Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Growing plants from fruit and veggie scraps

There are lots of things that we usually get rid of when cooking that can make a great "growing" unit for kids. Vegetable tops and fruit seeds... many things that we just toss or (hopefully) make compost out of will grow when set in water or soil. Have kids keep a lookout at home for things that they can bring in and then you can set up an experiment area. Be sure to use popsicle sticks or other labels (preferably with pictures) so kids get a good visual of what's going on over time.

Things you can grow:

  • dried beans and peas (plant in dirt)

  • carrot tops (trim leaves and plant leafy side up in a tray of soil)

  • green onion tops (plant the white part root side down in soil)

  • Popcorn kernels (plant in a tray of soil)

  • avacado pits (use toothpicks to balance the seed in a cup of water. Place in water with the bigger side pointing downward)

  • seeds from oranges, limes, lemons and other citrus fruit

  • beet tops (trim leaves and plant leafy side up in a tray of soil)

  • turnip tops (trim leaves and plant leafy side up in a tray of soil)

  • pineapple crowns (set in a tray of water)

  • sweet potatoes (put in water with half of potato always submerged)

When growing from seeds, like popcorn kernels or citrus seeds, place some plastic wrap over the pot or tray and keep moist. Remove the wrap as soon as you see the first sprouts.

Good planting containers include the bottoms of milk cartons or milk jugs, the bottoms of two-liter bottles and aluminum pot pie or pie tins. Be sure to poke holes for drainage (I like using milk carton bottoms simply because it's easier to make holes) and place the container in a saucer to catch any extra water.

When using soil, be sure to use a light mixture that has some vermiculite or other additions. Soil that is heavy is not the best for planting. Roots don't grow in soil, after all, they grow in the places between the soil. For that reason, you need to make sure you get something loose and light that the roots can really move in. Adding peat moss or the more environmentally friendly Coir Fiber as a good way to make room in your soil for roots to grow.

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