The Lockdown Leftover Seed Challenge

by Paul Muddle

The Lockdown Leftover Seed Challenge.

It seems a good time to experiment with growing things you might never have thought of trying before. Many of us are stuck at home, some of us might have children to keep occupied and some of us will be trying to find ways to keep them occupied without the luxury of having a garden. I thought I would suggest a few things you could grow from bits and pieces that might be lying around indoors, you might even want to send us photos or videos we could put on the Physic Garden website or You Tube channel. How about a competition; the “Lockdown Leftover Seed Challenge”?

First of all, what have you got in the fruit bowl? If there are any oranges you could try saving a few seeds to sow. If you do then it’s a good idea to soak them overnight and sow them half an inch deep in compost the next day, if you can it’s also a good idea to keep the pot covered with a plastic bag held in place by an elastic band for the first few days. The seeds should sprout (germinate) within 7 to 14 days. We’ll get back to the subject of pots and compost later.

How about an apple (or pear)? Apple seeds are a little more complicated than Oranges, it’s a good idea to collect a lot of them as only about 1 in 3 will germinate. The first thing you will need to do is wrap the seeds in damp tissue paper and then pop them in a plastic bag. The next step is to put the bag of seeds in the fridge, check every few days to make sure the paper is still damp. After a month you should notice some little sprouts at the top of the seeds, now it’s time to sow them. The seeds can be put in individual little pots in about 2 inches of compost. If you can put them somewhere outside then do, if not then place them on a windowsill and make sure the compost never dries out (but don’t soak them either).


What about tomato seeds? It’s usually quite a complicated process and you’re supposed to collect the seeds at the end of the Summer for sowing the next year, but everything’s a bit different this year so what’s to lose? Take the seeds from a tomato in your salad and leave them to soak overnight. The next day you should place the seeds on paper to dry out. When properly dry plant them individually in small pots of compost. Keep the compost moist but don’t overwater them.

Another thing you might like to try with tomatoes is to simply lay slices of fresh tomato in the top of a pot of compost then cover with a little more compost and keep watered. I’ll be honest, I’ve never tried it but it’s supposed to work.

If you have some ginger root (strictly speaking it’s not a root but a rhizome – horizontal stem) with some buds you can cut it into smaller pieces. Make sure each piece has at least one bud. Give it a couple of days for the cut ends to dry and then plant each in a pot of it’s own. In the wild they grow in partial shade so try and avoid direct sunlight all day, a couple of hours of sunshine is enough.

How about a pineapple plant? It’s really easy. Slice the top off a pineapple, trim the flesh away from the base of the leaves and remove the lowest leaves to expose the stalk. Pot in a mixture of compost and grit and water. You may not grow your own pineapples but you’ll have an evergreen houseplant that belongs in the same family as the expensive Bromeliads you can buy in town.


This is all very well, but you might not have any compost available. If you don’t have a garden to take soil from then what can you do?

Pineapples are one example of a plant that can be grown in water. Simply repeat the process described above but put the trimmed leaf stem into a jar of water rather than compost.

Another plant you can grow in water is lettuce. Place the stump of a shop bought lettuce in water and you should get new growth in a week or two. The verdict on how edible this type of lettuce can be is mixed, the water has no nutrients so growth will be unimpressive. If you really want to go for it put the lettuce in a sunny windowsill and add some nutrients to the water (something like a couple of drops of Baby Bio).

Ginger is something else that will grow in water; simply place a length of shop bought ginger with at least one bud on a few small stones (or similar) in the bottom of a jar and add water until it reaches the bottom of the ginger cutting.

If you don’t have any compost but you do have a garden you can use garden soil instead of bought compost. Most gardens round here have a clay soil so its good to add some leaf mould to improve the soil. If you have a lawn and a lot of time to kill you could gather up worm casts. If you’re really lucky you might have molehills – the soil excavated by moles has a lovely texture.

If you don’t have plant pots how about yoghurt pots , home made paper pots ( see my post on the You Tube channel about paper pots), cardboard boxes (a wine box cut in half and filled with compost is great for many of the plants listed here) or even baked bean tins with a couple of holes knocked in the bottom.

If you have some ideas of your own, or better ways to grow things than those listed here please let us know via email or facebook. If you want to film your own growing successes on your phone please email them to us via the contact email on the website, it would be lovely to see them on our You Tube channel.

I look forward to seeing your successes.