Can You Use Rotten Fruit As Fertilizer?

Rotten fruit is a great fertilizer for garden plants. Gardeners can use rotten fruit as compost, compost tea or buried as is to grow things like fruit trees and pumpkins that have deep root systems. 

The most common way to use fruit and vegetable scraps is to use them in a compost bin or compost pile and use them to amend garden soil. 

Compost improves soil moisture, soil structure, soil biodiversity, nitrogen and other minerals. These organic compounds stay in the soil longer than chemical fertilizers and they improve the soil over time even without reapplication.  

If you have time or space limitations, compost tea can be made from rotten fruit in a few days and used to water plants. This liquid fertilizer will boost nitrogen levels and add other minerals to your soil. 

In this article we will discuss what and how to compost different types of rotten fruit as well as give ideas for dealing with food waste at home. 

When using rotten fruit in your garden there are a few things to consider. 

Fruit That Cannot Be Composted

While most fruits can be composted, there are few things to consider:

Large Whole Fruits – melons, pumpkins, and other squash will take a very long time to compost if left whole. These things can be composted if they are broken up into smaller pieces. This can be accomplished with a compost tumbler or by cutting the fruit before adding them to a compost pile. 

Pickled Fruits – pickling is a form of food preservation and pickled fruit will break down very slowly and they may contain acid that keeps other things from breaking down in the compost pile as well. Consider cutting pickled fruits very small and placing them in a compost pit. 

Tomatoes – When composting tomatoes be sure to monitor the PH of the compost. A PH monitor can be added to a pile that has a lot of tomatoes. The linked monitor also measures the moisture of the pile. Some vegetables like carrots and cucumbers like acidic soil, so it may be useful in that area of your garden.  

Cooked With Dairy – fruits that have been cooked with a lot of dairy, fat, oil or sugar may draw unwanted pests to your compost pile and are best composted underground if at all. Consider digging a compost trench or pit when composting cooked fruit products like jelly, jam, pie filling or cheesecake.  

When composting moldy, cooked, canned or raw fruits consider these tips:


Moldy fruit is safe to be added to a compost pile or buried in a compost pit. 

The mold is a sign of decomposition and that is the process that turns the fruit into rich soil that feeds plants in your garden. 

You do not need to worry about mold affecting your plants in a negative way, as the food breaks down the mold will become part of the soil. 


Raw fruit scraps and pieces can be composted safely. 

When composting raw fruit pieces be sure to chop larger fruit like melons or hader fruits like apple cores into smaller pieces to accelerate the decomposition of the fruit. 

The ideal compost ratio is two parts brown (dry leaves, cut grass or shredded paper) to one part green (fruit and vegetable scraps) and it should be damp like a sponge. 

This will allow the compost to reach optimal internal temperatures and break down completely. 


Cooked fruit can be composted unless they are cooked with a large amount of fat or dairy. These ingredients draw unwanted pests to your compost pile. 

Pickled fruits can be too acidic to compost as the process slows decomposition. 

Canned Fruit

Canned fruit can be composted in an established compost pile where the bacteria can break down even the slimiest canned fruit. 

Canned fruit that has been opened and gone bad is a good candidate for the compost pile. 

If you are just starting your compost pile, consider adding worms or compost starter to establish a strong living composition in your pile. 

Fruit is a very good addition to compost and compost teas and they are a great way to add nutrients to your soil. 

If you are gardening in poor soil consider using compost pits to establish plants like fruit trees and pumpkins. 

How to Use Rotten Fruit In Compost Pit

If you have poor soil consider using a compost pit for growing individual squash plants and fruit trees. 

Start by digging a hole 1 foot deep and place your rotten fruit in the hole and cover it with grass clippings or dry leaves. Space several holes close together to support the soil life and improve soil texture and quality over time. 

You can also do a compost trench by digging a hong hole about one foot deep and adding fruit and other kitchen scraps and cover them with grass clippings, weeds or leaves then refill the trench with dirt. 

Trenches are a great place to plant crops that are generally grown in rows, things like beans and peas are good candidates. You could also use it to prep a place for ornamental plants in your landscape. 

These methods of composting will improve your soil’s ability to hold moisture and may be helpful in flower or garden beds. 

How to Compost Rotten Fruit In a Compost Pile

To start a traditional compost bin or compost pile start with a ratio of 2 parts brown to one part green. 


Dry leaves





Pine Needles

Wicker Furniture

Grass Clippings 

Dryer Lint

Greens in this case are your rotten fruit. You can also include other kitchen scraps like: 

Potato Peelings

Onion Tops

Cucumber Peels

Carrot Tops

Greens can also be animal manure. 

The ingredients can be piled directly on the ground, placed in a compost tumbler, a watertight container like a trash can, a pallet box or compost bag. 

The pile should be turned regularly to ensure even decomposition and to distribute the bacteria that breaks down the materials into rich dark earth. 

Composting is simple, but there are some nuances that you will want to learn and consider. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) has a detailed guide for new composters that you can check out for more information. 

How to Use Rotten Fruit To Make Compost Tea

Compost tea is the fastest way to get the nutrients from rotten fruit into your garden soil. 

Compost tea is when you put your rotten fruit into water and allow it to decompose for 1 to 3 days while agitating regularly. 

The easiest way to make compost tea with rotten fruit is to put the fruit into a 5 gallon bucket and cover the fruit with water. Mix the contents regularly for the next few days and apply the liquid to your plants. 

Banana peels are popular for compost tea as they add potassium to the soil. A soil test that indicates low potassium can be treated this way. 

Monitor your compost tea as it breaks down. 

Compost tea should smell earthy, but not unpleasant. 

Keep an eye out for bubbles which indicate the the sugar in the fruit is converting to alcohol. If the mixture becomes vigorous and active or begins to smell like yeast, carefully dispose of it away from the leaves and roots of plants. 

The alcohol could burn the plants and impede their growth. 

This is more likely with very sweet fruits and grapes which contain yeast on the skins. 

The liquid is rich in nitrogen and can be a good boost for a yellowing lawn or a boost for plants like tomatoes and cucumbers. 

How to Compost Rotten Fruit Without a Yard

If you are interested in composting, but you do not have a yard for a compost pile you have two options:

Countertop Composter

City Compost Program

Countertop composting products are growing in popularity as they can create compost quickly and easily for those who live in apartments or small spaces. 

Vitamix has an option available that heats your food scraps until dry then grinds them into a fine meal. The FoodCycler is one way you can deal with rotting food at home. 

The meal could be used for house plants to give them a fertilizing boost or it could be thrown away with the volume being decreased by about 90%. 

Lomi is another option available to apartment dwellers. This stylish countertop composter turns the food waste into compost in as little as 4 hours. This would make great soil for a window sill herb garden. 

Lomi is a product created by Pela Earth, a company that is helping consumers take steps to a waste free future and it is a very green company to support. 

You may also have the option of storing your food waste separate from your garbage and contributing to a community composting program

Many large cities offer composting as an option for waste disposal. The regulations vary from city to city, but this is a great way to reduce your household landfill contributions and support local agriculture. 

What Else Can I Do With Rotten Fruit?

If you do not have a garden or you prefer not to compost, rotten fruit can be fed to chickens. More and more households are keeping a small flock of chickens and I bet a neighbor would welcome the free food for their flock. 

Fruit that is going bad can be frozen for later use in smoothies, breads, pies or sangria if it is still edible. 

Rotten fruit may also be accepted at a community garden where they are composting. 

Food waste is a big problem in the world, so finding use for all the food you buy is economical and good for the environment. 

Does Rotting Food Make Good Fertilizer?

Rotting food is a great fertilizer. You should bury the food at least a foot underground or add it to a compost pile to break down the fruits to make the nutrients available to the plants. 

Rotting is another word for composting. Compost is just food and vegetation that has rotted down into soil. 

Rotting food is referred to as green in composting language, it is the moisture rich component in compost and it feeds the bacteria that breaks down all the components in the compost. 

A compost pile will contain greens and browns. The browns are the dryer components that help maintain the texture and moisture of the compost pile. 

When composting fruit be sure to monitor the PH of the mixture as some fruits can be very acidic. Some plants do not like acidic soil, while some thrive in those conditions. 

Using Rotten Fruit as Fertilizer

Gardeners have been using rotten food for centuries to improve soil health and increase the health of their plants. 

Rotten fruit is a great resource to use in your garden. 

The easiest way to deal with rotten fruit is to dig a hole, cover it with leaves and then fill the area back up with soil. This will create a pocket of rich soil. 

Creating several holes closely spaces over time will feed soil bacteria and worms and improve overall soil health. 

If you want to create an ongoing place to toss your fruit consider digging a hole the same size as a 5 gallon bucket. Cut out the bottom of the bucket and put the bucket in the hole. 

This way you can use the lid to seal the hole, but simply open it when you want to add more kitchen scraps. 

This will keep pests away while you fill the hole. When you are ready to move on, fill the hole with dirt and start another compost pit. 

Food waste makes up about 25% of the material in landfills, and we can reduce that amount by home composting. 

This is a wonderful way to reduce your environmental impact and create a useful product. 

Once you start composting you will find that it is very easy to keep a pile working and you have a rich resource for your garden.