Want a great way to get the most out of all your food scraps? Consider growing plants from trash. It may sound gross, but it's actually not. In fact, garbage growing plants is fun, easy, and economical. Let's learn more about how to grow plants from your garbage.
Garbage to Garden
If it's the dead of winter and your gardening fingers are itching to plant, look no farther than your garbage bin. Seriously, all those bits and pieces thrown into the compost pile or otherwise dispatched down the disposal can be turned into cheap plants and, on occasion, even bear edibles. Plus, it's fun! As children, many of us had our first planting experience via the avocado pit. I remember watching the roots grow from the pit suspended from toothpicks in a clear glass of water (the better to view this little miracle of nature). Garbage gardening with kids is a fun, inexpensive, and thoroughly engrossing way to teach children where our food comes from and interest them in participating in their health via the food choices they make.
How to Grow Plants from Your Garden
Before rooting through your trash, it is a good idea to check off items on the following list:
- Potting soil - Potting soil generally refers to a soilless mix of 3 parts peat moss, 3 parts vermiculite, and 1/3 perlite that is evenly moist, not wet.
- Containers - Containers to start your garbage garden may be any type of well-draining pot for garbage gardening with pits or plants. Try re-purposing more garbage and use your egg cartons or margarine containers with drainage holes cut into the bottom.
- Light - Prior to germination, your garbage garden does not need light. However, once leaves begin to poke up through the soil, your garbage-growing plants require bright, indirect light. If your little garbage garden starts to become spindly or appear pale, they probably need more light.
- Water - The basic rule of thumb for your garbage garden is to keep it moist. The amount of moisture varies according to what type of garbage growing plants you are trying to sprout. Tropical fruit or veggie starts like moist soil and high humidity, which can be increased by placing the seedlings on a bed of moist pebbles and covering the potting medium with plastic wrap.
- Heat source and stratification - Some seedlings require heat and some require cold (stratification) to entice them into germinating. Heat can be supplied from below with the aid of a warm radiator, heating pipe, food warming tray, or by purchasing heating cables from your local garden supply. Woody plants, such as apples, pears, and peaches, require a cold period to shock them out of their dormant periods, referred to as stratification. To stratify such seeds, place your moistened seed flat in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Garbage Gardening Plants
Now for the fun part! Keep in mind that some of your garbage garden experiments are just that, experiments, and may require tweaking conditions several times to attain an actual plant. Most of your garbage garden experiments will not yield produce but will add variety and act as curios to your houseplant collection.
Suspending Garbage Growing Plants in Water
Water glass suspension, as mentioned with regards to the avocado pit, can also be attempted with yams, sweet, and white potatoes. Look for a potato with eyes and poke several toothpicks into the spud. Place this in a glass of water, wherein the water only touches the lower 1/3 of the potato, and then leave in a darkened area until you begin to see sprouting. Move the sprouting spud into the light, remove any shoots over 2-3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm.) and watch her grow. You can also try this method with green onions, leeks, garlic, and even lemongrass for an edible garbage garden.
Fruit Growing Plants from Trash
To try your hand at garbage gardening with fruit such as apples, pears, rock fruit, and cherries. Select ripe fruit and remove seeds. Wash and separate from the pulp. Select full seeds, not dry or withered. Stratify in the fridge covered with 2x as much soil as the seed is wide. The length of time for stratification varies:
- Apples 2-3 months
- Peaches 3-4 months
- Apricots 3-4 weeks
- Pears 2-3 months
- Cherries 4 months
- Plums 3 months
After this time period, move the seeds to a warm location, maintaining moist soil conditions and gradually introduce more light. Once the seedlings have 4 or 5 leaves, they may be transplanted to pots. The seeds of the peaches and apricots may need to have the outer covering cracked off before potting. Citrus fruit, like limes and lemons, from your trash or compost, may be garbage gardened by removing, washing, and selecting full seeds from ripe fruit. Plant in seed flats, no stratification required, as these are tropical plants. Transplant when there are 4-5 leaves. Get exotic and play with mango, papaya, kiwi, or pomegranate seeds.
Growing Plant Tops from Garbage
Carrots or other root crops, such as turnips or beets, make a great garbage garden project for the kids. You will need carrots with the tops intact and about 2 inches (5 cm.) of carrot. Fill a container with pea gravel or the like, water, and place the carrots, cut side down on top. Celery can also be grown from the cut base. Add a little sunshine and the end results are beautiful, ferny leaves sprouting out of your centerpiece. It's also fun to hollow out the carrot (retaining the top) and filling with water. Suspend with string and toothpicks for anchors and, voila, a lovely hanging plant. Pineapples can also be planted with the top (cut end down) in a six-inch (15 cm.) pot. Try your gardening thumb at planting raw peanuts, uncooked popcorn, tomato seeds, and even dry beans. Many plants are hybrids and as such will not bear the same veggies or fruits of the parent plant, but they are still fun to grow nonetheless.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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