Gardening From Scraps
by Sadie Borkowski, Tutt Branch Manager
If you’re stuck homebound staring out your window for weeks at a time--especially with a view like mine--you might find yourself thinking about ways to brighten your corner of the world.
(Not exactly awe-inspiring, am I right?)
Not long ago, I was looking around my house and saw an onion that had started sprouting. Instead of kicking myself for letting it go bad, I touched the leaves and pondered what sort of things you could grow indoors. We all know that our Indiana spring can occasionally have a few bouts of snow making you rue the day you ever thought of gardening outside before mid-May.
As it turns out there are a lot of tutorials online about growing from cuttings and a few great eBooks about what to do with plants to keep them alive and kicking. Low-Maintenance Vegetable Gardening by Clare Matthews is great because she has a whole chapter on what vegetables you should choose rated by easiness to grow and common issues associated with each. While researching, I read that singing to your plants help them grow. My plants may become overachievers in an attempt to escape my kitchen so they never have to hear another off-pitch Beatles song again.
Take a look around your kitchen, and see if you have any of these vegetables lying around.
To begin with, cut your carrot and preserve about an inch in length at the top. Toothpicks are your friends so that you can place the top above water allowing the roots to grow beneath. It only takes about a week for green leaves to sprout out of the top then they’re good to put in soil. This quick turn around is great for kids (or adults) who may not have the most patience. I started with these guys first, and it motivated me a lot to keep going and see what happens next.
(Results in just a few days.)
When it comes to sweet potatoes, the firmer the better. You’ll want to put half of the potato in a cup of water, keeping the top half dry. Make sure to change the water regularly so your experiment doesn’t mold. Green leaves will sprout, and when they are about five inches long, pull the new growth off the potato and plant them into the soil. If you want to get super crazy, keep adding layers of soil to your potato plant. It will continue to grow upward as new sprouts wave their green shiny leaves to say hi.
This one is a slow grower that takes a lot of patience. It takes a few months of waiting before the root grows properly enough to eat. Wait till the ginger starts to sprout eyes, then soak it in warm water overnight. Plant the root in some soil at least 3 inches deep. Ginger likes partial light and well-drained soil so don’t over water. Use a spray bottle to keep the soil moist.
This one is the easiest of the lot to regrow. All it needs is a glass of water for the roots and a sunny spot. Cut the stalks and leave the white ends with the small roots in a glass of water. It will keep growing quickly and steadily so you always have fresh green onions in your kitchen. The trick is finding enough good recipes to use them in. Luckily the library has a ton of digital cookbooks too. Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families From the Edible Plant Kingdom with Over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes by Deborah Madison is definitely worth flipping through.
This is a close cousin to the green onion that’s almost as easy to regrow. Cut the bottom inch off the celery stalk and place the stalk in a container filled with warm water. Make sure to change the water every few days. It takes about a week before you can plant it, and make sure you don’t bury the leaves with it. Let the leaves continue to see the sunshine if you want your plant to grow. This is a thirsty plant so water it often. Bok Choy has a similar procedure and has a faster regeneration rate if you want quicker results.
You will want to plant this one directly into the soil, and the bigger bulb the better. Separate each of the cloves and remember to use soil that redrains well since it’s not a fan of soggy soil. Garlic also struggles when you pack the soil tight, so make sure it’s nice and loose if you want it to grow well. Keep the tip of the bulb just above the surface so it can sprout its long stem. You know it is time to harvest when a good chunk of the leaves have died.
When hunting for your basil in the store, try to pick a stem with at least six healthy leaves. Then you’ll want to strip the majority of the leaves, so that only the stem and a few uppermost leaves remain. Soak the stems in a jar of water until the roots grow then set the roots in a nice little planter with soil. It has a quick turn out time for growth too. Mint has a similar set up, BUT GROWER BEWARE! Mint will grow quickly into any surface it can cram a root, so always keep it in a container unless you want to be yanking it out of your yard until the end of time. That being said, if you want to grow something quickly and have zero patience (like yours truly mint) will grow quick in just a span of a few days. Then you can get on with your day as you engage in maniacal laughter shouting, “It’s ALIVE!”
(Oh, the difference a day makes. The mint is really taking off.)
Red Bell Pepper
Cut your pepper in half, and loosen the seeds so they fall to the bottom of the pepper half. Fill the pepper half with soil (creating a self-made container) and bury the pepper half to a depth of a ½ inch in the soil. The decomposing pepper will help your new baby plants grow nice and strong. This can also be done with tomatoes. Cut the tomato into ½ slices and bury them under a thin film of soil. Both plants benefit from a light spray of water to keep the soil moist.
I bet you can think of something even better to grow. We’d love to see your photos of what’s growing in your kitchen!