Social media can be a great thing at times, don’t you think? There are loads of online ‘communities’ out there, on the various platforms, where you can find others who share the same interests as you. And for anyone living with a disibility, there are groups where you can find support and share your experiences with others who really understand what you’re on about.
One of the little communities which I’ve gained a lot of inspirations and ideas from lately, is called Nurture Nature Kids, and it’s run by two blogging mums: Claire of The Ladybirds’ Adventures, and Jemma of Thimble & Twig. There’s a facebook group, hashtags on instagram, and a monthly twitter chat (currently running on the first Thursday of every month, under the hashtag #nurturenaturekids).
During one of those twitter chats earlier this year, one of the questions was to name favourite books on the subject of gardening with kids. I immediately thought of a book from my childhood, and had a quick look on amazon to see if it was available there. As it was a book written in Swedish and originally published in 1978, I thought it might be a long shot to find it available in English, 40 years on… But to my surprise and joy, there it was!
The English title is ‘Linnea’s Windowsill Garden‘, and it was written by Christina Björk, with illustrations by Lena Anderson.
In the book, we meet a little girl called Linnea (named after Carl Linnaeus’ favourite flower) who loves growing things on her windowsill, sometimes with a little help from her friend Mr Bloom, a retired gardener. It’s mainly a non-fictional book of facts about growing things, but told through the use of these two fictional characters.
What I loved most about this book when I was little, as I remember it, was that Linnea grows quite a few things from food scraps, starting off with a little orange tree. And she lets us know that we can plant the seeds from lemons, peppers, melons, tomatoes and other things too! As a child, I found that whole concept of growing things from scraps fascinating, almost a kind of magic (and if I’m honest, it still excites me a fair bit)!
As I found the book on amazon and it was available at a very low price, I couldn’t resist buying it, and we’re now using it as part of our learning activities. I’m excited to share the experience of growing things from scraps with Penguin, and I thought it could be fun to share here on our blog, too! So this is part one of a series, and we’re starting off with two somewhat exotic plants: Avocado and pineapple.
An avocado pit is one of the things which Linnea plants in the book, and it’s also one of the things I remember growing with much excitement and reasonable success as a child. So now that I’m introducing Penguin to the magic of growing plants from food scraps, I was keen to get an avocado plant going as soon as possible. Now before you get too excited, I’d better let you know straight away that you won’t become self-sufficient with avocados this way. At least not anytime soon, and most probably never. What you can hope for, realistically, is a small tree. The one I grew as a child never made it past the size of fitting on a windowsill, but I think that might have been due to the dry air and lack of sufficient daylight during the long, dark Swedish winter… Hopefully we can produce something that will stay alive a little bit longer!
Planting an avocado pit
In short, what you need to do is:
- Get a ripe avocado and cut it open
- Get the pit out and wash it with water
- Let the pit dry for at least 1-2 days, some say 4-5 days, until the outer skin on the pit becomes like a brittle paper-like layer that can be easily peeled off.
- Peel of the outer skin, and plant your pit in moist soil with the pointed end up.
- Wait for your seed to grow, keeping the soil moist…
A quick google search on “growing avocado from seed” will show you that a popular alternative way of getting your avocado pit to sprout is to pierce it with toothpicks and suspend over a glass, with the bottom half of the pit in water. I’ve never tried that, and since Linnea’s method worked for me back in the days, we’re going with that for now.
There are also differing views on whether the pit should be totally covered with soil, or sticking up a little. Either way, keeping it moist seems to be crucial, and to help with that you can cover the top of your pot with a plastic bag or similar. Make sure to provide some airholes though! We’re currently using seethrough plastic tubs which have contained strawberries, mushrooms etc as ‘mini greenhouses’ for our seedlings.
Planting a pineapple
This is a first for me, unlike the avocado, and not one that Linnea grows in the book either. But about a year ago, I came across a picture of a field of pineapple plants, and I was surprised to find out that the fruit sprouts up from the centre of a plant on the ground. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it before, but had assumed that pineapples grew on trees like most other fruits. And while finding out more about this, I learnt that it’s possible to grow a new pineapple plant from the top of a shop-bought fruit!
As with the avocado, I’m not sure we’ll ever get to enjoy an actual homegrown pineapple from the plant we’re hoping to grow. But the plants look quite decorative and apparently they should gives off little shoots as well, a bit like strawberry plants, so even before any eventual fruit, they seem like a pretty exciting little plant.
To grow a pineapple plant, this is what you need to do:
- Twist the crown off your pineapple
- Pick off a few layers of leafs, so that about an inch of the lower part of the crown is bare
- Let the crown dry out for a few days (in a dark dry place) to prevent rotting
- Pop the crown in a glass of water or a pot of soil
- Wait for roots to grow… and if you’ve started your plant off in water, pop it in soil once a decent amount of roots have formed
Some say it’s easier to get the plants started in water, others say they’ve been more successful putting the crown straight into soil. We’ve started with water, as I think seeing the roots form would be interesting and educational. Since it’s not been long since we started this, I can’t say yet if we’re successful. But we noticed a significant difference between the first pineapple we got and the second one: On the first one we couldn’t see any roots or root buds, but on the second one there were a good few roots revealed when we peeled off the lower layers of leaves! It seemed harsh to me to put the latter one aside to dry, seeing those little roots that had already formed on it. So we popped that one in water straight away. It’s been a few days now since we did that, and there seemes to be new root buds coming through, but I don’t thing the roots that were already there have grown much, so maybe they had already given up before we came along..??
Hands-on explorations & multisensory learning
Our planting activities have also served as wider opportunities for exploring and learning, including aspects not directly linked to plantlife or biology, such as
- sensory stimulation – exploring the different textures of the skins and flesh of the fruits, the prickly pineapple, the creamy avocado flesh, the smooth pit, the tangy scent and flavour of the pineapple etc.
- fine motor skills – such as peeling some of the pineapple leaves off, for example.
- writing & drawing – we made a drawing of the avocado and wrote the word ‘avocado’ in upper and lower case letters above and below the drawing. We then used this as a sign to put next to the pot we’d planted the seed in.
- life skills – this has been a great opportunity for practising cutting (with a knife) in particular. We do this at other times as well, as I get Penguin to help with cooking sometimes, but I think the exciting textures etc of these items made him extra motivated, as he seemed more focused, stayed on task and did really well.
- communication – for example, we identified where to find avocado and pineapple on Penguin’s AAC app, and we practised vocalising the words as well (he’ll imitate sounds/parts of words). When I got a pineapple out for our first attempt at this planting activity, I asked Penguin if he knew what it’s called and he said “nanana”, which I believe was meant to be “ananas”, which is what pineapple is called in most languages other than English, including Swedish which Penguin also understands as we lived in Sweden until about 2.5 years ago. Then after a few days, when I brought out the dried crown of the pineapple, I asked him “what’s this?”, and straight away he pressed “pineapple” on his AAC app, which I was delighted about. He rarely answers questions without prompting, and his processing is often slow (meaning it can take around 5-10 seconds or more before we get any kind of response, and it can look as if he hasn’t heard anything at all, or not understood). So to get an unprompted and swift reply was really great, and it also showed that he clearly remembered that this was the crown he’d twisted off from a pineapple a few days earlier.
Neither pineapple nor avocado are things which have been on the rather limited list of things that Penguin will eat (he’s a very selective eater, as many autistics are). But every now and then he’ll decide to try something new, so it’s always worth offering him opportunities to sample different things. Sometimes he’ll enjoy exploring the various sensory qualities of a food item, without wanting to eat it. In this instance, he’s been exposed to avocado and pineapple twice (as we’ve planted two of each, so far), and he’s been particularly interested in the pineapple. On the first occassion he was happy to give it a lick, but didn’t want to eat it, while the second time he actually ate several pineapple pieces!
We’ve planted a couple of other things in the last few days, so we’ll get back with more about growing from food scraps over the next few weeks or so. Hopefully we’ll then also have some growth to show from our avocados and pineapples! And if you follow us on social media, there may well be some updates there, too.
Thank you so much for reading! If you have any thoughts on what you’ve just read, perhaps some tips to share about growing food scraps, or anything else that have popped up in your mind while reading this post, I’d be very happy to hear from you in the comments below, and I usually reply to all comments.
Pin this post!
Below are links to a few products from amazon.co.uk relevant to this post (click on text, links open in new window). Prices stated were accurate at the time of publishing but may of course change.
- Book: ‘Linnea’s Windowsill Garden’ (Used or new, starting from £0.01 + postage)
- Traditional Children’s Trowel and Weed Fork Set £10.49
- Garden Journal: A Kid’s Gardening Journal
- The Kew Gardens Children’s Cookbook: Plant, Cook, Eat £10.04
All product links included in this post are Amazon Affiliate links, meaning that if you click through from here and decide to make a purchase, I should recieve a small commission from Amazon (of no extra cost to you, of course!) as thanks for pointing you in their direction. Every little helps, thank you ❤
Linking up with: