We all know that growing your own produce is so much cheaper than paying the high prices for fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. But did you know that the grocery store itself is a cheap alternative source for garden plants? Look through the aisles and you’ll be surprised at what you find.
Herbs for Cuttings from Grocery Store
The produce section of the store usually has a variety of fresh herbs such as oregano, rosemary, sage and parsley. Many of these can be used to grow your own garden herbs and, in fact, cuttings often produce bushier, more productive plants.
When selecting cuttings from the grocery store, examine them for obvious signs of disease. The cuttings are most useful just before they bloom, so make sure that none have already flowered. They should be trimmed to about 6″ long and set in water for about two weeks, during which time they will form roots. They can then be planted in a potting mix, tended indoors until they are well-established, and then set into a larger container or garden bed.
Herbs for Planting from Grocery Store
Sometimes, the local grocery store offers herbs with the roots intact. These could include basil, parsley, mint and lemongrass, among others. These rooted herbs may come in a bag or a small container.
Try to select plants that have good color and vigor for the best chance of success. Before planting outdoors, use special care, because these plants have most likely been kept inside and are therefore quite fragile. After bringing them home, place them immediately in a warm, sunny window to let them acclimate and strengthen a bit, then “harden” them off by setting them outside for a few hours each day, before putting them outside permanently.
Planting Potatoes from Grocery Store
In grade school, many of us grew potatoes with toothpicks and water and it was a lot of fun. Did you know that this is actually a workable garden solution for potato plantings? But, according to the University of Illinois Extension, many store-bought potatoes are treated with a sprout retardant and probably will not grow. Even if they do sprout, it is possible they could introduce a disease, nematode or insect into your garden soil.
Try an organic brand of potatoes and see if it sprouts and plant them in an isolated spot in the garden until you are sure they are free of disease. (Certified seed potatoes are also available at your local farm supply or garden supply store).
Next, find any part of the tuber that has started to sprout green shoots and, using a knife, cut a sliver of the tuber including the growth. This sliver should then be placed in a potting mix just below the soil line. Keep well-watered and in a warm, sunny place. Growth should take off in 3-7 days. From there, the new potato plants can be hardened off and set directly into the garden.
Planting Dried Beans from Grocery Store
If you’re looking for bean seeds, look no further than the dry bean aisle at your local grocery store. You’ll find a wide variety, including pinto and lima beans. Some, like black beans, are harder to sprout than others and it’s best to just experiment.
To sprout, soak the seeds in water overnight. Then place them in a container and cover with a half-inch of potting soil. Keep moist, but not soggy, as the seeds will rot. Keep in a warm and sunny place to germinate and develop leaves. After the plant reaches a stable height, you can transplant them into your garden.
Planting Pits and Seeds from Grocery Store
If you really want to go to an extreme to save money on your plants, try removing the seeds and pits from various fruits and vegetables. Heirloom tomatoes and peppers are an especially good choice for this as you could repeat the process many times, from harvest to harvest.
First, examine the seed section to make sure there is a variety of round and flat seats, a good indicator that the seeds will sprout. Carefully cut the seeds and membrane and place in a bowl of water, stirring occasionally. Allow the bowl to sit for several days in a warm location, until most of the seeds have sunk to the bottom.
Next, pour off the water and discard the floating seeds and membrane, leaving just the bottom seeds. Place the remaining seeds on a layer of paper towel to dry thoroughly. Store seeds in a glass jar with the lid screwed on tightly and place in a cool, dark place such as a refrigerator.
Want to learn more about buying garden plants from the grocery store and how to plant them?
Check out these websites:
Watch Your Garden Grow from University of Illinois Extension
Saving Vegetable Seeds: Tomatoes, Peppers, Peas and Beans from University of Minnesota