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Rio Rancho, NM
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It's mid-winter and the kids are clamoring for things to do. Outdoor play is great, but here's a fun indoor planting activity to offer when the weather is lousy. With little effort and a pinch of creativity you can devise some very imaginative indoor gardens! One of my favorites is the garbage-can garden.
Garbage-can gardening is when you grow plants from items you'd normally throw in the garbage can (or compost bucket). Kids love this idea and it's a great way to reinforce sustainable living concepts such as recycling, reusing, and composting. Plus, it's a kick to grow new plants from old plant parts.
First, scout your kitchen and refrigerator for potential vegetables and fruits. Some of the best are oranges, lemons, limes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, avocadoes, carrots, beets, onions, and ginger. Believe it or not, you can use all of these, and many other vegetables and fruits, to propagate new plants. Here's how to start your garbage-can garden.Starting Little Seeds
Citrus are plentiful in winter and the seeds in oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and limes are easy to grow into new trees. Fill a 4-inch-diameter pot with moistened potting soil. Remove whole seeds from the fruit and plant three to four of them one inch deep in the pot. The seeds should sprout in two to four weeks and you'll have a mini citrus orchard. Keep the seedlings well watered for about six weeks and then transplant individual trees into bigger pots. It will be quite a while before you see citrus flowers (let alone fruit), but the leaves smell like whatever citrus you're growing so be sure your children do some 'rub and sniff' tests.Starting Big Seeds
If the small seeds are a hit, try growing big seeds of tropical fruits such as mango and avocado. Let an avocado pit dry out for a day or two, then plant it in a 6-inch-diameter plastic pot filled with moistened potting soil. Leave the tip of the pit exposed to air. A fun way to sprout avocadoes is to suspend a pit over a glass of water. Poke three toothpicks around the middle of a pit and rest the toothpicks on the rim of the glass. Add water until it just touches the bottom of the pit. Kids can watch the roots and sprout emerge. Cool! It can take a month or two for roots to appear. If using the glass method, plant the pit in potting soil once a sprout emerges.
Mangoes are a little more difficult. Soak the hard seed for a week in warm water, replacing the water every day. Then pot it like an avocado and settle down for a wait: it can take up to four months for a sprout to emerge.New Tuber Plants
Tuberous roots -- potatoes, sweet potatoes, and ginger -- are another group of root crops that are easy to grow. Select old potatoes with eyes that are ready to sprout. The more shriveled the potato is, the better. Prop up the potato with toothpicks (like an avocado pit) over a water-filled glass or place a potato piece with one to two eyes in a container of moistened potting soil. Within a week a new spro...