Right now, I have several vegetable scraps growing in my sunny kitchen: celery, romaine lettuce, and red cabbage are just a few. In my garden, two rows of potatoes are growing thanks to a bag of sprouted tubers.
Previously, I would have tossed these food scraps into the compost pile and never given them a second thought. Now, I regrow many vegetables from scraps and plant them in pots or our home garden.
You can sprout vegetables like celery, romaine lettuce, and green onions in water and grow them again. You can also grow expensive kitchen staples, such as ginger, lemongrass, basil, and cilantro, from leftover pieces.
Regrowing food from scraps is an effective way to save money on food, create a free or low-cost garden or expand your current home garden, and eliminate food waste. It can also help you keep fresh food on the table if there are supply shortages caused by a pandemic or natural disaster.
Like any gardening endeavor, regrowing food from scraps takes time, and it won’t happen overnight. But with a sunny windowsill and a bit of patience, you can turn these castoffs into healthy produce for your family.
How to Grow Food From Scraps
If you want to start growing your food from scraps, it’s essential you start with organic produce. Growers treat many fruits and vegetables, especially potatoes, with a chemical sprout inhibitor, such as chlorpropham, which gives it a longer shelf life in the grocery store. Organic produce is chemical-free, which means it’s more likely to sprout at home.
It’s also helpful to know which growing zone you live in, as most plants can only tolerate a specific range of temperatures and conditions, especially when it comes to moving them outdoors. Check the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zone map to find your growing zone.
Also note that what specific supplies you need (and how many scraps you need) depends on whether you’re planting indoors or outdoors. If you’re planting outdoors or in a larger pot than recommended for pot planting, you can plant more than these instructions indicate. Always read the full directions for planting and make your choices before purchasing any new equipment.
Whether you’re planting into an existing home garden or pot, once you’ve chosen which plants to regrow and picked your method, save the scraps to replant and prepare to enjoy your harvest.
Cabbages can grow to a large size, up to 4 feet high and 4 feet wide. You can successfully grow cabbage in a container if you have a large pot and a large, sunny space to put it in.
- 1 cabbage
- 1 small bowl or shallow tray
- Fresh water
- 1 (5-gallon) pot (for pot planting)
- Enough loamy potting soil with a pH of 6 to 7.5 to fill a 5-gallon container (for pot planting)
- Nitrogen fertilizer (optional)
- Mulch (for garden planting)
- Preparation. Save the cabbage core with at least 1 inch of the leaves attached to the bottom base.
- Sprouting. In a small bowl or shallow tray, place the cabbage stem, stem side down, and pour water into the container until the stem is half-submerged. Place the bowl in a sunny location. Change the water every day or 2 to prevent bacterial growth. If you live in a dry environment and notice the leaves wilting, mist the leaves every few days to keep them moist. It should take around a week for roots to begin sprouting. Once you notice these, it’s time to plant the cabbage either in a pot or the garden.
- Pot Planting. Fill your 5-gallon pot with potting soil, leaving 2 inches of space from the rim. Using the spade, dig a hole and place the sprouting cabbage stem in the soil, root side down, and push soil around it so the tops of the cabbage leaves are still exposed. Water thoroughly until the soil is wet but not waterlogged 2 to 3 times per week. If you choose fertilizer, apply it according to package directions after 4 to 6 weeks and repeat every 2 weeks.
- Garden Planting. Find a location that gets at least 6 hours of sun. Your location should be at least 1 to 2 square feet from any other plants to allow for growth. If you’re planting multiple cabbages, space rows 24 inches apart and space individual plants 9 to 16 inches apart. Using the spade, dig a hole deep enough to bury half your cabbage stem. Place the sprouting cabbage stem in the soil, root side down, and push soil around it so the tops of the cabbage leaves are still exposed. Spread a layer of mulch around the cabbage to help the roots retain moisture. Water at least 1 1/2 inches per week. The soil should be wet but not waterlogged. Apply fertilizer according to package directions after 4 to 6 weeks and repeat every 3 to 4 weeks.
Your cabbage will be fully grown in 90 days or when the interior cabbage head is firm and has reached an estimated 1 to 3 pounds.
Cabbage thrives in cooler temperatures and grows best as a spring or fall crop. However, it grows in USDA zones 1 through 9.
Celery & Romaine Lettuce
Regrowing celery and romaine is another easy starter project. It’s especially fun to do with children because these plants regrow quickly.
- 1 celery or romaine bunch
- 1 shallow bowl
- Fresh water
- 1 (10-inch) planting pot, glazed for best results with celery and unglazed for best results with romaine (for pot planting)
- Enough potting soil to fill a 10-inch container (for pot planting)
- Spade (for garden planting)
- Balanced 5-10-10 fertilizer
- Preparation. As you use the romaine lettuce and celery, trim the stalks off the base, leaving at least 2 inches of the stalks.
- Sprouting. In a shallow bowl, place the celery or romaine stalk base side down. Add enough fresh water that the stalk is half-submerged in water. Place it in a sunny location. After several days, roots will begin to grow. After a week, the roots will be long enough to transplant the celery or romaine into a pot or garden.
- Pot Planting. Fill your pot with soil, leaving 1 inch of space from the rim. Using your fingers, make a hole the size of your celery or romaine stalk. Put the stalk in the hole, leaving just the tips exposed, and pack down with additional soil if needed. Water until the soil is damp. Celery and romaine need at least 1 inch of water per week, and the soil should be moist at all times. Fertilize every 10 to 14 days according to package directions.
- Garden Planting. Choose a sunny location that gets 6 hours of sun daily. If possible, choose the coolest, wettest area of your garden. Using the spade, dig a hole deep enough to submerge half your stalk in soil. Place the stalk in the hole and push dirt around it so the top half is still exposed. Place the celery or romaine in rows 12 inches from other plants spaced 6 to 10 inches apart. Water thoroughly once planted, and provide at least 1 inch of water per week, ensuring the soil is thoroughly wet but not waterlogged. Fertilize according to package directions every 10 to 14 days.
Celery is ready for harvest when new stalks are at least 3 inches high or around 125 days after transplanting. Cutting a few stalks to use as it grows encourages new growth.
Romaine is ready to harvest after 55 to 65 days, when the stalk is 6 to 8 inches high and feels firm (but not hard) to the touch.
Celery and romaine both thrive in cooler weather, so transplant outside in spring or fall. Celery thrives in USDA zones 4 through 10, with some varieties growing well in zones 2 or 3. Romaine grows in zones 4 through 9.
If you’re looking for a quick gardening project to do with kids, start with green onions. They grow new tops very quickly, which makes them perfect for younger kids still developing patience.
- Green onions
- 1 shallow bowl
- Fresh water
- 1 rectangular planting pot no more than 6 to 8 inches deep (for pot planting, a 15-inch tray will accommodate up to 7 bulbs)
- Enough light and loamy potting soil to fill the pot 2/3 deep (for pot planting)
- Enough compost to fill the container 1/3 deep (for pot planting)
- Preparation. As you use your green onions, leave at least 1 inch of onion on the bulb. You can store them until you have enough to plant by placing them in a shallow bowl filled with water.
- Sprouting. If they’re not already stored there, fill a shallow bowl with water and place the green onion bulbs inside in a bright location. Allow them to sit for about a week. Doing so helps the roots get established, which is helpful for growing them outdoors, though it’s optional for growing indoors.
- Pot Planting. Fill the planting pot 2/3 full with potting soil and 1/3 full with compost, leaving at least 1 inch of space from the rim. Mix thoroughly. Using the spade, make a small hole in the soil deep enough to cover most of the bulb, leaving only the tips exposed. Plant the bulbs in the potting soil, leaving at least 2 inches of spacing between each bulb. Place the pot on a sunny windowsill that gets at least 4 to 6 hours of sun daily. Water daily until the soil is moist but not waterlogged. Green onions need at least 1 inch of water per week. If the weather is particularly hot and dry, the onions might need a morning and evening watering.
- Garden Planting. Choose a sunny, well-draining location that gets at least 4 to 6 hours of sun daily. Using the spade, dig a hole almost as deep as your green onion bulbs, typically 2 inches. If you’re planting multiple bulbs, space them 2 inches apart. Place the bulbs in the holes, roots downward, and cover with soil, leaving only the tips exposed. Water thoroughly and ensure the onions get at least 1 inch of water per week. The soil should be moist but not waterlogged.
In two to three weeks, the green onions will be tall enough to snip and enjoy. To harvest, snip the green stalks and leave at least 1 inch attached to the bulb. The stalks will continue to grow indefinitely.
Green onions grow best in USDA zones 5 through 9.
You don’t need a special mushroom-growing kit to create an endless supply of mushrooms. You can grow them at home using the stalks you typically trim off before cooking. Because mushrooms thrive in cooler environments, it’s best to start the project in the winter or early spring.
Oyster mushroom stalks are one of the easiest to grow, although you can use any variety. However, each mushroom has its own unique growing conditions and requirements, so research each specific variety if you decide not to use oyster mushrooms.
- Enough straw or shredded cardboard (for bedding) to fill the growing container
- Fresh water
- A growing container (paper bag, small cardboard box, or small plastic bin)
- At least 2 oyster mushroom stalks, cut into 1/4-inch discs
- If using a box or bin, plastic sheeting or garbage bag large enough to cover it completely
- Preparation. Soak the straw or shredded cardboard in water until it’s saturated. (Alternatively, you can mist it with a spray bottle until it’s thoroughly wet.)
- Planting. Pull the bedding out of the water and place a layer down in your growing container. Add a layer of the mushroom stalk discs, leaving 1 inch between each disc. Put a layer of moist bedding on top of the mushrooms. If you have additional mushroom ends, layer these next and then add another layer of damp bedding. Keep layering the bedding and mushroom pieces until the bin is full or you’re out of mushroom discs. If you’re using a cardboard box or plastic bin to grow the mushrooms, cover the top with the plastic sheeting or garbage bag. Poke several holes in the sheeting so air can circulate. If you’re using a paper bag, roll up the top and poke a few holes in the paper. The goal is to create a dark, moisture-rich environment with some airflow. Put the growing container in a dark closet or garage where temperatures are between 65 and 75 degrees F. Check the container every day. If the bedding material begins to dry out, spray it with water until it’s damp but not waterlogged.
In three weeks, the mushrooms will start to fruit. After the mushrooms begin to grow, they will be ready to harvest in two to three weeks, when the caps are open and the stalks are 2 to 3 inches high. To harvest the mushrooms, cut the stalks with a sharp knife.
Mushrooms will grow in any USDA zone as long as they’re kept indoors and in their specific temperature range.
Cilantro & Basil
Fresh herbs like cilantro and basil are expensive to buy in the grocery store. However, you can easily regrow these herbs from stems that are at least 4 to 6 inches long and have an endless supply at home.
- 4 stems of basil or cilantro
- 1 (8-ounce) glass jar
- Spring or filtered water
- 1 (4-inch) planting pot (for pot planting)
- Enough potting soil to fill the pot (for pot planting)
- Preparation. The next time you buy cilantro or basil, use the bottom 75% of leaves only, striping the leaves off the stems and leaving the top leaves attached.
- Sprouting. Put the stems in a glass jar and fill it with the spring or filtered water. If you decide to use tap water, let it sit out for 24 hours before adding the herbs to allow the chlorine to evaporate. Place the jar in a location that receives 8 hours of sunlight daily. Change the water every day. After 10 to 14 days, roots will begin to grow. When the roots are at least 2 inches long, you can plant them in a pot or garden.
- Pot Planting. Fill the planting pot with soil, leaving 1 inch of space from the rim. Using the spade, dig 1 shallow hole for each stem you’re planting, leaving 1 inch between each hole. Dig the hole deep enough that most of the stem is buried and only the upper leaves are exposed. Place the pot in a location that gets at least 8 hours of sun daily. Once outdoor temperatures reach 80 degrees F, the basil will grow quickly. Cilantro generally thrives when temperatures are 50 degrees F to 80 degrees F. Water basil and cilantro every few days so the soil is thoroughly wet but not waterlogged. Both herbs like moisture, but too much causes the roots to rot. To tell whether your basil or cilantro needs water, test the soil at the top and bottom of the pot (at the drainage hole) with your finger. The soil needs water when it’s dry and crumbly at the top and bottom of the plant. When you’ve watered the plants adequately, the top should feel cool and dry and the bottom should feel moderately damp. To encourage a thicker, lusher plant, pinch off the flowering heads as soon as they emerge. If you allow them to flower, the herbs will grow spindly and produce fewer leaves.
- Garden Planting. Choose a location in your garden that gets at least 8 hours of sun daily. Before you move the herbs outside, the soil should be at least 70 degrees F for best growth, and nighttime temperatures should not dip below 50 degrees F. The soil should also be moist but well-draining. Using the spade, dig a hole that’s 2 inches deep or deep enough to cover the roots and stabilize the stalk well. If you have several basil plants, space them 10 to 12 inches apart. Plant cilantro 12 to 18 inches apart. Water the herbs deeply several times per week — daily if the weather is particularly dry. The soil should be thoroughly wet but not waterlogged. To encourage a thicker, lusher plant, pinch off the flowering heads as soon as they emerge. If you allow them to flower, the herbs will grow spindly and produce fewer leaves.
You can harvest basil when stalks are at least 6 inches tall. To harvest leaves, snip them off at the base of the stalk with your fingernails or small scissors. The more you harvest, the more basil will grow.
You can harvest cilantro as soon as the leaves are big enough to eat. Trim the stalks off the plant at the base, but never take more than one-third of the plant at a time.
Cilantro thrives best as an outdoor spring and summer crop in USDA zones 3 through 8 and thrives if planted in the fall or winter in zones 9 through 11. Basil thrives in USDA zones 2 through 11.
Lemongrass is another savory herb that’s expensive to buy at the grocery store. But this tropical plant is easy to regrow at home.
At the store, make sure you purchase lemongrass that has the entire stalk intact. Some stores trim the roots off the lemongrass, and while these are fine for cooking, they don’t work for propagating at home.
Note that lemongrass can grow into a very bushy shrub, up to 3 to 5 feet tall, and needs plenty of space. Some people use lemongrass as a screen or natural fence because the plant can grow so densely under the right conditions.
- 4 lemongrass stalks
- 1 (8-ounce) glass jar
- Fresh water
- 1 (5-gallon) pot (for pot planting)
- Enough potting soil to fill the pot (for pot planting)
- Preparation. As you use the lemongrass, pull off any brown leaves and trim the stalks off at the top where the leaves start to split.
- Sprouting. Place the prepared lemongrass stalks in the jar, root side down, and add a few inches of water so the bottom third of the stalk is submerged. Place the jar in a sunny location, ideally a south-facing window. Change the water every few days, especially if it appears milky. New growth will begin to appear at the top of the stalk and roots will emerge from the bottom. If you live in a warm, sunny climate, this will occur after 1 week. If your climate is cooler and cloudy, it might take 2 weeks or more to see new growth.
- Pot Planting. Fill the planting pot with soil, leaving 2 inches of space from the rim. Use a spade to dig 4 (1-inch) holes, leaving at least 3 inches of space between each hole. Once the roots are at least 3 inches long, plant the stalks in the pot, root side down, covering the base and roots thoroughly. Leave the leaves exposed. Place the pot in a sunny, warm location, and provide at least 1 inch of water per week, enough that the soil is thoroughly moist but not waterlogged. If you live in a colder climate, keep lemongrass indoors in the winter and mist the leaves with water at least once per week in addition to regular watering.
- Garden Planting. Choose a location in your garden that gets at least 8 hours of sun daily. The soil should be well-draining, but the lemongrass can tolerate some clay. Using the spade, dig a hole deep enough to cover the roots and support the stalk. Leave the leaves exposed. Plant each stalk, root side down, at least 24 inches apart. Every day or so, water until the soil is moist but not waterlogged.
Lemongrass is ready for harvest after two to four months, depending on your climate. Stalks should be at least 12 inches tall and 1/2-inch wide at the base. To harvest the stalk, cut it off at the base, leaving some exposed to light and air. This cut stalk will continue to grow and produce another stalk.
Lemongrass thrives year-round in USDA zones 9 through 10. Everywhere else, you must bring it indoors as soon as temperatures begin to cool.
Ginger can add a burst of fresh flavor to many dishes. It’s also an excellent natural cold remedy.
When choosing ginger root for indoor planting, opt for a piece that’s at least 2 inches long with several bumps. These bumps are the buds that will grow roots. Avoid roots with any signs of withering at the ends or skin that is darker around the buds.
Ginger is a heavy feeder, which means it needs a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for best results.
- Fork or screwdriver
- Small plastic food container with a clear lid (a takeout container works fine)
- Enough potting soil to fill the food container (and pot if pot planting)
- 1 piece (at least 2 inches) organic ginger root
- Fresh water
- 1 (2-gallon) pot or larger
- Nitrogen-rich fertilizer (for pot planting)
- Compost (for garden planting)
- Sprouting. Using the fork or screwdriver, punch several small drainage holes in the bottom of the plastic container. Add a 1-inch layer of potting soil to the container. Place the ginger in the container and then cover it with soil until the container is full. Water until the soil is thoroughly wet. Cover and set the container on a warm, bright windowsill out of direct sunlight. Water it whenever the soil dries out. Sprouts will emerge within 8 weeks.
- Pot Planting. Once the sprouts have emerged, the ginger is ready for transplant. Fill the planting pot with 4 inches of soil and gently take the ginger out of its container. The rhizome is fairly hardy, so as long as you’re gentle, don’t worry about damaging it when transplanting. Place the ginger in the soil with the buds facing downward and cover it with more, leaving only the tips of the sprouts exposed. Place the pot in a bright location or outdoors if temperatures are 60 to 90 degrees F. If you move the ginger outdoors, make sure the plant has plenty of light (but no direct sunlight) and is sheltered from the wind. Fertilize once per month according to package directions. Water deeply once per week, making sure the soil all around the rhizome is thoroughly wet but not waterlogged. Every month, put a hill of potting soil around the plant to prevent the roots from growing out of the soil and turning green in the sunlight. Hilling soil on top of the plant helps increase your yields.
- Garden Planting. Choose a location in your garden that has partial shade. Add some compost to the soil so that it’s loamy and well-draining. Use approximately the same amount of compost as you have soil, and mix. Using the spade, dig a 1-inch hole. Plant the ginger in the soil with the buds facing downward, covering the rhizome completely and leaving the stalk exposed. If you’re planting multiple pieces, space them at least 12 inches apart. Water deeply immediately after transplanting and daily during the growing season. Ensure the soil is thoroughly wet but not waterlogged.
After 10 to 12 months, when the leaves begin to die back, the ginger is mature and ready for harvest. To harvest your ginger, dig up the entire plant. Break off a small chunk, making sure at least 2 inches of the rhizome remains, and replant the bulb for additional regrowth. Let the ginger rest at least a week before you harvest more, always making sure you leave 2 inches for further regrowth. Ginger grows in tropical locations, so water the replanted root daily.
Ginger only grows year-round in USDA zones 9 and higher, and it can’t tolerate temperatures below 55 degrees F, so pot planting is the best method for most people. If you plant it in a pot and bring it indoors when temperatures cool, the plant will thrive through the winter.
You can easily grow onions from the onion bottoms you trim off the bulb as long as the onions are not moldy or mushy.
Ideally, you will plant several sets of onions to increase the chances of getting a decent harvest. Onions need deep, wide containers to grow well, and it can get expensive if you have to buy several of these. Plastic storage containers are ideal for growing onions, and they’re much cheaper than purchasing a planting pot. Just make sure you use a screwdriver or drill to poke drainage holes in the bottom.
Note that you can plant outdoors once temperatures stop dipping below 28 degrees F. In mild climates, you can plant onions outdoors in late fall for a spring harvest.
- 3 onions
- 1 wide, well-draining planting pot, at least 10 inches deep and 2 – 3 feet wide (for pot planting)
- Enough potting soil to fill the container (for pot planting)
- Nitrogen fertilizer (optional)
- Compost (for garden planting)
- Straw (for garden planting)
- Preparation. When you’re cutting onions you plan to plant, leave at least 1 to 2 inches of onion flesh intact at the root end. Trim the bottom roots from the bulb. You can also plant whole onion bulbs that have sprouted. Let the onion bottoms dry in the open air for several hours, up to 2 days. Letting the bottoms air-dry creates a callus on the onion skin, which aids growth. When the onion bottom is dry to the touch and slightly shriveled, it’s ready for planting. Whole onions that have sprouted can go directly into the soil.
- Pot Planting. Fill your pot 2/3 full with potting soil. Using your hands, make indentations in the soil the size of the onion bottom you’re planting. If you’re planting a whole sprouted onion, use a spade to dig holes deep enough to hold the entire bulb. Plant the onion bottoms or whole bulbs in the soil, root side down, leaving the sprouts exposed if using a whole onion, and press gently to ensure good soil contact. Cover with 1 to 2 more inches of soil and water thoroughly enough that the soil is wet but not waterlogged. Place the container in a location that gets 6 to 7 hours of sunlight per day. Onions in containers require 2 to 3 inches of water each week and even more in hot weather. The soil should be damp to the touch but not saturated, as onions like moist but well-drained soil. If you opt to use nitrogen fertilizer, spray it into the soil right after watering and use your hands to mix the top 1 to 2 inches of soil gently. Fertilize the onions every 2 weeks.
- Garden Planting. Choose a location in your garden with loose, well-draining soil that gets at least 6 to 7 hours of sunlight daily. Heavy or rocky soil will affect the onion’s bulb growth, so the looser the soil, the better. Add compost to the garden soil, 1 part compost to 1 part soil, mixing it in thoroughly. Using a spade, dig a 1/2-inch hole in the dirt (deeper if you’re planting a whole sprouting onion). Plant the onion bottoms or whole bulbs in the soil, root sides down, leaving the sprouts exposed if using a whole onion, and press gently to ensure good soil contact. Cover with 1 to 2 more inches of soil. Space plants 4 to 6 inches apart, with rows at least 1 to 2 feet apart. Place straw several inches high in between the rows to help maintain moisture and discourage weeds. Once planted, water thoroughly. Onions need at least 1 inch of water per week, enough that the soil is thoroughly wet but not waterlogged. Fertilize the onions according to package directions every 2 to 3 weeks.
The onions are ready to harvest when they start to flower, from 90 to 120 days after planting, or when the tops are at least 6 inches high.
Onions grow well outdoors in USDA zones 5 through 10.
Pineapple is another tropical fruit that (in most parts of the country) thrives best when planted indoors.
You can root pineapple in water, similar to other fruits and vegetables. However, it’s best to plant it directly into soil.
- 1 pineapple
- 1 (10-inch) planting pot (for pot planting)
- Enough light potting soil with perlite and sand to fill the pot (for pot planting)
- Houseplant fertilizer (optional, for pot planting)
- Mulch (optional, for garden planting)
- Preparation. To prepare the pineapple, you must remove the leafy top. Holding the fruit firmly, grasp the leaves and twist. You can also use a clean, sharp knife to cut off the top 1/2-inch from the bottom leaves. Once you remove the leafy top from the fruit, tear off the bottommost leaves until you can see the root bulbs, which look like small brown bumps. Leave the top on the counter to air-dry for several days before planting to help prevent rotting and disease. The flesh should look calloused and wrinkly when it has dried enough to plant.
- Pot Planting. Fill the planting pot with potting mix. Using the spade, dig a shallow hole as deep as the exposed stem. Plant the pineapple top in the pot, leaves facing upward, placing it in the hole so the bottommost leaves are still exposed. Water thoroughly until the soil is moist but not waterlogged, and place it in a warm area that gets at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight. Continue to water it every couple of days, whenever the soil dries out. If using fertilizer, fertilize 1 or 2 times per month according to package directions. After 2 months, the pineapple plant should have established roots. You can check the root growth by gently pulling the top out of the soil. Once the roots are a few inches long, move the pot to an area that gets some direct sunlight. A semi-shaded area outdoors is best.
- Garden Planting. Choose a location in your garden that gets at least 6 hours of sun. Using the spade, dig a hole deep enough to fully cover the pineapple stem, leaving the leaves fully exposed. Water until the soil is moist but not waterlogged. Pineapples are drought-tolerant, so only water if you notice the leaves turning brown. Spread a layer of mulch at least 2 inches deep around the plant to help maintain moisture. As the mulch breaks down, it will provide nourishment for the plant, making fertilizer unnecessary.
Pineapples are notoriously slow-growing, and it can take two years for your plant to bear fruit. However, many people find that pineapples make a beautiful houseplant, whether it’s fruiting or not.
You can grow pineapple outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 11.
Regrowing garlic indoors is a bit different from growing other vegetables. When you plant a clove indoors, you’re growing it for the scapes, which are the tender young shoots that grow from the clove. Garlic scapes are edible and delicious, much like garlic chives, and you can add them to baked potatoes, biscuit or bread dough, or dips for an added burst of flavor.
If you plant spare cloves in containers and grow them indoors, you can harvest and eat the scapes throughout the year.
Garlic cloves will not produce a garlic bulb unless you plant them outdoors and they go through a regular growing season. If you plant garlic outdoors, one clove can produce a bulb that contains five to 10 cloves.
- 2 toothpicks
- 1 garlic clove
- Small (6- to 8-ounce) glass jar
- 6-inch container or deeper (the larger the pot, the more moisture it can retain, which means you have to water it less frequently)
- Enough well-draining potting soil with peat and perlite to fill the container
- 5-10-10 fertilizer (optional, for garden planting)
- Straw or mulch (for garden planting in USDA zones 6 and below)
- Preparation. Save at least 1 clove for planting. Leave the papery skin intact.
- Sprouting (for Scapes Only). Poke the toothpicks 1/4 inch into each side of the garlic clove. Suspend the garlic clove over the jar with the pointed tip facing upward and the root end down. Add enough water to half-submerge the garlic clove. Change the water every 2 or 3 days. Within a week, a few leaves will begin to grow. Once these appear, you can plant the garlic in a pot.
- Pot Planting. Pour potting soil into the pot, leaving 3 inches of space from the rim. Place the garlic clove in the soil, sprout side up. (If you’re planting more than 1, use a larger pot that can accommodate at least 3 inches between each clove. Cover with 1 to 2 inches of soil. Pat the soil gently to compress it. Water thoroughly once per week until the soil is damp. Place the container where it will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Garden Planting. To grow a full bulb, you must plant the clove in the fall after the first frost. It won’t be ready for harvest until midsummer. Different varieties have different planting dates, depending on your USDA zone. See full instructions for timing your planting before starting this project. Choose a location in your garden that gets at least 6 hours of sun daily. Using the spade, dig a 2-inch hole. Remove all stones from the soil, as these can affect the bulb’s development. Place 1 clove in the hole, flat end down and pointy side up, and cover it completely with soil. If planting multiple plants, space cloves 2 to 4 inches apart in rows spaced 10 to 14 inches apart. Water thoroughly after planting so the soil is moist but not waterlogged. If you live in USDA zone 6 or lower, place a heavy layer of straw over the garlic to protect it from the harsh temperatures. Leave the garlic undisturbed over the winter. In the spring, shoots will begin to grow. If you’re in USDA zone 6 or lower, once temperatures start to stay above 20 degrees F, remove the straw. When you notice new growth, water thoroughly every 3 to 5 days and fertilize if you see the leaves turn yellow.
Once scapes begin to curl, they’re ready to harvest. Snip them off with scissors near the base of the plant. Keep in mind that the longer scapes get, the more fibrous they become, so it’s best to harvest them early.
The whole garlic is ready to harvest in mid-to-late July, when at least two of the leaves at the base have died. To harvest the garlic bulbs, dig them up gently with a spade or gardening fork, being careful not to pierce the bulb.
Depending on the variety, garlic grows outdoors in USDA zones 3 through 8.
Don’t toss those potatoes that have begun to grow “eyes” and send up sprouts. You can easily plant them in your garden or a deep container and have a new harvest of potatoes in just a few months.
- 1 – 3 sprouted potatoes
- 1 (2.5-gallon) pot (minimum) or potato-planting pot (for pot planting)
- Enough potting soil to fill the pot (for pot planting)
- Tiller (for garden planting — you can rent one from a home improvement store like Home Depot)
- Compost (optional, for garden planting)
- Preparation. You can plant any type of potato that has begun to sprout. Plant small potatoes whole. To prepare larger potatoes, divide the potatoes into 2-inch chunks, making sure each piece has at least 2 eyes. If you have cut large potatoes into chunks, leave them on the counter for 24 hours to dry out. Drying them helps prevent rotting.
- Pot Planting. Fill 1/3 of your container with the potting soil. Using the spade, dig holes deep enough to cover the potatoes, and plant the potatoes or potato chunks at least 5 inches apart, facing the eyes upward. You can grow up to 3 potato plants in a 2.5-gallon pot. Cover the potatoes with soil, water thoroughly until the soil is wet but not waterlogged, and place the pot in a sunny location. Provide 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week, making sure it’s thoroughly wet but not waterlogged. Once the sprouts reach 6 inches, add more potting soil until only 2 inches of the sprouts are exposed. Continue to add soil once the sprouts reach 6 inches until the pot is full of soil. While hilling isn’t necessary, it leads to a stronger plant and higher yields.
- Garden Planting. Choose a location that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sun. Plant the sprouted potatoes outdoors in spring after the date of the last frost for your area or when the soil reaches 50 degrees F. Use the Farmer’s Almanac tool to find the first and last frost dates for your area. Till the soil so it’s loose and airy. Hard-packed soil inhibits growth. To plant, dig a hole at least 3 inches deep. If you’re using compost, spread a layer, at least 2 inches deep at the bottom of each hole. Space potatoes 1 foot apart. Place each potato or potato piece in a hole and cover it. In-ground potatoes need 1 to 2 inches of water each week, enough that the soil is wet but not waterlogged. However, stop all watering in mid-August to help the potatoes develop a healthy skin for winter storage. Once sprouts appear 12 to 16 days later, cover the plant with 1 to 2 inches of soil so only the top 1 or 2 inches of the stalk is exposed. Repeat the hilling process 2 to 3 more times during the growing season.
If you want “new” potatoes (potatoes harvested early when they’re still small and have soft skin), harvest these 2 to 3 weeks after the stalks flower.
Mature potatoes are ready to harvest when the stalks turn yellow and begin to die, usually 18 to 20 weeks after planting.
To harvest the potatoes, cut all foliage down to the ground and wait 10 to 14 days. Leaving them in the ground allows them to develop a tough skin for winter storage. After the potatoes have cured in the ground, use a garden fork to dig them out of the dirt gently. You can also use your hands to dig them gently out of the ground.
Gather potatoes quickly. Leaving them out in the sun too long causes them to develop solanine, which turns potatoes green and causes a bitter taste. Store freshly dug potatoes in a cool, dry place (45 to 60 degrees F) for up to two weeks. That helps the skin thicken further for storage.
Potatoes thrive in USDA zones 3 through 10.
Hot or Mild Peppers
You can grow many different types of hot or mild peppers at home using the seeds from store-bought varieties. Habaneros, jalapenos, and cayenne all make bright, decorative additions to a sunny kitchen windowsill or flower bed and provide you with plenty of spicy heat and flavor to liven up your dishes.
These instructions are for starting hot pepper plants from fresh seeds. You can use seeds from naturally dried peppers, but you must rehydrate them in water before sprouting. However, the companies that supply many commercially dried peppers use heat to dry them rapidly, and those usually aren’t viable for planting.
- 1 shallow bowl (if planting naturally dried seeds)
- 4 paper towels
- A zip-close bag
- 6 – 8 seeds from any fresh or naturally dried hot or mild pepper
- Seedling starter cells
- 1 (6-inch) planting pot (for pot planting)
- Enough potting soil to fill the cells (and planting pot if applicable)
- Sprouting. If you’re using naturally dried seeds, put them in a shallow bowl and cover them with water. Let them sit for 3 days. Fresh seeds are ready to sprout without that step. Wet your paper towels and place them in the zip-close bag. Put 6 to 8 seeds in between the wet paper towels and seal the bag. Place the bag in a warm area in your kitchen out of direct sunlight. The ideal temperature is 70 to 75 degrees F. Keep the paper towels moist but not waterlogged. Germination can take as little as 1 week or as many as 6 weeks, depending on the temperature and the variety of pepper. As soon as the peppers begin to sprout, add potting soil up to the seedling starter cells’ rims. Remove pepper seedlings from the bag, being very careful not to damage the tender stalks, and plant them in the soil. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. In 8 to 10 weeks, when seedlings are at least 4 inches tall, they’re strong enough to transplant.
- Pot Planting. Fill the planting pot with soil leaving 1 inch of space from the rim. Place the pot in a location that gets 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Provide 1 inch of water per week so the soil is wet but not waterlogged. Pepper plants can quickly rot if you overwater.
- Garden Planting. You can plant pepper seedlings outdoors 2 to 3 weeks after the date of the last expected frost. Choose a location in the garden that receives 6 to 8 hours of sun daily and has sandy, well-draining soil. Dig a hole deep enough to cover half the length of the seedling, 1 to 2 inches deep. Space plants 18 to 36 inches apart with 2 to 3 feet between rows. Provide 1 to 2 inches of water each week to keep the soil thoroughly wet but not waterlogged.
Depending on the variety, mild peppers are ready to harvest in 60 days, while the hottest peppers are ready in 150 days. Keep in mind this harvest range starts after transplanting and does not include the 8 to 10 weeks it takes for the seed to germinate and grow strong enough for transplanting.
Peppers grow as perennials in USDA zone 11. Elsewhere, you must bring them indoors when the weather cools.
Root Vegetable Greens
You can regrow carrot, beet, turnip, and parsnip tops. However, this regrowth doesn’t produce another edible root. Rather, you regrow these vegetables for their tops, which are tasty and contain many nutrients.
You can put root tops into smoothies, add them to salads, use them in pesto, or saute them with olive oil and garlic for a delicious side dish. Carrot greens are an excellent replacement for fresh parsley in recipes.
- 1 root vegetable
- 4 toothpicks
- 1 (8-ounce) glass jar
- 1 (6-inch) planting pot
- Enough potting soil to fill the pot
- Preparation. When you eat root vegetables you plan to plant, leave at least 1 inch of vegetable flesh attached to the roots. Root vegetable tops grow best in containers.
- Sprouting. Insert the toothpicks into the flesh of the root top, spacing them evenly. Using the toothpicks as support, suspend the root top over the glass jar with the greens facing upward. Fill it with enough water to submerge the bottom half of the top. Set the glass in a bright location out of direct sunlight. Change the water every 2 or 3 days. When the sprouts form and roots are visible in the water, the tops are ready for transplant.
- Planting in a Pot. Fill the planting pot with soil, leaving 1 inch of space from the rim. Using the spade, dig a shallow hole for the vegetable top. Plant the top in soil, covering the roots and submerging the bottommost portion of the stalks. Provide 1 inch of water per week or when the soil is completely dry. Ensure the soil is thoroughly wet but not waterlogged.
You can harvest the tops as they grow or when the plant has produced enough foliage to use in a recipe.
Because you grow them indoors, you can grow root vegetable tops in any USDA zone.
Few people realize they can grow food from so many of the vegetable scraps they throw away or compost. Regrowing your own food from scraps is an economical way to start a container garden and reduce your grocery bill.
Regrowing vegetables from scrap is also a fun and educational project to do with kids, especially if you put them in charge of checking the growth and changing the water. These projects can give them something to care for on their own and teach them to love gardening. Growing fresh vegetables from scraps can also help them develop healthy eating habits since many kids are excited to taste what they grew themselves.
What vegetables do you want to learn to grow from scraps?