Home Gardening Blog

Growing a Grocery Store Garden

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Growing a Grocery Store Garden

One of the displays that we have had in the Kemper Center for Home Gardening for the past couple of years is the “Kitchen Garden."  A better name could possibly be the “Grocery Store Garden" — all of the plants that we are growing in this indoor display are from the grocery store. We have taken different seeds and bulbs and vegetables from the produce department of the grocery store to propagate and show kids where their food comes from, as well as the potential to grow more.

We have in the past grown heirloom tomatoes from seed as well as butternut squash, red bell peppers, citrus such as lemon, orange and key lime, pomegranate, avocado, and even tropical kiwi vine, among others.

Most of the seeds can just be removed from the fruit and placed near the surface of potting soil in a terracotta pot, in a bright location (not in direct sun) and kept moist.  After a week or two, little seedlings of peppers, citrus or squash will begin to pop up and you can watch them develop. 

Whole, heirloom tomatoes (heirloom tomatoes grow true to seed; many others do not) were smashed and placed in a closed jar for three days to help soften the seed coat so that germination would occur faster.  Then we removed the seeds from the jar and treated the seeds as we did the others and within two weeks tomato seedlings were visible. 

Bulbs such as onion and shallot may be grown simply by placing them in a pot of potting soil and adding water. 

Root vegetables such as ginger root, carrot, sweet potato, black radish or even turmeric can be propagated simply by placing the root or tuber in the soil and adding water.  The russet potato we grew in a pot actually produced little potatoes right in the pot. 

The sweet potato also works well grown in water.  We placed a sweet potato, half submerged, in water and it is now growing roots.  When we did the same thing last year, by the end of the summer the potato was beginning to look like soil and there were even little sweet potatoes produced right in the water.

Other plants that establish roots in water are pineapple tops, beets, baby Bok-Choy, kale, and even avocado seeds. After these plants have grown their roots in water they can be transferred to soil, but they should be kept really wet for the first few days so that they can adjust from growing in water to growing in soil. 

We did have a few of last year’s plants survive the winter. These include the pineapple, avocado, pomegranate and key lime. One surprise survivor is the kiwi vine. The kiwi seedlings went completely dormant and resembled dead twigs over the winter, but come spring, they began to grow again. They were repotted to a large terracotta pot to give them lots of room to grow a healthy root system and to support a trellis. The kiwi vine is actually dioecious. This means that there are both male and female plants. We are hoping that with luck there will be at least one male and one female plant in our group of seedlings so that the potential for fruit will exist. 

We have baby Bok-Choy rooting in water and even a beet growing in water in clear glass jars so that you can see the roots.  If you did this at your home you could transfer these to soil and even to your home garden and harvest the tiny new leaves to add to salads and still have the plant to produce more. 

Just for the fun of it you may try some of these ideas at home. And do come to visit us here at the Kemper Center and see our gardens, both indoors and out, to get more ideas on growing plants, both ornamental and edible, at your home.


We can help answer your gardening questions. By phone, call the Horticulture Answer Service (M-F from 9-Noon @ 314-577-5143) or visit the “doctors” at the Plant Doctor Desk (Monday-Saturday from 10-3.) in the Center for Home Gardening.

Jane Roth
Horticulture Assistant Kemper Center for Home Gardening

| Categories: Summer | Tags: gardens, vegetables, fruits, indoor plants | View Count: (10334) | Return
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