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  • Suzanne

Sprout an Indoor Garden

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Learn how you and your kiddo can sprout an indoor garden using common pantry items

This activity teaches you and your kiddos how to grow a little garden using household items. Gardening gives children the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time and helps them understand how the food that they’re served on the table grows. It’s also a great way to observe the lifecycle of a plant first hand. This activity is designed to use only household items and items from around your neighbourhood, so the materials list is flexible. Below are three materials categories - choose at least 1 item from each category, but the more variety, the better!

VIDEO TUTORIAL: There is a recording of a webinar with more growing details HERE. The webinar was taught by Vanessa, who holds a PhD in plant biology. She wrote the accompanying directions below.


Materials Pots or containers: -Takeout or deli containers, ice cream tubs, lunch containers - Water bottle or beer can cut in half - Glass jars or bowls - Ziplock bags - Toilet paper tubes or egg carton

Growing substrate: -Soil from the store - Soil from your garden (microwave it for several minutes to kill bugs) - Paper towel (works for germinating seeds, but not long-term growth)

Any of the following seeds or kitchen scraps: (links to accompanying recipes) - Dried beans or lentils (soup mix beans work well) - Sunflower, pumpkin, or chia seeds - Beansprouts (Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds can be found in grocery stores) - Popcorn kernels - Whole grain brown rice - Seeds from fruit or collected outside (peppers, citrus, pinecones, etc.) - Carrot or turnip tops (green stems intact) - Potatoes, sweet potatoes, or ginger - Green onions (roots intact) or garlic - Avocado pits - Celery or lettuce base NOTE: roasted nuts/seeds and canned beans won’t grow!


Because this is a use-what-you-have activity, there are many ways you can combine the options above to start growing plants. Below, I’ll walk you through 4 methods that can be used to grow plants at home. Combination 1: Green onion, soil, ice cream container

  1. During cooking, reserve the end of the green onion with roots.

  2. Poke holes in the bottom of a 1 pint ice cream container. Ice cream containers work well because they are water-resistant and they have a lid which works like a pot saucer.

  3. Fill the container with soil and use your finger to poke holes.

  4. Push the green onions into the soil so that the roots are covered.

  5. Place pot to an area with good light and water when the soil looks dry.

  6. Green onions should have new growth within a week. You can trim onion greens every week to use in your cooking.

  7. Onions can be transplanted outdoors once daytime temperatures reach 20°C.

Combination 2: Soup mix beans, soil, toilet paper roll, beer can

  1. Cut toilet paper rolls in half. Cut top off of beer can (be careful of sharp edges!)

  2. Fill the tubes and can with soil and use your finger to poke holes.

  3. Push dried beans about 1 inch deep into the soil.

  4. Place tray in an area with good light and water when the soil looks dry.

  5. Seeds should germinate in 1 - 2 weeks.

  6. Beans can also be transplanted outdoors once the risk of frost has passed.

NOTE: To speed up germination, you can soak the seeds for 1-2 days before planting. Place the soaked seed in the soil, but be careful not to break off the roots, which may have germinated already.

Combination 3: Carrot tops, takeout container, no substrate

  1. During cooking, reserve the tops of the carrots with green stems.

  2. Fill a takeout container with water until the bottom is covered.

  3. Place the carrots, cut-side down, into the water.

  4. Move the container into an area with good light.

  5. Check the container daily and ensure there is always a layer of water.

  6. Carrots will start sprouting new leaves in a week.

  7. Carrots can be transplanted outdoors once the risk of frost has passed.

Combination 4: Chia seeds, bowl, no substrate

  1. Place chia seeds or other sprouting seeds in a bowl or glass jar.

  2. You can line the bowl with paper towel as I did here, but in the past I've omitted the paper towel, and it's worked even better.

  3. Evenly sprinkle about 1 tbsp of chia seeds or other sprouting seeds.

  4. Check the paper towel daily and keep it moist by running water over top and pouring off the excess.

  5. Seeds will germinate in a week and be ready to eat in another.

  6. Beansprouts are great in salads or on sandwiches.

There are lots of different combinations of containers + kitchen scraps + growing substrate that can be used other than those listed above!


Connecting Gardening to the Food We Eat

There are lots of reasons to help your children grow a garden at any age. It is a form of natural education that organically engages children in learning. Gardening

  • Connects them with where their food comes from

  • Encourages them to take care of baby plants

  • Engages gross and find motor skill development and working with tools

  • Interests them in touching and maybe tasting the new vegetables

In the same way that helping to cook a meal makes children more interested in eating it, growing foods can encourage kids to touch, smell, and maybe even taste new greens or vegetables.

Here are some helpful resources to teach your kids about the connection to gardening and the food on our plates.

Where does broccoli come from: A book about vegetables

If you're looking for more ideas, there is a recording of a webinar with tons more details. Click HERE.

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