I’ve taken an interest lately in growing a garden from kitchen scraps. I started in January with a few seeds and cuttings from produce I used to cook fresh meals. I like the addage, “Food is free.” With enough planning and innovation, this saying is true.
I did a little research on each of the fruits and vegetables I wanted to plant. I figured, if I’m eating it already, I should have it in the garden. Too often in the past, I have been seduced by rare heirloom seed varieties in catalogs. This time I would concentrate on the foods I regularly like to eat.
It started with a head of iceberg lettuce. Once I removed the core, I placed it in a glass of water and within days it was growing roots. Everyday as I washed the endless dishes (I do not have a dishwasher), I watched the little white roots sprout and grow from a brownish core of lettuce. When the roots were sufficiently long enough, I planted it in a pot of good soil and left it to grow under a lamp with the rest of my wintering plants. To my surprise it continued to grow leaves, but it never did resemble an iceberg lettuce. I did eat the leaves and they were crunchy and tasty on a taco.
Another kitchen scrap that lent itself to me was garlic. As it sits in the frig it begins to sprout and becomes bitter. I popped those sprouting cloves into a vessel of potting soil and watered it occasionally. Before long, I had feathery garlic scapes and the promise of bulbs.
One of the vegetables that is a staple in my kitchen are peppers. Hot, mild, sweet, we eat them all. After cleaning the peppers for supper, I laid the seeds on plate and let them dry. They were then buried in a layer of potting soil and watered. The disappointing thing about peppers is that they have a long germination, so while the other plants were quickly turning green and transforming before my eyes, the pepper cells of dirt remained barren. In fact, I used the soil to fill another pot and got a surprise weeks later when little jalapeno seedlings began crowding my lemon tree (More on that later).
Eventually they all did pop up and required the attention to separated them and make sure they had enough room. One thing I learned is that peppers cannot properly grow in temperatures under 60 degrees. This year, I planted my seeds in February, indoors. They had a robust start and were looking healthy, but they stunted. The poor pepper plants never grew up. I’ve started another batch of seeds, but they have not germinated yet. When they are ready, I have a special place in my garden reserved for them.
Celery was an easy and fun one to grow. I used the top and saved the core at the bottom. It sat in the kitchen window sunlight with a small amount of water only just covering the root area. Within a day (!) the center of the core began sprouting new leaves. It was a while before roots began to form, but if you try this, I recommend that you wait until they are and inch or so long. I tried planting one without sufficient roots and it has failed to thrive in the garden. Meanwhile, the one I allowed to root has, in 90 days, produced large bunches of thin and thick stalks of celery. At the moment, it is about 2 ft. tall with leaves 2-3″ wide. I have enjoyed several harvests from this plant already, and it’s only June 1. I highly recommend doing this with kids because the plant changes every day.
I’ve only just begun experimenting with fruit trees. Recently my indoor nursery was filled with a variety of seeds that were harvested from organic produce. It’s just an experiment! I plan to nurture them in pots for the first two years, before fruiting. I first planted Meyer Lemons and Gala Apples. The lemons were easy – take them out of the lemon and plant in the dirt. It took a couple weeks before they sprouted, but they are already a beautiful deep green with shiny leaves. They have stalled in growth for a couple weeks now, so I’m crossing my fingers.
The apples also took a long time to germinate. There are a lot of YouTube videos that describe the chilling process of seeds to induce germination, but I just put the dried seeds in the dirt in mid February. These trees have a lot of spiny shaped leaves sprouting from a short center stem. They have also halted in growth for the last few weeks, so I put them outside on the porch for some strength building wind. One thing with apples is that when they are grown from seed, rather than clone, it is uncertain what type of apple will eventually fruit. I guess I’ll be surprised in a few years!
For my son’s 24th birthday in November, I bought him a large fryer and a 20# bag of potatoes. Don’t ask. Somehow, one of the potatoes ended up loose in a cupboard of mason jars and other canning supplies. When I found it in January, it had sprouted several very long, white roots. Not one to waste, I thought of how I could plant it inside and nurture it until it could be brought outside. I am currently living with three adult cats, and unfortunately, I do have large litter containers occasionally lying around in wait for a second purpose.
I used my wood-burning pyro tool to puncture the sides and bottom of the container to provide drainage and airflow. I filled the bucket with about 4 inches of soil, place the potato inside, and covered it over with more soil. Potatoes grow really fast and make for a fun project with children. Each day, I cover the green plants that sprout and wait for the next day when it will be time to do it again. Within a month or so, the dirt was almost level with the top of the bucket. Now it is time for them to mature in the soil.
I did not realize until later that potatoes will grow from a simple peeling. As I was weeding the garden, I pulled a small potato plant that was growing from the heel end of a peel from the compost bin. I think the squirrels are planting their own garden!
Another fun, but slow growing kitchen scrap is the carrot. I only planted two tops, after using the bottoms in a dinner. I have seen they can be rooted in water, but I simply planted mine in a pot and waited for it to grow a top. It began sprouting fern like projectiles in a matter of days. I did notice; however, that when I transplanted it a couple months later into the garden, that it had not grown a root, it was still just a carrot top. I planted it in a sunny part of my raised bed and it appears to be growing, but I guess I’ll have to wait a while to see if there is enough to eat.
Like the carrots, green onions required little to no thought. These green onions were rather large bulbed when I bought them. After slicing the tops for a stir-fry, I put the white bulbed end directly into the raised bed outside. Since, I have harvested the tops many times for other tasty meals. They just keep replenshing themselves. I’m currently deciding how I will preserve the abundance for winter. Probably in a frozen pesto.
During spring break this year, I began building a small porch area in my strip of a city backyard. As I dismantled pallets and built a wall and deck area, I thought it might be nice to have a lemongrass plant strategically located next to a sitting area. Not only does lemongrass smell delicious, they grow tall and bushy. I have read they even repel mosquitoes, similar to citronella. The last time I bought some lemongrass for a recipe, I saved the end pieces and placed them in water. It took a couple of weeks before it showed any sign of life, and even then, I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was plant growth. The tips in the middle of the rooting bulb began to grow a brown straw like protuberance. Within a matter of days, it was “blooming” into a long, slender leaf and roots began to emerge. This is my first experience with lemongrass, so I’m not sure what to expect with growth rate, but I’m satisfied so far!
It isn’t much of a yard, so my growing capacity is limited. I wanted to see how much food I could grow for free! Well, the plants are in the garden, and summer is just getting underway, so the rest remains to be seen. I have already struggled with bug infestations and continue to learn about the different needs of the plants that I have. In addition to my kitchen scraps I am growing a number of other things and hoping to at the most, eat something from the garden, and at least, have enough produce to save seeds for the next growing season. Oh, and that my trees will grow.
I hope you got a little inspiration and maybe you try this for fun!