The pantry is full of fall favorites like squash, onions and potatoes, but busy schedules may have you finding a few things growing in the back of your cupboard. With little effort and a pinch of creativity you can grow these into a very imaginative indoor garden.
Kids and adults love to watch kitchen discards grow into new plants. According to KidsGardening.org, a national nonprofit, these types of activities improve nutritional knowledge, enhance social emotional learning, and environmental stewardship. Here are just a few projects to get you started:
Convert sprouted sweet potatoes into beautiful indoor houseplants. Set in a container of well-drained potting mix, so the growing point is just below the soil surface. Grow your new plant in a sunny window and water thoroughly as needed. Watch as the heart-shaped leaves appear, and the plant grows into a vine.
To see what goes on below ground, try growing your sweet potato in water. Insert three or four toothpicks around the middle of the sweet potato. Set the toothpicks on the lip of a water-filled glass. Keep the water covering the bottom half of the sweet potato. Place it in a bright location, out of direct sun, and watch the roots and stems appear.
Grow dinner scraps headed to the compost pile into houseplants. Start a new plant from the top of a fresh pineapple. Use a sharp knife to separate the leafy top from the fruit. Just leave the stem intact and scrape off any remaining fleshy fruit.
Remove a few of the lower leaves for easier rooting. Set the base of the stem in a container filled with a well-drained potting mix and water thoroughly.
Place it in a bright location, out of direct sunlight, and keep the soil moist. In a couple weeks, the plant should have formed roots and can be moved into a bright, sunny window for you to enjoy.
Start your own avocado tree from the seed. Hard seeds like these need a little help sprouting. Nick the seed or soak it overnight to soften the hard covering, seed coat, so it can absorb water and start growing.
Sprout your avocado seed in water by inserting three toothpicks into the seed about halfway down. Set the toothpicks on the lip of a glass with the pointed end of the seed facing up. Keep the bottom, the rounded portion, submerged in water to encourage rooting.
Or plant the seed in a container of well-drained potting mix with the top inch of the pointed end above the soil. Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil moist. Then watch your seed sprout and grow into a wonderful tree.
Visit KidsGardening.org for more fun and educational activities. Adults and children will enjoy learning more about plants, gardening and nature through a variety of age appropriate activities. If your children are involved with gardening at their school, the national nonprofit offers a variety of grants and practical how-to information.
(Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books and hosts The Great Courses’ How to Grow Anything DVD series. Myers’s website is www.MelindaMyers.com.)