I don’t have very green fingers but a small kitchen garden of my own has always been something I’ve dreamed of. Maybe it started with my memories as a child, of shelling green peas my mother grew in her garden.
Right now I have a small backyard but the soil is nothing much to write about. It needs a lot of time, effort and improvement before it will be good enough to garden in. These days though, one can grow a lot of vegetables in pots. Though not much of a gardener, I have managed to harvest pretty decent amounts of vegetables grown in pots. So far, I’ve been doing well with tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, okra (ladies finger), eggplant, bitter melon/ gourd yard long beans, green chillies and even a cauliflower! I also have a small herb garden, most of which I’ve started from scraps.
We usually grow vegetables from seeds and saplings but did you know that you can grow quite a few of them, especially herbs, from kitchen scraps? When I say kitchen scraps, I mean parts of vegetables that we mostly throw away. I have grown quite a few of my plants this way and they’re all flourishing.
I’ve grown herbs like Mint, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, etc from herbs I bought at the market or supermarket. You have to start the rooting process as soon as you bring them home when they’re still fresh.
Take a somewhat sturdy looking (not to thin or tender) leafy stalk of the herb you want to grow. For Rosemary in particular, pick slightly woody stalks. Gently pinch off the bottom leaves from the stalk leaving just the top few leaves. The node where the leaves are removed is the point where the rooting will happen. Place the stalks in small glasses of water so that the lower part of the stalks are submerged.
Leave them in cool place which is exposed to mild sunlight. If the water in which they’re sitting starts changing colour, refresh the water. The stalks should start showing signs of rooting after about 24 to 48 hours. They’re now ready to be planted. I grow my herbs in pots but you can plant them in the ground too. Oregano and Sage can also be grown this way and I am planning to do so as soon as I can find them at my supermarket.
Vegetables like Celery, Fennel, Spring Onions, Leeks, Onions, Lemongrass, Lettuce, Bok Choy and Chives can be grown from the bottom parts that are usually discarded after the tops are cut off for use. Make sure the bottom parts of the vegetable have at least a small amount of root. Again, place the bottom parts in water such that only the rooting area is immersed in water. As above, refresh the water if it changes colour. Once the roots start forming they can be planted. Remember to place them in the shade until they have rooted well and are flourishing.
Carrots and Beets have greens that are edible and you can grow these at home. Remember that the plant that re-grows from planting a carrot or beet top will not produce edible carrots or beets. The greens they produce can be used in salads, as garnishes or stir-fried. Cut off the the tops off the Carrots and Beets leaving at least half an inch and then plant it directly into loose potting soil so only the leafy bits are exposed. Keep in shade and water regularly (the soil should be damp and well drained).
Coriander/ Cilantro , Spinach and Amaranth is usually grown from seed. You can also grow them for root parts after you have cut off the top parts of the plant for use. Just plant them directly into prepared soil. You do need to plant them when the plants are fresh for them to take hold. Keep them in the shade until they’re sturdy and flourishing.
Rhizomes like Ginger, Turmeric, Mango Ginger can be planted from rhizomes that have started budding. Then just put the bit of rhizome in the soil and cover it loosely and water judiciously. Soon the leaves will push through. Turmeric leaves in particular have a strong flavour of turmeric and are good to wrap certain kinds of food that is steam cooked.
I would also add Tomatoes and Green Chillies to this list, though they grow from seed in this method too. If you have a rather over-ripe and squishy tomato, cherry tomato or green chilli (this is kitchen scrap to my mind), just cut it open in half and drop in a pot of soil. Lightly water it regularly, and soon you will find saplings sprouting which you can re-pot once they’re big and sturdy enough.
Try this for yourself and soon you’ll have a thriving kitchen garden or a herb garden at the least.