Gardening Without the Garden: How to Garden When You Don't Have Outdoor Space

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There’s just something about fresh-grown produce that elevates a good dish to a great dish. What’s a home cook to do, however, when there’s no home garden to harvest? Flex your green thumb and get ready! Whether your gardening is on hiatus due to seasonal weather or it’s non-existent because of lack of outdoor space, an indoor garden is just what you’re seeking.

Let’s start with where.

You can dedicate as much or as little space to your indoor garden as you wish. Ideally, your indoor plot will have ready access to natural light. A window sill is a natural fit for this. Consider using brackets up a length of your window frame and boards to add shelving if you’d like more window-fronted planting space. Other alternatives are a table, repurposed dresser, or bookshelf placed in a sunny spot. Heavier plants will be happy in beautiful pot on the floor. 

If your ideal space doesn’t have ready access to sunlight or you’re growing in the dead of winter, consider purchasing a grow light.

Most of your plants like a nice consistent ‘warm’ state. Aim for a range of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. That should be easy enough because it likely falls within the same range a happy human enjoys. Just remember to avoid putting your indoor garden in a drafty space. 

So what will you grow?

Some plants are more readily adaptable to indoor gardening than others. As an example, you can grow tomatoes indoors, but certain varieties will be happier in a pot near a window than others. Smaller fruited plants like cherry, grape and plum will perform better than the larger varieties.

Carrots and other root vegetables require a good amount of room to grow down. If you want to try your hand at some crunchy goodness, look for a window box or pot that’s at least a foot and half deep. Alternatively, grow varieties that tend to be more short and squat than long and lean. One more tip: water your carrots with tepid chamomile tea to help ward off fungus! 

It’s probably no surprise that microgreens are a good indoor option. Look for a shallow pot or tray (no more than 2 inches deep) and use a seed mix containing greens like kale, Swiss chard, beets and mesclun. Mist the soil daily to keep it from drying out. Once the greens have grown 1-2 inches tall and have at least two sets of leaves on them, they’re ready to eat. Other good indoor plants include: lemons, potatoes, herbs, mushrooms, beans, and strawberries. Don’t stop there, either! Do some digging and experimenting to see what works well in your space. 

Your garden is also your décor.

As practical (and yummy!) as an indoor garden might be, it’s also unique and beautiful design choice! Get creative with your planters; empty tins (with drainage holes added), troughs made from reclaimed wood, and old shoe organizers can all make unique and beautiful planting options.

by Anjie Cho


If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.


Why Compost?

The benefits of composting, combining a variety of kitchen scraps and organic materials, are numerous, whether or not you garden or have a yard. From enriching the soil without harmful chemicals to reducing a trash collection bill, time looking into composting is not time wasted. See below for a few examples of how composting can benefit you, no matter where you are.

Enriches Soil

Composting creates humus. The process required to transform scraps and other materials into organic fertilizer involves the production of positive “micro-organisms.” These guys make a job out of creating humus from broken down organic matter. In this case, humus is, rather than a savory dip for celery and pita, a gardening material filled with nutrients that add to soil and assist in retaining moisture.

Adding compost to soil also balances PH and improves soil CEC, which makes it easier for the earth to hold tight to nutrients. These nutrients are vital for growth of many plants, from food plants to pretty plants. Essentially, when soil isn't an ideal consistency and texture, it will be difficult to grow any kind of plant. Compost helps to ensure that soil is crumbly and open enough for water and nutrients to move through.

Cleans Up Contaminated Soil

Not only does it absorb odors, composting counteracts VOCs and other semivolatile compounds. Examples? Heating fuels, PAHs, and explosives. Yup, explosives. Not impressed yet? Composting also prevents heavy metals in soil from being absorbed by plants or other water sources, thus helping to keep our water sources cleaner. Plus, composting actually degrades lots of chemicals that have no business in our earthy soil anyway, including pesticides and wood preservatives.

Helps Prevent Pollution and Save the Planet

When you compost organic materials, instead of dooming them to landfills or other trash collections, you prevent production of harmful gases like methane and leachate formulation.

Composting is among the top options for reducing your carbon footprint, thus doing your part to save our planet.

It's sustainable too! Instead of using precious natural resources that we will not have forever, composting uses scraps from already eaten food and other natural products to produce the same effect without depleting our supply of non-sustainable materials.

Saves Money!

There is tons of energy in organic waste like vegetable scraps. Composting easily collects that energy and directs it back into the ecosystem, whether you apply it directly to the soil or donate it for application.

If you apply directly, this in turn also saves on gardening expenses like fertilizer, pesticides and the like, as you can use the scraps of food your family has already eaten as repurposed compost.

Using chemical fertilizers often leaves behind a wealth of  heavy metals (lead, arsenic?! and cadmium) that can build up over time. Overuse of chemical fertilizers can actually bring death to the very soil itself, which only requires dependent use of these same fertilizers, thus costing even more money over time. Composting skirts this issue entirely, as it is composed only of organic materials.

If you pay for disposal of garbage, especially by weight, composting will immediately reduce that bill, as you'll be using a significant amount of previously dubbed "garbage" to garden and enrich your soil.

Supports Our Economy

Composting reduces our dependence on oil from overseas, as it reduces the need to purchase chemical fertilizer often made using petroleum.

by Anjie Cho


Decorating With Seasonal Flowers

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A bouquet of fresh flowers can add a pop of color and energy to a room. To really make a statement, however, look to incorporate hues and floral varieties that are in season. When you embrace nature’s floral decorating style as your own, you are able to take a simple bouquet and turn it up a notch.

Spring

Think first about color: spring hues include bright blues, yellows and pinks. If you’re going to reach for standard floral arrangements, stick to that color palette. If you’re ready to really commit to the season, however, think bulbs. Tulips and daffodils are spring’s floral staples. If you select potted versions of either you can try to plant them outdoors after the blooms fade so you’ll have them in your garden the following year. 

Summer

Reach for something bold, bright and vibrant when selecting summer colors for your arrangements. Brightly colored gerbera daisies, zinnias, snapdragons and dahlias are big personality flowers. Mix them together or display a single variety in a fun container. Summer’s old-fashioned garden roses are a classic choice. If your green thumb extends outdoors, look to your beds. Cuttings of lavender, wildflowers and other garden favorites can make a beautiful, casual summer bouquet in the right container.

Autumn

It’s time for deep hues of red, gold, and amber. We typically associate this season with falling leaves and gardens browning up before they die back for winter. However, autumn can be bold and bright, offering seasonal flowers like the warm, dark-eyed sunflower. Don’t overlook the last vestiges of your flower beds for clippings, either. Those deep hued blue and purple hydrangeas may be tinged with pale green tones and hint at fading. As cut flowers go, those hydrangeas can make a statement!

Winter

It’s not often that we associate winter with flowers other than the traditional poinsettia. If you’re looking for something different, go for roses in rich shades of red and white. A bouquet of those two hues, especially if mixed with some boughs of holly or feathery branches of evergreen, add an elegant twist to winter décor.

Not only does incorporating seasonal flowers give your home a fresh taste of nature and a breath of positive energy, arranging your selected bouquets can be a meditation practice all on its own. Check out my experience with KADO here

by Anjie Cho


KADO: The Way of Flowers

Today is Garden Meditation Day. There may not be a holiday more in tune with the principles of feng shui, in that Garden Meditation Day appreciates the need for inner peace and mindfulness and cultivates an appreciation for nature, which we are directly a part of. In honor of the holiday, I'm happy to share my experience with a very similar practice known as kado. 

In her book, Heaven and Earth Are Flowers: Reflections on Ikebana and Buddhism, Joan D Stamm writes: “to contemplate a flower, a natural mandala of vibrant color and perfect form, is to glimpse the face of the divine."

Last week I attended a Spring Kado retreat at a Shambhala center with Marcia Wang Shibata, a Master Shambhala Kado Instructor. Kado means “the way of flowers” and is a contemplative practice of flower arranging using classical ikebana forms.

I am in love with ikebana and Kado practice and use the offering of flowers as part of my meditative practice. This practice brings me so much joy, and I wish to offer to you, my readers, three remarkable things I learned last week from Marcia Shibata and the flowers.

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Do not expect from a flower that which it cannot give.

In our first arrangement, we were given hosta leaves. This plant has full soft green leaves with delicate stems. I tried for several minutes to arrange my leaf exactly where I wanted it. I had this vision in my mind and I really wanted the hosta leaf to stay in this “perfect” spot. While sitting there frustrated with my hosta, I heard my neighbor grumble. When I peered in his direction, I couldn’t help but giggle. His hosta leaf also had a mind of its own. And although it’s not a flower, this hosta leaf taught me not to expect something from it which it cannot give.

Never compare yourself with others.

After my finishing my first arrangement, I got up and looked at the others in class. I suddenly felt uneasy and insecure. Mine looked busier than the others. Did I do it wrong? I started moving things around in my arrangement, but it still looked crowded. I really started to doubt myself. Marcia came by, and with hesitation I said, “Um, I think mine is too busier than everyone else’s”. Marcia looked at me directly and firmly said “NEVER compare yourself with others”. 

Fragile things don’t open when traumatized.

There were some irises that were purchased for the class. None of the flowers had yet opened at time of purchase. We patiently waited a day or two, and some of them started to open up, showing off brilliant purple and yellow colors. Sadly, there were quite a few that never opened. The flowers remained tightly shut, with dried and shriveled tops. Marcia noted that they likely were traumatized during their travel to us in the US (probably from Holland). She reminded us that when traumatized, fragile things don’t open. It was truly a beautiful poetic statement.  She also said that “like our hearts, each is flower is different, delicate and beautiful.”

In our modern worlds, we have sadly lost touch with some of our rituals and traditions such as feng shui and ikebana. Feng shui isn’t just moving furniture around. Ikebana isn’t just arranging flowers. They are both traditional contemplative practices that teach us how to live in harmony and in balance with ourselves and with the spaces we inhabit.

When you get the chance, spend a little time contemplating how things in your life are arranged. Are they too cluttered? To empty? What you surround yourself with matters immensely, so these practices are absolutely worth the time. 

by Anjie Cho