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How To Grow Plants from Food Scraps

Instead of it ending up in the bin, why not put your food waste to use? We've previously shared our zero waste food hacks, and we are taking that one step further with our top tips for growing food from scraps. Not only is it economical to grow your own food, but it's also good for the planet, fun for the little ones, and reduces plastic waste.

Many people might assume you need a garden or a lot of outside space to grow food, but that's simply not the case. Many crops can thrive in pots and tubs without the need for a vegetable patch, and others will do brilliantly on a sunny windowsill. Either way, little hands will love getting involved, looking after and watching their plants grow. Being involved in this process will help children learn how plants grow and where our food comes from, making them more excited about nature and food!

12 Aug 2021

Food: Lettuce

Time of year: Indoor so all-year-round

Growing lettuce from the usually discarded lettuce base couldn't be easier - all you need is a shallow dish of water. 

If you haven't already finished all the lettuce, cut the salad leaves about an inch from the stem. Place the stem leaf-side-up into a shallow dish of water, and within a few weeks, there will be new baby leaves ready to harvest! You might not get enough for a caesar salad, but it's a fun and interactive activity for children, and you will get some leaves. You can also use this method for spring onions and celery!

Food: Herbs

Time of year: Indoor so all-year-round

Shop-bought herbs are often too cramped in their pots, which is why they don't usually last very long. If left in their original containers, they will eventually die back. To keep the plants going for longer and avoid them perishing, you can split them into 3-4 plants by tearing the root ball apart, potting each of these up into pots that are around the same size as the one they came in. If you have more than one child, each of your children can be assigned a plant to tend to, making sure it's happy and watered!

You can also root some cut herbs like basil, mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme. All you need to do is place the cut herbs in a glass of water until they root. For woody herbs such as thyme, rosemary and oregano, use fresh green growth rather than the older brown growth. When they have grown roots, pot them up in some potting soil and place them on a sunny window!

Food: Carrot tops

Time of year: Indoor so all-year-round

Carrot tops (the leaves) are delicious in salads and pestos and are perfect for growing with children, as results will show within a few days. Once you've eaten the carrot and all that remains is the top, stick toothpicks around the cut end and place them cut-side down in a shallow dish of water. The cut-side of the carrot should just be touching the water. Place it on a sunny windowsill and wait. Once the foliage begins to grow, you can trim it for use in recipes - we recommend blending the carrot tops into a yummy pesto with walnuts, basil, parmesan, garlic, olive oil, and salt and serving over pasta! 

Food: Potatoes

Time of year: Early-spring 

Potatoes that have sprouted often get thrown away. You can cut the eyes out and still eat the potatoes, but once they've fully sprouted or turned green, you shouldn't eat them - but you can still use them to grow potato plants! Once potatoes have sprouted, bury them deep in a grow bag or a bucket of well-draining compost. You can either plant the whole potato or cut the potatoes up - as long as there is a sprout, it has the potential to grow into a plant! Keep the plants well-watered and add more compost when necessary. The potatoes will produce a plant above ground level, and once this begins to turn yellow and die back (3-5 months), you can harvest your potatoes! 

Food: Peppers, chillies and tomatoes

Time of year: Early to mid-spring

You can grow new plants from the seeds of leftover tomatoes, chillies and peppers. You'll get the best results if you use heirloom varieties - standard shop-bought varieties won't be as successful or tasty.

All three of these plants can be grown in the same way. Take the seeds from the fruits and clean them off. Line a baking tray with a paper towel and dry them on a sunny windowsill for 1-2 days. Once the seeds have dried, prepare some small pots of seedling mix and put two seeds in each small pot. Lightly cover with seedling mix and place in a warm but shady spot. Get little ones involved in watering the plants - they should be kept damp but not soggy. Once they've germinated (10-14 days), you can pot them up into larger pots and keep them outside. Chillies will do well and produce fruit indoors on a warm, sunny windowsill year-round, but tomatoes and peppers should be grown outdoors between March-May. Children will enjoy taking care of the plants, watching the flowers grow, fall, and turn into ripened fruit! 

Tip! If you choose to grow chillies indoors, remember to pollinate the flowers, else you won't get any fruit! Outside, bees and other insects would pollinate the plant, but you can do it yourself with a small, soft paintbrush. 

Tips for involving your children:

- Support the development of their motor skills by asking your children to fill empty pots with compost, ready for seeds to be added! 

- If planting outdoors, children will love to get involved by digging small holes in the vegetable patch, ready for plants and seeds to be added!

Give little ones the responsibility of watering a plant and keeping it moist, which will keep them engaged and excited when the plants begin to grow. 

- Give your child a bowl and ask them to help you harvest the crops. You can then make a delicious meal or snack together with the produce!

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