pile preventing or slowing down the decomposition process.

Additionally, the fat in cooked food can attract pests like rodents that try to get in your compost heap. But if you already have a healthy compost pile, then a small amount of fat should not be a problem.

When Should You Not Add Garlic to Your Compost Pile?

Garlic is one of the things not recommended for adding to a worm bin, especially for a new system. Due to the odorous nature of garlic, you should not add it to your compost if you are vermicomposting. How do cloves of garlic affect worms?

  • Worms do not like garlic: Worms are sensitive creatures. When vermicomposting, the elements, you add serve as food for the worms. Worms do not like garlic’s strong scent and taste and are less likely to break them down. Why?Strong or odorous foods and vegetables like garlic can overwhelm them. As such, any garlic put in the bin will be left alone by the majority of the worms until it has completely rotted down. This will delay the composting process.
  • Garlic produces sulfur gas during decomposing: These smells can irritate the worms. And since the composting bin is a small and confined bin, it creates an unpleasant environment for the worms. Consequently, this will slow down your overall system.
  • Garlic is acidic in nature: It can irritate the worms, especially since they breathe through their skin.

While garlic can affect worms, this will majorly depend on the amount of garlic you introduce to the compost.

How to Manage the Odors That Garlic Produces During Composting

When adding garlic to your compost, bury them at least 10 inches deep. This will help mask their strong odor, ensuring you only experience it when turning the compost pile.

Can I Compost Diseased Garlic Cloves?

No. Any plant that is riddled with diseases should not be added to your compost pile. This is because the pathogens they carry may spread throughout your compost and cause problems. So any crop of garlic that may have been ruined with pathogens like white rot, leaf blight, or even onion mildew should be disposed of in another way.

The Bottom Line

While composting garlic is not always considered ideal, everything should go well when done well. If you plan on adding garlic to your compost, keep it to a minimum. You can replant the excess garlic for future use.