Growing Smiles: Tips for Setting Up Indoor and Outdoor Gardens for a Healthier Lifestyle

In my previous post, I discussed the benefits of fresh vegetables and lighter meals, as well as the convenience of cooking with fresh ingredients.  As much as I love taking care of smiles, outside of the office, I also love to cook and to garden.  For me, nothing is more satisfying than cooking with ingredients that I have grown.   

Over the last few years, especially with COVID influencing how we shop, our family has really embraced growing our own vegetables, both indoors and outdoors.  Given that our winters make it impossible to grow plants outdoors for much of the year, indoor gardening has become very important.   

Indoor gardening can be limited, and most of what we grow indoors is lettuce and greens for salad and herbs for cooking.  We have had better luck outdoors with tomatoes, strawberries, squash, cucumber and larger vegetables.   

In this post, I’ll share some tips and tricks for setting up indoor and outdoor gardens that work for us and our busy lifestyle, focusing on plants that are easy to grow and maintain. 

Indoor Gardens:

Setting up an indoor garden is a fantastic option for those with limited outdoor space or who want to enjoy fresh herbs and salad ingredients year-round. Indoor gardening can be as simple or elaborate as you desire, and there are countless ways to incorporate plants into your living space. 

Windowsill Herb Garden: A windowsill herb garden is an easy and attractive way to start your indoor gardening journey. Choose a sunny windowsill and select your favorite herbs such as basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, and oregano. Plant them in small pots or a long, narrow planter with well-draining soil. Ensure they receive adequate sunlight (at least 6 hours a day) and water them regularly to keep the soil moist but not soggy.  These are usually the items that I grow that tend to be smaller and easily accessible, so that I can quickly grab some basil for pesto or herbs for a dish.  I like to keep these right in the kitchen, if there is space. 

Leafy Greens Container Garden: Another indoor gardening option is growing leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, and kale in containers. These plants are highly nutritious and easy to grow. Choose large pots with drainage holes, fill them with high-quality potting soil, and place them in a sunny spot or under grow lights. Monitor the moisture levels in the soil and water as needed to maintain consistent moisture.  There are a bunch of options on Amazon that can easily fulfill this need.  I am happy to share what I use if you are interested!  I usually go with something that has grow lights and automatically waters, so all I need to do is add some plant food periodically. 

Outdoor Gardens:

An outdoor garden is a rewarding project that can transform your yard into a beautiful and productive space. There are numerous options for creating an outdoor garden, from traditional in-ground gardens to raised beds and container gardens. 

In-Ground Garden: If you have the space and appropriate soil conditions, an in-ground garden is a classic option. Start by choosing a sunny location and testing the soil for nutrient levels and pH balance. Enhance the soil as needed with compost or other organic materials to improve its fertility. Plan your garden layout, ensuring you have enough space between plants for them to grow and thrive. Dig out rows or beds, plant your seeds or seedlings, and maintain proper watering and fertilization throughout the growing season.  To be honest, we have tried this, but it was far enough from the house that we didn’t take the time to properly manage it.  We ended up with some vegetables, but we have done better with other options.  Also, we had animals, like deer and rabbits that loved the vegetables as much as we did. 

Raised Bed Garden: Raised bed gardens are ideal for those with poor soil conditions or limited space. They offer better drainage, easier maintenance, and can help prevent issues like soil compaction and pests. To build a raised bed, construct a frame using untreated wood, bricks, or stones, and fill it with a mix of topsoil, compost, and other organic materials. Plant your vegetables or flowers according to their specific spacing and sunlight requirements, and care for them as you would in a traditional garden.  This takes some work.  I have constructed these gardens before but it takes a commitment to get the most out of this endeavor.   

Container Garden: For those with limited outdoor space or who want to add some greenery to their patio or balcony, container gardening is an excellent option. This is what our family does primarily.  We use large pots with drainage holes and fill them with a high-quality potting mix. Our favorite items for planting are tomatoes, basil, mint (to keep critters away), scallions and other herbs.   

Overall, setting up a garden is work but is also a rewarding and enjoyable process that allows you to connect with nature, improve your well-being, and enjoy fresh, home-grown produce. Whether you choose a windowsill herb garden, a container vegetable garden, or a traditional in-ground plot, you’ll experience the satisfaction and pride that come from nurturing your plants and watching them grow. 

Happy gardening, and keep smiling! 

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