Grow plants straight from the kitchen. No need to leave the house to garden! A perfect answer to the question “Can I do gardening during lockdown?”
Stay-at-home gardening facts
Sow seed – bell pepper, tomato, beans…
Make cuttings – ZZ, begonia, dracaena…
Sprout scraps – spring onions, celery…
Make soil – coffee grounds, cardboard…
Containers – egg cartons, bottles, cans…
Shovels & tools – plastic bottles, ladles…
Watering – rainwater, cooking water…
Fertilizer – fermented weeds…
Rooting hormone – aloe vera, honey…
Never have we had so much time on our hands before. But again, never have we had to garden without being able to go out and buy supplies! Here are a few ways to start growing things straight from the kitchen.
What plants can you grow from the kitchen?
There are dozens of plants you can start growing immediately, without even leaving the kitchen! In the pantry, you’re bound to have a pack of dried beans or lentils… pick a few, soak them, lay on a bed of moist cotton and see them sprout!
These veggies give you your own seeds
- tomato and cherry tomato
- bell pepper and chili
- orange tree, lemon seeds, kumquat and even the occasional clementine
- fruits such as apple, pear, quince
- delicious blueberry, goji berry, kiwi, and strawberry
- the child-friendly avocado
To recover seeds from fleshy fruits, best is to mash the fruits up in a bowl with water. You can set the bowl to sit for a day to help flesh come loose. After that, discard pulp and any floating seeds. Keep only sunken seeds as these are the ones most likely to sprout.
Keep the root part of these to plant them again
Very easy to grow back are some of the allium family, but there are many more that are probably already in your refrigerator:
- welsh onion (also called bunching onion)
- chinese cabbage
- stalk celery
- potato, of course (including the vitelotte, a purple potato!)
A fun an unusual candidate is pineapple: grow a pineapple in your own house! This grows not from the root but from the crown of leaves.
Note that you can always sprout carrot tops from the crown, too. But it won’t grow into a new carrot. It’s lots of fun to see the leaves, grow, however. You can use carrot leaves to make soup, broth, and even mix them with basil in pesto sauce!
Houseplants you can easily propagate
You’ll get one plant from each!
- Indeed, all you need to do is pull out a leaf and rest it atop moist soil.
- From the wound, small roots and a whole new plant will sprout.
- The most important is to mist the propagation station often. It’s important to increase air moisture around the prop.
- Use an egg carton to separate each prop. You’ll cut it up when ready to transplant!
Water propagation works well in spring, too.
- Snip a stem from your Dracaena marginata, Fittonia, Lucky bamboo or Begonia plant.
- Place it in a tall glass of water.
- Replace the water every two or three days (at least twice a week).
- Lots more shrubs and plants can be propagated this way. It’s called making cuttings.
Make gardening tools from scratch during lockdown
Make potting soil from what’s in the house
The first step to planting anything is to prepare soil. Seems a bit difficult when your favorite garden store is closed during the quarantine.
Best is to extend whatever little soil mix you might have. Better have a 50/50 mix of potting soil and shredded carton than one pot only filled with cardboard!
Go around the house and bring out all the houseplants for which you haven’t changed the soil for a year or more.
- They’re due for repotting anyway!
- Pull them out of their pots and run your fingers through the roots to recover old soil. Use a large basin to keep things clean.
Here are a few household ingredients you can use to replace soil mix:
- used coffee grounds
- old spices
- charcoal (wood)
- cartons and cardboard
- many more household items to use as soil mix
All in all, it’s quite possible to get a few extra gallons of material that is perfect for growing many plants, just with these basic kitchen items!
Containers for lockdown gardening
- Plastic bottles – Cut a plastic bottle in half to create pots. The stable bottom can sit on its own. With a bit of string, you can make a macramé hanging basket out of the funnel-shaped portion. Hang it above another pot so extra water doesn’t drain to the floor! Drill holes to make sure water drains well (a soldering iron is perfect, but knitting needles or even a knife tip work well. Careful!).
- Plastic bags and food wrappings – Flip an empty potato chip bag inside-out. This becomes a nice, shiny container you can fill with soil. If it feels a bit flimsy, double it. Make small holes at the bottom for drainage. Plus, the shiny aluminum will disorient thrips, always good to get rid of pests!
- Make seed trays – Use four sticks about an inch across tied together to make a rectangle (or square). A sheet of plastic (again, from potato chips?) can be cut to size. Staple it to the top of the frame in order to form a shallow tray inside. To move this around, slide thick carton or a cutting board underneath. Read up on sowing in seed trays.
- Tin cans – great to start seedlings or grow bunching onions. Make drainage holes at the bottom. Sand any sharp edges from the side that’s been removed. No sandpaper? Simply rub the can on a concrete sidewalk for around 10 minutes – the side will fall off magically!
- Egg cartons – perfect for propagating succulents such as Echeveria (and for leaf propagation of the ZZ plant). In each hollow, place a single leaf. Don’t water from below, only mist from above twice or thrice a day. If the egg carton is soggy, you’re watering too much for succulents, which is a good indicator.
Garden tools from kitchen items
Any plastic container with a handle can be cut to form a scoop or trowel. Some soda bottles with a “thin waist” are ideal for this purpose, too!
Use ladles and barbecue prongs as cultivators and sticks. Repurpose one of the window-cleaning sprays into a misting handspray.
Some long-necked water bottles are excellent to water your plants, like a watering can. It’s easy to direct the flow to the base of the plant.
- Rinse all of these items well before using them for plants.
Home-made plant care products
Once you’ve got these wonders started, here are a few tips to make sure they grow up. They’ll be productive and bear fruits and flowers like crazy if you give them soft water, fertilizer, and start them off with nutritious rooting hormones!
Rainwater, the key to growing plants indoors
Tap water is often called “hard water”. This is because there are lots of minerals in it.
- These come from the ground because utilities pull water up from underground reserves.
- Minerals are great for people (well, in reasonable amounts), but not so much for plants.
- If you only use tap water for houseplants, they’ll suffocate and “burn” as minerals build up in the pot and soil.
- Collect rainwater to use it to water plants
Home-made liquid fertilizer
You might have heard that yoghurt is good for health. Indeed, healthy bacteria break down fats and proteins and make them easy to digest for the body. It’s the same thing with plants!
- You can “ferment” weeds to make liquid fertilizer from them
- Different weeds have different properties. All will make great fertilizer, but you can use some to repel pests, too!
It may be last on this list, but thorough readers will get a head start on their cuttings and seeds.
As a matter of fact, many professionals use rooting hormones (or rooting agents) to start their cuttings.
This is a natural substance that triggers growth of bark or bud cells. It helps them turn into roots when they’re below the surface of the soil or in water.
A jar of honey will do the trick, or a thick leaf of Aloe vera:
- Dilute a spoonful of honey in a shooter of lukewarm water.
- Another option is to scrape aloe vera gel from the leaf. Mash it into a pulp with a fork.
Dip your plant cuttings in the resulting mix. Both techniques will work well independently, and you can combine them if you wish.
Smart tip about growing plants from everyday kitchen things
With all these props and plants growing, you might need more space to grow everything! Try to set up an indoor plant wall. You’ll be growing vertical crops!
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Seedlings from the kitchen sill by Andreas Göllner ★ under Pixabay license
Bell Pepper seeds by Vidmir Raic ☆ under Pixabay license
Potatoes in bags by Local Food Initiative ☆ under © CC BY 2.0
Collecting rainwater by Sustainable Sanitation ☆ under © CC BY-SA 4.0