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

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, 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

Combining Houseplants for Decorative Arrangements

When it comes to potted plants, “the more the merrier” makes a great rule of (green) thumb.

If you aren’t already making your own container combinations with houseplants, you’re really missing out. They bring a bit of the outdoors to even the smallest spaces,  and are a lot easier to water than plants grown on their own.
Here are nine reasons you should be combining your houseplants, and how to do it in nine easy steps.

9 reasons to combine houseplants

1. Less watering. Watering an assortment of potted plants can be a pain. With a combo, however, you just water once.

2. Living flower arrangements. Flower arrangements are great, but there’s just something so captivating about a living ecosystem in your home. In addition, living arrangements are more economical than cut flowers over time, because they last a lot longer.

3. Fits your decor. Going for a traditional look? Use cast iron plant, parlor palm, and ferns in an urn or terra-cotta pot. More modern? Plant snake plant, Haworthia and Gasteria in a sleek container. Primitive tropical? Fill a rattan basket with an exuberant pot of rainforest plants.

4. Stays alive. Even if a plant or two dies, the others will quickly fill in the gap. If you’re impatient, all you have to do is tuck another one in its place.

5. It’s therapeutic. Successfully cultivating life just feels good. You’d be amazed by how relaxing and rewarding an occasional trim or topdressing of soil can be.

6. It’s a garden, indoors. A well-planted arrangement truly feels like a little piece of garden in the middle of your home — minus the creepy-crawlies and hard work.

7. Ideal for small spaces. Everyone has room for an indoor garden. These arrangements can range from just a few inches wide to taking up as much space as a dining chair. No matter the size, the impact is huge.

8. A creative outlet. If you get your kicks from cooking, crafting, drawing or writing, then just look at an indoor arrangement as an extension of your craft. It’s a recipe of plants; a craft that hot-glues itself in place; a masterpiece in four dimensions; an adventure in your mind’s eye.

9. Year-round gardening. Throughout most of the country, winter puts the garden on hold for a few months. In the Deep South and Southwest, summer keeps you in the air-conditioned comfort of your home. Your indoor garden will keep you company until nicer weather.

How to combine houseplants

Now that you’re ready to plant your own indoor living arrangement of plants, here’s how you do it. Note that it’s almost exactly like planting an outdoor container combo.

  1. Gather materials. Choose a pot with a drainage hole and potting mix. The drainage hole is important because it keeps the water from stagnating and rotting the plants’ roots.
  2. Pick your plants. Select a few plants that tolerate the same conditions. For example, don’t put a sun-loving cactus in a pot with a shade- and moisture-loving fern.
  3. Add potting mix. Fill the pot almost all the way, leaving enough room for the plants.
  4. Add plants. Slip the plants out of their pots and place in the big pot.
  5. Arrange plants. Situate plants so that the tall ones are in the rear. This ensures that each plant gets light. Put trailing plants like pothos along the edge so they can cascade over the rim.
  6. Add more potting mix. Add enough potting mix to sit level with the tops of the plants’ root balls (the pot-shaped mass of dirt and roots).
  7. Water. Water thoroughly to level out the potting mix and eliminate any air gaps. Where the potting mix has sunk, add more.
  8. Fertilize. Feed the plants according to your product’s label instructions. Authentic Haven Compost Tea is a good choice, since it’s organic and effective, and the nutrients stay in the potting mix.
  9. Properly place. Place your container combo where it gets bright indirect light, meaning that it’s bright enough to read comfortably without flipping a light switch. Some plants, such as cacti, succulents and some plants grown for flowers, prefer direct light. This means that your plants get a clear view of the sun for at least a few hours a day.

If you’d like to know more about combining houseplants, check out my book Plant by Numbers. It offers comprehensive plant listings to help you choose and combine your own designs, 50 sample combos, and everything you need to know about keeping your houseplants happy and healthy.

Posted by Steve Asbell on Zillow

6 Genius New Uses for an Old Swimming Pool

Before you rule out a home with an out-of-date pool, read these clever ideas for repurposing that old swimming pool.

Instead of going through the costly (and sometimes unsuccessful) process of bringing an old swimming pool up to date, why not turn it into an entirely new, seriously cool feature that sets your home apart?

Swimming pools have many virtues, especially during scorching summers. But they can easily become eyesores — not to mention money pits — especially if they leak or have other functional issues.

Instead of going through the costly (and sometimes unsuccessful) process of bringing an old swimming pool up to date, why not turn it into an entirely new, seriously cool feature that sets your home apart?

From a detached, lower-level studio space to a fully realized aquaponic farm, here are six smart ideas (some DIY projects and some that require a little professional help) to convert your old swimming pool into something useful, beautiful, or both!

1. The sunken patio

Though part of a rooftop lounge in Midtown Manhattan, this patio retrofitted within a rooftop pool by Future Green Studio holds a lesson for homeowners — work with the site rather than against it. The final dining area maintains the pool steps, depth indicators, handrails, and even a retooled version of the pool lights, telling the story of the space’s origins beautifully.

2. The practical deck

A simple but elegant solution for an unwanted pool? Drain it and build a deck over the top. Work with a landscape pro to design a deck that blends perfectly with the original pool’s shape and structure. Not only will it add valuable entertaining square footage to the backyard, but it’ll also boost your home’s value over time.

3. The detached studio

This gorgeous studio by Walk Interior Architecture & Design in its own right becomes even more awe-inspiring when you realize it’s housed in an old, neglected in-ground pool. The finished space feels at once industrial, modern, and airy, and the solar panel–topped A-frame roof is both functional (preventing water from seeping in) and beautiful. Such an inspired idea!

4. The peaceful pond

If you’re imagining spending lazy afternoons surrounded by nature instead of cleaning the pool, think about transforming your pool into a pond. It’s the perfect way to invite more wildlife into your yard, and it just makes sense. In the spirit of repurposing, you may even be able to get away with converting the original sand filter into a koi pond filter.

5. The water-wise garden

A Southern California couple converted their little-used pool into a rainwater harvesting system. Now in the pool’s place they have a stream, small waterfall, and some 100 plants, all fed with rain collected from the roof and stored in underground, recycled-plastic tanks. The resulting garden is luscious and inviting while making the most of the region’s scant rainfall.

6. The food-producing farm

And then there’s the family who built a food-producing greenhouse, known as the Garden Pool, in the pit of their former swimming pool. The finished ecosystem includes solar panels and a greenhouse, and produces everything from tilapia (through an aquaponics system) to fresh fruits and veggies to poultry.

While you might not be ready to go full-scale eco-farm, the project proves that an old pool site might be just the spot to pull off the herb-and-veggie garden of your dreams.

Posted by Jill Russell on Trulia


How to Grow a Successful Hanging Garden

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


How to Make DIY Wind Chimes

Wind chimes have long been used as a holistic method of natural mind and body healing. The gentle music they create as the breeze flows through them can provide a feeling of tranquility in your patio, garden or balcony.

How to Make DIY Wind Chimes

photo from

Making your own wind chimes is a fun DIY project that’s great to share with children. Best of all, you don’t need to shop for expensive items for your wind chimes; you can use items already in your house!

Basic Design: Wind Chimes

The most common style of wind chime has a center-mounted wind catcher surrounded by various sound-producing items (such as metal pipes). The wind catcher will also feature a “banger”, which is an object hanging in the center, banging into the surrounding items as the wind catcher moves in the breeze.

This is what causes the chime effect.

Finding Items for DIY Wind Chimes

Since most wind chimes are circular, find a colorful plastic lid you can use as the top of the wind chime. If you don’t have a colorful lid, you can paint any lid the color of your choice.

The best thing about a homemade wind chime is you can use practically anything to make it: old silverware, bells, old keys, small decorative rocks, marbles, seashells, or even sticks. Collect an assortment of items and choose the ones that work best together.

Preparing the Lid

Find the center of the lid and punch or drill a tiny hole through it. Slide a piece of string or nylon thread through the hole and tie it in a knot on the top side of the lid. Measure out the string to your desired length and cut it.

Make additional holes along the outside edges of the lid, one for each chime. Keep the distance between the chimes as even as possible, so the chime will be balanced.

Hanging the Center Banger

Attach your chosen banger at the center point on the center string. The banger needs to be hard and large enough to make a noise when it bangs into the surrounding chimes—but not so heavy the wind catcher below it is unable to move with the breeze. If you choose something circular—like a small rock—wrap the nylon thread or string around it and tie it in a knot. Now apply a layer of non-toxic glue over the string to hold it in place.

At the base of the center string, attach your wind catcher. This can be anything with a large, flat or curved surface to catch the wind, like a smaller plastic lid or a large spoon.

Hanging Your Homemade Wind Chimes

Drill or punch holes through the tops of the chimes and the wind catcher before you attach them to the string so they will hang evenly when the job is complete.

When you hang the chimes, make sure the string is the right length for the banger to hit them all. You can make some strings longer than others in order to give your wind chime a unique look, but remember it must be balanced in order to work properly. If you make one chime short, make the chime directly across from it short as well.

Finishing the Wind Chime

Punch two more holes in the lid, evenly spaced apart. Slide thread through one side and tie it in a knot on the bottom side of the lid. Measure out how much thread you want for your hanging loop and cut the thread. Slide the other end of the thread through the second hole and tie it in a knot on the bottom side of the lid as well.

Find a low tree branch or hanging eave where you can hang your homemade wind chime.

Now, sit back and listen to its soothing music.

This story was rewritten from an earlier version by Dave Donovan. It was published on See it here.

June gardening checklist

Here’s what to do this month to get your garden growing for summer. It’s time to plant summer-blooming bulbs, annuals and perennials. And it’s also time to care for the lawn.

© Emilio Ereza/Pixtal/agefotostock

© Emilio Ereza/Pixtal/agefotostock

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate June, but let’s start with just one: It’s summertime.

The solstice isn’t until June 21, but not all plants know that.

Lots of gardeners have already begun their summer planting and maintenance. A good way to start is to plant extra bulbs now for a burst of brightness later in the summer, when some of your early favorites have begun to fade. Dahlia, gladiolus, canna, crocosmia, tuberous begonia and tigridia are all good choices for a touch of garden drama.

Now that the weather is warmer, you can lower your water bills and impress your neighbors by watering at cooler times of day to prevent quick evaporation.

In many climates, early June isn’t too late to put annual seeds or seedlings in the ground. Plant sunflower, marigold, cosmos, sweet alyssum and zinnia. You can also plant seedlings of geranium, impatiens, petunia, coleus and Madagascar periwinkle; by now, the ground in most regions is ready for even the most tender vegetables and flowering annuals.

Annuals that have already bloomed should be deadheaded when the flowers fade.

‘Color spots’
For splashes of color in early summer, select bright nursery annuals already in bloom. They’re a great solution for the time-challenged gardener, and it’s more pleasant doing “dirty work,” such as dividing perennials and planting seeds, when you’re surrounded by chocolate cosmos and scarlet impatiens.

Plant color spots of annuals — usually sold in 4-inch, 6-inch or 1-gallon pots — to accent your garden with instant brightness. Be sure to water plants before removing them from pots, and water again after planting.

Perennials are June-perfect planters.

Plant flowering perennials of all kinds for late-spring, summer and fall blooms: Oriental poppy, foxglove, salvia, aster, columbine, delphinium, feverfew and heuchera are but a few. Add lamb’s ears, sage or dusty miller for foliage.

Perennials that flowered in the spring can be dug up and divided now to prevent overcrowding. Divide irises (whose rhizomes will need to be cut apart), Oriental poppies, primroses and Doronicum daisies.

Starting now and over the next few months, you can also free those perennial seeds from their packets and get them in the ground. Pinch off spent blooms to keep flowers coming.

Lawn care
The contest for greenest lawn on the block is far from over. By now you’ve surely been out mowing and have possibly reseeded, so keep up the good work.

  • If your lawn needs aerating, it’s still not too late to perforate away.
  • Overseed or reseed those stubborn scraggly spots.
  • Fertilize now, if you didn’t do it in April or May.
  • When it comes to watering, even if the heat is on, think conservatively: Your grass may take on a tawny tone, but it will spring back as the weather becomes cooler and moister.
  • After mowing, leave grass cuttings on the ground to recycle all those good nutrients.

Vegetables and herbs
In most climates, all herbs can be planted this month. And now’s the time to get veggies in the ground that you can enjoy on your table in the months to come.

  • The start of summer also means it’s your last chance for sowing squash and cucumber seeds.
  • Corn, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes should also be planted as soon as possible.
  • To expand your harvesting season, start planting successive crops of carrots, lettuce, spinach, chard, kohlrabi, beets, parsnips, radishes, turnips, bush beans and peas.

If you see signs of winter’s ravages on trees, shrubs or perennials, run — don’t walk — to give them extra food or correct problems such as mildew, black-spot and aphids.

  • All plants that are having a hard time springing back from winter should receive a mild feeding this month.
  • Fertilize roses now and each month through the summer.
  • Allow spring-flowering plants to bloom before you feed them.
  • Hold off on fertilizing tomatoes until their first fruit has set.

Permanent plants
In many areas, June is a good time for planting trees, shrubs, vines and ground cover. Check with your local extension agency or consult a reliable gardening book to see which species are best suited for early summer planting in your zone.

Fruit trees
Take care of fruit trees now to make sure you get your sweet rewards later in the season.

  • Thin Asian and European pear trees heavily now.
  • If it’s a “light year” for any of your apple trees, avoid pruning them — but the heavier fruit bearers should be thinned lightly after their unpollinated fruit has dropped. Remove one apple from triple and double clusters to encourage the growth of larger fruit.
  • If you find tent caterpillars in tree branches (they’re especially fond of crabapple and fruit trees), prune out the limbs and destroy the cocoons.

Pest control
Don’t let down your guard yet with slugs and other garden pests.

  • If you live in a moist climate, you’ll probably notice that slugs have been drawn out by spring rains. Now’s the time to put out shallow bowls of stale beer or sprinkle slugs with salt.
  • Stay ahead of aphid invasions by hand-wiping foliage, giving them a strong blast with a hose, or soaking them thoroughly with insecticidal soap. Repeat the treatment in five to seven days if you see signs of new hatchlings you might have missed.
  • You can also use soap on plant bugs that are pestering your shrubs, perennials or fruit trees.

This article was originally published by Sally Anderson of MSN Real Estate. To see the original article source, click here.