Introduction: Starting a Scrap Garden

About: I play with light

    This Instructable will cover how to start a little garden of goodies from kitchen scraps and leftovers.

    • I will add updates every few days since at the time of publication some of these plants were started only a few hours ago (like the pineapple, rosemary and pepper seeds),

    • You can skip to the next step. The text below is how I change my mind and came up with the idea for this Instructable.

    Confession time... I've been looking forward to a Scraps Contest for a while now. I design and prep STEM and art/craft projects for a k-12 school, so my garage... I mean, office. Yeah, office that makes it sound like its a real job, right? Anyway, my office is incredibly well stocked with leftover, scrap materials, and tools. I'm the crazy lady at the dollar store that checks out with two cart-loads so a scraps challenge is right in my wheelhouse.

    However, I was talking to a preschool teacher that was looking for quick gardening projects for her kids. A Scrappy kitchen would be a fun and interesting project for them. The growth is quick and in some cases, it can be observed overnight. This keeps the kids interested and engaged. The scraps and materials are likely to be available, and they can have a healthy snack after a few days. It ticks a bunch of boxes so let's get to it.

    If you are interested in growing potatoes from scraps, let me know and I can put together a separate Instructable. I didn't include it here, because growing potatoes would not hold children's interest for too long. Thanks to the comments section for the reminder about potatoes. I love the community suggestions.

    Ok, let's stop tossing those kitchen scraps and let's start growing a little garden.


    Kitchen scraps:

    • Avocado
    • Lettuce
    • Celery
    • Basil
    • Mint
    • Rosemary
    • Tomato
    • Cucumber
    • Jalapeno
    • Pineapple
    • Carrot
    • Onion
    • Chia seeds

    Something to grow them in/with:

    • Mushroom containers
    • Take out containers
    • Plastic cups
    • Water bottles

    Random stuff leftover from takeout




    Soil left over from other gardening projects

    tools like scissors, craft knife, sharpie and a spary bottle

    Step 1: Lettuce

    • When you chop up your lettuce (celery, bok choy or cabbage ) save about 2 inches of the core or bottom of the lettuce

    • Place the core in a clean container and add about 1/2 inch of water
      • I am using one of those tubs that mushrooms come in, but a bowl would work as well.
    • Place the container with the lettuce core in a bright window, out of direct sunlight
    • Change the water every other day
    • Let it grow for a few days
    • When the leaves are about 4 inches tall above the top of the cut core, plant the core in soil and take it out to the garden.
    • When you are ready to harvest, leave about 1/3 of the leaves on the plant to keep it growing faster
    • In California summers, I keep lettuce indoors as it gets to hot outside and the plant just bolts (produces seeds)

    Step 2: Lettuce Growth Update

    Day 2. Growth is obvious

    Day 4. New leaves are spotted in the center

    Day 6. The leaves are tall, healthy and new leaves are coming in. Time to put it in soil.

    Step 3: Celery

    • For celery, follow the same process as described for lettuce
    • Celery grows back a little slower than lettuce so, do not be discouraged if you do not see any growth overnight.

    This also works with cabbage and bok choy

    Step 4: Rosemary

    We had a little rosemary leftover from a mothers day bbq so let's use it to grow a little rosemary plant

    • Remove leaves of the bottom half of the little stem
    • Dip the bare end in honey.
      • Honey is being investigated as a rooting stimulant by research groups in Hawaii and New Mexico universities.While results are pending, honey does have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties so it will keep the little sprig healthy while it roots and _may_ help stimulate rooting.
      • It can also be used diluted with water
      • Of course, you can use a rooting hormone, but I had honey sticks left from some tea shop
    • Plant the rosemary in soil
    • And pack the moist soil around the stem
    • Water and place in a brightly lit location
    • Keep out of direct sunlight for a few days
    • Transfer the jiffy pot into a 4-inch pot once roots are established

    Rosemary can be slow to take, so I will add an update section as soon as there is a significant change

    Step 5: Avocado

    Firstly, I found this little guy in the fridge so it looks like I need to teach my family how to properly cut an avocado :)
    I am using it as a class demo, so I want the student to see the germination and rooting process, so it goes in water. But If you just want to grow a little tree, you can simply pot this in soil and keep it moist and warm. Plant it with the flat side down. Be aware that avocado trees can take two years to produce fruit if any at all and most commercially available avocado trees are started from seeds but receive grafts from an established tree. This is still a fun little project that produces a cool little tree so it's worth trying.

    • Step one: eat your avocado :)
    • Save the seed and wipe it clean with a paper towel
      • You could also rinse it with water
    • Use three food picks to suspend the flat or fat end of the seed in water
    • Place the avocado tripod on the lip of a water-filled container
      • The bottom of the seed should be in the water
    • Place in a warm bright stop out of direct light
    • Change the water every few days
    • In a few weeks, you will have a tiny little avocado tree. Don't freak out if it looks like its just a stick at first.
    • Once the tree has a couple of sets of true leaves, transfer it to soil

    Step 6: Avocado Update

    Not much to report yet. Avocados take their time. But it is totally worth it. I love these little trees.

    I will update this section as soon as there is a change

    • Day 1. It just sat in water
    • Week 1: Yup, still just sitting in water. Just changed the water a couple of times

    Step 7: Jalapeño


    Most store bought jalapeños are either picked too early or are hybrids that may not have viable seeds, so this may not work for you, but give it a shot if you have a little pot and soil. This pepper came from a friend's farm and I know that they are a stable hybrid that will give me good seeds even when they are this green. However, the germination rate is low, so I will plant all the seeds.

    • Chop up the jalapeño to your preference and save the seeds
    • Place the seeds on a clean, dry napkin or paper towel and let them dry for a few days
      • If you are planting all of the seeds soon, skip the drying
    • Add a few seeds to a small container with moist soil (I used a water bottle cut in half)
      • Peppers need a little warmth to germinate so place them where they will be comfy. Use a seed starting heat mat if you are in a cold area. In California, they are quite happy near a sunny window out of direct light.
      • Cover lightly with soil
      • Label the container
      • Water
      • Cover with a plastic dome (or the other half of the water bottle)
      • Water as necessary and remove the plastic top when the seedlings emerge.

    Step 8: Tomato

      Apparently this little guy was hiding at the bottom of the crisper drawer and it got a little soft, smushy and overly ripe. So ripe, that the seeds had started germinating still in the tomato!

      Instead of tossing it, lets chop it up and take the seeds out to the garden and prep a few more plants for project Plantosaur

      • Chop the tomato
      • Scoop out the seeds and place them in a cup
        • Use a tall cup like a sour cream or yoghurt container, the little red cup scrap was too short to contain the water swishing around.
      • Add a little water and swish the seeds around
      • Let the seeds sink to the bottom and decant the water
        • Just pour off as much as possible without letting the seeds fall out
      • Add a little more water and swish it around again
      • Rinse and repeat until most of the gel is gone
      • Drain the water

      Since these seeds are already germinating, I am planting all of them. If you want to save the seeds, they need to be fermented for a few days and dried. Please let me know in the comments or questions if you want to see an Instructable on how to save the seeds.

      Step 9: Plant the Tomato Seeds

      • Add a few seeds to a small container with damp soil
      • Lightly cover the seeds with soil
      • Water
      • Cover the seeds with a plastic dome
      • Place the container in a warm spot
      • Water as needed to keep the seeds moist not soaked
      • Once the seedlings emerge, remove the dome and place the container in a well light spot
      • Water as needed

      Step 10: Cucumber

      I came across half of a cucumber so I cut it up for my nephew. He hates the seeds so it gets chopped in a weird way.

      • Cut cucumber (any way you like)
      • Save a few seeds
      • Eat the rest
      • Put them in soil. Add a couple of extra seeds to ensure you get one that germinates.
      • Water and place in a bright window until the seedling emerges
      • Cucumbers are climbing vines, so be prepared to give it some kind of trellis
        • Initially, a bamboo skewer is enough.

      Step 11: Plant Label

      I had a few cups left over from starting some seeds and from random paint projects, so I made these cute little plant markers from them. I just cut out the shapes in the design and used a permanent marker to write on them. They turned out to be the perfect size for seedlings.

      Step 12: Carrot

      This will not grow back a carrot. This will grow carrot tops tops and eventually it will produce seeds but carrot greens are delicious in a salad or pesto sauce and hey, free seeds.

      • Save a carrot top that's about an inch long
      • Place it in a small shallow container
      • Add a little water
      • Place in a sunny window until little root hairs can bee seen growing out of the carrot
      • Plant in the garden

      This will also work with Radishes, Beets, Rutabagas

      Step 13: Carrot Growth Update

      Day 1. Nothing really changes

      Day 2. We have greens

      Day 3. Noticeable growth and tiny root hairs are seen

      Day 4. Root growth is obvious. Woohoo!!

      Step 14: Pineapple

      Pineapple plants are ridiculously easy to grow (in Southern California) so next time you are cutting one up, save the top and plant it in your garden

      • Start by twisting the top off a pineapple
        • Hold the crown (the leafy parts) in one hand and the body of the pineapple in the other
      • Gently twist the top until it comes off
        • Move one hand toward you and the other way and the top will pop off
        • Remove 2 or 3 layers of leaves from the bottom, taking care to protect the tiny roots that grow between the layers
      • Set aside for a couple of days and let the soft fleshy part dry and callous over before planting

      Step 15: Plant the Pineapple Top

        • In a light soil with perlite or sand just make a shallow hole with your hand and gently place the pineapple top in place.
          • Do not plant it deeply. The soil should come up just to the bottom leaves
          • Do not pack the soil around the base, just gently tamp it down
        • Water
          • Allow it to dry between watering
        • Place in bright, but not direct light
        • Let the roots develop
          • Do not lift it to check if it has rooter, this will destroy the new tender roots
          • If the plant is still green and growing leaves, it is fine

        The pineapple (bromiliad, actually) will need 6+ hours of bright light and 18+ months to produce a new pineapple. The hardest part about this process is being patient and forcing yourself to leave it alone.

        I will update periodically with growing status and images.

        Step 16: Chia Sprouts

        This may not seem like scraps or leftovers to you, but while ago, my sister went on a weird chia seed love-fest where she would put them on or in everything. So much so, that I ended up with half of big ol' tub of chia seeds. I have used them for some gardening, art and sensory projects, but mostly, I have just been tempted to toss them in the trash. I can't help it. I hate gooey or gritty things in my drink. Don't even get me started on boba drinks...

        My favourite chia project was making a Chiasaur (Chia + Dinosaur). But the seeds are never-ending, so let's use the neglected leftovers of my sister's health kick for sprouting.

        Chia microgreen/sprouts are high in omega oils, amino acids, and protein. The taste like an earthy lettuce, they are quite good on a burger or in a salad or with a little lime juice on them.

        The images above of the sprouted and cut chia sprouts are from an older batch. I will add images of the sprout development of this batch as it happens.

        • Line a plastic tray with a paper napkin
        • Add a little water to evenly moisten the napkin
        • Sprinkle the seeds evenly
        • Mist with water
        • Keep the seeds covered (blackout)
          • Place an identical tray on top of the seeds (in the tray with the seeds) and add some weight on top. I used the newly started avocado seed since it was handy
        • Lightly water/mist twice a day until they sprout
        • When all the seeds sprout, remove the dark cover and introduce to light
          • The sprouts will be yellow. This is normal. Give them a little sunlight and they will quickly green-up

        Step 17: Chia Growth Update

        Day 1. The seed are gooey as soon as they are wet.

        Day 2. Some germination is seen. It is uneven because one side was left next to a charging laptop and was warmer than the rest of the tray. Oops

        Step 18: Basil

        Basil is the best. There. I said it. It is. You know I'm right :)

        I can never have too much basil around. It's great in a salad, sandwich, as a salad dressing. My favourite use of basil is in a basil infused lemonade we made yesterday for mothers day. So I saved a little sprig to start a new plant.

        • Take a little piece of basil with 4 or 5 sets of leaves on it
        • The leaves grow out of nodes, these nodes will be where the larger roots grow
        • Remove the bottom 3 sets of leaves exposing the nodes
        • Place the plant in water taking care that the nodes are in the water and the leaves are not
        • Change the water every few days
        • Transfer the plant to soil when the roots are a couple of inches long

        Basil ,Mint, Thyme ,Cilantro, Oregano and Sage can all be propagated by this method, although I have had terrible luck with cilantro. Everything else has bee easy.

        Basil takes a while so don't be discouraged if you don't see roots right away.

        Mint is the best choice to begin since it grows like crazy.

        As with other sections of this Instructable, I will update with images as things grow. Keep in mind basil takes a little while. The gallery in the last step has images of basil that that has already developed roots and transferred to a pot.

        Step 19: Green Onions

        This is similar to the way we get lettuce/celery to re grow, but the roots are usually still attached so the process goes much faster.

        • Chop up a green onion as you would normally, leaving behind an inch or two at the bottom (root end)
        • Take the little onion bulbs and place them in container with a little water
        • Place them in a bright window out of direct sunlight
        • Allow them to grow for a few days before planting them in soil.

        Try this with leeks and lemongrass as well.

        Step 20: Green Onion Update

        Day 1. By the end of the day, growth is already observed

        Day 2. Three of the four are happily growing

        Day 4. Yay, that little straggler on the right is growing just not as fast as the others

        Step 21: Woohoo, Green Goodies to Grow

        We covered how to start a scrappy garden with lettuce, celery rosemary, avocado, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, pineapples, chia sprouts, basil, mint and green onions, that's a pretty awesome garden to grow from what would normally go in the trash.

        If you or your kids start a scrap garden, I would love to see it, so please post some images in the "I Made It" section or tag me on Instagram @JesseeSolo

        Happy gardening!

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