One Backyard, Many Seeds, and a Desire to Grow Vegetables

I am a student in the city of Groningen, Netherlands and this year, with plenty of time to stay at home, I decided to get a little involved in the gardening business. My plan was to grow some vegetables without buying any seeds or any other additional garden equipment like fertilizers, soils etc. A few days before, I had stumbled across a post on the internet showing various kinds of fruits and vegetables that one could apparently easily regrow by simply extracting the vegetable's seeds and planting them in soil. I became curious about whether it could be really that simple and decided to pick a few everyday vegetables that I already had at home anyway to get started with my little project.

As a student, I naturally do not have the luxury of a spacious garden. However, I am still lucky enough to share a small backyard with my housemates, that also happens to have a long narrow flower bed on one side. It suited my purposes perfectly! Thus, without having a lot of prior knowledge about gardening or doing much further research, I embarked on a journey that I knew would include a lot of trial and error.

Here are my results!

1. Tomatoes

I had seen in the above-mentioned post, that it was possible to grow tomatoes by simply putting tomato slices in soil. Curious about whether it could be THAT easy, I did the following:

1. At the end of March, I cut a regular tomato and placed its slices on soil that I took from the parking lot behind the backyard. That soil was probably the opposite of the fancy nutritious soil you can buy in hardware store but it did its job.

2. Then, I covered the slices with 1-2 centimeters of the soil, watered them, and waited.

3. 2 weeks later, I was able to show the first sprouts to my housemates full of excitement.

4. I decided I wanted to grow three tomato plants, so I plucked all other sprouts out except from the three I wanted to keep and made sure there was some distance between them so their root systems could grow!

5. Then, I waited until they reached a certain height and planted each plant in separate pots.

Below, you can see the progress the tomato plants made over the following months (click to slide between the pictures):

7. In mid-June, the plants started to get yellow blossoms which I took as a sign that it might be about time to free the plants from their pots and move them into the flower bed outside.

8. The blossoms fell off after a while, and the first tiny green tomatoes became visible. I used some metal bars from our old party tent to support the plant because its weight began bending the plant.

9. It still took until the beginning of August for the tomatoes to start turning orange. It was great to see how the tomatoes changed their colours from light green over yellow to orange and then gradually becoming darker.

10. Around August 20th, I proudly harvested my first tomato! It was smaller than the one I planted originally but delicious. I can tell you, it is a great feeling to prepare a meal with ingredients that you grew all by yourself!

11. I expected all the other green tomatoes to turn red as well over time (there must have been around 50 in total) and already made plans about what to do with such an abundance of tomatoes. Sadly, the plants had to face the Dutch weather conditions without any roof for protection.

Tomato plants love the sun and cannot cope very well with direct rain on their leaves and tomatoes. So it's a big gamble with the Dutch weather and all! I hoped for the better but during August, there were 2-3 weeks where the sun barely shone and it rained rather heavily. I had to watch my tomatoes beginning to mold and the leaves turning brown and die.

12. In the end, I was still able to harvest around 8 middle-sized tomatoes but the rest of them molded.

My conclusion:

It is an incredible feeling to see what grew from only a few tomato slices! I never would have expected the plants to actually turn that big. Although nature took its course at the end, I enjoyed the experience and loved the surprises along the way. Knowing now how long it actually takes for a tomato to reach the size that makes it worth it. And makes me appreciate them more now when I am buying tomatoes from the shop.

I would happily grow tomatoes again, and through the trial and error I went through, next time there'll be more tomatoes to come!

2. Potatoes

Back in June, I found some potatoes in the back of my kitchen cabinet that I had meant to use already a few weeks before. Seeing all the sprouts coming out of the potatoes, I found I might as well put some of them in soil and see whether they were going to grow.

1. Thus, I went outside to the flower bed and simply buried four of the potatoes. I did not have any shovel at hand at that moment, so I only set them 10 cm deep in the soil. That, however, later turned out to not be sufficient as the potatoes became visible above the surface once they started to grow bigger.

2. After I had planted the potatoes, I did not have to wait long to see some progress:

The first leaves soon turned into a dark green bush hanging over the edge of the bed (note for self: more distance in between the potatoes next time!)

3. Around 1 1/2 months later, I got curious if there was already any success to see, thus I pulled the first plant out of the soil. There was indeed already a small bowl full of potatoes! They were still rather tiny and had a very thin peel that I did not even have to remove in order to eat them. They offered a delicious meal!

4. As for the other three potato plants, my housemate advised me to wait until the leaves turned brown and died. That would indicate that the potatoes are ready to get harvested.

Below, you see the harvest of two of the other potato plants!

3. Lettuce

When I buy (buttercup) lettuce, it usually comes with the roots still attached.

1. This time, when I had finished the leaves, I planted the small leftover stem into a flower pot and brought it outside.

2. During the very hot and dry days, I watered it little but apart from that I just left it to grow in peace.

3. After roughly two weeks, the lettuce had grown new leaves. To my disappointment, they did not taste the same as the original leaves but instead, they had a rather bitter flavour.

Thus, after I figured out that I was not going to eat the lettuce anymore, I just left it there in its corner.

The lettuce kept on growing and it did not seem to intended to stop any time soon. I would estimate it reached 70 centimeters by now.

In fact, the lettuce does not look like lettuce anymore at all. It is blossoming at the moment and looks actually very nice! Who would have thought there was still so much life in that leftover lettuce stem?

4. Cucumber

Adjacent to our house lives a lovely family that happened to be outside one day in late spring at the same time as me and my housemates were. They were busy in their own garden but happy to show us all their plant projects which also included growing cucumbers. Realizing that we were interested in growing vegetables as well they just let us have two of their cucumber plants.

We left them in their pots for a few weeks and then added them into the long flower bed where the potatoes and tomatoes were already thriving.

For a long time, it seemed to me like the plants were not really growing until one day, I actually discovered a small cucumber developing under one of the big leaves.

Both of the plants grew one cucumber the length of a hand each. I will leave them attached to their plants a little longer, maybe they will get even bigger.

5. Avocado

Planting an avocado plant was something I had already meant to do for a long time. So the last time, I bought an avocado, I took its pit out and prepared it so that it could sprout.

1. Therefore, I carefully scraped the thin brown peel off (I had read that lets the pit sprout more easily) and then stuck three toothpicks inside which would hold the pit in place in the water glass. I made sure to have the flatter side of the pit pointing downwards as this is the side where the root would grow out off.

2. Then, I simply put the water glass on my windowsill and refilled the water every now and then so that half of the pit would always be covered in water.

3. I had to wait quite long to finally see the pit splitting up and the root curling downwards.

The last picture shows the progress the little plant has made during the last three months. You sure do need a lot of patience when growing an avocado plant!

6 . Garlic

In the post that inspired me to grow vegetables out of their own seeds, they also showed that you could simply put a garlic clove into soil which would then grow back into a full new garlic bulb. Easy enough.

I did as instructed and the clove actually sprouted. Every now and then, I poked a little around in the soil to see whether there were any promising changes. The glove grew an impressive amount of roots but so far there is no garlic bulb in sight.


7. Spring onions

Another tip from the post was to let spring onions regrow.

1. Once I used the main bit of the spring onions, I put the stems in a drinking glass, making sure the roots were covered by water.

2. After a week, I could see that a new leaf was growing from the inside of the stem.

3. Two or three weeks later, the stem had grown back to a size that let me cut it and use it for cooking. Unlike my lettuce mentioned above, the regrown spring onion tasted the same as the original one.

*Reposted from the old website*

Written by Franziska Rebekka Birth

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