Reader Tip: You Should Plant Seedlings in a Citrus Peel
“What I like about the citrus peels is that it reuses something that I have a huge surplus of, this time, every year, for free. The peels were already headed for the compost bin, so it's not like they would end up in the landfill, but I do get a sick satisfaction that I squeeze one more use out of the peels before they turn into compost. I like the fact that I didn't have to take new resources out of the planet for these pots, and the fruit came from my neighbors, so there were no oil miles involved in transporting the fruit to my house.
Also, unlike a seed starter tray, 4-inch pots, or egg cartons, I don't have to store the citrus peels when I'm not using them. They are a renewable resource that doesn't take any energy to recycle once I'm done using them. I share a 1000-square-foot house (with terrible closet space) with my boyfriend, so the less I have to store, the less I have to organize and dust.
And how cute is that mint plant? It's so cute! Even when the peels get a little sad looking, people still get excited about looking at the seedlings. Anything that makes environmentalism look fun and achievable by just about anyone is okay in my book.”
Here's how to do it:
- Choose your fruit: Grapefruit, lemons, tangerines, and oranges work well. (Just cut the pointy nub off the ends of the lemon so the peels sit upright). Max says tangerines are the easiest, because its easy to separate fruit from peel. “Tangerines have the thinnest skin, so they dry out and shrink a little, which is good.”
- Yank the fruit out in sections, or juice the fruit until the remaining membranes lay flat against the white pith interior of the peel. You can use a handheld reamer or any tool you'd normally use to juice citrus.
- Choose your seedling. “So far I've started mint, tomatoes, okra, and strawberries this way and had success with all of them,” Max says. “Any plant that you would normally start indoors in a pot works in the citrus.”
- Let it grow. Let the seeds germinate, pop out a set of "adult" leaves and grow to about 2 inches high. Then plant the seedling—peel and all—into the garden. Some seeds take longer than others. The germination schedule will depend on the microclimate of your kitchen.
- Note: “With thicker peels, like on a grapefruit, I've gotten tiny mold spots along the cut edge of a few,” Max says. “None of my peels have gotten extra furry or stinky though. The little mold spots also don't seem to negatively impact the seedlings.”
What do you think?