I love composting all the kitchen scraps I can but when I fill up my compost bin or run low on some vegetables in the garden, using kitchen scraps to grow plants is a great activity. I love using kitchen scraps to start new plants as a fun gardening activity with my son.
Every day, we check to see how the plants are progressing. It’s a great way to come full circle on produce we buy at the market together and cook together. Starting your own plants from kitchen scraps is really easy for a gardening nerd like me!
If you are going to attempt this, I suggest making sure the scraps you start with are good quality, I like to use organic produce grown locally when I start plants from kitchen scraps.
Growing Leeks, Spring Onions, Scallions and Fennel
You could go out and buy some vegetables specifically for growing but I like to wait until I actually have a need for them in my cooking. With all 5 of these examples, you will use the end of the vegetable with the white roots.
Take the left over white roots and place them in a container with a small amount of water in it. You want the roots to be wet but you don’t want the entire root submerged. Take your container and place it in a sunny window sill. I’ve actually grown green onion scraps in a fairly shady window on the north side of our house, so your success may vary. I like keeping some in a window in the kitchen for my morning eggs, and in my office for snacking on (my wife loves kissing me after that). Within 3-5 days, you will begin to see new growth come up. Remove the produce as you need and leave the roots in the water to continually harvest your kitchen scrap crops. You should refresh the water weekly to keep the plant healthy.
Growing LemongrassLemongrass is similar to all other grasses and because of that, you just need to place the roots you cut off into a container with water and put them by a sunny window. In my experience, the lemongrass is a little more dependent than green onions and leeks from above.
After about a week, there should be some new growth from your lemongrass. Once you have new growth, you will need to transplant the plant from the water into a pot with soil and put it back into the sunny window sill. You want to wait until your lemongrass reaches a foot tall before you begin harvesting it. Just like before, cut off what you plan to use in the kitchen and allow the roots to continue to sprout. It’s just like cutting your lawn, it will just keep coming on if you keep it healthy.
Growing Romaine Lettuce, Celery, Bok Choy & Cabbage
Growing Romaine Lettuce, Celery, Bok Choy & CabbageJust like the scallions, you will take the white roots of these vegetables to grow your produce. By cutting of the stalks or leafs with an inch or more and placing them into a bowl of water with the roots facing down, you will be on your way. You want to make sure the roots are in water but you don’t want to submerge the entire plant. Make sure to place the bowl near a sunny window and spritz it with water weekly to keep the top of the plant moist.
Several days later, you will begin to see the roots and leaves sprouting. 7 to 10 days in, remove the plant from the water and plant it into soil with only the leaves above the soil. Your plant will continue to grow and in several weeks, you will have a new head ready to be harvested.
If you want a different way to go with your plant, you can try planting directly into the soil, skipping the water staging step from before. Keeping the soil from drying out will be very important that first week.
Growing GingerIf you’re looking for an easy plant to grow indoors then Ginger is the one for you. Just take a chunk of Ginger from your kitchen scraps and place it into the soil. Make sure the newest buds are facing up. Unlike the other plants we’ve talked about so far, Ginger will enjoy filtered light rather than direct sunlight.
Soon enough you will begin to see new growth sprouting up out of the soil and under the soil, roots will begin to sprawl out into the soil. After the plant acclimates to its new home, you will be ready to harvest the next time you need Ginger. Pull the entire plant out of the soil and cut off a the pieces you need, and just replant it like you did initially.
As an added bonus, Ginger makes a great house plant. Even if ginger isn’t your thing as far as cooking goes, you can still get some aesthetic value out of the plant.
Growing PotatoesTaking potatoes from produce back to growing is a great way to keep more waste out of the garbage. You can grow any variety of potato you like, but just make sure the scrap has ‘eyes’ growing on it. With a potato that has a strong presence of eyes, you can chop it up into 2 inch square pieces. Make sure each piece has 1 – 2 eyes. After you’ve cut your potato into pieces, leave them out in room temperature for a couple of days. Leaving the pieces out allow the cut surface area to dry out and become callous which will prevent the pieces from rotting in the ground.
Potatoes need a very nutrient-rich soil, so if you have compost you should be sure to incorporate some into your soil before you plant it. When you are planting your potato cubes, make sure they are in the 8 inch depth range with the eyes facing the sky. When you back fill your cube, place 4 inches over the potato cube and leave the other 4 inches empty. Over time as your potato grows and roots begin to appear you will want to add more soil. See this article for more great tips on growing with scraps.
Growing GarlicYou only need a single clove to regrow an entire garlic plant. Just place the end with the root down into the soil. Place your container in a warm part of your home with direct sunlight, then sit back and wait for the garlic to root itself and begin to send up new shoots. After the garlic becomes established in the soil, cut back the shoots and the plant will begin to put all its resources into growing a big delicious garlic bulb. Just like the ginger above, once you harvest your produce, you can repeat this process and run through the cycle again.
With onions you’re going to use the root end you cut off when prepping to cook your onions. Onions are great because of the ease to propagate. You want to try to keep half an inch of onion above the roots. You will want to take your cutting and place it into your soil in a sunny place and cover the top with topsoil. Keeping your soil moist will be very important while the onion begins to establish itself. If you’re in the northeast like myself, you will want to keep the onion indoors in a container during the winter.
If you repeat the cycle and keep planting the onion roots eventually you should have enough onion plants going that you’ve become onion self-sufficient!
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