Scallions provide green thumb in winter

If you’re desperate to grow something in the dead of winter, try regenerating a scallion. Cut off all but a few inches of the white root at the bottom of the scallion, place the root in a small amount of water and in a week or so, you’ll have another scallion.

There’s a certain desperation most gardeners feel this time of year.

It’s too early to prune, too early to plant, too frozen to dig around in the dirt and too cold to do much in the yard except for shoveling snow in the driveway. It’s too early to start seeds and just plain too depressing.

Most of us languish inside, dog-earing seed catalogs and dreaming of a day when the high temperatures reach 50 degrees.

Apart from expensive fixes, such as erecting your own greenhouse or rigging up fluorescent lights in the spare room (sure to make your neighbors wonder what you’re growing in there, although, it is Colorado and it’s legal now), there’s not much to do but wait.

Lucky for you, I’ve come up with a few easy, cheap ways to satisfy your craving to see things grow in the dead of winter. These might not be spectacular, but they’re something. And something is better than nothing, right?

All you have to do is go to the grocery store. Yep. The grocery store is your winter garden center, people.

OK, this is kind of desperate, but if you need a bit of green growth in your house, it’s a fun little experiment. Did you know that some types of vegetables regenerate themselves after you cut them, even after they’ve been refrigerated? It’s true. Scallions, those bunches of green onions at the grocery store, are my favorite thing to re-grow. This trick costs less than a dollar.

All you do is cut off all but a few inches of the white root at the bottom of the onion. Then take that root, place it upright in a small amount of water, and you’ll see growth within a day. Really. I just put them on my windowsill and change the water when it looks murky. You’ll have a whole new onion in about a week or so.

I’ve found, though, that if you try to keep doing this with the same onion, it doesn’t work so well. The inside layers grow back but the outside layers remain stunted. So, keep it to one re-growth per onion.

This also works with celery and romaine lettuce. Just cut back the stalks or leaves, leave the root intact and stick it in a shallow container of water. These take longer, but you’ll eventually have more celery and lettuce.

Some of you probably remember this one from elementary school, but it’s still fun even as an adult. Grow an avocado from seed! Just plop that pit out, clean it off, stick a few toothpicks in it to suspend it in water on the edge of a glass (custard cups work well), put the pointy end up, and wait for it to sprout.

Patience is a virtue with this one — it could take a few weeks to see any change. Make sure to check the water level, and don’t let it dry out.

You might wonder about growing citrus trees from seeds. I know people have done this successfully, but honestly, it takes SO long. And because of grafting and hybrids and improved stock and other awesome tricks that citrus farmers employ to grow the best fruit, a seed might not turn into the fruit tree you’re expecting.

It’s a complicated bit of genetics and the truth is, a lot of this magic stuff happens in the nursery that we don’t think about when we buy an orange in the produce section, so I don’t advise growing citrus from grocery-store fruit.

Good luck! Until spring, I’ll be re-growing my spindly little scallion experiments!

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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I used to use the toothpick method to root an avocado.  Now I wrap it in a paper towel, soak the towel in water, seal the towel-wrapped avocado seed in a plastic sandwich bag, and put the bag in a warm dark place.  That works too.  Just check it now and then to make sure it’s not getting moldy.  If it is, change the paper towel.

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