Scrap Gardening in the Kitchen: How to Regrow Fruits and Vegetables – LifeSavvy | Directory Mayhem

Three mason jars filled with water used to grow vegetables from leftovers.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Want to save money on produce this summer but don’t have time to tend to a vegetable garden? Simply strain vegetables in water from your leftover kitchen scraps. This worthwhile solution is incredibly simple and we’ll help you get started.

From how to prep your veggies to a few tips on how to get the best result, you’ll soon be turning your junk into edibles.

What is junkyard?

A chopping board with a pile of vegetable waste.

Özgur Coskun/

Scrap gardening is when you save your fruit and vegetable scraps (especially the stem ends) and use them to reproduce new plants. Instead of throwing your groceries in the trash or compost, you can grow brand new crops. All you need is a glass, some water and a sunny spot near a window. How cool is that?

Propagating any vegetable or fruit is as simple as exposing the stem end of leftover debris in some water and allowing the new roots to come through. Some edible plants, like strawberries and lettuce, can grow back entirely with water, while others will eventually need to be transplanted into soil.

Scrap gardening is not only a useful skill but also a really fun science experiment for the kids.

The benefits of growing produce in water

A windowsill with three cups of water in which lettuce is growing.

Mehriban A/

Scrap gardening is a fantastic and useful hobby for anyone, but it’s an especially easy way for garden novices to get started.

Here are just some of the benefits of growing fruits and vegetables this way:

  • It takes up very little space: It’s perfect for anyone looking for a tenant-friendly gardening solution or just doesn’t have the extra space in their garden.
  • It is cheap: Hydroponic systems can be quite expensive, but this method only puts leftover stems in water, so your own expense should be minimal. You don’t need soil, fertilizers or garden tools.
  • It’s environmentally friendly: You don’t have to worry about harmful pesticides or chemicals, which also means cleaner food and a cleaner growing environment.
  • Fast Harvest: In just a few days (or weeks, depending on what you’re growing), you should see some roots and leaves sprout.

Before you dig into the crunchier drawers in your fridge, though, let’s discuss the differences between hydroponics and starting your roots in water.

Hydroponics vs. Incipient roots in water

Two books recommended in the article including Hydroponics for Beginners and Regrow Your Veggies.

Viktor Garden/Companion House Books

Gardeners have been practicing hydroponics since the early 1920’s, but the method we’re talking about is much less involved. Hydroponics is the science of growing plants in nutrient-rich water. Fertilizers are added, but the entire growth cycle takes place in water. However, you need some expensive equipment and the method is actually quite technical.

If you are interested in learning more about hydroponics, we recommend pickup Hydroponics for beginners by Viktor Garten. It walks you through getting started and provides troubleshooting suggestions throughout the growing season.

The process of scrap gardening is much less involved than hydroponics. Again, all that is required is water, clear glasses, and some sunlight.

Here are the only differences you need to be aware of:

  • Vegetables that only grow in water: In general, leafy greens that grow in heads only require water. The following vegetables should all do well:
    • romaine
    • Bok choy
    • celery
    • Green and white onions
    • spring onions
    • shallots
    • Leek
  • Vegetables that need to be transferred to the ground: While they can start out in water, most root vegetables eventually need soil to thrive. All of the following foods will eventually need to be transferred to a container with some potting soil:
    • beets
    • carrots
    • radish
    • parsnips

Grow your vegetables by Melissa Raupach and Felix Lill provides a detailed look at the process of regrowing vegetables in water, so we highly recommend it if you want to try it.

Tips for growing vegetables in water

A sliced ​​stalk end of an onion placed in water to form new roots.

Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Before you grab your mason jars, we have a few more essential tips that will really help you make your junk garden a success. If possible, use old fruits and vegetables as an appetizer. You’ll get more reliable results along with quality flavor and color.

They also produce seeds that you can save and regrow every year. Heirloom vegetables are also naturally pollinated, giving you the best chance of harvesting the same vegetables you originally planted.

Hybrid fruits and vegetables are those that are produced with human intervention. If you regrow these, you’ll likely get variable results in color, size, and flavor. That’s not to say hybrids won’t grow in your junk garden, the results may not be as impressive as what you’d get from heirlooms.

Remember that your growing environment also makes a big difference. For example, regrowing pineapples might be a fun science project, but can a pineapple tree realistically thrive in the area you live in?

For this reason, it’s a good idea to research the fruit or vegetable you plan to grow and stick to those that can thrive in your area.

How to grow vegetables from waste

Check out the romaine lettuce after just a week. Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Regrowing vegetables in water is as simple as taking a piece of it (the stalk or root end) and hanging it in some water. While most plants can be grown in a similar way, it’s good to know the specifics of preparation and care depending on what you’re growing.

Using clear containers like Mason jars also helps as you can see the new roots sprout and grow. The mini bricklayers are the perfect shape and size for your scrap yard.

Some vegetables need a little extra care to get going, but you can grow most varieties by following these general instructions:

  1. Cut your vegetables about 1 inch from the stem or root end. This will be your “seed”.
  2. Fill a clear vessel or glass with a few inches of water. You will likely need to add more as the vegetables grow.
  3. Place your leftover vegetables in the water, stem side down.
  4. Place your jar on a windowsill that gets plenty of sunlight and change the water every few days.
  5. After a few weeks, the roots should start to sprout. If there are multiple roots, feel free to transplant them into soil leaf side up or root side down.
  6. When transplanting your vegetables, make sure the leaves are exposed and sticking out of the ground.

Again, quite a few veggies grow entirely on water, but this method is also great for rooting and then moving the plant into soil.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money and time to have a vegetable garden. Just save your leftover veggies, drop them in some water and watch them grow! Before you know it, you’ll be ready to move on to more advanced planting adventures.

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