Decorative vegetable tops

One of the pleasures of childhood was growing Carrot tops in saucers. The decorative results of the simple technique make it worth including in the adult’s repertoire of indoor gardening. And there are other treasures that deserve, like the Carrot tops, to be saved from a fate in the garbage can.

Carrots, turnips, parsnips, beets, swedes, radishes

Provided these root vegetables are not of a packaged kind that has been frozen before reaching the shop (nor – in the case of beets – cooked), nothing is easier than producing foliage from a ^-inch slice off the top of any of them. Stand the slice in a saucer with just enough water to cover the bottom part, and put in a light place. Keep the bottom moist. If the weather is fairly warm, leaf shoots will appear within days, and leaves after a week or two. They will be feathery ones, in the case of Carrots; and green with red veins in the case of Beets and Turnips.

Hanging carrots and parsnips

You can grow these upside down – in mid-air. A 2-inch slice from the top is needed. Scoop out 1 inch of the core from the cut end. The point of a potato peeler is handy for this, but don’t pierce the sides with it. Stick a skewer through from one side to the other, near the cut end, and thread wire through by which to hang the vegetable up like a small basket. If the hollow is kept filled with water and the vegetable hangs in a light and warm place, leaves will soon sprout from the bottom and start to grow upwards. Another plant could be grown in the ‘basket’ at the same time if it has moist compost in it. You could also plant a seed or two of some tiny plant such as dwarf Nasturtium.

A potato creeper

This one, which should be started in spring, needs a jar of water and a card with a hole in the middle on which to perch the Potato. This should have as many ‘eyes’ as possible at the top, and be half submerged in the water. It is therefore important to keep topping up the water and to change it if it gets smelly.

Leave the jar in a cool, dark place until roots appear. When shoots grow, cut off all but two. These should grow up to six feet long during the summer, provided the plant gets light and some warmth. A little liquid fertilizer can be added to the water to help. Fasten strings or wires up a wall or window frame, and tie the climbing shoots to them.

Baby Potatoes will probably form on the roots, but they will not be edible unless you keep the light from them. A small bit of Potato, provided it has some ‘eyes’, will also produce a creeper (though a smaller one) if grown in a saucer like a carrot top. Sweet Potatoes can be treated in the same way.

Mint and watercress

Just below one pair of leaves, snip off the top of a sprig and put it in a jar of water in a light place. It will form roots and produce a new plant.

Onions

These tend to sprout of their own accord. With encouragement, they will produce handsome (if smelly) flowers. Plant like a bulb in compost. The pot should be 6 inches deep, the Onion only half buried, and the compost kept damp. An Onion planted in early spring and kept in a light place should, during summer, grow about \ feet tall with a big globe of mauve flowers. It will probably need a stick for support. After flowering, the flower head can be hung upside down to dry and its seeds used next spring in a garden or window box.

Beans and peas in jars

Line a jam jar with damp blotting or other absorbent paper and slip some Broad Beans (or Peas) between it and the glass, near the top. The ‘scars’ on the sides of the beans should be vertical. Keep enough water in the jar to ensure that the paper is always damp. After a few days, the skin of each bean will crack and a root appear, followed by a shoot. When the shoots are about 3 inches high, they will need more than just water to feed on: add a little liquid fertilizer to the water. With luck you should get some flowers, though bean pods are not likely to grow. (Dried cooking beans may be too dry: buy packet seeds.)

Pineapple tops

These (which belong to the Bromeliad family) have been known to grow well in saucers like Carrots for a while. They do better still if transferred to a 6-inch pot of sand with a polythene bag over the top of the pot at first. Pineapple tops are more likely to root well if you have chosen a fruit with really healthy leaves. Having cut the top inch off the pineapple, leave it on its side for a day or two to dry before planting. Warmth, light and water (with liquid fertilizer added to it) are needed, of course. Trickle the water into the top of the plant for the first two weeks; after that, water the sand round it.

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