Written by Casey Wu, Grant Writing and Development Intern
If you’re a parent that loves gardening, getting your children involved is a great way to spend quality time with them and introduce them early on to the joys of gardening. Homegrown produce is also a great way to introduce your children to new varieties of vegetables.
Even if you don’t have a green thumb, gardening with your children doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult. There are a wide variety of plants and vegetables that are both easy to grow and rewarding for both you and your children. In fact, you won’t even need a garden bed for these plants, all you’ll need is a water tight container and a window sill with ample light.
Even though Summer has ended, there’s still plenty of opportunity to get an indoor or outdoor garden started in time for the fall season. When choosing plants to grow with your children, look for plants that go from seed or starter to food fairly quick, and seeds or seedlings that are easy for small fingers to handle.
The following vegetables are ones that can be regrown from cuttings and are a great way to utilize the bits that you would usually toss out or compost. Children will love how quickly you can see growth and you can teach your kids a little bit about where their food comes from as well.
Green Onions in Water
To (re)grow green onions, all you need is a starter bunch of green onions, a jar, and fresh water.
- Slice off the white portion of the green onions, making sure to leave the roots attached.
- Stand the bulbs root-end down in a small jar. A mug or narrow glass works just as well.
- Add enough water to cover the roots, but leave the top edges above the water line.
- Place the jar wherever there’s an ample amount of light.
- After a few days, green shoots will emerge from the tops of the cuttings. Snip them off with scissors and they’re ready to eat.
Remember to change the water at least once a week!
Growing garlic scapes or chives is a great way to use up those leftover cloves of garlic that are floating around in your kitchen. Scapes look just like skinny green onions, but they have a mild garlic taste. They’re great to use in salad dressings or to sprinkle on as a garnish.
To grow garlic scapes, you’ll need a few unpeeled garlic cloves, a small jar (shot glasses work well), and water.
- Place your garlic cloves in their jar root side down.
- Add a little bit of water. It should be just enough to cover the bottom of your clove. If you put too much water, there’s a chance your clove will rot.
- Place on a windowsill or any other sunny spot and after a few days you’ll start to see scapes. Let them grow until they’re a few inches tall and then cut and use as needed.
Typically, we toss the tops of carrots into the garbage or compost bins. Instead, save your carrot tops and turn them into leafy carrot greens.
To grow carrot greens, you’ll need carrot tops (preferably ones with greens still attached), a shallow dish, and water.
- Place your carrot tops in a small dish cut side down.
- Fill the dish with about an inch of water. You want to submerge the cut, but not cover the tops.
- Place in a sunny windowsill and watch your greens grow in about a week. Make sure to change the water every other day.
You can either keep the greens growing in water or transfer them to soil for even faster growth.
Bok choy is a popular addition to stir fries and is great to eat on its own. Regrowing bok choy from a stalk is a great alternative to throwing the inedible ends in the compost bin or garbage can. The small leaves that grow also make a nice decoration for your kitchen window or countertop.
To re-grow bok choy, save the base of the vegetable. This will typically be the tough and fibrous white portion of the plant that gets trimmed off and discarded before cooking.
- Place the bok choy in a bowl or shallow plate of warm water with the trimmed side facing up. You want to cover the root end, but no more than that.
- Place the bok choy in a sunny spot, either on a windowsill or an open area on your countertop.
- Change the water every other day. Sometimes, it helps to occasionally mist the center of the plant to keep everything well-hydrated.
- At first, the outer stalks of the bok choy will yellow and wither. After a week or so, new leaves will begin to grow from the center.
After roots have developed, usually after 10-14 days, you can plant the cutting in soil—making sure to keep the new leaves out of the dirt. At this point, your bok choy should be large enough to use in two or three months.
Lettuce and all of its varieties are a common staple in many kitchens. When preparing lettuce for eating or cooking, the base is almost always chopped off and discarded. Rather than tossing these scraps out, save them and try re-growing them in water. For this method, the larger the intact scrap is the better. All you’ll need is a 2-inch or bigger trimming, container of choice, and water.
- Remove all the leafy bits you can take off without cutting into the stem. It’s important to remove these since there’s a good chance they’ll rot in water.
- Rinse off the end to clean any extra dirt off. This will help encourage growth and decrease the likelihood of mold or rot.
- Place the stem base in a bowl or jar with the cut side facing up and fill with a little bit of water. Ideally you only want to submerge the very end of the stem. For larger containers, you can use toothpicks to prop up the cutting and keep it from being fully submerged.
- Place the container on a sunny windowsill or spot on your kitchen counter. Your young lettuce will need at minimum a few hours of light a day.
- Change the water every other day to prevent mold and rot. Misting occasionally can help with growth if you live in a dry environment.
Unfortunately, the re-grown lettuce is unlikely to do well if replanted in soil. The stress of cutting the original plant and placing the roots in soil does not bode well for the lettuce. You can try adding a few drops of liquid fertilizer to get more growth, but remember that these leaves won’t be as tasty as the originals.
Give Your Scraps a Chance
The ultimate source of locally sourced food can be found right in your own home. As long as you have a few spare glasses and a sunny spot, there’s lots of opportunity to start a mini hydroponic garden just from your vegetable scraps.
For kids, this is a great chance for them to learn about where their food comes from and what their vegetables looked like before they hit the grocery store. Avoiding the mess of soil and troubles of cold weather, starting a hydroponic garden from scraps is an easy and low-cost way of introducing your children to the joys of gardening. Growing your own food doesn’t have to be difficult. And while you won’t be feeding a family with your harvest, you can’t put a price on learning and the feeling of eating something you grew with your own hands.
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