I love to grow something from nothing (financially speaking) so a new book caught my attention.
"Don't Throw It, Grow It! 68 Windowsill Plants from Kitchen Scraps" (Storey Publishing; $10.95) sounds like a can't-lose investment. Stuff you'd otherwise toss turns into pretty plants, at the least, fresh veggies at best.
I tried the instructions for recycling a potato, sweet potato, carrots and green beans. The only success was the sweet potato. The rest were abysmal failures. Could be user error, I'm no master gardener, which is why I think the book's worth sharing.
Try it yourself: Cut off the top 2 inches of a carrot and put it in a container of rinsed, white pebbles.
(I rinsed some naturally colored pebbles I happened to have. Mistake? Maybe.) Stick the stub in the pebbles so a third rises above the surface, then fill with water to the top of the pebbles.
The carrots are supposed to sprout green foliage for a few weeks. My stubs had tiny green nubbins after eight days and fruit flies at 20 days. My husband banished them outside to finish rotting.
The green bean seeds and potato - plant in soil and watch them sprout! - did nothing. In fact, during a recent rain, the decaying potato floated to the surface of the pot, like a body in a flooded cemetery. Yuck. I have not been entirely unlucky with seed, though, so I share some successes.
I love yellow, red and orange bell peppers, but I hate paying exotic prices for them. So last year, I planted a few seeds from one of my splurges and, voila!, I had pepper plants. Bell peppers love warm soil and sunshine, so they're pretty easy to care for - I've grown them nearly year-round. The hardest part is waiting for the peppers to fully mature - they're just your plain-jane green peppers until then.
I bought a pomegranate at the grocery store in September, cleaned the red gunk off a few seeds and planted them in a pot. Wet the soil and covered it with Saran Wrap to help speed germination, and put it in a sunny window. All my seeds sprouted! Pinch the plants back to keep them from getting spindly (like this one). They're tropical, so you can put them in the ground. You'll need at least two plants to produce fruit.
A pack of basil seed costs a dollar and you'll soon have enough plants to share with your best basil-loving buddies. Start in one big pot, wet the dirt, cover with Saran Wrap and put in a sunny window. When the seedlings are a couple inches tall, transplant them to small individual pots, which seems to inspire them to grow like crazy. Transplant to bigger pots and you'll have basil nearly year-round. To keep them producing, pinch the flowers.
Push three toothpicks in a sweet potato about a third ofthe way down from the round end, then stick the pointed end in a jar of water so about two-thirds is immersed. When you get lots of roots, plant it in a pot so a third of the potato is above the soil. You're supposed to see a stem and leaf buds, then flowers.