Composting Cherry Pits

Cherries are a delicious summer fruit that many people enjoy. After eating fresh cherries, you’re often left with a small pile of pits. While some people may throw cherry pits in the trash, did you know that they can be composted?

Composting cherry pits is an easy and environmentally friendly way to dispose of this fruit waste. In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about composting cherry pits, including:

  • What are cherry pits?
  • Can you compost cherry pits?
  • How long does it take to compost cherry pits?
  • Best practices for composting cherry pits
  • Common questions about composting pits

After reading this guide, you’ll feel confident about how to compost cherry pits and make the most of this nutrient-rich fruit waste. Let’s dive in!

What Are Cherry Pits?

Cherry pits, also sometimes called stones, are the hard, oval-shaped seeds at the center of a cherry fruit. The pit is made up of an outer husk or shell that protects the inner seed.

Cherry pits come in many sizes, depending on the type of cherry. Sweet cherry varieties like Bing or Rainier tend to have smaller pits, while sour cherries like Montmorency have larger pits. On average, cherry pits are about 1/2 inch long.

Inside the hard shell, cherry pits contain all the nutrients and biological matter needed to grow into a new cherry tree. Just like any seed, the pit holds an embryo that can germinate under the right conditions.

While the pits are not edible for humans, they are an important part of the cherry lifecycle. The pit falls to the ground when the cherry is eaten, distributing the seed for new growth.

Can You Compost Cherry Pits?

Yes, cherry pits can be composted! They make a great addition to any compost pile or bin.

Cherry pits are a source of carbon, which is an essential ingredient in maintaining the proper balance of materials for effective composting. The carbon in the pits helps provide energy for the microorganisms that break down organic matter.

The pits also contain vital nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. As the pits break down, these nutrients are released into the compost and made available for plants to absorb.

Composting cherry pits avoids sending this beneficial biological material to the landfill. Instead, you can recycle the nutrients back into the earth in a sustainable way.

Composting pits does take patience though, as they can be slow to break down. We’ll cover more on decomposition timelines next.

How Long Does it Take to Compost Cherry Pits?

Cherry pits take quite a long time to fully compost, often between 1-2 years. There are two main reasons for this slow pace:

Hard outer shell – The woody, lignified shell around the seed is resistant to decomposition. Lignin is a tough substance found in wood that protects the seed. It can take over a year to naturally break down lignin.

Whole form – When composted whole, the intact cherry pit has less surface area exposed to microorganisms, slowing decay.

However, there are some techniques you can use to speed up the process, which we’ll discuss later on. But in general, expect cherry pits to be one of the slowest composting fruit wastes.

The good news is that while whole pits take time to decompose, they won’t cause any harm to your compost in the meantime. As long as your pile has sufficient nitrogen, carbon, moisture and aeration, the pits will slowly break down over time.

Best Practices for Composting Cherry Pits

Composting cherry pits is as simple as tossing them into your compost pile or bin. However, following some best practices can help speed up the process and create better compost. Here are some tips:

Break or crack pits first – By breaking the pit with a hammer or running them through a blender, you expose more surface area to microbes which accelerates decay. Try to break pits into at least 2-3 pieces before composting.

Bury pits in the center – Place pits in the hottest part of the pile, at least 12 inches from the edges. The higher temperatures in the middle will foster faster decomposition.

Add high nitrogen materials – Mix in green materials like grass clippings, food scraps and manure around the pits to provide microbes with nitrogen for breaking down the carbon-rich pits.

Maintain proper moisture – Cherry pits can absorb a lot of moisture, so monitor your pile’s moisture level and water as needed to keep things damp but not soggy.

Following these tips will ensure your cherry pits compost as efficiently as possible. Expect the process to still take at least a year though.

Common Questions about Composting Cherry Pits

Composting cherry pits is relatively straightforward, but a few common questions often come up:

Can the pits grow into new trees?

Yes, there is a small chance that composted cherry pits could sprout and grow. The conditions in a compost pile are often not ideal for seeds to germinate, but it can happen occasionally.

To avoid unwanted sprouting, make sure to break or crack pits before adding them. You can also hot compost the pits by keeping your pile’s internal temperature between 130-150°F, which will kill any seeds.

Do the pits contain cyanide?

Cherry pits do naturally contain a small amount of cyanide, which helps protect the seed. But the levels found in pits are very low and not considered dangerous.

The cyanide breaks down as part of the composting process and does not pose any risk to your garden or plants grown with compost containing pits.

Can the pits spread diseases?

No, composting cherry pits will not spread any plant diseases. The high heat generated in hot composting will kill any potential plant pathogens.

Cherry pits from store-bought cherries are unlikely to harbor any diseases to begin with. So feel free to compost pits without worry.

Do you need to remove the outer shell?

It’s not mandatory to remove the fibrous outer shell from cherry pits before composting. Leaving the shell on will just slow decomposition.

If you want your pits to break down faster, consider removing the shell by hand or running the pits through a blender or food processor to pulverize them. This will speed things up.

Can old pits be composted?

You can compost older cherry pits without any issue. Pits that have dried out may take a bit longer to break down compared to fresh, but they will still decompose in time.

The nutrients and carbon in older pits are just as valuable for your compost. There is no time limit on when pits can be composted after removal from the cherry.

The Benefits of Composting Cherry Pits

Now that you know the ins and outs of how to compost cherry pits, let’s recap the key reasons why it’s worth the effort and wait:

Sustainable waste disposal – Composting pits recycles this fruit waste rather than sending it to crowded landfills. Nearly 300,000 tons of cherry pits were generated as waste in 2020 alone according to EPA estimates. Composting this waste stream has a positive environmental impact.

Rich source of carbon – Cherry pits are over 50% carbon, providing an ideal carbon-rich amendment to balance nitrogen-heavy green materials in your compost. The carbon is essential food for compost microbes.

Slow-release nutrients – As pits break down over months, nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are slowly released. This provides a steady supply of organic nutrients to enrich your compost.

Soil improvement – Finished compost containing cherry pits will increase soil tilth, aeration, and water retention when applied to gardens and landscape plantings. The compost improves soil health over the long-term.

Reduced chemical fertilizers – The nutrients from composted cherry pits reduces your need for chemical fertilizers. Compost offers a natural fertilization for your lawn and gardens.

With all these benefits, composting cherry pits is well worth the time investment required. Follow the tips covered in this guide for best results.


Composting cherry pits is a simple way to recycle the nutrients and carbon from this common fruit waste. Although the pits take 1-2 years to fully decompose, they will gradually break down in your compost pile or bin.

To speed things along, be sure to crack or break the pits first before adding, provide high nitrogen materials, bury them in the hot center of your pile, and monitor moisture levels. With a little patience and the right conditions, those leftover cherry pits can create nutrient-rich compost for your garden!