Gardening is a hobby everyone can enjoy, and it offers so many amazing benefits. Gardening reduces stress, anxiety and depression. It can boost strength and improve memory. It brings beauty into your life and puts delicious and nutritious food on the table.
You can enjoy the quiet, solitude of gardening or make it into an activity the whole family can enjoy together. Whatever and however you choose to garden, you’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for easy ways to get started.
Growing potted plants, both large and small, is a great entry point into gardening. Taking care of plants in pots lays the groundwork for all future gardening endeavors because many of the principles are the same. Successfully growing potted plants increases your confidence and prepares you to take the next step whenever you’re ready.
Growing herbs on a windowsill is an easy garden project. Parsley, thyme, basil, mint and chives are common herbs used in the kitchen. These herbs also do well in a sunny south- or southwest-facing window that has direct sunlight or under a grow light for 12-14 hours of light each day. Timers make the use of grow lights easy. Your plants will need water when the top half-inch of soil is dry. Position the plants so that their leaves don’t touch the windows themselves.
Turn your cooking into gourmet fare with fresh herbs you’ve grown yourself.
Self-Watering Indoor Gardens
Self-watering indoor gardens such as those sold by Aero Garden and Click and Grow make indoor gardening extra easy. After placing plant pods into the gardening system, seeds soon sprout and grow into vegetables or flowers. These self-watering indoor gardens give the plants everything needed – food, light and water. All you have to do is provide a little TLC and soon you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor.
Get quick gardening results with microgreens. Microgreens are fresh, delicious and nutritious superfoods grown and harvested in as little as 2 to 10 days. Microgreens are the plant stage between sprout and baby greens. They add a punch of flavor and nutrition to salads, sandwiches and smoothies. Growing kits and supplies can be purchased from companies such as True Leaf Market, Hamama and Urban Leaf.
Some common vegetables you can eat and regrow, again and again. Vegetables regrown for greens include scallions, onions, beets, carrots, lettuce, bok choy and celery. When preparing these vegetables initially, you typically cut off and discard the roots. Instead, place the roots in a shallow amount of water in a tray or suspend them with toothpicks in a jar of water and place them on a windowsill. The plants will produce new growth, both leaves and roots. The leaves can then be cut and grown over and over again, providing you with a continual source of nutritious greens. Regrowing vegetables is easy, thrifty and fun.
Composting has a lot of benefits. It keeps food waste out of landfills and serves as a source of nutrients for gardens and other plant life.
Getting started with composting is easier than you might think. You can get started with composting by following these easy steps.
First, you need to decide what kind of container you want to use to compost. If you have the space, you might want to consider using an open backyard compost. This type of compost is either in a large bin or a pile in your yard. Compost piles can work well, but they are messy. A bin is often easier to maintain and looks nicer.
You can find smaller bins to compost on a smaller scale as well. This type of compost does not require any special equipment, but you might want a rotating compost bin to help you move your compost around from time to time.
You could also try vermicomposting. This variety of composting uses worms to help break down the food and other materials in the compost. You can do this type of composting either indoors or outdoors.
Lastly, many areas have compost pickup available. You can simply place your food scraps in your compost bin, and a city or local government service will add them to a large, local compost area.
The most common type of compost is one that is in an open area or bin, so that is the type we will focus on.
Once you have picked out the type of composting you want to do, the next step is to simply start collecting waste. You can compost any food scraps from your kitchen, but you should avoid meats and most bones as they will often attract animals. Scraps that work well include any vegetables, fruit scraps and cores, eggshells, coffee grounds, and tea bags. Leave out dairy products and pet droppings.
Simply add your food scraps to your compost bin as they come up in your kitchen. These food scraps are often referred to as “green material.”
You also need “brown material” for your compost to work properly. Brown material usually comes from your yard. It includes things like leaves, grass clippings, and sticks. Paper and sawdust are considered a brown material.
As a rule, your compost should be about two or three parts of brown material to one part of green material. Having this mixture will help the compost break down faster.
You can also buy compost “starter” from some stores, but it isn’t necessary.
To maintain your compost pile, you should turn it or mix it up from time to time. Moving the compost around once per week is usually enough to maintain the mixture. Some compost piles also need additional water to work properly, depending on the type of green material you are using. If the pile seems dry, adding a little water occasionally can go a long way.
Composting correctly takes a lot of trial and error, but the process isn’t hard! Once you understand how great your garden will look using your compost, you will realize it is worth the effort.
Climate change is rapidly worsening, and government policies aren’t changing at the same pace as the world. Many individuals are taking direct and immediate action, though. Here are inspirational stories of how ordinary people are helping fight climate change right now.
Xiye Bastida: Led School Strike
Xiye Bastida was a 17-year-old student when she organized her high school’s first student climate change strike. The initial strike made a statement and gathered news attention, but this effort wasn’t just one day.
Bastida and fellow students continue to strike on Fridays, and she travels to speak about the imminent need for action. She’s personally suffered because of her strikes. Gym is on Fridays, and she doesn’t have a high grade. Some things are more important than passing physical education, however.
Bastida showed that climate change is something many people are concerned about. When everyone is shown a practical way to make a statement, many will join the collective voice.
Kelsey Juliana: Suing the Government
Kelsey Juliana led a coalition of students who sought to effect national change. They sued the federal government, claiming that its policies violate their right to a liveable environment.
The lawsuit has taken years, and the federal government has tried to get the kids’ lawsuit dismissed multiple times. The group stood fast all the way up to the Supreme Court, which stood by them and said they could sue.
The outcome of this lawsuit is still being decided, but they pioneered legal strategies in two ways. First, they established that people can sue the government over long-term climate change problems. Second, they removed the stigma of lawsuits filed by kids.
Phil Powell: Learning What He Could Do
Phil Powell was well into his professional career when he decided to learn about climate change. He went to a protest, but found that people in that setting weren’t interested in having collaborative conversations. As a result, Phil decided to focus his energy somewhere that the conversation was more productive. But, he wasn’t well informed and didn’t have much to contribute.
Phil chose to educate himself about climate change by going back to school. He completed a bachelor’s degree in environmental science as an older adult. After graduating, he combined his newfound knowledge of climate issues with a long-held knowledge of his local area.
In 2009, Phil co-founded Gwent Energy Community Interest Company. The company has engineered and now manufactures low-cost solar panels. These are then offered to struggling community organizations throughout South Wales, which is where Phil and the organization are based.
Because of Phil and his co-founder’s work, communities that reach 400,000 Wales residents now have solar power. They estimate that 4,000 tons of carbon emissions have been saved by bringing solar to organizations that otherwise couldn’t afford it.
A garden is more than a collection of plants and flowers. It should be an escape from the world. A place to go to find a little peace, in the midst of chaos.
Creating that kind of oasis doesn’t have to be hard. And it does not require any kind of special skill. Just a willingness to look at your garden a little differently.
Get started creating a beautiful landscape that your friends and neighbors will envy with these 5 easy ways to make your garden more impressive.
Step # 1: Make a Statement with Color
Sure, gardens are meant to be colorful, but how can you use that color to make a statement? Here are a few easy tricks:
- Stay within the same color palette. This does not mean using the same boring colors over and over again. Instead, stay within the same palette with different shades and contrasting hues.
- Use complementary colors. A pop of unique color here and there will help complement your garden, creating a beautiful rainbow of color to enjoy.
- Add some variegated foliage. Flowers are not the only colorful plants in a garden. Variegated foliage adds interesting texture too.
Step # 2: Avoid Clutter
Yes, it’s true, you can have too many plants and flowers in a garden. Keep it simple. The most impressive gardens feature a more streamlined look. Instead of jamming every nook and cranny with plantings, leave some space to make your garden offerings easier to see – and enjoy.
Tip #3: Offer Seasonal Appeal
Who says you can only enjoy garden offerings in the spring and summer? Think about what is available for every season of the year. Fall foliage can add a beautifully rich backdrop to dying summer plantings. Be sure to add a few trees and bushes that highlight the rich ness of the season. Winter too offers some beautiful contrast to otherwise dreary months. Look for bushes that change color with the seasons or offer colorful berries during fall and winter to highlight the landscape.
Tip #4: Go Bold
Nothing makes a garden look more impressive with a few bold offerings. Don’t be afraid to use bushes with bold shapes; tall grasses and flowers of different heights for a more interesting look. Or consider adding a bold piece of art to draw attention and complement your beautiful flowers and plants. Using arches to frame a certain area can also add interest, without taking away from your plantings.
Tip # 5: Use a Staggered Approach
Nothing is more boring than a garden planted with all straight lines. Add depth and interest to your garden oasis by staggering plantings. Layer grasses, and flowers for a more eclectic and natural look. This lets your garden look like it has always been there, which is more natural – and interesting.
It doesn’t take a master gardener to create a beautiful landscape that everyone will want to enjoy. Try these 5 easy ways to make a more impressive garden and see what masterpiece you can create in your own backyard.
Composting is one of the most efficient ways to use food scraps (zero-waste), nourish your own garden, and take steps towards self-sufficiency. And it’s entirely possible to do it effectively while living in suburbia–with zero complaints from your neighbors. Here’s how.
1. Compost in a Tumbler
For most suburban homeowners, a tumbler designed for compost is the most efficient option to keep smells contained and critters out. Some composting tumblers have multiple bins for compost in different stages of development. Some sit on the ground on a tumbling base, while others are suspended on a stand and tumble in the air. Any of these options will last for years, providing a high output of compost without taking up much space.
Also keep in mind that you might want to check your HOA’s bylaws if you live in a homeowner’s association, and in strict neighborhoods you’ll probably want to keep your compost tumbler or bin on the down-low.
2. Explore Vermiculture Options
It might sound a little unsettling, but vermiculture–worm farming–is an incredibly space-efficient way to generate rich compost for your garden. The worms do all the work for you, and you just feed them food scraps. Vermiculture takes up less space than traditional composting; some apartment owners even have worm farms indoors. You won’t have any unpleasant odors if you do it right, but you will end up with rich worm castings that can be used to amend your indoor or outdoor soil.
3. Build An Enclosure for an Open Compost Area
Composting doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t require a huge up-front investment. Building a simple compost enclosure requires a little more care to keep the ratios correct and discourage area wildlife from coming to munch on your melon rinds. But even in suburbia, compost enclosures built from pallets, chicken wire, or 2×4’s can be incredibly effective. You’ll need to consider the best part of the yard to add a compost pile like this–including the amount of sunlight it will receive. A quick Google search will yield plans for a huge array of low-cost DIY options.
4. Pay Attention to Your Ratios
Compost is very forgiving. But if you get the rations dramatically “off,” you could end up with a rather smelly compost bin or pile that seems to take ages to decompose. You’ll need a combination of “greens” and “browns” in your compost to allow the right microorganisms to thrive. “Greens” refer to materials with a high nitrogen or protein component; these include vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, and grass clippings. “Browns” are pieces like dried leaves, pine needles, corn husks, sawdust, paper, and other dry, inactive matter. Most experts recommend a 3:1 or 4:1 brown:green ratio.
5. Know What NOT to Compost
Although all animal and plant products will eventually biodegrade, there are some things you simply don’t want in your home compost, particularly if you live in the suburbs. Meat, fat, and dairy products always smell foul as they decompose, and they take much longer to break down than plant matter. If you’re determined to compost absolutely everything you can, you might want to look into a bokashi fermenting system, which produces usable compost faster than any other method.
Have questions about composting in your area or need troubleshooting help? Try contacting your local extension agent or gardening group to help you out!
No matter how serious you are about self-sufficiency, you probably don’t want your backyard to look like an industrial farm – and you may not have the space, anyway! Fortunately, there are ways to make any homestead look visually appealing, while also requiring less square footage than you thought. One such method is the keyhole garden.
What Is a Keyhole Garden?
The basic shape of a raised-bed keyhole garden is that of a circle that’s half-bisected by a path that’s narrow from the edge almost to the center. In that center, however, the path ends in a smaller “circle within a circle.” That leaves the rest of the larger circle to be filled with a U-shaped bed of plants. From above, the whole thing resembles the classic “keyhole shape.”
In practice, this shape allows the home gardener full access to any part of the bed from the center. (Of course, the plants on the perimeter can also be accessed while walking just outside of the circle.)
Advantages of a Keyhole Garden
The many advantages to permaculture keyhole gardens include:
- Space-saving. Keyhole gardens eliminate the amount of ground taken up by access paths between rows of plants. In fact, a keyhole garden path requires only about a quarter of the space that a traditional bed of the same size does.
- Creates a microclimate. Keyhole beds can act as “sun traps” because of the U-shape of the plan. That helps northern growers, in particular, extend their growing season. To create this warmer microclimate, place taller plants at the northern edge of the circle, with the entire keyhole garden facing south.
- Aesthetically pleasing. Whether you’re growing veggies, herbs, a rose garden – or a happy mix of all of these – keyhole gardens create curving shapes that are “fancy” enough for even a street-facing yard. (And if you have the space to have several keyhole gardens on either side of a narrow path, you’ll create a truly inviting and productive garden space.)
- Encourages pollinators and confuses pests. The shape of the keyhole garden allows pollinating bees, birds and insects to fly from plant to plant without having to be as exposed as they would a traditional multi-row garden. In addition, having several types of plants within one small place discourages pests like the tomato hornworm or bean beetle, which prefer to chomp on the same kind of plant in large groups.
Making a Keyhole Garden
To get started, mark a circle that’s about 10 or 12 feet in diameter.Shovel out a path to the center that’s about 1 foot across, along with a smaller circle at the end of the path that’s about 18 inches wide. Put that removed soil into the non-path parts of the circle.
Next, work the remaining part of the circle – the U-shaped garden – until the soil is loose, with any remaining lawn or weeds removed. Add any necessary soil amendments at this time, building up enough layers to make it raised, and mulch the center pathway.
Finally, plant seeds and seedlings in the non-path parts of the circle. Taller plants should go to the northern, back edge of the circle. The shorter and more frequently-picked plants can take up the remainder of the U-shape, closer to the access path and inner circle.
The kitchen herb garden sounds a bit idyllic, a bit witchy. Imagine being able to step out the door or reach up above the sink to your personal growing spice rack, snip off some fresh rosemary or basil when you need it, and toss it nonchalantly into the culinary masterpiece of your choice. Yet the prospect of growing herbs can feel daunting. These tips will help you get a kitchen herb garden started even in the smallest of spaces.
1. Capitalize on Window Space
Window herb gardens offer a ton of versatility; even apartment dwellers with a kitchen (or near-the-kitchen) window can make this option work year-round. Invest in a sturdy suction-cup window shelf or hanging window herb rack and seeds or small plants from a local nursery. Check here for window style inspiration that makes self-sufficiency look sexier than ever.
2. Keep it Simple
Herbs are fairly easy to grow. But it’s easy to get caught up in the Pinterest-perfect ideal of a gorgeous herb garden and lose sight of your goals. If you’re new to growing herbs, start with two or three varieties you know you’d use frequently in the dishes you already cook. You can add on more “exotic” herbs once your base selections are well-established.
3. Learn a Handful of Preservation Techniques
Having farm-fresh (or pot-fresh) herbs is fabulous, but so is having dried herbs, especially if your goal is long-term self-sufficiency. You can purchase or make your own herb drying racks, then dry your own herbs to keep indefinitely. Small batches of dried herbs are a great way for those in a small space (and with small plants!) to work toward self-sufficiency and stock up on essentials.
4. Get Creative with Unconventional Pots
Don’t want to go out and purchase a fancy herb garden setup or new pots? You don’t have to. You can plant herbs in tea cups, unused coffee mugs, mason jars, or even water bottles; practically any container will work. If your chosen container doesn’t have holes in the bottom to let water drain out, make sure to line the bottom with rocks and/or incorporate Perlite in the soil, and water just enough to keep soil lightly moist.
5. Propagate Like a Boss
When your herbs go to seed (produce flowers and bloom), snap off the flower heads and collect seeds to start anew. Many herbs can also be propagated in a simple jar of water; to do this, snap off a tender stem of fresh growth, remove the bottom few leaves, and stand it up in a cup or jar of water. Not every cutting will grow roots, but some will, and these can be replanted in soil to start new plants.
If you’re growing in very small containers, you’ll need to replace plants a bit more frequently than you would growing outdoors or in larger pots. That’s okay! Especially if you’re preserving and propagating your own herb plants, you’re moving toward self-sufficiency. Still struggling? You don’t have to get it right on the first try. If your first attempt at growing your favorite herbs doesn’t last long, give it another shot–and don’t be surprised when the results far exceed your expectations.
If you like houseplants but can’t seem to keep them alive, try some of these easy-to-care-for plants – they are difficult to kill and need very little maintenance. However, if your home doesn’t have enough humidity, it will be difficult to keep anything alive. If your home is too dry, you can use a humidifier. Be sure to choose the proper size humidifier for the space you have; otherwise, it won’t make the air humid enough. The plants will also provide some humidity, but not enough to keep them alive, especially in larger rooms.
Aloe doesn’t like a lot of water. If you overwater it, it will die. Aloe prefers bright, indirect light. Let it dry out completely between waterings – you might water it a little bit once per month. Aloe is toxic to pets, so be sure to keep it out of your pet’s reach.
While this plant is toxic to pets, it’s good for you. When you get a cut or a burn, you can cut an aloe leaf open and wipe it over the cut or burn. It will heal faster and discourage scarring.
If you don’t have a lot of lighting because of the way your house is positioned, snake plants might be the best plants for you. The snake plant is also known as the “mother-in-law’s tongue.” They do well in bathrooms with no windows, but they will also grow in bright, indirect light.
Water snake plants monthly, letting them dry out completely between waterings. Snake plants are toxic to pets, so be sure to keep them out of reach.
Succulents come in many forms. They do need bright, indirect light and water about once per month. As with aloe and snake plants, water them once per month, letting them dry out between waterings.
If succulents die, try moving them to a room with more light, as long as it is not direct sunlight. The other way you can kill them is to water them too much. Most succulents are toxic, so keep them out of reach of kids and pets.
These plants will thrive in just about any condition, but it is the happiest hanging in a window. They need bright, indirect light, misting every couple of weeks, and watering every week. They are not toxic to pets.
Spider plants make “babies” that hang over the edge of the pot. If you want more, just snip one of the babies off, put the bottom of it in a glass of water, and plant it in potting soil when it starts to root.
Sometimes referred to as devil’s ivy, the pothos is very forgiving. They come in many variations and colors, including marble green (variegated), bright yellowish green, and golden (green and yellow pattern).
Pothos prefer bright, indirect light or low light. You will need to water these plants every week. You might get away with watering them biweekly, but if you notice them wilting in the second week, give them water and then water every week. Pothos are toxic to pets, so keep them where your pets can’t get them.
Growing your own food and becoming more self-sufficient can be as rewarding as it is nutritious. But not everyone has the space or climate for a big outdoor garden. Whether you have a whole room to spare or just a wall, one of these 5 hydroponic growing systems can get you growing.
1. Ebb and Flow
In this setup, your plants reside in a growing medium like rock wool or perlite inside containers — one plant to a small container. Those containers sit inside a large base.
To feed and water your garden, you flood the base with nutrient-rich water without overflowing it. The system then drains the water and stores it for the next watering.
Like many of these systems, you can use a timer to maintain standard watering intervals for maximum plant health and production.
This one works for small to medium-sized plants, including berry bushes. So it can support most things you’d grow in a food garden.
2. Drip Hydroponics
A hydroponic drip system slowly releases a controlled amount of nutrient-treated water directly onto the plant’s root system. Any nutrient water the plant doesn’t use returns to the reservoir for the next feeding.
Manage the drip rate from controls. Then, run your own scientific experiments to maximize yields with the least resources.
This one shouldn’t be confused with outdoor drip irrigation. That does follow similar principles but allows the water to enter the soil instead of returning it to a reservoir.
Drip Hydroponics can grow most of your homesteading faves like:
- Root vegetables
Nutrient Film Technology (The Original NFT)
NFT may sound technical. But it can be one of the easier hydroponic systems to create.
It includes a sloped platform along which you can plant your garden in the traytop. You slowly pump water down the slope and back into the reservoir at its base.
Only small plants do well. But you can increase the number of small plants in the tray top, making it very scalable.
As long as those plants still have adequate airflow and can access light, this system can hold a lot of smaller plants.
- Leavy greens
- Some herbs
Some people won’t consider aeroponics a hydroponic system. But the only real difference is in how you administer the nutrient water.
Aeroponics works by nutrient-water misting the plant roots rather than submerging them. You need no grow medium if the containers are correctly sized for the plant.
People choose aeroponics because it reduces the ability of the disease to travel from one plant to the next. Water that touches one plant doesn’t then flow to another.
Aeroponics also works well as a vertical gardening method, maximizing use of limited space and reducing the chance of large-scale crop loss. You can grow everything from lettuce to raspberries to sweet potatoes in this system.
5. Deep Water Culture (DWC)
With water culture, you grow each plant in a net pot suspended over a large water basin filled with oxygen and nutrient-rich water. An air pump keeps the water at a good temperature for the plants to avoid overheating.
Depending on its size, DWC can grow any size of plant, even tropical plants (limes, mango, coffee, cocoa) with deep root systems.
Even if you don’t have space for a garden, you can still grow vegetables. Many will grow in containers inside your home as long as the air isn’t too dry. During the spring and summer, you can also grow vegetables in containers on a deck or patio. And, you don’t have to look for seeds – you can grow these veggies from scraps.
If you stagger planting in containers – plant new veggies every couple of weeks – you’ll be able to grow all the fresh vegetables you want. If you have room inside, you can grow fresh vegetables year ‘round.
Set a couple of potatoes aside. You can use any kind of potato, including large baking potatoes, red potatoes and smaller white potatoes. Put them in a cool dark place. As soon as the eyes start sending out shoots, they are ready to plant.
Cut the potato so two “eyes” are on each chunk. Plant the potato about 6 inches down with the eyes facing up. If you use a tall bucket, you can put 12 inches of dirt in the bottom, then 6 inches over the potato. As the plant grows, add more dirt until the pot is nearly filled. The plant will keep growing and making more potatoes. The bottom potatoes will be larger than the top, so if you like baby potatoes, you’ll have the best of both worlds.
Cut the root of a bunch of celery about 5 inches from the root. Place toothpicks around the celery about 3 inches from the root. Fill a glass with water and set the celery on the glass – the toothpicks will hold it out of the water. Make sure the water touches the bottom of the root.
As soon as the plant grows root tendrils, you can plant it and let it grow into a new bunch.
You can grow carrots two ways. Cut the tops off, leaving about a half-inch of carrot. Some people have luck planting them directly in the dirt. If that doesn’t give you results, stick toothpicks in them and support them over a glass of water. Make sure the water just touches the bottom of the carrot. When it starts growing tendrils, plant it in potting soil.
If you don’t get new carrots from the regrowth, let the plant go to seed. You can then plant the seeds for new carrots.
Cut a sweet potato in half and place each half over a shallow container of water. Suspend the sweet potato above the water using toothpicks. Once the sprouts (not the roots) reach about 4 inches high, cut them off and place them in a container of water. New roots will grow from the cuttings. Plant the cuttings once they start growing roots.
Scallions, Onions, Garlic, Shallots and Leeks
This trick works for any member of the allium family. Place the base of a stem or bulb with roots attached in a dish of shallow water. New greenery will start to grow. You can harvest the new green growth, or you can plant the new plant. Garlic and onions will form new bulbs. Shallots will divide, so the harvest gets bigger every year.