Garbage Gardens: Growing Plants From Food Scraps

The next time you have a garlic clove or potato that have started to sprout or the root of a green onion, don’t toss them. Instead, plant them in soil or water and watch them come back to life.

Lori Fry of Folsom & Pine, a grower of edibles and bedding plants in Orient, shared tips on how to give food scraps new life with a group of youngsters who enjoyed sampling some fresh produce and took home the top of a walla walla onion to grow at home. Below are her tips, along with some from Illinois Extension and Purdue Extension.

Take a ripe avocado seed and plant it in a six-inch pot filled with potting mix. Or stick three toothpicks into the seed about one-third of the way down from the pointed top. Suspend the seed using the toothpicks for support in a glass of water so the wide bottom (where the roots will emerge) is in the water. Place in sunny window. Once the seed forms roots, plant into a six-inch pot of soil so the seed is about an inch deep. Grow as a houseplant indoors in the winter and move outdoors in the summer.

Carrots, turnips, beets
Cut off 3/4 to 1 inch of the top of the carrot with the green stalks attached. Set the carrot tops in a shallow pan of pebbles and water or moistened rooting media such as vermiculite or perlite and put in the sun. The carrot tops will grow into a fern-like plant (the bitter greens are edible). Beets and turnips can be grown the same way.

Take leftover ginger and plant pieces with “eyes” (little bumps) in moist potting soil. The plant should remain indoors or someplace that is warm and humid. The ginger will begin to sprout in about three weeks. After four months, you can start to harvest pieces of the root. Cover it back up with soil so it can continue to grow.

Cut off the leafy top, leaving about 1/4-inch of the fruit attached. Scoop out the pulp and let the top air dry for a few days. Then press the top into a pot or pan of moistened rooting media such as vermiculite or perlite. Keep the media moist at all times. Roots should begin to form in about a month or two. Repot the top into potting soil and place on a sunny windowsill.

For large onions, cut off the root end of the onion and plant root end down just beneath the surface of soil in a sunny location. Keep soil moist and harvest a few months later when the leaves begin to wilt. For green onions, cut about one inch up from the bulb and plant root end down in a pot or outside. Leave about 1/4 to 1/2 inch sticking out of the soil and cut off the green tops as they grow. Or you can regrow green onions by placing the white bulb roots down in warm water in a sunny location. Change the water every couple of days.

Romaine lettuce
Cut about 3 inches of the plant from the bottom and place in about 1/2 inch of water. Place in a cool, sunny location. The lettuce will start to regrow in just a couple of days.