tiny garden: kitchen scrap gardens.

May 19, 2020
kitchen scrap garden | reading my tea leaves

I was too quick to dismiss the ubiquitous kitchen scrap gardens I’ve seen growing. With some amount of sheepishness, I admit that being urged to grow fresh celery from a spent bunch by every lifestyle site on God’s green internet, did the opposite of inspire me to try my own. Scallions on the windowsill? I harbored a grumpy and utterly unfounded suspicion of them. Yes, having a fresh harvest of scallions at the ready for slicing into salads and folding into omelets sounded lovely, but could they really produce on a shady north-facing window? Watching lettuce re-sprout might be nice for the preschool set, I thought, but it couldn’t be something an adult person could reasonably rely on for entertainment, to say nothing of sustenance.

lettuce sprouts | reading my tea leaves

Jaded by too many weeks stuck inside, or too little sleep, I’m quite sure I described these scrap gardens as twee and harrumphed out loud at the sight of them.

I guess I forgot that I love twee things. Caring for small glass jars of growing green things in the springtime is both a blessing and a balm. Planting only for the sake of watching something new spring to life is reason enough to give it a go, productivity be damned.

kitchen scrap garden | reading my tea leaves

The internet doesn’t need another story on growing new vegetables from kitchen scraps, but I did. So what if there’s only a sandwich’s worth of lettuce to show for the two weeks of watching the plant regrow? Who cares if the scallions are slightly on the skimpy side. They’re here. And skimpy has always kind of been my bag. There’s so much that feels stuck in place right now, it’s a relief to watch something, even very small things, take shape.

microgreens in an egg carton | reading my tea leaves

A week ago I rekindled my microgreen attempts following Chelsea Fuss’s method—planting the seeds in a cardboard egg carton and letting them germinate covered for a few days. They’ve been thriving, even on this north-facing sill. We’re hoping to harvest at the end of the week, which will give Silas something productive to do with scissors that doesn’t involve taking them to his own head.

kitchen scrap garden | reading my tea leaves

When I finally make that sandwich it’s going to be glorious. And if improbably it’s not, so be it. For the slim cost of exactly nothing, I grew fresh lettuce leaves. From the roots of my scallions I grew more. For the cost of a cup of soil and a handful of seeds, I have an egg carton full of shoots for eating.

kitchen scrap garden | reading my tea leaves


+ Remove the bottom 3-inches or so of the root end of your lettuce head, scallions, celery, et cetera.

+ Choose a small vessel that allows you to submerge the root end in fresh water and allows the top of the vegetable to rest on the rim. (If you don’t have a vessel with a narrow opening, you can use toothpicks to help keep the lettuce head above water.)

+ Change the water daily to maintain freshness, place in a bright windowsill, and you’ll start to see regrowth in just a few days. (If the outer leaves that are submerged begin to get slimy or shriveled, remove them carefully when you change the water. Rinse scallion roots if they get slimy or begin to cloud the water.)

+ Watch Chelsea’s sweet video explaining her method for growing microgreens.

kitchen scrap garden | reading my tea leaves

For the curious:

I’m using 4-ounce Ball Mini Storage Jars borrowed from my sister for eventual milk storage, but perfect in the meantime for rooting kitchen scraps.

My ceramic tray was made by Tracie Hervy and was a gift from Bloomist.

My mircogreens are sitting in an old galvanized tool tray.

I ordered my microgreen seeds directly from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.

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  • Reply connie May 19, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    growing things is so hopeful! thanks for the reminder x

  • Reply Christine May 19, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    It’s nice to see tiny, green things growing. Gives me a feeling of life moving forward!

  • Reply Jess May 19, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    Also what a good reminder that so much of the food in our fridge is alive!

  • Reply Ellie K May 19, 2020 at 11:52 pm

    i’ve been throwing away my lettuce ends and now i need to regrow them too!

  • Reply Annie May 20, 2020 at 1:02 am

    “I guess I forgot that I love twee things.” – I love this. I think that, interspersed with decidedly more visceral moments, distancing has made me burrow deep down and remember what I really love to….well, not “to do” exactly, rather what I love to throw my time at wantonly and without expectation of reciprocation. And you know what? I love being on boats and watching leaves rustle in the breeze and ballet classes and doing makeup and thinking deep thoughts in the direction of things I will likely never get to accomplish. And I somehow forgot some of those things. Because they felt overdone or co-opted or like I would lose a piece of myself that I had worked to create if I simultaneously delighted in something bound to provide little return. So I find myself miles from the sea, and so separated from the seemingly unnecessary, unproductive things that make life a little more fun that I feel almost bad for remembering them now that I’m left alone with no one near enough to discourage me. So what I’m saying is eff all that noise, I suppose. I’m with you. And while little green things have never been my twee of choice, I might grow some in solidarity anyway:) My sandwich two weeks from now might need a little lettuce, and I might just need a little whimsy.

  • Reply Jessica May 20, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Is there a story about hair cutting somewhere in here? My kiddo is both 3 and extremely scissor happy, and I’m dreading the day when I jump in the shower while she colors and exit the shower to find a hair cutting incident unfolding. =)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 20, 2020 at 11:20 am

      We gave Silas a chop this week at his request, and yesterday he decided to take it a step further. Still finding small clumps of hair, but the overall damage was minimal!

  • Reply cathy May 20, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    Love this! I have a yard, and a garden (though I dream of the day we downsize both house & yard). Still, growing microgreens on the windowsill (finally getting their true leaves) and regrowing celery and scallions. Moved the celery to the garden (so far so good), scallions next (getting too many roots). Haven’t tried lettuce yet, but plan to since I didn’t get very good germination outside. I think growing anything is exciting! Since you can’t garden on your fire escape, I think your windowsill scrap garden is lovely. You could also try starting “houseplants” from kitchen seeds (peas, garbanzos, peppers, sprouting sweet potatoes, avocado pit). The kids might get into it. A good source for directions is author Alys Fowler.

  • Reply Amanda Krieger May 20, 2020 at 10:08 pm

    this is great! we always re-grow our green onions. i always seem to need a green onion and never have one…
    also, just want to reiterate your note about changing the water. even if you don’t, the roots will eventually (in my experience) get slimy and yucky, and you have to throw them into the compost. it’s good for a few rounds, but eventually i guess they need soil.

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