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Gardening for Everyone

Growing Food Anywhere, Anytime

Apartment living can get expensive, especially when you've got a big grocery bill and you barely eat the amount of food you buy! Some people solve this by grocery splitting with neighbors (I.E. your neighbors buy the potatoes and you take half while you buy the lettuce and they take half) or donating extra food to local firefighters or shelters. While those are great  ways to cut that bill, there's an easier way to save money on food, know where your food comes from, and start an interesting new hobby! 

I'm talking about Hydroponics. Hydroponics is a great way to grow Vegetables indoors without as much space or complicated systems as Aquaponics. Growing any plant requires nutrients, air flow (once sprouted), and sunlight. When using a soil type base, it's called a medium, so you might see that word a few times while reading. Though this method of indoor farming method still uses soil, I've found a way of building a small set up that stays easy to clean and operate. 

To start off, you'll need to grab an empty plastic bottle of any size and that itchy sock you've been debating throwing away. Tear off the label and wash any glue away. Keep in mind that whatever falls into your plants' water or medium will end up being part of what you're eating! Once you've washed up well you can cut the bottle in half. Some find it easier to wash the inside of the bottle after it's been cut. If the bottle has held a drink with sugar, you'll want to scrub any bumps and cracks with soap. Now you can cut a fairly long strip out of the sock. This strip of fabric needs to reach into your medium as well as into the water below while blocking any medium from falling into the water. Stuff the sock piece into the top half of the bottle where the cap would attach, then fill the bottom half with water about 2/3 until full. The top half will be turned upside down so the end of the sock piece can rest in the water without being submerged. Now we can move on to the second step!

You'll need to get Perlite and Peat Moss which should be be easily found at any nearby gardening or hardware store. Once you get home with these materials, you'll need to mix the needed amount to fill the top half of your bottle-garden at a 50/50 ratio. This is where your plant will rest. If you're interested in how this works, you can read the rest of this paragraph or skip to the next to see what the next step is! Water moves across absorbent materials and can travel this way. Some of you may have done the science experiment with colored water and paper towels and this is much the same thing. The sock will move the water from the container below it into the soil for the plant to use as needed. You won't have to worry about over watering because the sock only brings enough water to wet the soil. The plant uses the water, drying the soil and activating the "water train." Any thumb can be a green thumb with this set up!

Now that you've got the body of the system set up you can do the scary part; adding the seed. Go pick out a seed when you get your medium materials! I don't suggest growing plants with vines as their root systems require more space than this Hydroponics system provides. A lot of people start with lettuce, small onions or beets, or even herbs. I suggest lettuce due to its wide use and small root systems. On the package it should tell you how far into the soil to plant the seed, how much sunlight it needs, and what the suggested temperature is. Don't be scared by the monthly planting chart—those are only for outside plants and yours will be kept in a controlled environment! Now you just need to create a greenhouse for the little guy to take off. It's simple! Just take some clear plastic wrap and cover the top so your plant can start generating its humidity and heat. 

Read the package your seed came in to see how many hours of sunlight it needs to thrive. It's ok to let that time deviate by a couple hours on occasion, so don't be scared from growing if you leave the house often. If you don't have access to a long enough period of sunlight or you've got pets or children that would love to push it onto the floor you can purchase full spectrum grow lights online or at a local general goods store (if you're lucky). With those lights your new house buddy can live wherever you wish to leave it!