Citrus shells as compost
July 16, 2007 4:20 AM   Subscribe

Why would somebody leave whole, juiced orange halves on their lawn?

My next-door neighbour has taken to tipping piles of juiced orange halves (and the occasional cabbage leaf) along the bare edge of their lawn, by their back door. They have an orange tree, which accounts for the abundance, but not the reason. It's all within easy viewing distance of my sofa. Lovely.

Anyway, after a few weeks they have covered them with lawn clippings, except they then added another batch of orange husks to an empty spot next to it all.

Any known benefits to such free-range composting?
posted by slightlybewildered to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Citrus keeps cats away. Does your neighborhood have free range cats that like to poop in inconvenient places?
posted by konolia at 4:25 AM on July 16, 2007

posted by Leon at 4:45 AM on July 16, 2007

I'd say definitely slugs, except for them not going back out and picking them up. The idea is that the slugs gather in the citrus rinds overnight and then in the morning, you pick them up and dispose of them.

Why not ask your neighbours, along with a polite request that they move their collection to a less visible spot?
posted by happyturtle at 4:53 AM on July 16, 2007

I would have said slugs, too.

Your username is perfect for this question.
posted by corvine at 5:12 AM on July 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'm going with cat deterrent.
posted by iguanapolitico at 5:22 AM on July 16, 2007

I'd like to counter happyturtle's advice that you ask them to move their rind-pile. I mean, where is the line drawn? They're not hurting anyone, they probably have a good reason for what they're doing, and such a request will just make them feel unfairly scrutinized.

If it really, really bothers you, put up a fence. Or plant a shrub that blocks the view. Or something.
posted by hermitosis at 5:43 AM on July 16, 2007

I'm guessing they have an excess of orange halves, plus a wish to return organic matter to the soil and thereby improve the bare patch, and they know or have found out that putting loads of orange halves in a compost heap will make it turn acid and smelly and deter compost worms. Basically, they're using orange halves, cabbage leaves and grass clippings as a mulch. It won't break down as fast as it does in a compost heap, but if the aim is long-term soil improvement, that doesn't really matter. As it does break down, it will attract earthworms to the mulched patch, and the worms will then incorporate the organic matter back into the soil as worm castings in their tunnels, improving soil structure and nutrient content; until it breaks down completely, it will be helping the soil underneath stay moist. It's all good.

Orange halves, cabbage leaves and grass clippings won't attract vermin. So I don't understand why being able to see them from your sofa is a problem.

If they're spread out reasonably well, I'd be very surprised to find that you're smelling anything except a faint scent of oranges. I'd expect the grass clippings to smell stronger, and even those are only objectionable if they're right under your bedroom window.

Be grateful they're using orange peels and not Dynamic Lifter.
posted by flabdablet at 5:57 AM on July 16, 2007

When I was a child my parents used to use the orange peel technique to stop the neighbourhood cats crapping in the garden. I wouldn't have thought orange halves would break down too well out in the open so I'd go with the cat deterrent too.
posted by jonesor at 6:46 AM on July 16, 2007


From the gardening forum of the Time Online UK:

Q: I've been told that we shouldn't compost orange peel. As we squeeze about six oranges every day for juice, we get through quite a lot of oranges in a week and put all the peel in with the compost. I know they'll take a long time to rot down - but is it ok to compost them?

A: Fine - it just takes time, as you know. Some people worry about the pesticide used on a lot of non-organic oranges. If this is a concern for you, don't compost your oranges. However, I have a tip. Dot the scooped-out orange halves around the garden (it works with grapefruit, too) orange side up and, every morning, check the insides for slugs. This will get rid of some of your slug population as well as helping to begin the rotting process. Citrus halves which have been used as slug traps for a few weeks seem to rot down as fast as "regular" compost.

So your neighbor is probably just helping the composting process along by starting to break down the thick rinds. Or what flabdablet said.
posted by iconomy at 7:02 AM on July 16, 2007

Another vote for cat deterrent. We've put rinds in our garden for just this reason.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:09 AM on July 16, 2007

Go knock on their door and ask what this wonderful secret may be that you can learn.
posted by trishthedish at 7:29 AM on July 16, 2007

Cat deterrent was my first thought too. God, my cats HATE oranges.
posted by saturnine at 7:50 AM on July 16, 2007

maybe they're just trying to keep clean biowaste out of the garbage stream and return its nutrients to their soil. i toss all my used oranges off my porch into the bushes; i live out in the country, but i would react unkindly if a neighbor gave me any trouble about it.
posted by bruce at 8:49 AM on July 16, 2007

Yeh, nah. It doesn't bother me apart from wondering what they are *trying* to do there. Curiosity, I suppose. We were pleased to see the clippings go on in any case. I certainly wasn't going to go pound on their door and ask them to stop.

They are probably just trying to speed up the process of breaking them down, but I don't know why they'd do it by their back door - apart from convenience. If I were ranching orange peels on my lawn I'd put 'em by my back fence.

We have a cat - perhaps they were trying to keep him from using their bare patch of grass as a toilet. On the other hand, they have a couple of whopping great dogs that are often in the back garden, so our wee James doesn't seem to visit that side.
posted by slightlybewildered at 1:54 PM on July 16, 2007

I don't know why they'd do it by their back door - apart from convenience

Maybe that patch of soil is what they reckon needs the most improvement?

Maybe they have medium-term plans to use it for a veggie patch?

Why not ask them, instead of us?
posted by flabdablet at 7:09 PM on July 16, 2007

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