Desperate to get outside and dig in the dirt? Winter has barely begun and I’m itching for warm weather and fresh dirt under my nails. Spring seems so far away but you can still grow your own fresh veggies when there’s snow blanketing the ground, you just have to go about it a little differently. Have you ever tried garbage gardening? No, you’re not digging stuff out of your garbage can and planting it. Okay, so you kind of are but hopefully those valuable little scraps never made it into the waste bin or compost pile to begin with. Hang onto them!! Take those bits of leftover veggies you’d normally throw away and regrow your own produce! This is a fun winter project you can get your kids involved in and what’s better than growing food from garbage? Free veggies!
You’ll need a few things you probably already have at home. Jars or bowls, toothpicks, potting medium, a few pots, a sunny windowsill, some veggie scraps and a little bit of enthusiasm.
A few vegetable scraps you can try garbage gardening with:
Herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley, sage, etc)
Onions, leeks and scallions
Carrots/turnips/beets – Keep the tops intact, you’ll need about 2 inches. Place the top in a bowl with about an inch of water. Keep in a sunny window sill and change water daily. Repot when roots form.
Avocado Pits – Not all avocado pits will develop roots so try starting two or three of them at one time. Clean the pit, removing any left over fruit, rinse under cold water and towel dry. Push four toothpicks into the outside of the pit, evenly spaced and suspend over a jar of water. Make sure the pointy end of the pit is facing up. Leave about half of the pit submerged, changing the water regularly and place in a sunny window. Eventually the pit will split and roots will start to shoot down into the water and a new stem will come out the top. When the new shoot is about 7 to 8 inches tall, transplant into a pot, leaving the top half of the pit exposed. This will probably never develop an avocado but it does make a pretty houseplant.
Basil and other herbs– Strip leaves from ¾ of the stem. Place stems in a container of water and leave in a sunny windowsill. Change the water daily. When roots grow to about 2 inches, plant stems in a 4 inch pot.
Bok Choy/lettuce/greens – Cut off the base of the plant and place in a bowl, bottom side down. Cover the base with water and replace the water every other day. Once the base shows some regrowth, transplant into a container or straight into your garden. Cover just the base with soil, leaving the newer growth exposed. You can do this with lettuce heads as well.
Celery – Place base in a bowl of water in a sunny window. Change water every other day. After 5-7 days, transplant into soil leaving new growth exposed.
Garlic – You won’t be able to grow the bulbs inside but you can sprout it and use the scapes. Place sprouting cloves in a small bowl and cover with water. Change the water daily. Snip off the greens once they are around 3 inches tall, only remove 1/3 of each sprout at a time.
Ginger – Cut off a chunk of the ginger and lay it on top of a container filled with potting soil, water lightly. Place pot in indirect sunlight. Transplant when ginger grows new shoots and roots.
Onions, leeks and scallions – After removing the tops take the bulb part of the onion and set it in water in a sunny window. Change the water daily. Use the new shoots and leave the bulb to grow again. These can be transplanted to your garden as well.
Lemongrass – Place the stalks in a tall jar or glass with water, change the water daily. When new shoots develop, transplant into a pot or your garden.
Mushrooms – Remove the caps and plant the stems in soil. Cover everything except for the very top of the stem. They will grow new caps. Harvest when fully grown.
Pineapple – This one takes a very long time, but is so worth it to grow your own pineapple! Remove the top of your pineapple by twisting it off. Peel back the leaves a bit so the bottom layers are exposed. Remove any excess fruit. Poke toothpicks around the edges as you would for an avocado pit and suspend the pineapple top over a jar of water. Change the water every few days. When roots have formed, plant the top in soil in a six inch pot. It can take a couple of years, at least, for your pineapple to produce fruit, but until then you will have a lovely bromeliad plant.
Have fun, teach your kids a little science lesson and gain some fresh veggies out of it! Let us know what other veggies you’ve tried garbage gardening with!