Gardening

Save Money, Get Healthy: How To Grow Your Own Food In An Apartment

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Grow a salad without a yard? Challenge accepted.

Follow these tips to grow your own food in no time, with or without outdoor space.

Growing your own food is appealing for many reasons: You know exactly where it came from, you can control your chemical use, and it’s a cheap source of healthy food. But without an expanse of land, gardening can seem impossible. But it’s easier than you might think to grow produce in an apartment setting, even if all you have to work with is a windowsill on the 20th floor of your New York, NY, apartment building. The first step is to figure out your Plant Hardiness Zone, which determines what plants “will be most successful based on where you live,” says Jenny Prince, brand manager at American Meadows, a gardening retail site. Then read on for tips on how to pick the right types of plants and get them to grow. Happy harvesting!

Consider an herb garden

Chives, oregano, parsley, lemongrass, and basil are easy to grow indoors. Try to keep them near a window and use a breathable pot, such as one made of terra cotta, with drainage holes — the bigger and deeper the pot the better, says Rebecca Lee, founder of RemediesForMe.com, a resource on holistic healing. And don’t overwater them! “Herbs only need to be watered once a week,” says Lee. “Make sure the soil is completely dry, bring the plant to the sink, and run the water until the soil is completely wet. Let the water drain, repeat, and then bring the pot back to its saucer to let it completely drain.” If you’re just starting out, skip the seeds and buy baby plants, or seedlings, from a nursery. Just be sure they’ve been raised indoors because you don’t want to drastically change their environment.

Get your greens on

Lettuce, spinach, arugula, and chard tolerate low-light conditions, so they’re easy to grow indoors or on a shady balcony garden, says Prince. Greens also grow well in window boxes because of their shallow roots, which is ideal for apartment dwellers.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match plant types

“Thrillers, spillers, and fillers is a common design technique for container gardening,” says Prince. Container gardening is the idea of planting a variety of plants in one large pot — or container. “The idea is to choose plants that behave really differently but complement each other visually.” For example, you could plant eggplant or mini bell peppers (thrillers because of their dramatic texture and color) with romaine lettuce, spinach, chives, or oregano (fillers because they are bushier, medium-height plants) and finish the pot with cascading cherry tomatoes or sweet potato vines (you guessed it; these are spillers because they fall over the sides of the container).

DIY an ideal growing environment

Too much sun on your balcony or roof? Use an awning to create shade or place sun-loving plants like tomatoes in front of or next to shade lovers to block the light. Too little sun? Paint a pallet white and lean it against the wall to redirect what little sunlight you do get. For hot, dry climates, Prince says to make sure your pots are resting in drip trays that you keep filled with water, or invest in self-watering planters.

Be choosy about where you buy your plants

You’re selective about the produce you buy, so employ the same caution when buying seedlings, advises Prince. “Try to buy from a nursery rather than a big box store,” she says. “Often the plants you buy at big box stores aren’t well cared for. (Think pesticides and synthetic plant food.)”

Eat what you grow

Once your garden is producing veggies, fruits, and herbs, reap what you sow. This is especially true for herbs, because the more you pick them, the more they’ll grow. One tip? A pair of herb scissors can make harvesting a cinch. “When harvesting, avoid tugging at the leaves,” says Lee. “This can strain the entire plant and dislodge its roots.”

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia

It’s Not Too Late to Grow These 11 Tasty Plants

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It may be mid-July, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on all the gardening fun. These tasty veggies and herbs are just the thing for a late-summer garden that will keep on giving come autumn. Get our best tips for these late-summer specialties, below.

Beans

DK – How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

 

 

Your Super Simple 3-Step Program for Houseplant Maintenance

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You’ve kept a collection of houseplants alive. Congratulations! Now this is how you can make them thrive.

Shutterstock ID 349499291; PO: Cat Overman;
Shutterstock ID 349499291; PO: Cat Overman;

There are no one-size-fits-all answers when it comes to houseplants, and a plant tag can only tell you so much. Each species is unique, hailing from climates ranging from dry deserts to Mediterranean landscapes to tropical rainforests, and even two plants of the same species can have totally different needs depending on a number of factors. Fertilizing depends on the type of plant and the label instructions, while pruning times and methods rely on a plant’s blooming time and growth pattern.

Grow a lush and flourishing indoor garden filled with a variety of plants by following this three-step program. Start with a good reference, and inspect for problems every time you water. Finally, fill out a maintenance checklist for each plant in your collection to provide the most personalized and accurate care possible.

Find a reference

Since each plant has entirely different needs, it’s essential to find trustworthy references that will tell you everything you need to know about each specific plant.

While you can find info on any plant with a quick Internet search, you’ll find that some sites have more information on certain plants than others. If you own a collection of houseplants, I highly recommend picking up a book such as “The House Plant Expert” by D. G. Hessayon.

Inspect while you water

Even with all the knowledge in the world at your fingertips, your senses are the best tools in your arsenal. Every time you water, inspect each plant for problems such as pests, yellowed leaves or slow, lanky growth.

Shutterstock ID 224849716; PO: Cat Overman;
Shutterstock ID 224849716; PO: Cat Overman;

Refer to the list below to help you narrow down problems, or check out this info on troubleshooting houseplant problems.

A plant needs to be watered more if:

  • The top inch of potting mix is dry
  • Leaves are wilting (unless soil is moist)
  • Water runs over the soil and drains along the sides
  • The plant feels lighter than usual

A plant needs to be watered less if:

  • The soil feels more soggy than moist
  • The roots are beginning to rot
  • You see fungus gnats every time you water

A plant needs fertilizer if:

  • It has been over a few months since purchasing the plant
  • The time-release fertilizer pellets or fertilizer spikes are spent
  • The palm fronds are yellowed
  • The plant is growing at a glacial pace
  • It’s been over a year since you fertilized
  • You can’t remember the last time you fertilized

A plant needs to be repotted if:

  • The existing potting mix drains too quickly or slowly
  • The plant’s roots coil tightly together in the pot, forming a solid mass
  • The potting mix is practically older than dirt

A plant is getting too much sun if:

  • The exposed leaves are getting scorched and bronzy
  • It’s a shade-loving plant but is receiving direct rays of sunlight

A plant isn’t getting enough sun if:

  • Its new growth is spindly and stretched out
  • The plant actually appears to reach for more light
  • The leaves are very dark green
  • It’s in a room without a window, such as a bathroom

Create a care sheet for each plant

You can solve a lot of problems with a good reference and eye for detail, but it can be difficult to keep track of an entire collection of plants around the house. For example, two rubber trees (Ficus elastica) in the same house require different care depending on a number of factors: the brightness of the room, your home’s heating system, the type of potting soil, the overall health of the plants and even the type of fertilizer being used.

Instead, create care sheets for each plant. (We have one you can download and use.) Print one sheet for every houseplant in your collection, or keep notes on your computer, tablet or phone if that’s more convenient for you.

Fill in the basic needs and take notes whenever you feed, repot, move and prune plants, so that it will be easier to diagnose problems that arise. Place the worksheets in a folder and use them to pencil in dates on the calendar to remind you when it’s time to fertilize or prune.

Posted by Steve Asbell on Zillow

9 Tips for Preparing a Fabulous Flower Bed

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Dust off your vases, pitchers, and extra coffee mugs. Your home will be overflowing with fresh-cut blooms in no time.

Have you ever ended up with a bed of dead flowers, mountains of mulch and a whopping garden center receipt? Let’s do something about that, shall we?

Get your gardening groove back with these nine tips.

1. Start with a clean slate

There are two kinds of flowerbeds: Those that have been well-prepared, and those that are covered in weeds.

Give your unplanted bed the once-over. Does it receive enough sunlight? Does water tend to collect there? Have you removed all weeds, roots, and rocks so that your plants will thrive? It’s a lot easier to fix these problems now than it is once you’ve planted the flowers and laid the mulch.

Shutterstock ID 395535262; PO: Cat Overman
Shutterstock ID 395535262; PO: Cat Overman

2. Start seeds

Start a flowerbed from seed to save money, raise unusual varieties and enjoy the satisfaction of having grown a whole garden from a handful of tiny seeds.

Since some seeds transplant poorly, check the packet and make sure you don’t have to sow directly in the ground. Start seeds in trays, pots or in coir pots, using a seedling mixture, place them in a sunny spot, and transplant as soon as they have developed sturdy stems.

3. Prepare nursery plants

Nursery-grown bedding plants give you instant gratification, but the short time between purchase and planting is crucial to their survival.

Pack them closely in your car to avoid damage, and take them home immediately so that they don’t fry in your car during other errands.

Water nursery plants as soon as you get home, as often as necessary after that, and a few hours before planting to help their fragile roots survive the trauma of transplanting.

4. Get the winning edge

Even the most carefully planned border can look sloppy without a clearly defined edge. Avoid those inexpensive and quickly deteriorating edges made of plastic, and choose a more natural and long-lasting alternative.

The cheapest solution is to make a shallow trench around the bed with your spade and maintain it throughout the season. For something more refined and permanent, set an edge of brick, concrete or stone in leveling sand. The initial cost may be higher, but they will save you a lot of work and make mowing easier.

5. Plan for the seasons

Choose annuals if you plan on replacing them in a season or two, and plant perennials if you’d like them to last longer. Plant evergreen shrubs or ornamental grasses to provide structure and year-round interest.

Also consider the plant’s eventual height: Plant low-growing flowers (usually annuals) at the front of the bed where they can be easily viewed and then replaced at the end of their season.

Shutterstock ID 395790778; PO: Cat Overman;
Shutterstock ID 395790778; PO: Cat Overman;

6. Give them space

Follow the guidelines on the seed packet or plant tag as closely as possible. One that is often overlooked is the amount of space to leave around each plant so they have room to grow. To cover a lot of ground quickly, choose spreading varieties like ‘Superbells’ and climbing nasturtiums.

7. Dig the perfect hole

Dig each plant’s hole to be twice as wide as the original pot, so the roots will have plenty of room to grow. To give them an even better head-start, make a little trench around the inside of the hole so the roots will spread down and out.

This step isn’t necessary for annuals, since they won’t be around long enough to enjoy their strong root systems, but it is helpful if you have clay soil.

8. Plant it right

When planting transplants and nursery plants, always place them so that their crowns (where the plant meets the soil) are level with the soil in the bed. If the crown is above the soil level, the plant may dry out when soil washes away from the roots. If planted too low, soil will settle around the crown and rot the plant.

Push the soil around the transplant and firmly tamp it in place with a trowel so no gaps are left between the roots.

9. Mulch better

Mulch is essential for conserving moisture and preventing weeds, but one inch is all you need. Established garden beds don’t even need mulch because the plants themselves are then capable of protecting the soil.

Avoid landscaping fabric, since it actually keeps moisture from percolating into the soil. Instead, lay down sheets of newspaper before mulching.

Mulches vary by region, but whichever kind you use, follow this one rule: Don’t ever pile it up against the plants. They’ll rot in no time, and you’ll soon have nothing more than an ugly bed of mulch in their place.

Posted by Steve Asbell on Zillow

How to Grow a Successful Hanging Garden

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The vertical garden is an efficient, beautiful way to give your green thumb a workout — no backyard required.

Who says you need a backyard for gardening? A vertical oasis can satisfy your green thumb with minimal need for space.

Few things are more satisfying than growing your own vegetables or plants. Yet people often think gardens require ground space, which can be hard to come by if you live in a concrete jungle or don’t have a big backyard to play around with. Enter the hanging garden, an efficient, beautiful way to give your green thumb a workout, no matter how much space you have.

“Hanging baskets allow you to grow plants in places with no soil, like decks and patios,” says Derek Fell, a garden designer and author of Vertical Gardening. “They can also create a column of color by using the steps of a ladder or attached to brackets on a wall at different heights.”

Here, a few things to keep in mind before you grow up.

Suss out the sunlight

Some plants (we’re looking at you, tomatoes) need a ton of sunlight. Others, like lettuce and cabbage, prefer some shade. Observe your space from sunrise to sunset to determine which hours of the day are sunniest. Take pictures and jot down notes as you go. Then decide which plants to include based on your findings.

Choose the right plants

Petunias, pansies, coleus, various kinds of Swedish ivy, and sweet potato vines are best for hanging baskets, says Fell. For edibles, stick with strawberries, “which have long runners that hang down the sides like a curtain,” lettuce, cucumbers, parsley, and vining tomatoes, such as Sun Gold.

Repurpose your pots

You don’t need to spend a ton of money on pots and containers for a vertical garden. Shipping pallets are an excellent choice for planting, and you may even be able to find them for free. Ditto an old dresser. Just fill the drawers with soil and add plants. That aforementioned ladder works well as a display too.

Another idea: hang shoe dividers to grow greens such as lettuce, kale, and herbs. Fill the pockets with a mix of equal parts potting soil and garden topsoil to give plants good anchorage. (Or if that’s too DIY for you, Woolly Pockets are recyclable plant pouches with metal grommets that easily attach to walls or fences.) Used water bottles are also ideal for growing herbs and can be easily hung from a balcony railing.

Have a water source in place

“The biggest problem with baskets is that the soil can dry out quickly,” says Fell. “Water daily or use a hydro-gel in the soil that helps retains moisture.”

In other words, be sure your agua is at the ready because you’ll need it frequently. And if you don’t already have one, invest in a watering wand that attaches to a garden hose. The nozzle is designed to reach the root zone of plants, allowing for thorough watering, says Fell.

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia

Flower Gardening for Beginners

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Get ready to grow! Follow these simple instructions and you’ll be building bouquets all summer.

There’s more to planting a flower garden than digging a hole and adding plants, but it’s still easy enough that anyone can have their own bountiful bed of blooms to adorn their home. Here’s what you need to know.

Placement

Unless you’re planting enough flowers to fill a large space, try to keep your flowerbed where it can be appreciated up close by yourself and passersby, such as along your front walk or around the mailbox.

Another reason to plant in an accessible area is so that you can easily water during dry weeks or cover during frosts. You can also expand existing borders, such as against hedges or around small trees, adding interest to areas that would otherwise go overlooked.

The most important consideration is that the flowers can thrive where they’re planted. Most plants need good drainage, meaning a spot where water will not collect, since soggy soil may rot the plants. Six or more hours of direct sunlight is also a must for most annual bedding plants.

Choosing plants

However, if you choose the right plants, there are always exceptions. If you don’t have a well-draining place to plant, select coleus, impatiens or pansies, which can tolerate wet feet for short periods.

While most flowers require lots of sun, begonias, impatiens, coleus and salvia can handle shade. Violas, petunias, pansies and alyssum can even handle light frosts!

You may choose to grow perennials in addition to the usual annual bedding plants, since they’ll likely return and get bigger in the following years.

It’s cheaper to start plants from seed if possible, but the downside is that it takes more time. And some plants, like sunflowers and morning glories, don’t handle transplanting from pots well. Before you check out at the garden center, slide the plants and their root masses out of their pots and ensure that the roots are white — and not so firmly packed that they won’t budge. Do not buy plants with obvious pests or signs of disease, as they may spread to your garden.

Preparing the bed

A well-prepared bed is the key to a successful flower garden, so don’t rush this step. There are two ways to prepare a bed.

One is to remove the grass and cover your future garden bed with compost. Then dig a trench along the edge of the bed, place the dug-up soil inside the bed and work your way inward until you’ve reached the middle. This way there will be plenty of room for roots to establish.

The other way to plant a bed is to smother the grass with layers of newspaper, then a few inches of compost, and wait a few seasons for the existing grass to die. This is more time consuming, but is the best option if you have a tough turfgrass (like St. Augustine grass) or persistent weeds, and it also preserves the soil structure and beneficial organisms like earthworms.

Planting

Before planting, thoroughly water the plants you bought from the nursery so that they won’t suffer transplant shock. Arrange the plants, still in their pots, where you’d like to plant them in the garden. Play around with different designs and see which one you like best.

Dig a hole for each plant that is as deep as the plant’s root ball and twice as wide, fluffing up the soil at the bottom of the hole with your trowel. This will help the plant put out long, strong roots. Place the plant in the hole, ensuring that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil.

Fill the hole with either the soil you dug up or, better yet, compost. After planting, add a one- to three-inch layer of mulch over the garden bed and water thoroughly to help the soil settle in around the roots.

Fertilizing

It might not seem as important as say, watering, but feeding your plants will make them fuller and more resilient to drought, pests and other abuses. Not all fertilizers are great for flowers, though, so either choose one labeled for flower gardening or one that is low in nitrogen, since nitrogen promotes leaf growth at the expense of flowers.

Both synthetic and organic fertilizers will work, but each has its strengths and weaknesses. Synthetic fertilizers are fast acting, but can also quickly leach away from the soil or burn plants. Organic fertilizers may cost more and take a little longer to show results, but they’re generally considered safer for plants and gardeners.

Since each fertilizer is unique, feed plants according to package instructions.

Weeding

Even a well-prepared bed has its weeds, but a badly prepared one will have a lot more. Weeds are not just unattractive; they steal water and nutrients from your plants, and foster pests and diseases.

Do not use chemical sprays to kill weeds, since they can damage or kill surrounding plants. Instead, just use your hands. Grip the weed at the base of the soil and pull up firmly, disposing of the weed (the compost pile is best) so that it doesn’t resprout in the bed later. You can quickly and easily dislodge new weeds with a hoe or cultivator, but be sure to get the roots so that they don’t come back.

Watering

All garden beds need to be watered in the weeks following planting, since they haven’t yet established a sufficient network of roots. The best ways to water are with drip irrigation or by hand.

With drip irrigation or soaker hoses, you are watering the soil itself rather than the leaves, where the moisture can evaporate or cause diseases.

The other way to water is by hand, with a hose and nozzle. This is useful since you have more control over which plants get watered and how much. After the plants have become established, water only when they show signs of drought stress — such as limp, wilting leaves.

HOME IMPROVEMENT / STORY / BY ON 11 JUN 2015 on Zillow

Easy to Care for Houseplants

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Houseplants are a great and healthy way to add décor to your home. Houseplants take in the carbon monoxide expelled by humans and convert it to oxygen, which can benefit your home and your family. Houseplants also give a natural element to your home (kind of like bringing the forest or the jungle inside).

Easy to Care for HouseplantsTaking care of houseplants depends on the type of plants in your home. We have identified some great, easy to care for plants that could make great additions to your home. These plants might actually tell you exactly what they need once you start listening to them.  From wilted leaves  or drooping leaves, to yellowing or brown areas, these top plants will tell you if they need more water or sun or less water and less sun.

Peace Lillies are easy plants to care for as their leaves will droop when they need more water, and their leaves will brown or burn when they’ve had too much direct sun. Philodendrons , Pothus, Ivy, and Spider Plants are also super easy, but will require occasional trimming as they can grow and grow. Mother in Law’s Tongue or Snake Plant grow straight up, which make them a great plant to bring an element of a vertical accent piece. Chinese Evergreen are also great decorating pieces because they grow up and full and can be trimmed to suit your space. Cacti are probably the easiest plants to care for because they require almost no water, making this a great plant for the business traveler.

Many of these plants need regular watering, so create a weekly routine to review how they talk to you. Drooping or brown leaves need more water, while yellow leaves maybe need a little less water. Pruning these plants is helpful in keeping the leaves full and the size of the plant under control. Refreshing the soil is something you can do about every 6 – 12 months and possibly an occasional repotting of the plants due to growth. It is also important to watch your light. Some plants need more light than others, while too much light can actually burn the leaves of the plants like we see with Peace Lilly.

Originally published on HomeZada.