The best way to get kids into gardening is to go for fast results and maximum enjoyment.
It’s easy to grow a mini pineapple, date or lemon tree in a pot indoors, but don’t expect too much in the way of fruit from your new house plants.
Growing from a seed, pip, root or top using grocery items or leftovers is simple. The seedlings usually emerge in just weeks but fruit can take years.
A great way to teach budding gardeners, it’s also rewarding and a top way to create lots of free plants.
Sprout tops and roots
Try growing pieces of carrot top, ginger root or a sweet potato tuber from the supermarket.
The leafy part of a pineapple can be sprouted into a plant, as well as beetroot and parsnip tops.
CARROT Cut off a carrot top just below where the leaves grow.
Sit it in a shallow saucer of water or push it gently into the surface of a small pot of damp potting mix.
Ferny leaves will soon appear, and eventually small white flowers.
GINGER Fill a seed tray with potting mix and push in a piece of fresh ginger root, making sure the knobbly eyes are facing up. Half-cover the root with moist mix and leave in a warm spot.
It will soon start to produce shoots and roots, but for the ginger plant to thrive and flower, it will need high temperatures and humidity.
SWEET POTATO Buy a sweet potato tuber and bury it in a grow bag or a tub filled with potting mix.
Keep the bag or tub indoors in a warm, well-lit position, such as on a windowsill. The sweet potato will gradually produce shoots and roots.
Earth up the shoots as they develop and when the stems start to wilt, dig up the plant and harvest the sweet potatoes buried in the mix.
PINEAPPLE Choose a whole fresh pineapple that has a medium-sized, healthy-looking green top.
Cut off the top using a sharp knife, then strip off the small basal leaves to reveal a clear stump of about 25mm. Leave the stump to dry until roots develop around the base.
Rub off any dead tissue and leaves, then gently push the stump into a small pot filled with an open, free-draining potting mix.
Position the pot in a sunny spot with temperatures of at least 18°C.
New foliage will develop through the top. As the plant grows, replant it in a larger container and within a few years, it should produce a baby pineapple from a central shoot.
Rub off any dead tissue and leaves, then gently push the stump into a small pot filled with an open, free-draining potting mix
Pips and seeds
Seeds from store-bought vegies and fruit, such as tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants and melons, will germinate easily on a sunny windowsill.
You can also try growing seeds from apples, citrus and more exotic fruits you’ve just eaten.
Any fruit from your seedling tree will be different to the original fruit, but the results are often interesting.
The exceptions are nectarines and peaches. They can produce true to the original fruit on a tree grown from a stone and trained against a sunny wall.
Temperate fruit trees
For apple, pear, plum, cherry or peach trees, plant three pips or stones into seed-raising mix in a small pot.
Seal the pot in a polythene bag, put it in the fridge for a few weeks to speed up germination, then position it in a cool, light spot indoors, keeping the potting mix moist.
Separate the seedlings once they are big enough to handle and plant them individually in larger pots.
Water regularly and feed during the growing season with a liquid high-potash fertiliser.
Some of the prettiest plants can be raised from the pips of oranges, lemons and grapefruit.
Citrus plants eventually form bushy shrubs and produce flowers and then edible fruit, but it may taste sour.
If the plants become large, prune them to a manageable size, although this will affect fruit production.
The stones of a few exotic fruits like avocados and dates develop into interesting house plants.
Date palms can be enjoyed indoors for a few years and the seedling tree of an avocado plant grows tall and looks like a rubber plant.
An avocado grown from seed may mature fully and produce fruit if it is grown in a heated conservatory.
Remove an avocado stone and cut 10mm off the pointed tip.
Push the stone into potting mix with the cut tip just showing. Add gravel to the pot to improve drainage and keep the soil moist, not wet.
TIP For a bushier shape, pinch out the growing tip of the seedling.