clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

POT A BUNCH OF HEALTHY PLANTS - BY STARTING IN THE KITCHEN

If you want to fill your house with plants without spending a bundle, search your kitchen.

Ellen LeBlond did and ended up with hundreds of plants ranging in size from tiny seedlings to vigorous vines.Her goal was to come up with a flower show entry for a Memphis-area garden club competition category dedicated to recycling and conservation dubbed, "Play It Again Sam."

As she went about making her entry, LeBlond began looking at common foodstuffs in a new way. Instead of visualizing the soup she could make from a 16-bean mix, she saw the 16 different plants she might get if she germinated the seeds. Instead of throwing citrus seeds in the garbage, she planted them.

"Everyone knows about growing avocados and sweet potatoes, but I started going down grocery aisles looking for other things," says LeBlond.

Her tiny apple, cherry and pear trees had to be started two years ago. "The seeds have to be chilled for a year to stratify," she says. Stratification involves giving seeds a cold dormancy period lasting from three to eight weeks.

She even got popcorn to germinate by rolling kernels in paper towels, wetting them and placing them in plastic bags in a warm spot until they swelled. One of the popcorn plants is now growing with others in a container that is also a recycled material; a beat-up metal watering can with holes cut in the sides so it can be planted like a strawberry jar.

"Of all the projects I've done, this one has been the most fun," LeBlond said. "I get to eat what I don't use."

Seeds inside various peppers are fairly easy to grow, as are cuttings from fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and basil bought in the supermarket. She also grows ginger from a small knob, garlic from a clove and potatoes from a piece with an eye.

Her list of foods that can be turned into plants now covers 65 common household items. They include winter squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, cantaloupes, numerous beans and spice seeds.

The most attractive and satisfying of the plants is also one of the most common, the sweet potato vine.

"In four weeks, the vine was 4 feet long," she said. It's rooted from a piece of the end.

With items that have been stored on the shelf a long time, pre-germination is a necessary step. That usually involves rolling the seeds in a damp paper towel, placing the towel in a plastic bag and putting it in a warm spot.

"I did that with about 70 mustard seeds and only got 15 to germinate," says Le-Blond.

Seeds from fresh foods such as squash or cantaloupe need to be air-dried a day or two to allow the seed coat to harden.

"But don't do that with citrus," she said. "They need to be planted right away."

She warns that plants will not produce fruits or vegetables if grown indoors because there are no bees for pollination.