BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Who knew your kitchen scraps could turn into a bountiful garden to enjoy again? Skip the compost bucket or garbage can, and re-grow your leftover veggies and fruits this winter for beautiful houseplants and garden additions."Kitchen scrap gardening is a great way to reinforce the concepts of recycling and reusing while experimenting with leftover plant parts to regrow," said Brittnay Haag, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
The following fruits and vegetables are examples of plants that can be grown again and again with a little water and patience:
Avocado- After enjoying a delicious ripe avocado, clean the seed and remove the seed coat (thin brown layer. Find the pointed top of the avocado seed, insert three toothpicks into the top third of the avocado, spacing them equally. Place the seed in a glass of water, and rest the toothpicks on the edge of the glass, with the water touching the bottom of the seed. Change water every couple of days. Watch for roots and sprouts to appear- this may take a month or so. Once roots have filled the glass and shoots are six to eight inches tall, it can be planted in a container of potting soil. During summer months, the new avocado plant can be set outside but should be brought back inside if temperatures are below 45°F. While a tree up to five feet may grow, fruit may take three or more years to develop and will be much smaller than commercially available.
Sweet potato vinescan be started in a similar manner to avocado, just cut the tuber in half and suspend it above the water. After a few weeks, you can transplant it to a container of soil and have the start of a luscious green plant.
Orange, lemon, and limeplants can easily be started by seeds taken from the fruit.Seeds should sprout in the moistened potting soil in two to four weeks. Glossy, fragrant leaves will grow rapidly, but the fruit will not develop for a few years.
Pineapple-Start with a ripe pineapple with healthy, green leaves. Cut ½ inch below the cluster of leaves and remove the rind and remaining fruit, leaving the tough core attached to the leaves. Expose about an inch of the stalk by pulling off a few of the lower leaves. Allow top to dry for several days. Plant top one inch deep in a mixture of peat, sand, and perlite. Place the container in bright, indirect light, and keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Roots should develop in six to eight weeks. Place plant outside during periods of frost-free weather. Fruit will develop in two to three years.
Celery- Instead of discarding the bottom of the celery stalk, save it to grow again. Cut about two inches above the bottom of the stalk. Place the vase in a shallow bowl with one inch of water, and maintain the level at all times. Change water every day to keep freshness. Roots and leaf growth from the center of the celery will appear in a few days. After two to three weeks, the celery base is ready to transfer to a planter of potting soil, covering it completely except for the center leaf tips. Other plants that be grown in a similar manner include lettuce, bok choy, cabbage, and greens of carrots, turnips, radishes, and beets.The process of growing plants from leftovers can be fun and rewarding but will take some patience. While the commercial production of vegetables and fruit consists of much more complicated processes (like grafting), and what we grow at home through this experiment may not match the aesthetics of what we can buy in the store, hopefully, the green thumb experiences experimenting with plants will leave you wanting to try new things in your garden. Recycle, reuse…and regrow!