In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2009
Regional Report

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Gardening from common produce is a fun way to introduce kids to the joy of growing things.

Pits and Bits

Attention, Gardeners of All Ages! We all love to watch things grow. That's why we became gardeners. Sometimes, as we get older, we focus on the big picture and forget the little things that give us pleasure. I want to share with you a few very easy projects that will not only delight and amaze, but also are a great way to introduce the world of gardening to children. Now don't laugh, because these are very old ideas and yet elegantly simple. They are guaranteed to bring the magic back into even the most challenged gardener among us.

First, make a trip to your local produce market. Yes, that's right, we are going to do the old sweet potato-in-a-glass thing, along with other vegetables that are easy to propagate and grow. Probably, you have all grown a sweet potato in a jar. There is so much energy stored inside that humble tuber that it fairly explodes with growth when exposed to sunlight and water. Toothpicks, a mason jar, and a sweet potato are all you need for this project. Pierce the sweet potato with toothpicks at the mid point so that you can suspend the bottom half in a jar filled with water. Part of the potato should be in contact with water at all times. Place the prepared potato in a sunny window and stand back.

Did you know you can do the same thing with a clove of garlic? Pierce a clove at midpoint with toothpicks, place the pointed end up in a small container filled with water to grow delicious garlic chives on your window sill. The flat bottom portion of the clove should always be in contact with the water.

I presume that we have all tried to grow avocado trees from the silky pit suspended in a glass jar. I have actually eaten avocados from trees grown by a friend that were started in that manner. Remember, you must keep the water in contact with the bottom of the pit at all times, the pointed end goes up, and if you are planning to grow an avocado tree for your garden, keep in mind that it takes two trees to produce fruit. Avocados require a companion pollinator for fruit to form.

The top portion of carrots and pineapples can be trimmed and grown in a shallow container of gravel to create a "forest." The carrots should be whole and not the "bunny bites" or scoured carrots sold in plastic bags. Trim an inch down from the top and place cut side down in a saucer filled with aquarium gravel. Keep the saucer topped off with water and in a few days, the carrots will begin to grow new foliage. Similarly, if you are very lucky you might get a small pineapple to grow from a spiny pineapple top.

Citrus seeds will sprout when planted in fresh, moist potting soil. Cover the pot with a plastic bag to provide humidity and warmth and place in a sunny window. Once the seed germinates, remove the bag to allow air to circulate.

Even the pits from mangos be grown, although I have never tried this myself. The fibrous husk inside the mango protects a large seed that resembles a lima bean. Gently cut away the husk to expose the seed, then plant in the same method as the citrus seeds. There is a light colored "eye" on the seed that should be facing up. Mangos make wonderful indoor plants when provided with ample humidity.

So, even if your green thumb has temporarily turned black, you can still enjoy gardening on a small scale. Plus, you get to enjoy the "fruits" of your labor!


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