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Kitchen Scrap Gardening: How to Regrow Fruits & Vegetables

Three mason jars filled with water, growing veggies from scraps.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Want to save money on produce this summer, but don’t have the time to tend to a vegetable garden? Just regrow veggies in water from your leftover kitchen scraps. This rewarding solution is incredibly easy, and we’ll help you get started.

From prepping your vegetables to a few tips on how to get the best outcome, you’ll soon be turning your rubbish into edibles.

What Is Scrap Gardening?

A cutting board with a pile of veggie scraps.
Ozgur Coskun/Shutterstock.com

Scrap gardening is when you save your fruit and vegetable scraps (specifically the stem ends) and use them to reproduce new plants. Instead of tossing your food in the trash or compost bin, you can grow brand-new plants. All you need is a jar, some water, and a sunny spot near a window. How cool is that?

Propagating veggies or fruits is as simple as exposing the stem end of leftover scraps in some water and allowing the new roots to come through. Some edible plants, like strawberries and lettuce, can regrow entirely with water, while others will eventually need to be transferred to soil.

Scrap gardening is not only a useful skill to have, but it also makes a really fun science experiment for the kids.

The Benefits of Growing Produce in Water

A windowsill with three cups of water with growing lettuce in them.
Mehriban A/Shutterstock.com

Scrap gardening is a fantastic and useful hobby for anyone, but it’s a particularly easy way for gardening novices to get started.

Here are just a few of the advantages of growing fruits and veggies this way:

  • It takes up very little space: It’s perfect for anyone looking for a renter-friendly gardening solution or those who just don’t have the extra space in their yard.
  • It’s inexpensive: Hydroponic systems can be pretty expensive, but this method only involves placing scrap stems in water, so your out-of-pocket costs should be minimal. You won’t need soil, fertilizers, or any gardening tools.
  • It’s eco-friendly: No need to worry about harmful pesticides or chemicals, which also means cleaner food and a cleaner growing environment.
  • Quick harvest: In just a few days (or weeks, depending on what you grow), you should see some roots and leaves sprouting.

Before you dig into the crisper drawers in your fridge, though, let’s go over the differences between hydroponics and starting your roots in water.

Hydroponics Vs. Starting Roots in Water

Two books recommended in the article including Hydroponics for Beginners and Regrow Your Veggies.
Viktor Garden/Companion House Books

Gardeners have been practicing hydroponics since the early 1920s, but the method we’re talking about is much less involved. Hydroponics is the science of growing plants in nutrient-rich water. Fertilizers are added, but the entire growing cycle takes place in water. You do need some expensive equipment, though, and the method is actually quite technical.

If you’d like to learn more about hydroponics, we recommend you pick up Hydroponics for Beginners by Viktor Garden. It walks you through getting started and offers troubleshooting suggestions throughout the growing season.

Hydroponics for Beginners

The definitive beginner's guide.

The process of scrap gardening is a lot less involved than hydroponics. Again, it only requires water, clear glass jars, and some sunlight.

Here are the only differences you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • Veggies that will grow in just water: Generally, leafy vegetables that grow in heads will only need the water. The following vegatables should all do well:
    • Romaine
    • Bok choy
    • Celery
    • Green and white onions
    • Scallions
    • Shallots
    • Leeks
  • Veggies that will have to be transferred to soil: While they can start in water, most root vegetables will eventually need soil to thrive. All of the following foods will eventually have to be transferred to a container with some potting soil:
    • Beets
    • Carrots
    • Radishes
    • Parsnips

Regrow Your Veggies by Melissa Raupach and Felix Lill offers an in-depth look at the process of regrowing veggies in water, so we highly recommend it if you’re going to give this a go.

Regrow Your Veggies

Everything you need to know about regrowing veggie scraps.

Tips for Growing Veggies in Water

A sliced stem end of an onion, which will be placed in water to regrow new roots.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Before you grab your mason jars, we have a few more essential tips that’ll really help you make your scrap garden a success. Whenever possible, use heirloom fruits and vegetables as your starters. You’ll get more reliable results, along with quality flavor and color.

Plus, they produce seeds you can save and regrow each year. Heirloom veggies are also naturally pollinated, so they’ll give you your best chance to harvest the same vegetable you originally planted.

Hybrid fruits and vegetables are those that are produced with human intervention. Regrowing these will likely give you varied results in color, size, and flavor. That’s not to say hybrids won’t grow in your scrap garden, the results just might not be as impressive as what you’d get from heirlooms.

Keep in mind that your growing environment makes a big difference, too. For example, regrowing pineapples might be a fun science project, but can a pineapple tree realistically thrive in the area in which you live?

This is why it’s a good idea to research the fruit or veggies you want to grow and stick with those that can thrive in your environment.

How to Grow Vegetables From Scraps

Check out that romaine lettuce after just one week. Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Regrowing vegetables in water is as simple as using a piece of it (the stem or root-end) and suspending it in some water. While most plants can be grown similarly, it’s good to know the specifics on prepping and care, depending on what you are growing.

It also helps to use clear containers, like Mason jars, because you can see the new roots sprout and grow. The mini Masons are the perfect shape and size for your scrap garden.

Verones Mini Mason Jars

Perfect for scrap gardens.

Some vegetables will need a bit more TLC to get going, but you can grow most varieties by following these general instructions:

  1. Cut your vegetable about one inch from the stem or root end. This will be your “seed.”
  2. Fill a clear jar or glass with a few inches of water. You’ll likely have to add more as the vegetable grows.
  3. Insert your veggie scrap into the water, stem-side down.
  4. Place your glass on a windowsill that receives plenty of sunlight and change the water every few days.
  5. After a few weeks, the roots should start to sprout. When there are several roots, feel free to transplant to soil, leaf-side up, or root-side down.
  6. If you transplant your veggies, make sure the leaves are exposed and out of the soil.

Again, quite a few veggies will grow entirely with water, but this method is also excellent for starting roots, and then moving the plant to soil.

You don’t have to spend loads of money and time to have a vegetable garden. Just save your veggie scraps, drop them in some water, and watch them grow! Before you know it, you’ll be ready to move on to more advanced planting adventures.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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