Vegetables and fruits are fun to grow and good to eat — and adventurous to regrow from kitchen scraps.
Here’s how to get the most out of your edible garden and even what you used to toss in the trash.
Regrow kitchen scraps
At Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, a recent class focused on growing more edibles from kitchen scraps.
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“Many fruits and vegetables will grow from the parts you prefer not to eat,” says Denise Hutchins, spokeswoman for the national mail-order and on-site retail garden center in Gloucester, Virginia.
Items such as lettuce, celery, bok choy, fennel and green onions can be grown in water, according to Hutchins.
To start lettuce, cut off the bottom of the stalk and place it in a bowl. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the stalk. New growth will appear in three days from the center. In two weeks you should have half a head of lettuce.
To start celery, cut off the bottom three inches of a celery stalk and place it in a small bowl of water. New growth appears in three to four days from the center.
Follow the same steps with bok choy and fennel and new growth will appear within days. For green onions, use the tops and place the bottoms in a slender glass vase or jar; new growth will be seen in two to three days.
“Other fun items to experiment with when trying out recycled gardening are avocados, cilantro, ginger and pineapple,” says Hutchins.
Avocado seeds should be washed once extracted. Use toothpicks to hold the seed up over water in a bowl or glass or even a rooting jar. Water should cover the bottom of the seed. Keep in a warm place out of direct sunlight. Wait six weeks for the stem and roots to appear. Once leaves form you can plant the seed in soil, but still leave half of the seed exposed.
To start cilantro, place the bottom of the stems in a glass of water and place it in a bright area. Once the roots have grown a couple of inches transplant them into a pot.
Pineapple is fun to grow and makes a nice houseplant, but takes a few years to produce a fruit, according to Hutchins. To get it started, cut off the top of the pineapple and remove excess around the crown and the bottom leaves. Set the cleaned up crown in water and keep in direct sunlight. Once roots are showing, in about a week, transfer to a container with potting soil. After one year, repot the pineapple in fresh soil.
“Next time you are about to throw scraps out, think twice — there is still life inside,” says Hutchins.
Tasty tomato tips
When the soil warms in May, it’s tomato-planting time and time to dream of homemade BLT sandwiches and other tomato-tasty treats.
Getting tomato plants off to the right start is crucial to a good crop of juicy fruits, according to garden experts.
Choose a bright, airy spot with all-day sun. Rotate the crop, or don’t plant tomatoes in the same spot year after year, according to Bonnie Plants. Bury the stems, almost two-thirds of the plant should be in the soil. Water deeply, but infrequently. Sucker them, or pinch off the runts. Stake them high. Add compost.
Three new veggies
Here are three new vegetables from Bonnie Plants, a brand sold at garden centers, including Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, according to a news release. Find more year-round vegetable, herb and flowering plant types — and sign up for educational newsletters and free planting app at bonnieplants.com.
To find stores that carry Bonnie Plants, enter your zip code at find.bonnieplants.com.
▪ Artwork Baby Broccoli. Instead of producing one large broccoli head Artwork Baby yields dark green side shoots with bite-size heads and long, edible stems. Named an All-America Selections winner in 2015, the plant matures in 55 days and needs full sun.
▪ Chocolate Sprinkles Tomato. Bite-sized, cherry-style tomatoes are artfully colored — red striped with dark green. Plant needs full sun, and grows five to seven feet tall, so stake or cage it for support at planting time. Disease resistant; fruit matures in 50-55 days.
▪ Flaming Flare Fresno Chili Pepper. This 2015 All-America Selections winner bears 4-inch-long fruits that are mild and sweet, with a hint of spiciness. The green peppers gain more heat as they turn red, mature in 75 days and need full sun. Great for chili sauces.
As you plan and plant your vegetable, herb and fruit gardens, keep in mind the important roles that pollinators play in fruit set and production. Not to mention overall environmental health.
“When thinking of pollinator species many of us automatically think of bees and butterflies, but this also includes bats, flies, birds, beetles and more,” says Hutchins.
“Cutting back or eliminating the use of chemicals in your yard and garden as well as planting native species invite pollinators to the healthy and sustainable habitat you create.”
The company’s free fall-planting, spring-blooming bulb catalog also features a pollinator symbol that identifies pollinator-friendly plants. The website — brentandbeckysbulbs.com — also includes butterfly symbols next to pollinator-beneficial species.
Veggie planting tips
For a healthy, productive vegetable garden, provide:
▪ Full sun.
▪ Compost-rich, well-draining soil.
▪ Mulch to reduce weeds.
▪ Good spacing for air circulation.
▪ Cages or trellises as recommended.
▪ Soaker-hose irrigation during dry spells.
▪ Nearby flowers to attract pollinators.