Bored? Looking for something different to do?
Did you know that some kitchen vegetable scraps can be grown into attractive houseplants? You need a sunny window, water or potting soil, containers and some patience.
“Garbage gardens” are great indoor projects for children and adults. Kids may find it amazing to grow a plant from something that otherwise would have been thrown away or composted.
Pineapple tops, avocado pits, citrus seeds and carrot tops are just of few of the things that can be used to grow an indoor garden. While many of these scraps will not produce fruit, they will grow into plants that will brighten up a window sill.
Sprouting carrots is an easy project.
Carrot tops will sprout and grow new leaves, but you will not end up with another carrot.
Start with whole, firm carrots that have their tops intact. Soft carrots may rot before rooting.
Cut off the top of the carrot leaving about 2 inches of carrot. Fill a pie plate or shallow bowl with small pebbles or decorative rocks.
Place the carrots among pebbles, cut side down. Add lukewarm water, enough so the top of the pebbles are wet. Place in a sunny window.
In a few days the leafy part will sprout lovely ferny leaves.
Keep the container filled with water. It will make a unique table centerpiece.
If your carrot sends out roots you can pot it up for a ferny houseplant. Try using other root crops such as turnips and beets.
To grow your own avocado plant, save the pit — from a ripe avocado — and rinse it off. Allow it to dry for two to three days and then remove as much of the onion-like skin as you can.
Stick three or four toothpicks into the seed, about a third of the way down from the pointed top and equal distance around the seed.
Put the seed in a glass or jar of water, using the toothpicks for support. Place the pit so that a half-inch of water covers the bottom of the pit and then put it in a sunny window.
When the roots are 4 inches long, transplant the pit to a pot and keep it in a bright, warm window. Keep half of the pit exposed above the soil line.
Your avocado plant should be kept moist and fertilized every three to four weeks for best results. It will do best in bright light.
You can let your avocado tree spend the summer outdoors but bring it inside before temperatures go down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. An interesting houseplant but it is unlikely that it will ever set fruit.
You can also use the water and glass suspension method for sweet potatoes and white potatoes.
This makes a good project for young children. They can watch the progress of the plant growing shoots on top and roots on the bottom.
Mini fruit trees can be grown from seeds removed from oranges, grapefruits, lemons and tangerines.
Soak the seeds overnight in water. Plant seeds a half-inch deep in moist potting soil. Cover the pot with a plastic bag or a piece of plastic wrap and put in a warm spot, about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It can take three to six weeks for the seeds to germinate.
When the seeds start to grow, remove the plastic and put the container into bright light. Do not put in direct sun or it could burn the young plants.
Citrus seeds are interesting in that you may get several seedlings from each seed. Once the seedlings have several sets of leaves, transplant into individual 4- to 6-inch pots filled with a sterile potting soil.
Fertilize according to manufacturer’s instructions, repeating the application every two to four weeks. Do not overwater, but keep the soil slightly moist.
Plants need about four hours of direct sunlight daily and temperatures between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A south or west window is best.
Citrus plants may be put outside in the summer to take advantage of the extra light and warmth. During the winter reduce watering, stop fertilizing and keep the plant in a warm, draft-free spot.
Plants grown indoors are particularly susceptible to mealybugs and spider mites. A citrus tree grown from a seed may eventually fruit but it can take as long as 15 years.
If you need instant gratification, plant the prickly crown of a pineapple for an exotic houseplant. Patience is needed if you want fruit as it can take two years or more.
Select a fresh pineapple with attractive, green foliage. Twist the leafy crown from the fruit.
Remove all the fruit flesh and also remove the small bottom leaves.
To help prevent rot, put it in a dry, dark place for a week. This allows the stem base and leaf scars to heal.
Put about an inch of coarse gravel — for good drainage — in a clay pot and fill with a good, light potting soil.
Plant the pineapple top. Make sure soil does not fall into the center of the crown as it can kill the plant. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, during the rooting period.
Place the pineapple top in bright, indirect light. After two to three weeks, the plant can be placed in a sunny window.
Pineapple leaves are very spiky, so make sure you put the plant in a place where it can spread without stabbing people.
Pineapple plants require a lot of light. Keep yours in a sunny window throughout the winter as they will stop growing if they receive limited sun.
Also put it in a spot that is protected from drafts and cold temperatures. Pineapple plants should never be subjected to temperatures lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pineapples are slow growing plants. Most plants mature in two to three years, which is when they are capable of blooming.
To encourage flowering, put an apple in with the mature pineapple plant in a plastic bag for three to four days. The apple gives off ethylene gas, which stimulates flowering of the pineapple.
Hopefully your plant will flower two or three months after treatment.
After flowering the fruit begins to develop. When the fruit is 6 months old it will ripen, becoming sweeter and turning from green to a rich gold on the inside and outside.
Pineapples do not ripen once picked, so wait until the fruit is mostly golden. Each plant produces one fruit.
You can also try planting fresh, unroasted peanuts, herb seeds and dry beans.
Keep in mind, many plants are hybrids, so their seeds will not yield the same fruit and vegetable varieties as the parent plant.
Kids will love experimenting with kitchen scraps to see what they can grow. You may not get anything edible, but it is fun to try.
Have a gardening question?
Contact the Genesee County master gardeners for assistance. Even though the CCE office is currently closed, Helpline master gardener volunteers are available to answer your questions.
You may contact them through their email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos may be sent for plant and insect identification and other diagnostic questions. Clear close ups and wide views are helpful depending on the issue.
If you are on Facebook follow CCE Genesee www.facebook.com/CCEofGenesee for garden tips.
We are sad to announce that our popular Spring Garden Gala, that was scheduled for May 16, has been canceled. We hope to be able to hold our Fall Gala. Stay tuned.
Our Garden Talk ‘Common Garden Mistakes’ will be available via Zoom starting at noon on Wednesday.
Check http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/events for registration information.