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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Scrap Gardening: Turn Leftovers into New Plants

Lucy Mercer
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windowsill garden, courtesy Lucy and Laura Mercer

Every gardener I know has a windowsill full of experiments and projects with bits of broken-off houseplants popped into colorful vases, nursed back to health. Some have avocado pits leftover from a batch of guacamole, suspended over water and encouraged to grow and prayerfully produce more fruit.

This is scrap gardening but I think of this as garbage gardening, taking odds and ends from the kitchen and garden, and rooting them to stretch gardening from fall to spring. Some plants can be enjoyed just as cuttings, like bits of cactus or other houseplants that you may root to share with a friend.

Others, like green onions and ginger, extend the life of the plants and provide additional produce. Still more projects, I’m thinking of avocados and pineapples, like the pineapple top shown below, make excellent classroom examples of gardening and recycling.

rooting a pineapple top, courtesy Lucy and Laura Mercer

Pineapple. Next time you carve up a pineapple, save the top and trim off the fruit and the lower leaves. Suspend the pineapple top in a glass of water and place it in a sunny window. As with the avocado, be sure to change the water frequently.


scallions, courtesy Lucy and Laura Mercer

Green onions. Perhaps the easiest garbage gardening, okay, scrap gardening project is recycling green onions. Save a few stalks from a bunch of scallions, trim them and set them directly in potting soil. Be sure to leave a few inches of green, and put them in a sunny window.

Keep the soil lightly moist and use the green onions as you need them. (I’ve read that you can treat ginger root the same way and would love to hear from someone who has tried this. 

rooting avocado pit, courtesy Lucy and Laura Mercer

Avocados. Rooting avocados is another kitchen windowsill project. The process is simple: take a clean avocado pit, insert four toothpicks and suspend the orb over a small glass of water. Place it on your sunny windowsill. Be sure to place it pointy side up and change the water frequently. Within a few weeks, the pit should split and a stem and roots will emerge.

After a few months, this plant can be transferred to a pot filled with potting mix and returned to the sunny window. Rooting avocados is a lesson in patience since the fruit takes up to a year to mature on the tree.

To acquire avocado pits, first, you must make break open a lot of avocados, which is a great excuse to make guacamole. Here is my favorite recipe. With simple recipes like this, attention to technique and ingredients can mean the difference between everyday and out of this world.


guacamole, courtesy Lucy Mercer

Lucy’s Guacamole 

Makes enough for a family of four

  • 4 avocados
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. You will need a sharp chef’s knife or paring knife and a spoon. Slice avocados in half along the length. Use the spoon to remove and discard the pit. Use the knife to make 1/2 inch cuts through the flesh, diagonally left to right, then right to left. Scoop the flesh of three avocados into a bowl. Reserve flesh of the fourth avocado.

2. Pour lime juice over avocados, and mash until the mixture is dip-like but still chunky.

3. Add garlic, diced tomato and salt, and pepper to taste. (I go easy on the salt because of the salty tortilla chips).

4. Add reserved avocado flesh, gently stirring in the chunks. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with tortilla chips.

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