(Almost) Free seeds & a wander in the patch..

Posted November 13th, 2013 by Rob Bob : )»

Getting more from your store bought veggies..
As a follow up to the last blog post on "Feral/volunteer veggies.." I thought it would be interesting to share with you some of the plants we have grown from store/market bought produce.. This is something we have done for many years with great success..
Some of the more obvious plants to do this with are the veggies/fruit that have seeds.. When selecting produce to collect seeds from it is a good idea to find out the name of the variety you are wanting to try.. Some will be hybrid/F1 varieties that may not grow true to type which means that when the seeds are grown they will "throw back" to the genes of only one of its parents.. We have had this happen with some tomato seeds collected by one of the girls.. While the fruit all grew to a uniform shape & colour the taste was extremely bland & unappealing.. They did make great treats for the chooks though.. I found that the best way to check to see if a fruit is an F1 is to search online for the name of the fruit you want to collect seeds from.. Sometimes the variety is listed on the shelf price tag & more commonly now it can be found on a sticker on the fruit itself.. Unfortunately for some produce they just use the generic, "cucumber" or "tomato" as a description, so I tend to stay away from them for seed saving..

Some store bought fruiting crops we have had really good success rates with are pumpkins, mini gourmet tomatoes, eggplant, capsicums, chillies & rock melon..

To collect the seeds from these fruit for use latter it is as easy as scraping them out & leaving them to dry on a plate.. I have planted some tomatoes & eggplants straight into the garden or pots with good results as well..
We have just saved some seeds from an interesting melon called piel de sapo that was bought on sale at a supermarket last week..

This variety has a very long shelf life so we intend to grow as many as we can for the cooler months so we can see for ourselves how long they last.. From a melon & a half we have managed to save well over 200 seeds which is great..

There are also a number of root crops that can be grown from store bought produce..
Potatoes are a crop we have had some decent success with so far this year.. All of our plantings (except for one) have been grown using store bought taters that have begun to set "eyes" while stored in the pantry..

We did buy some seed potatoes but they just rotted in the ground.. I have since been replaced them with some other store bought taters that sprouted in my mums pantry & look to be doing rather well so far.. Planting out potatoes is as easy as waiting for a few eyes to develop on the tubers (I like them to be over 15mm) & popping them about 10cm deep in a bed you have prepared with your compost &/or fertiliser of choice.. That is a very basic & easy way to start some off.. Once you get the bug there are loads of other ways to grow these beauties like trenching/hilling, grow bags, the no dig method & a few others if you're feeling adventurous..

Growing garlic purchased from the store is a simple task but sourcing quality garlic to plant is important I think..

I like to use locally grown garlic as we have never had great success with the imported cloves that most stores sell now.. The imported varieties are also not suited for our subtropical climate unlike the locally developed Glen Large variety.. I like to select the largest garlic cloves for planting at the start of Autumn.. Harvest time is normally in Summer when the leaves start to die back, however I pulled ours a bit early this year.. It has been chopped up & are being stored in the freezer for when it's needed.. We were happy to read that it is actually called "Green Garlic" & is sort after by some chefs for its delicate flavour.. After reading that I don't feel so bad & like to tell people that it was intentional ;)

One of the easiest I have found to grow here in the subtropics is sweet potato & I'm sure that if I left the plants alone they would slowly take over the lawn, our house & most probably the neighbours as well..

Sweet potato is best planted in Spring & harvested in Autumn but we are lucky enough to have them growing all year round here.. I find the best way to grow them is to pop a few market bought tubers in the ground then snip off the young vines or "slips" when they reach 30cm/1' in length.. It's then as easy as stripping all but 2 or 3 leaves at the growing tip, burying them horizontally (as above) a few cm deep in the soil & keeping them well watered until they root.. A few of the roots will then form into tubers at the buried leaf nodes providing a better harvest than if the tuber was left alone.. I like to cheat a bit & "bandicoot" around for tubers in the soil come mid-late Summer.. We also add the young leaves/tips into salads & stir fries.. They really are a very versatile & productive plant..

Ginger & turmeric are 2 more plants we have grown from store bought roots rather than from nurseries/seed suppliers..

To grow both these plants all you need to do is to bury a section of plump, healthy looking root section 5-10cm deep into soil that has been prepared with a bit of compost/fertiliser.. They are best planted out at the start of Spring & harvested when the leaves start to die back in Autumn, it's that easy..
This season the turmeric has been a bit slow to shoot so I have had some sitting in water for the past few weeks & it looks to have done the trick with all but one piece having healthy looking sprouts..
It grows really well here in the subtropics but I've also read that they can be grown as far south as Melbourne & Adelaide.. A warm sunny position is needed that far south & it also helps if you can pot them out in a warm green house or inside at the end of Winter, start of Spring & transplant the outside once the weather heats up..

Just a word of caution when buying store bought root crops to plant out.. Always look for healthy specimens that have no sign of disease as you could run the risk of spreading it through the soil in your garden.. Family & friends have been doing it for years now with no problems.. It's always good to be aware of any risks though I think..

A few other plants we have rooted from bought produce are pineapple, celery & kang kong..

We have grown a few sweet & tasty pineapples now from bought produce & have a dozen or so plants on the go in pots.. They are another warm climate crop so might be a bit hard to grow if your in Tasmania.. To get a pineapple ready for planting all you need to do is twist off the leafy top from the fruit, & peel off the bottom 3-4 rows of leaves to help expose the small root nodes between them.. Once that is done all you have to do is bury the bottom 3-5cm directly into the soil in a warm position in the garden.. Then all you need to do is sit back (except for the occasional watering of course) for 12-18 months until the fruit is ready to pick.. Might be a bit too long for some but we are prepared to wait ;)
This time round I am trying to encourage faster root growth by sitting the top in a jar of water.. Will be interesting to see if that helps the plant get established & then set fruit faster.. I have also been told they grow well in aquaponics but am yet to try that here..

Celery is another plant you can grow after munching on the bulk of your purchase.. It can be a bit touch & go but worked really well for us in our first aquaponic system..

All we did was eat the stalks of the head back to the small centre core then pop it in the grow bed where it sent out roots.. I have seen clips on You Tube where others have sat the heart in a plate with water in the base to encourage root growth.. While it may not be the best way to start off a plant it is a great little project for the kids to help get them interested in growing plants..

A relatively new plant for us has been kang kong.. We started to grow this Asian green at the start of the year after we bought a bunch to try.. We like to add the leaves to salads & the stems add a bit of extra crunch to stir fries when tossed in just before serving..

Starting some off from bought stalks is as easy as sticking a few in a jug of water until they set roots.. This will only take a week at the most in warm weather & they can then be planted out into the garden.. They are a water loving plant that grows well in pots that sit with their base in a tray of water.. It is a good idea to let the tray dry out or empty the old water every few days to prevent an explosion in mosquito numbers in your yard.. We have some in with the water chestnuts in a bathtub bed, a small wicking bucket as well as in the aquaponic system..
Just a word of caution on kang kong.. It is a declared weed in some places & I know why after seeing how fast 2 plants have taken over an aquaponic grow bed.. I think it is best to keep this one in pots or grow beds & not planted out next to your pond, dam or creek..

Spring/green onions are very easy to grow from store bought plants & I have seen this idea pop up a few times on SS..

All you need to do is slice off the base of the plant about 20-30mm above the roots & pop it out into the soil while the top section gets added to a meal.. Once the plant grows to an acceptable size you can then pop out to the patch, slice it off at the base again & wait for it to grow once more.. They are a great cut & come again crop with some of the plants in our yard being 3 or more years old now :)

I think the best reason to start plants from store bought produce is the minimum cost involved.. One capsicum can give you twice as many seeds as you would get in a packet from some seed suppliers & a single eggplant can give you at least a dozen packets worth.. You also get to eat the package too which is a bit of a bonus ;) When it comes to some root crops, the prices asked for the certified seed varieties can be rather expensive when buying in small amounts from chain stores so you may be better off looking for a bargain at a green grocers or even supermarket..
Carm started up a "Growing vegetables from their own seeds" thread here on SS & it would be really interesting for others to post there (or below) what veggies/fruit you have tried to grow from store bought produce..

Update on the front patch..
Last week Koo & I shot a bit of an update on the front wicking bed garden.. The growth in some of the beds has totally blown us all away especially seeing as we have had next to no rain all Spring ,until the storms last night.. The corn is thriving, pumpkin sprawling & have many squash & melons growing nicely on the vines now..


I think having her own bed has really got Koo interested in growing more food.. Now her arm is out of the sling she is wanting to set up her next bed with me down the back :D We will have to see where I can squeeze one in methinks..

That's about it for this week.. I hope you look at the produce your preparing a bit different this week & maybe pop a few bits into the garden from the left over scraps.. You never know your luck & might end up with some tasty & free veggies for your effort..
Have a great one all,
Rob.

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