Have you ever wondered what to do when your ash tray is full of tobacco? Of course, you can throw it in the dumpster, but living in a society that cares more and more about reducing landfill waste, you might be curious if you can use it to help improve your soil health. Is tobacco good for compost?
Tobacco can be beneficial for compost in small quantities, depending on where the compost is used. Tobacco is full of nitrogen that can help rejuvenate plants. However, it’s also a natural pesticide, so it will kill any insects and bacteria–both good and bad–in the soil. In addition, tobacco may cause the spread of Tobacco Mosaic Virus among nightshade plants.
In the rest of this article, we’ll talk more about what to consider before adding tobacco to your compost pile.
Is Tobacco Good For Compost?
It’s okay to add tobacco to your compost as long as you do it sparingly. Tobacco plants need a lot of nitrogen to thrive, so your leftover tobacco will deposit healthy amounts of nitrogen back into your compost as it breaks down. This acts as a natural fertilizer for the soil, giving your plants a nutrient boost when they need it most.
However, tobacco can also bring about unwanted consequences. The nicotine in tobacco is an extremely effective pesticide. In fact, tobacco dust–which comes from the leftover tobacco plant parts–is often used by farmers and commercial growers to kill off unwanted pests.
While killing unwanted pests is a good thing, tobacco works so well as a pesticide that it kills off even good insects and bacteria. Insects are an important part of thriving compost and healthy soil; eliminating all the beneficial organisms prevents compost from doing its job effectively.
The Risk Of Tobacco Mosaic Virus When Using Tobacco In Compost
Tobacco Mosaic Virus is a common virus that afflicts tobacco plants. It can greatly damage or destroy plants and it spreads quickly. Unfortunately, it can also spread to other plants in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family.
Here are a few of the plants that belong to the Solanaceae family:
Because Tobacco Mosaic Virus spreads so quickly, it’s very dangerous. Even adding tobacco waste into your compost pile may cause Tobacco Mosaic Virus.
After hearing the drawbacks of adding tobacco to your compost, you might decide it’s not worth it. If you don’t take the right precautions, adding tobacco to your compost can kill beneficial organisms and potentially introduce a fast-spreading virus into your garden.
However, when managed properly, tobacco can be a great source of nitrogen in your composted soil. If you don’t have coffee grounds or other sources of nitrogen readily available, tobacco is an all-natural option.
If you plan to toss your tobacco in your compost pile, the safest way is to only use the compost on non-Solanaceous plants. Another idea is to have two compost bins: one with tobacco for use on non-nightshade plants, and one without tobacco for use everywhere else.