Make the most of your homegrown vegetables

If you’re a plant-lover, you’ve probably heard of or dabbled in propagating your plants. If not, propagating is the process of producing more plants from an existing plant, and it can be a really fun way to share plants with friends and family without needing to purchase new ones.

Though it’s a bit more unconventional—and not always entirely successful—you can also propagate vegetables from and for your garden. Though most gardeners will opt for planting seeds or transplanting, propagating is a creative way to turn food scraps into something productive.

Types of Propagation

onionPhoto by Roman Averin on UnsplashVegetable Plant Propagation

This is where you take cuttings from the best plants in your garden. Sometimes, this method can be quicker to produce plants than from seed. The rooted plant can be ready to go into the ground in just 10 to 14 days.

This is most successful with woody plants and must be done with a healthy stem of a living plant. Cut about halfway between the soil and the top, slicing the cutting from the plant right where the branch meets the main stem. Use a razor blade or very sharp knife and be sure to wipe it with alcohol first to kill any disease organisms that might lurk on the surface. Place it into a pot full of regular potting soil or compost, keep the cutting watered, and place the pot in a bright spot in your house. The cutting will form roots within a week or so and be ready to transplant.

Water Propagation

This is where you place a healthy stem or base (bottom scrap) of the veggie in a bowl of water. With some veggies, you’ll see new greens at the top and roots at the bottom, while others will just form roots. When propagating with water, make sure to replace the water every 2 to 3 days or when murky. After you notice roots, you can put them into the soil and watch your new veggies come to life.

Layering Propagation

This is when you see a vine plant “sprawling” or putting off extra vines. You can bury a section of the vine a half-inch below the soil surface into a new pot, and make sure to trim the leaves before burying the vine. Keep the soil in the pot moist and reduce watering in the mother plant. It will stop relying on the mother and establish its own roots.

Successful Veggies to Propagate

Water Propagating

bok choyPhoto by Christina Rumpf on UnsplashBok Choy: Keep this veggie’s base out of the compost and get it into a shallow container. With the cut side facing up, you’ll notice that it’ll start sprouting in just a few days. You can transplant in 1 to 2 weeks. Change the water once you see that it’s cloudy.

Basil & Cilantro: Make sure they have a healthy stem and then root in a glass of water. Once they take off, put the new plant in soil.

Turnips: Salvage the top part of the turnip (just like a carrot) and place the cut side down in a bowl of water. In 5 to 7 days, you’ll notice the greens on the top growing and within 1 to 2 weeks, it will form roots. Once you see this happening, plant directly into the garden.

Romaine Lettuce: Cut off as many bottoms as you’d like and place them in a bowl filled with water overnight or up to three days. Avoid submerging the whole cut part, just the base. Once it sprouts, transplant into the soil with partial shade.

Cabbage: Put the base (bottom) part of the cabbage in a bowl, add water and get it into direct sunlight. Once you see roots and leaves, transplant into a pot.

Leeks: Take a cutting that includes a root end, place it in a water-filled bowl and place it by a window. Very similar to green onion, you’ll have some baby leeks before you know it.

Celery: Similar to Bok Choy, you want to cut the base of the plant and place it in a bowl with water. The leaves will thicken at the base, and you can let it grow in the water, or transplant it in the soil.


strawberriesPhoto by Yulia Khlebnikova on Unsplash

Strawberries: Runners (little offshoots) that are put off by strawberries can be controlled and guided to root into a clone plant. The mother plant pretty much does this independently and will seek nutritious soil on her own. Your only job is to grab another container, fill it with soil,  bury the runner in the soil and clip it down lightly to hold it in place. This can be done with a clothespin, rock, a pile of dirt or a few sticks. Once the root has established a new plant, separate it from the mother by snipping the runner (or, if it’s been established, it will shrivel or snap on its own).

Pumpkins: If you have a sprawling pumpkin vine, you can trim it in order to produce bigger existing fruit, or you have a chance to multiply it. All you have to do is bury a section of the vine a half-inch below the soil surface in a new pot and trim the leaves of the part of the vine that you’re burying. Keep the soil moist but reduce watering the “mother” in order to ween the baby plant off. She’ll become independent and start growing her own roots. Give it a week or two and then cut the connection from the original plant.

Soil Propagating

potatoesPhoto by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Potatoes: Grab some potatoes from your pantry, let them dry overnight and then plant in 4 to 5 inches of soil. Make sure the “eyes” face up, and you’ll have some new potatoes in a few weeks.

Tomatoes: Trim a 6- to 8-inch-long piece. You can place directly into the soil or in water. If using water, make sure no leaves are submerged.

Zucchini: Trim a 5- to 7-inch long cutting from a healthy plant, and make sure there is no bud attached. Similar to tomatoes, you can place it directly into the soil and not direct sunlight. The plant will grow in 2 to 3 weeks.

Green onion: Grab a spare container, fill it with soil and throw in some onion bulbs. Place it in sunlight, water it and in 2 to 3 weeks you’ll see some green onions pop up. You can also do this with garlic greens.

Peppers: Clip 3 to 5 inches from a healthy stem and remove all of the lower leaves. Plant the pepper cutting in soil or you can propagate it in water.

Cucumber: Trim a 6- to 8-inch cutting from the vine. Plant this cutting in a glass of water and keep it in bright light. Once it grows roots in two weeks, you can transplant it, or put it directly into the soil.