Fight Food Waste – Grow and Learn

What started out as an experiment at our house, has grown into a pet project and a labour of love. Let me confess up front – I am not a gardener. I hate gardening. Actually, it’s more that I hate the heat that comes with the dog days of summer, and gardening in the heat has never brought me great joy. Until now.

For Mother’s Day, my family gave me a set of raised garden beds. Our home backs onto a reservoir and in the past, we’ve had backyard gardens destroyed by some of the critters that live there. I’ve long since given up trying to grow anything. This was my family’s way of getting me outside for one more attempt.

One of our potato planters still at the indoor beginning stages (they grow fast!).

Given the boxes are not huge, we decided to try an experiment. At the beginning of the pandemic, we began an indoor regrow experiment with some of our farm fresh produce. We placed green onion stems, celery, romaine lettuce and more in water and watched them grow. We also took two farm potatoes and planted them in planters, and buried slices of tomato in small containers. All of it grew! Our girls were surprised at how easily it could be done.

So, after filling the deck boxes with a mixture of compost and potting soil, we moved our little regrow experiment outdoors, and even expanded on it. We picked up strawberries, one sweet pepper plant, and greenhouse tomatoes to grow alongside our regrow items and to help fill all of the boxes.

Our Results?

The results have been incredible! Everything from our regrow garden has grown and we’re watching the fruits (and vegetables) of our labours bloom before our eyes. We have learned a lot from this process:

  • Never throw away the root ends of your green onions. I have not bought green onions since our regrow ones took root in my kitchen window.
  • We have already harvested the potatoes from one of our indoor pots, reaping about 20 potatoes for the one we planted (and we have one more plant yet to harvest).
  • We learned that you can regrow romaine lettuce but you need to pick the leaves early (don’t let the plant grow too large or it will go bitter). In other words, don’t expect a full head of lettuce from your regrow plant.
  • Even in an elevated bed, some items need to be protected from outdoor critters (we eventually wrapped our strawberry box in chicken wire).
  • Even vegetable cuttings can be used – put them in a pot of water and make your own stock, or regrow items using the cut ends.
  • You can grow potatoes in a pot (and boy, do they grow quickly)! The girls were disappointed in the beginning of this process when their grandmother said it couldn’t be done. Sorry, Grandma, you were wrong. Just plant the potato in the bottom of a pot and continuously add soil as the plant begins to grow until you reach the top.
  • Wrap up beets early or lose them to squirrels (thus the empty bottom box in the photo of our elevated planters).
Indoor Planter Potatoes
Strawberry box wrapped with chicken wire to keep out squirrels/chipmunks.

Most importantly, we have been given a peak at just how much food waste we’ve been responsible for in the past, how much must be going on worldwide, and we’re committed going forward to changing our habits. Our deck garden will be a permanent feature, my kitchen window will always have regrow produce blooming, and we’ll be more mindful of how we use up every bit of what we grow.

How Does a Home Garden Help Fight Food Waste?

Growing your own food…

  1. Reduces environmental impact. For a start, it saves water when compared to the vast amounts of water used to produce massive amounts of food, reduces emissions from trucks etc. that are necessary to transport food over great distances, and avoids food waste that occurs as food spoils in transport or in what doesn’t make it to our grocery shelves because it isn’t ‘pretty’ enough.
  2. You only grow/pick what you need or can use, or you can gift any extras to friends and family.
  3. You’re more likely to use what you’ve put the money and effort into growing.

Reducing Food Waste at Home

We already have several things in place to reduce food waste in our home:

  • I plan our weekly menus in advance and buy only the ingredients. This way, I’m able to create a grocery list but cross off the items I know we have in our fridge, cupboards, or pantry and buy only what we need.
  • On Sundays I do an hour or two of meal prep making snack items for our kids, chopping and preparing fruits/vegetables for snacks and meals, etc (I shop Saturdays at the farm so Sunday meal prep works for us). It’s a small thing, but having carrot sticks and cucumber slices ready to grab out of the fridge means everyone will eat them rather than watch the vegetables go to waste.
  • We freeze… a lot. If it isn’t going to be used right away and it can be frozen, then it gets frozen.
  • And the golden rule in this house is check the fridge, the cupboards, and the pantry before you write something down on the grocery list.

It all seems like little things, but if everyone did it, it would add up to be a big step toward minimal food waste around the globe.

What do you do in your home to help reduce food waste? Do you have your own garden?

What’s Next?

Our next step is to learn about preserving what we can so we can continue to enjoy our garden through the winter months ahead. Will this years little garden sustain us? No. But we’re ready to expand our garden next year and will use the rest of this growing season to learn how we can preserve our future crops. We’re already thinking and preparing ourselves for homemade jam, jarred tomato sauce, and much more.

Stay tuned for more on that!

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