COVID-19 has challenged everyday life in myriad ways. And one everyday activity that has been impacted for most of us is grocery shopping: at the start of the pandemic, it was a struggle to find fresh produce in its usual abundance at local grocery stores. For some, this is still the case. And many of us have started asking ourselves how we may become more self-reliant (and sustainable!) in the way that we grow, consume, use, and in some cases, reuse our food.
This is one reason why “panic planting” and urban agriculture is on the rise. But this trend isn’t confined to community gardens in big cities. Continue reading to learn how you can start your own small-scale garden—on your windowsill, balcony, or backyard—by using your food scraps.
To comply with social distancing measures while also trying to put food on the family dining table, “backyard food production” has been on the rise. There has been a notable surge in demand for seeds from home gardeners, and this can likely be attributed to necessity, as well as concerns over personal health and safety. And some people are finding that with a bit more time at home, they are interested in trying their hand at a new hobby.
The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired more households to think about where their food comes from and how they can safely feed themselves. The present circumstances have drawn a lot of comparison to the “Victory Gardens” of the First and Second World Wars, which saw a surge in people growing their own food for sustenance. But until it is deemed safe for us to spend time in public gardens—in close proximity to one another—we can tailor the same idea to find innovative ways to feed ourselves.
Enter the home garden. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a large plot of land or an expert green thumb to grow your own fruits and vegetables. You can work with what you have, irrespective of where you live—a sunny windowsill, balcony, or small backyard will do.
What you need
You can order seeds online, but you actually don’t have to. There are a few vegetables that can be grown simply by using the food scraps (and seeds) you accumulate during food preparation. All you may need is some potting soil—which you can buy at your grocery or home goods store, or order online—and some sort of vessel to grow your produce in.
Just do your research to see what is possible—and manageable—for you.
Start with food scraps
Here are some of the most common herbs, fruits, and vegetables you can grow from scraps and seeds:
- Bell peppers;
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes;
- Carrots, turnips, parsnips, and beets;
- Onions, shallots, and scallions;
- Ginger and garlic;
Pro tip: Before you throw the food scraps of your most frequently used fruits and vegetables away, do a quick Google search to see if you can easily grow them on your own. Doing this will also help you figure out the size and shape of pot that should be used for good results. While some may grow, not all will fruit. Either way, you’re adding some green to your home and that’s always a good thing!
Seeds from scraps
When planting seeds, make sure you look up whether anything has to be done to them before you plant them in potting soil for optimal growth. For example, lemon seeds, grapefruit seeds, and avocado seeds all like to be sprouted (using a damp paper towel and a plastic bag) in a dark place prior to planting.
No seeds necessary
For vegetables like potatoes, you can grow them just from the peelings themselves. You want two-inch peelings that have an “eye” on them—a small indentation from which sprouts grow when a potato is ripe. Dry those two-inch sections overnight, then plant them in soil, much as you would with any seed.
No soil necessary
Not all your food scraps require soil to grow—take celery, for instance. If you cut off the bottom of celery—where all the stalks are joined—you can grow new celery just by placing that section in a shallow container of warm water. Leave it in the sun and you will start to see new growth in about a week.
Pro Tip: For those fruit and veggie scraps that don’t make it into your windowsill garden, consider starting a composting habit. It’s a great way to do your part and keep unnecessary things out of landfills, plus with some patience, you’ll end up with some beautiful compost for you future planting efforts.
The many benefits
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be immensely rewarding. Not only are you able to complement your current kitchen stock with fresh produce, but you can save money on groceries and have your most used items ready for you whenever you need them. Other benefits include:
- Reducing your stress levels;
- Learning a new, fulfilling hobby that can be done solo or shared with your loved ones; and
- Sharing the literal fruits (and vegetables) of your labor with neighbors once it is safe to be in closer contact with one another.
If you’ve been meaning to try your hand at home gardening, this is the perfect chance to experiment—your wallet (and post-pandemic dinner guests) will thank you for it!
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Nisha Kumar Kulkarni is a writer and creative coach in New York City. She helps women living with chronic illness and mental health challenges to pursue their passion projects without compromising their health.