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Winter Greens: Indoor Plants From Common Veggies

February 9, 2009

If you feel a little lonely for the green days of summer, get busy and plant something. At the end of December I planted a few daffodils and crocus bulbs in a large indoor pot with potting soil. I saved these from a group I purchased for planting in October. I actually planted the bulk of them outdoors in early December. I am in Western Pennsylvania, and am hoping they bloom this spring. They should have gone in the ground in October, but....

Today, February 9, five daffodil booms brighten our day, and the crocuses, though growing, have shown no blooms yet. Already, a breath of spring. You see the photo to the right. The grill over the pot was to discourage our two cats from making other use of the soil, although we find that it also serves to hold the plants erect.

We found some fun things to plant today. These will produce some green very soon, and will be fun to watch. The sections below are part of an article from  a site called Kids Gardening. We hope you will grow something today, and will go to that site for even more fun ideas.


Starting Little Seeds
Citrus are plentiful in winter and the seeds in oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and limes are easy to grow into new trees. Fill a 4-inch-diameter pot with moistened potting soil. Remove whole seeds from the fruit and plant three to four of them one inch deep in the pot. The seeds should sprout in two to four weeks and you’ll have a mini citrus orchard. Keep the seedlings well watered for about six weeks and then transplant individual trees into bigger pots. It will be quite a while before you see citrus flowers (let alone fruit), but the leaves smell like whatever citrus you’re growing so be sure your children do some “rub and sniff” tests.


Starting Big Seeds
If the small seeds are a hit, try growing big seeds of tropical fruits such as mango and avocado. Let an avocado pit dry out for a day or two, then plant it in a 6-inch-diameter plastic pot filled with moistened potting soil. Leave the tip of the pit exposed to air. A fun way to sprout avocadoes is to suspend a pit over a glass of water. Poke three toothpicks around the middle of a pit and rest the toothpicks on the rim of the glass. Add water until it just touches the bottom of the pit. Kids can watch the roots and sprout emerge. Cool! It can take a month or two for roots to appear. If using the glass method, plant the pit in potting soil once a sprout emerges.

Mangoes are a little more difficult. Soak the hard seed for a week in warm water, replacing the water every day. Then pot it like an avocado and settle down for a wait: it can take up to four months for a sprout to emerge.



Off With Their (Carrot) Heads!
You can force many root crops (beets, parsnips, and carrots, for instance) to sprout new growth by beheading them. Kids love the chopping part. Slice off the head end along with one to two inches of root and place it in a saucer filled with pebbles for support and water. In a week or so new greens should appear from the top. Then snug the root into a container filled with potting soil.

This beheading technique also works well with pineapples. Cut off the top inch of the fruit and scoop out most of the yellow flesh inside the crown, leaving the core. Let the top dry for a day or two, then place it in a tray filled with pebbles for support and water. Roots will appear and new shoots will sprout from the top in about two weeks, and soon you’ll have a fantastic tropical plant. To continue growing the new pineapple, transplant it into a pot, covering the crown and roots with soil.


New Tuber Plants
Tuberous roots — potatoes, sweet potatoes, and ginger — are another group of root crops that are easy to grow. Select old potatoes with eyes that are ready to sprout. The more shriveled the potato is, the better. Prop up the potato with toothpicks (like an avocado pit) over a water-filled glass or place a potato piece with one to two eyes in a container of moistened potting soil. Within a week a new sprout will emerge.

Ginger is particularly fun to grow because both the cut ends and the glossy new leaves (when broken) emit a strong gingery aroma. Suspend a chunk of ginger with toothpicks over a glass of water or place it in a container of moistened potting soil. If using the water method, transfer the new plant into a pot once roots appear. 

Spicy Greens
For a garbage-can plant that’s both smelly and edible, try garlic or onions. Plant old cloves of garlic or bulbs of onions just below the surface in containers filled with moistened potting soil. Within a few weeks you’ll see sprouts. Unlike the other garbage-can plants described above, you can eat these greens in salads and stir-fries.

Garbage-Can Garden Design
Although it’s fun and easy to grow each of these plants individually in its own pot, you can also make an indoor gardenscape for kids to play with once the original plants are established. Select a large container (16 inches in diameter or bigger) and fill the bottom third with empty plastic water bottles. Then fill the rest of the container with moistened potting soil. Have your kids select which plants to move into the big pot and start designing. You can make “jungles” for kids to populate with toy animals, city streets for toy cars, or exotic foreign “worlds” to explore. Make sure the pot gets three to five hours of sun a day and enough water and your kids will have an indoor play area that will grow for months, keeping them entertained and their imaginations stimulated without your constant input or a single high-tech gadget.


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