How to Start an Apartment Garden

Spring is here, which means my yearly itch to start a garden has returned, with gumption. The ground is soft, the sun is shining and my tummy is not-so-quietly urging me to get some veggies in the ground so they can get into my belly. There’s just one problem: I live in an apartment – I don’t have ground that I’m allowed to grow things in.

No yard, no grass – nothing. How are you supposed to have a garden with no yard and no grass?

How to Start and Apartment Garden

You improves, that’s how. By calling on Pinterest and my mom’s gardening experience, I’ve become quite the small space vegetable grower.

Last year, I decided to focus on tomatoes and grew three different kinds. On a very basic level, if you keep it simple and just choose one or two types of veggie to grow, you’ll face less stress and have more success. Even better, when you don’t have to worry about sharing a lack of horizontal space, you can focus on your verticals. Growing things up, that is!

The only method I’ve ever employed started in my house and then moved into large planters outside. Now is the perfect time to go ahead and either purchase seeds or little starter plants, keep them inside until the last frost, and then transfer them into larger containers to foster continued growth outside. Again, don’t worry too much about the types of seeds you choose, especially if this is your first foray into gardening. Pick something simply and you know you like, I chose to grow tomatoes because:

  1. I eat them a lot
  2. They can be canned for use later for sauces
  3. You get a lot of them from one plant
  4. I didn’t have to do a lot of maintenance with them.

You can obtain deep planters from your local home stores, dollar stores, or hardware stores (some people use plastic totes too!). Potting soil should be available at those stores as well. You’ll want to purchase items that you can tie your plants to so that they grow up and can be held back from overtaking your small growing space. I used dowel rods (and sticks from the yard) and then cut up old nylons to use as my ties (they don’t cut into the plant and it’s a good way to reuse those nylons with runs in them!).

Even though I joke that my garden corner is pretty pathetic, I am proud that I took the time and effort to maximize my little space to provide me with “free” tomatoes throughout the summer and frozen/canned options throughout the winter.

Do you currently have a small outdoor space that you would love to use to grow something? Share pictures of the space with us or share your own small space garden preparation ideas, we’d love to hear them!

Black Bean Mango Salsa

Inspiration for this delicious black bean mango salsa hit me in the kitchen, when I was hungry, and had odd ingredients left hanging around. Oddly enough, that’s when some of my favorite recipes are created. I wanted something quick that didn’t require cooking, so I raided my fridge and found an onion, an avocado and a delicious, perfectly ripe mango. I was on to something – something dip-like. When considering what to use as the base of what I was going to make, I knew I needed some protein. I grabbed a can of black beans and thought, why not?

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Mangoes are my favorite fruit in the world when they are in season! I literally suck on the pit to get every bit of “meat” off – I cut the skin off around the pit and gnaw on it. What can I say, I love them! The secret to mangoes when shopping for a ripe one is not the color, but the feel and smell If she gives a little when you squeeze – enough for you to feel out the pit – and smells sweet, she’s ready. The sweetness of fresh mango is a perfect compliment to acidic onion, and paired with avocado and beans, you have a texture wonderland in your mouth.

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I am not going to lie, I thought the avocado might be a little odd when I grabbed it, but just “went with it.” Best move ever! In the end, it creamed nicely over the beans and mango and helped hold all the ingredients together on a salty chip. Imagine it guys – sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy – a dream in your mouth! And irresistable, too. A girlfriend of mine stopped by after I had made the dip. When I asked if she was hungry, she politely said “no,” but when I told her what I had and she saw it, “ok maybe a little!” Followed by, “where’s the recipe?” I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

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Hearts, Pink and Roses

Give me a reason to celebrate – and I will! Growing up, it was common for any holiday to serve as an excuse to wear themed shorts(actually boxers)/shirts/face paint/hair bows/tights. Some of those juvenile celebratory tendencies have carried over into adulthood for me and I fear I should have been and El-Ed major, so that I could get away with the expressive clothing choices. 

I have resigned myself to wearing colors that are representative of the holiday as a compromise for my attire choices. The irony is not lost on me that I am a single female who loves Valentine’s Day (actually any holiday, but since we’re talking about V-day, let’s focus on that!). Culturally speaking, Valentine’s Day is all about spending a romantic time with a significant other. I don’t contest that sentiment that many share. However, even if I were in a relationship, I would not appreciate roses (overpriced on this day), chocolate in a heart-shaped box (sub par mass production), or teddy bears (I’m not 5). I dated a guy who bought champagne glasses with hearts on them and I wanted to gag. That part of the holiday I have never liked as it seems manufactured and insincere (even though many want it to communicate sincerity). Therefore, what is a single girl to do on this day?

The same thing she does every day – but dressed in more pink/red than usual. That’s all. I have never felt the need to “celebrate singleness” with girlfriends on this day, nor do I have children that need to learn about holidays and therefore do not need to decorate my house with hearts and cupids. Let’s be honest. I’ll probably pick up some cheesy valentines to pass out at work because I am a cheesy, celebratory woman who thinks that’s funny. I am not however, a woman who will be upset about my singleness because a day is dedicated to those who are attached. The day doesn’t apply to me in that way, and that’s ok.  

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Winter Soup and Salad Selection

Who doesn’t love a good soup and salad, especially when it’s chilly outside? I was desperate to find an alternative to Panera Bread’s Broccoli Cheddar soup. Being dairy free, it makes me miss certain pleasures like this recipe. Every time, I go to Panera Bread with my boyfriend and he always gets this soup. My mouth waters and I was tired of wanting it despite my allergy. So I said, I want it. I made it friendly-and healthier-recipe for you to try!

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Pink Elephants

A dear friend of mine is going to have a baby in March and I’m throwing her a shower. The thing is, I’ve never thrown a baby shower before. I’ve been to a few where we’ve tasted baby food and smelled diapers as ‘games’ and I can tell you, I am convinced that is not the way to do it! She doesn’t have a baby yet, so we’re not going to gross her and her nauseous stomach out any more than necessary.

As you would for any formal party, picking a color scheme and perhaps a theme serves as an excellent launching point. Based upon intimate knowledge of my friend, I know that she loves elephants. That was a no brainer for this party. However, gray is a neutral and since we’re celebrating my friend who has an incredibly sunny and magnetic disposition who is having a girl, naturally yellow and pink have been added to the color scheme. It is imperative to making the guest of honor feel welcomed and honored by utilizing some of their favorite things.

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Making the Most of Hibernating

You’re surrounded with red and green from basically the end of October through December, and then it hits. The snow. The cold. The lack of colors other than faded gray of the roadway slush and muted browns from the shivering trees. January. Bleh.

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After all of the hype and adrenaline, the presents and fancy trimmings, exhaustion and bleakness sets in to encapsulate you in what is commonly referred to as the post-holiday blues. There are few options you have when faced with the change.

  1. You can succumb to the weight of credit card bills, icy fingers, and lack of vitamin D and be upset, anxious and unproductive

OR

  1. You can choose to laugh and say “post-holiday blues who?” and make the most of your post-holiday, indoor time (this includes picking up overtime to pay down those credit cards!)

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Immune Boosting Foods

Winter got your immune system down? Don’t fret, with a few simple dietary tricks, we can get you what you need to fight off those harmful bugs.  During this time of year, it is a good idea to check your vitamin D. An easy way to increase your vitamin D from food include whole eggs, orange juice fortified with vitamin D, milk containing fat only, or fish. A deficiency not only increases your risk for getting sick, but vitamin D helps boost the immune system to fight off the virus sooner!

Don’t forget your vitamin C! This is usually the first one people think of, and for good reason. Vitamin C is another contributor to the immune system by reducing inflammation. Sources to consume vitamin C can be found in raw red peppers, strawberries, oranges, and other citrus fruits. Please note, if you are a smoker, your need for vitamin C is much higher year round. Aim for 125mg/day for male smokers and 110mg/day for female smokers.

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Oncology Nursing Chose Me

This is a guest blog from Erin E. She currently resides in Grand Rapids, MI with her family where she works on an inpatient oncology unit. I (Erica) am honored to call her not only a colleague but one of my dear, dear friends. Your heart is an inspiration, Erin!

I didn't choose to bean oncology

People often ask how I chose to work in oncology. I usually tell them my story and what brought me to Grand Rapids and my oncology patients. The truth is, oncology chose me. As a new nurse, I was hungry to work. I was yearning to put all my nursing skills from school to use. Every area in nursing was new and exciting. I wasn’t fully sure where I would thrive and which area I would enjoy best.

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Healthy New Year’s Breakfast – Overnight Oatmeal

Who doesn’t love overnight oatmeal (or oatmeal in general) this time of year? With cold, rain-turns-to-snow mornings, few things are more satisfying and comforting as a warm, gooey bowl of oatmeal. Except maybe delicious oatmeal you don’t have to worry about in the morning!

 I love this easy, endlessly customizable recipe. Not only is it healthy and delicious, it’s perfect for a grab-‘n’-go breakfast. It’s especially great if you work out before work and need a high protein belly to get you ready for the day.

Overnight Oatmeal

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Happy Hostess: NYE Style

If you’re like me, from the end of November through the end of December, holiday party invites take up a lot of weekends. Let’s be honest though…some parties a severely lackluster in their presentation, the host is running around with a perpetually furrowed brow, and someone forgot to plug-in the crockpot with the little sausages. It doesn’t have to be like that! With a little planning and attention to detail, your NYE party will receive applause.

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