Save Them Peels, Ma’am

Gene the Melon Man saves his banana peels all year long, drying them in his garage. Now you know me, I don’t think like a normal person. Immediately, I pictured a clothes line rigged up on the diagonal in his garage with all these banana peels clipped up there with clothes pins. He has five children and I was visualizing a LOT of banana peels strung across the garage.

My imagination had it all wrong. He was drying them on a rack. Gene had several reasons for curing and petrifying his banana peels. He didn’t want the peels to mold, it was the only way to have enough ready for the Spring unless he donned a bandana over his face and held up a grocery store, and it seems banana peels are the very best aphid gitters.

Aphids on Milkweed

Who among us hasn’t been troubled by aphids in our veggie garden? For Gene, aphids became the bane of his existence. The aphids zeroed in on his peppers then moved on to the tomatoes. “I tried insecticidal soaps, spraying them with water, and anything else that came to mind. Finally, I resorted to some very toxic pesticides which was not my preference.”

Gene said the pesticides worked, sort of, but by the time it killed the aphids, his plants had been through a lot of torture. After a few years of this, he hated aphids with a passion. He began to hear rumors of people using banana peels and although the majority of gardeners scoffed at the idea, Gene was willing to try anything.

He set up a drying rack for his banana peels on top of the freezer in the garage.

His reasoning was quite practical: (1) it saved space, and (2) the freezer generates heat which helps the drying process. Periodically, to make room on the drying rack for more peels, the dried peels are tossed in the basket in front of the rack.

 

Now, every spring, he takes his banana collection out to the garden and plants two or three in the hole around each plant and fruit tree, just barely under the surface of the dirt. No aphids. None, nada, zip. On one occasion after he began his banana peel regimen, he found aphids up and down the stem of a tomato plant. He added a few more banana peels to the soil then reinspected a week later. A few dead aphids but most had packed up and left voluntarily.

Gene knows that aphids are still in his neighborhood because he hears the neighbors complaining bitterly about them. He always offers up his banana peel solution and, of course, some listen and some scoff.

I thought this was a brilliant idea and mentioned it to Poppie. “Not in my garage, you don’t,” he huffed. I assumed, from his outrage, that this meant all three of his garages were off-limits. He was concerned about enticing an unmentionable creepy crawly that plagues the Southern U.S.  The only freezer on the property is in Momma’s laundry room so it wouldn’t have worked anyway. I feel certain that the heat rising off the back of Melon Man’s freezer is doing all the work. Maybe I’ll toss a couple of peels on cake racks over my fridgie and see what happens.

According to Reader’s Digest, you should “bury dried or cut-up banana peels an inch or two deep around the base of the aphid-prone plants. Do not use whole peels or the banana flesh as this will encourage raccoons, squirrels, gophers, and rabbits to dig them up for a tasty treat.” Gene has not had a problem with animals digging up his banana peels because “there’s not much left of a dried up banana peel.” A Mother Earth News reader saves her banana peels in the freezer during the winter and buries them under her rose bushes come spring. Roses love ‘naners.

The four banana peel photos in this article were provided by Gene the Melon Man. He provided additional information in the Comments section.

52 thoughts on “Save Them Peels, Ma’am”

  1. Please do not dry banana peels inside your house. The fruit flies will come in droves!! I wonder if the frozen peels would work for aphids? If so that would be perfect.

      1. So the thought of freezing them or drying them in the oven just seems like too much work (and possibly money). The peels dry pretty quick. While I do have fruit fly issues in the house when bananas actually survive long enough to make it to the “too old to eat” stage, I’ve never had issues with fruit files in the garage. Then in fairness, there’s a diaper pail nearby that can sometimes kill anything dead within range (including humans). Could also be that there’s just not that much food left with a banana peel. Most of the moisture will leave the peels pretty quick (ever notice what happens to either a split banana or a half eaten one left on the counter for a few hours?) I like to leave them for a few weeks just to make sure they’re REALLY dry. It’s probably not necessary though.

        One concern I would have with freezing them is that they’re not going to dry that way and they’re still going to be kind of mushy when they thaw. IF banana peels were going to cause you some sort of bug or pest issues, I’d expect it when they’re fresh.

        That said, my wife has a pretty solid method for dealing with fruit flies:

        2 Tablespoons water
        2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
        1 drop dish soap.

        Put this in some sort of open cup in the area where you have or expect issues. The fruit flies find this more attractive and promptly drown.

      2. Contraptions? You mean the rack? Whatever it’s for, it’s not for drying banana peels. It was just something my wife picked up at the store (Wal-Mart most likely) and thought would do the trick. It’s probably some organizational something-or-another. There’s probably a million variations on it at different stores. While the wire rack is nice, a flat surface would probably be fine as well as long as air circulation was still half decent.

        I imagine a dehydrator would work, but you’re burning electric and adding heat to your house to use one – hence I’d rather just toss them in the garage. It gets warm enough in there on a summer day without any help from the freezer. Then again, my peels seem to dry just fine in the winter as well (it doesn’t hit freezing in there from what I can tell, but I imagine it’s been close a few times).

        1. Gene – I was referring to the dehydrator as a contraption. Not that I would run out and buy one just to do banana peels. But if I found one in a garage sale for a dollar… However, if they require electricity, I’m completely against the idea.

          1. UPDATE TO READERS: I see no need for a dehydrator, oven drying, etc. I threw one banana peel up on the counter in my kitchen and left it for a week. During that week, I saw no bugs on it and it is now dried.

  2. This is very interesting! I wonder if it works well for roses. I will definitely have to figure a way to save my banana peels!

    Also, thanks so much for visiting my own blog and commenting. You asked about the low spreading shrub in the photo with the rabbit. I’m not sure which you are referring to, but under the large Japanese maple are azaleas, and under those are several arborvitae ferns. The rounded shrubs are boxwoods and yaupon hollies.

    I hope you are having a great week! Deb

    1. Deb – There is more on the web about bananas and roses than on using peels to chase off aphids. About the low spreading shrub, I should have said it was across from the rounded boxwoods. It looked kind of like the crepe myrtles but it wasn’t blooming.

  3. Hi, again! Yes, that is a Japanese maple across from the rounded boxwoods. It is one of the most colorful Japanese maples in my garden, but it does take on more subdued shades of green with hints of rose during the summer. It you want to see what it looks like other times, click on the search button on my sidebar and type in ‘Japanese maples in my garden.’ The second large photo shows the top of it in spring, and the very last photo shows a larger view of it during fall.

  4. Even though I don’t usually have too many aphids – I have lots of ladybugs in my garden – I am going to give this a try – if the other people in my household will allow it! 🙂 Thanks for the info!

  5. Do you want me to save my peels and dry them out for you? Between Shorty’s family and me we can go through some bananas.

      1. You’re supposed to save them until they get the spots on them. Then eat them (but before they turn to mush). That’s when they taste the best 🙂

        1. I hear you, sistah, but we are all different. I imagine they are sweeter with a few spots on them. I used to make banana bread when they got too old for my tastes but the banana bread gave me indigestion so bad that I now just throw the banana flesh out for the butterflies.

      2. There’s a point after they get a few freckles before they get soft. I can smell it. That’s the perfect stage. I don’t like them soft, and I don’t like them green. It’s when they’re green they mess with my digestion. Catch them just right though and they’re yummy and I can eat as many as I want with the only side effect being some swelling around the middle that seems proportionate to the amount I eat…

        1. Eat as many as you want, eh Gene? That explain why you’ve got the biggest bucket of ‘naner peels I’ve ever seen? I finally threw the two ‘naners out in the yard for the butterflies and critters but saved the peels.

      3. Well.. There’s a catch. As I’ve described, bananas have (for me) a perfect eating point. I don’t get to eat any if they are eaten before they reach that stage. My five rug rats go through bananas like mice through melons. They also seem to take some sort of twisted joy in seeing they’ve one again eaten them all before I got to them….

  6. I’m a little late to the banana peel party but I did see my poor little cucumber plant covered with aphids this morning. As it happened I had some VERY ripe bananas in the fridge. I’ll keep you posted on the results, but I chopped up the whole thing…mushy fruit and all and mashed it in the blender. I added about a quart of water and 1 tsp of ground cloves for good measure and watered my cuke with the mixture. I’m holding my breath for the outcome. I have another brown, old gross banana on standby in case this works. P.S. I live in Phoenix where it is already 100 degrees and bone dry.

    1. Hi Kathryn! It has been dry here, too, but not 100 degrees. I’ll leave you to that treat. However, humidity has already hit 94% one day. I’m not sure about Melon Man Gene’s banana peel idea. It might work in the mountains for him but it didn’t work for me. When my beautiful, potted hibiscus (photo is somewhere on the blog) came out of the greenhouse, it had aphids. I tried the ole knock-em-off-with-the-water-hose trick to get rid of some of them and dumped some dried banana peels on top of the dirt. When that didn’t work, I dumped a couple of fresh banana peels on. That didn’t particularly work, either. The numbers are reduced but I want ’em GONE. I even tried a store-bought spray so I really wanna know if your blendered ‘nanners and cloves works!

      1. Well, I will say this…I watered one cuke with the blender slurry yesterday. For the other cuke (about 18″ away and separated by a patch of borage), I draped fresh banana peels on the trellis just under the leaves. It might be wishful thinking or just the time of day but I really think there are less aphids on the leaves…especially the underside. The trick will be what I find when I get home tonight because that’ll be about the same time of day that I started this experiment. Could be that there are just more aphids in the afternoon. I will definitely keep you posted.

      2. Two thoughts on why it may not have worked:
        1. I’ve never used fresh peels, only dried, and at least some of them (per plant) will end up “in the hole”. Typically some are buried and some lay around the top.
        2. I believe the real issue behind aphids is fast green growth stimulated by nitrogen. Time after time I’ve observed that aphids prefer plants grown quickly with lots of nitrogen to plants that haven’t been. There’s also plenty of evidence to indicate that plants grown quickly with lots of nitrogen grown differently than they otherwise would – hence the issue with blossom end rot in several types of plants like tomatoes. Every time I’ve encountered blossom end rot, there has always been plenty of calcium in the soil, but blossom end rot is a calcium deficiency – the nitrogen fertilizer is either causing the plant to grow quicker than it can uptake the calcium, or it’s hindering proper calcium uptake – take your pick. Because of this I always try to be careful with the fertilizer. I certainly use it, but I do so sparingly. Assuming the banana peels actually help (maybe they don’t), they may not be able to overcome the deficiencies caused by too much nitrogen. If the banana peels don’t help, too much nitrogen will still cause issues. So consider your nutrient availability to your plants and see if perhaps fertilizer is a possible contributing factor in your scenario. Even if you’re following the directions on the package, you may still be providing too much. I tend to watch the plants to determine when to fertilize. If I see leaf colors I shouldn’t, if the growth rate is slower than what it should be, etc. I add a little fertilizer and check again in a week to see if the issue is corrected or I need to add more.

        1. Melon Man Gene — Thanks for jumping in here with your thoughts. I think you might be right on the nitrogen. I did not fertilize in that greenhouse all winter but in March I gave them a “shot in the arm” to spruce up their color. However, they remained in the greenhouse several more weeks because it did not warm up, as usual. Nor did I have banana peels “in the hole” before the plants went in the greenhouse. There must be more than one kind of aphid. On my milkweed plants, outdoors, I get small, yellow aphids. In the greenhouse, both last year and this year, I have fat, white aphids.

          1. There are a great many different varieties of aphids. The aphids in your region are probably different from those found in another as well. Different aphids tend to target different crops, but as a whole, they’re not picky enough to avoid crossing over to something other than their designated choice. Weeds can sometimes get the aphids out of your fruit trees as the aphids move to the weeds from the trees. Other times they may simply invite them into the trees from the weeds depending on the type of aphid and it’s preferences.

          2. Gene – You are a wealth of information. It has taken me so much effort to battle weeds this year that even Poppie is beginning to suggest your billboard idea for my veggie garden.

      3. I should also add that since you’re starting in an environment that may have aphids, you should probably have the peels in the planting media well before you have the potential for an issue. Once you see the aphids, it’s probably too late. I did top off my plant the one time I did see them, but they (the aphids) were already not doing well, and the plant had already had banana peels in the soil with it for some time.

        1. Naw, it’s not too late to cure aphids with banana peels. I continued to pile the fresh peels on top of the dirt around the hibiscus. I did not bury any peels in the dirt — too much trouble given that the hibiscus is planted in a large pot. I must have five fresh peels out there now and my aphid population is significantly reduced. So, the banana peel trick works in Florida. I can probably get rid of the remaining aphids with a little soap and water solution.

  7. Hmmm. Interesting connection with fertilizer and aphids. I JUST started using a water soluable fertilizer about two weeks ago to prep the plants for summer temps. We’ve already hit temps of 100.

    I did check when I got home tonight and I don’t see as many aphids and I remember seeing last night but they’re certainly still there.

    Mine are green BTW. I googled it and it appears they’re Green Peach Aphids. They don’t appear to have done any damage yet. I water by hand from a bucket (the sticker is on the other side of the yard) so spraying with water is not an option.

    1. Kathryn – Wouldn’t that be something if WE were our own worst enemies in encouraging aphids? And who knew there were numerous varieties of aphids? Not exactly beach towel reading… did you mean spicket rather than sticker?

  8. Well now this is some great info, unfortunately I’m allergic to naners but my boyz (employees) are not and they eat lots o’ naners. Fruit fly prevention solution is a keeper because even without the naner peels dem boyz are slobs and fruit flies are an issue all summer long in the break area.

    I’m fortunate in that I’ve never had aphid problems on my veggies but the columbines take a beating as do other ‘fleshy’ flowers. I run my fingers up and down the stems creating crushed family members which seems help keep the population down. Yep it’s pretty sick and time consuming but it seems to help along with blasting them with the sprayer.

    On the other hand, there is still snow on the ground and we hit a record low for May in CO. It will be interesting to see what survived…if it ever warms up enough to be outside without long johns. 🙂

  9. For anyone still watching this thread, I stumbled across an article that gives some credence to the idea that banana peels work because they raise the potassium in the plants. This article ties together aphids, potassium, and nitrogen and also shows why aphids may prefer plants that are low potassium and have had some fast high-nitrogen growth.

    http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1603/0046-225X%282007%2936%5B26%3ASPDASP%5D2.0.CO%3B2?journalCode=enve

  10. Thanks for the fruit fly potion. I knew I’d need it when it heated up here in the Rocky Mtns., I’ll follow up with a post on results (I’ll certainly get remarks from “my boyz”!)

  11. I wonder, how is your experimenting with peels going? If this works, I might be able to grow cucumbers and melons again…:) I am saving my peels and digging them up under as many plants as I can.
    I do have ants farming aphids too though, so hopefully they won’t make aphids stay on those plants against their will. I am baiting them with borax/sugar/peanut butter bait. I have to reduce borax as they keep dying in the bait container, and I want them to live long enough to bring borax to the nest and feed the queen.

    1. Daiva – I don’t know how the experiment with the banana peels is going. I can’t tell whether it helps or not. Nevertheless, I continue to throw them under my roses bushes (I don’t even bury them) because there are so many reports out on the web that back up Gene’s recommendation of using them. I can’t use borax because I have three cats. I find bugs, Dollar Weed and Florida Betony to be very discouraging in my gardening efforts.

      1. Something else that helps is to cut back on the fertilizer. There’s some pretty good research showing that aphids are attracted to plants with high nitrogen growth. If you’re plants are getting too much nitrogen, then they can’t uptake as much of other nutrients as they normally would resulting in new tissue that while it may sometimes look the same, it doesn’t have the same composition as it normally would.

  12. This works overnight! I’ve tried it repeatedly and it never fails and my garden is full of monarchs and their little caterpillars. This is after trying everything else and nothing worked as well or as safely.

    1. MalteseMom – Gene, if he still follows this blog, will be happy to hear this works for you. I didn’t have much luck with monarchs this year. I had a small stand of milkweed and tried to grow more but the seeds didn’t sprout. I need to try growing milkweed again in the flower bed where it thrived. Thanks for your comment.

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